Open Source Code Evaluation Tips

October 7, 2012

Open source software is a wonderful thing, but not all code is created equal. O Static’s blog post, “How to Evaluate Open Source Software” provides some useful tips for developers. Writer Jon Buys notes:

“One of the best benefits to open source software is how it can fill in the gaps when developing applications. At times it makes sense to look around and see if anyone else has already solved the problem you are looking at, especially if it is a common feature. Unfortunately, not all open source projects are built the same, and deciding to adopt someone else’s code into your project must be carefully considered. Here are seven steps to starting a successful long-term relationship with an open source project.”

The first thing to evaluate, Buys says, is whether the license under which the code has been released is compatible with your project, particularly if you hope to make money from it. Then check on activity in the project’s public repository; if it hasn’t been updated within the last year or two, it has probably been abandoned. Look at the project’s age, too- older is probably better; “let someone else battle harden the code,” he says.

Then there are unit tests. They are challenging, so their inclusion speaks to the seriousness of the project. After perusing them, browse through the code itself, perform a basic use test, and, if inclined, a modification test. If you like what you see after all this examination, the code should be a good candidate for inclusion in your own project. It is worth checking out the article for more details of each step.

Cynthia Murrell, October 07, 2012

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