Black Duck Flaps into Open Source Reference

October 6, 2010

Late last year or early this year, I explained to a giant publishing and information company about some of the important trends building in electronic information. I must admit that the audience wished it were someplace else, probably at the golf course or at a sales meeting where smiles and promises worked better than innovation.

before okay copy

I mentioned in passing that the world of open source was gaining momentum. I have documented one facet of open source in this blog. My two or three readers have been as indifferent as the big publishing and information company was.

One outfit, however, either by virtue of executive acumen or simply looking at what’s happening in open source has jumped on the open source information opportunity. That company is Black Duck Software. You can read an interview with one of the firm’s top mallards at “Bill McQuaide, Black Duck Software.”

I learned on October 5, 2010, that Black Duck is on the path of becoming the “Google of open source.” Yep, the Google of open source. Now that moniker is a tough one to shake, so my view is that Black Duck has made a play that seems to me to be pretty darned savvy.

after fixed okay

The firm acquired Navigate to the Ohloh Web site. You will be able to search a directory of open source software and a directory of developers. Now anyone who has fiddled with open source knows that the PL/1 dudes down the hall are not exactly ready to compile open source and hook it into software with unfamiliar names, often with obscure references to the Tolkien, Star Trek, and a high school Latin class.

I did some advice-from-the-pond work on a couple of open source search start ups. I panned these. Google, at the time, had an open source search service, which the 20 somethings who called me after a couple of failed journalists, mid tier consultants, and unemployed CMS consultants struck out in the knowledge department. The open source search is available as Code Search at Black Duck and Ohloh went further.

Several observations:

  • Traditional publishing companies are probably going to have to buy, license, or stroke the features of Black Duck. The company has an opportunity to build a robust information service and the big boys who prefer to play golf and head out for an early lunch have missed the boat.
  • Open source software is operating a bit like one of those minor earth tremors in Turkey or one of the “stans.” One day the building is just crumbling. When change occurs, folks look around for information and my hunch is that Black Duck may come up Number One on the Dancing with the Coding Stars.
  • Open source, unlike indexing business information, is pretty much an insiders’ game at this time. The “community”, which is tough to define, can be a really major pain in the bursa scattered in various parts of one’s anatomy.

I suppose I should feel bad that the big information companies missed an opportunity. But, if my memory is correct, less agile outfits just pay lots of money to buy a company with a great opportunity. That is good for the black ducks out there. Geese? Now that’s another story.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2010



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