This Isn't Your Father's SourceForge.net…

The main reason I came to CollabNet five months ago was to have a chance to show companies how to do a better job of collaborating, utilizing Open Source (code and methodologies), and using the CollabNet SourceForge toolset to accomplish all of these goals. I’m happy to report that I’ve been given a chance to do all three of those things in an effort we are currently working on for DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency), the cross-services IT arm for the US Department of Defense.

One of the very many cool things about this project is that while it may be destined to reside inside of the secure portion of the .mil network, it could very well usher in a new era for how software development, acquisition, and vendor collaboration for DoD is accomplished. In a nutshell, this project is about building the equivalent of SourceForge.net inside of the .mil domain, so that participants (DoD contractors, vendors, etc.) can utilize our collaborative toolset for their future projects. The site, when launched later this year, will be christened ‘forge.mil,’ and will serve as a centralized repository for common code libraries, as well as provide a space for different parties to come together and collaborate on future software projects for the DoD. One of the other things I love about this is that it fits nicely into experiences I had in helping run a very similar sort of ‘internal SourceForge’ site at Motorola, where we made a fair amount of headway into getting folks to utilize more collaborative development practices.

I just returned from a trip to Charleston, SC, where our team met with folks from the Navy’s SPAWAR (Space and Warfare) command, who will be running the day-to-day operations of the site. We had a number of good discussions over the course of one and a half days, and I found the team members to be very enthusiastic about the future and possibilities for this system. I do realize that we might have a tough road ahead with some folks (such as DoD software contractors/vendors who generally don’t collaborate with each other) in building out this community, but my hope as the community manager is that we can provide a compelling value proposition for these parties, and have productive discussions along the lines of the kind I had earlier this week with civilian/commercial business people who attended a panel discussion I spoke at on Open Source and communities.

I think this effort will prove to be extremely interesting, not just from a community building/management standpoint, but as a data point to really showcase the value of ‘innersourcing.’ If the US government can successfully do this in an organization as large and diverse as the DoD, making it happen in your corporate environment is not only possible, but highly desirable. I’ll be giving updates periodically here in the blog as we get closer to site launch, and as we progress toward important milestones. I look forward to being able to report more good news in this effort!

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2 comments on “This Isn't Your Father's SourceForge.net…
  1. mixtmedia says:

    Guy,
    Thanks for sharing the info about the work that you’re doing with DISA. Have you heard about Techipedia, DoD’s R&D wiki? There will be internal and external components. The goal of Techipedia is to enable collaboration between DoD and private sector companies and indivuals–big, small; established, startup–to solve DoD’s R&D challenges better, faster and cheaper while engaging ideas and solutions from all levels of the private sector. Here’s an article: http://www.fcw.com/online/news/154203-1.html Good to know about CollabNet and your DoD work.

  2. Guy Martin says:

    Maxine,
    Thanks for the article link – the folks at DISA have been keeping us up to speed on both Intellipedia and Techipedia, and I think the latter (and to a degree the former) are an excellent compliment to what we are trying to roll out with forge.mil. Since we are essentially building an ‘internal SourceForge’, the focus is around software and projects, and not as much on free-form ‘Wikipedia-style’ ideas, which is Techipedia’s strong suite.
    However, I can easily see a *ton* of cross-links between the two properties, and indeed, I’ll partly measure success of the community as folks being able to get their heads around using all of the tools in their arsenal to do a better job of collaboration. My biggest fear is making sure that folks inside of DoD don’t equate more tools with more collaboration.
    I posted previously about that here: http://blogs.open.collab.net/oncollabnet/2008/12/like-any-compan.html
    It takes an intentional focus on getting the communities/users of the multiple tools to work together in the best way to have successful collaboration. Thanks for your thoughts!
    -Guy

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