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Project hosting options?

I started a new project for cheminformatics fingerprints and want to make it available for general use. It contains software under the MIT license and specifications under a license as lenient as I can make it. (Likely CC-BY.)

I looked around for project hosting. My requirements are:

That's it. Very simple, yes?

The options

I know there's a bunch of resources these days, and in my searches I found Wikipedia's Comparison of open source software hosting facilities. As you can see, there are quite a few. Sort on version control systems and it's Alioth, Assembla, BerliOS, Bitbucket, CodePlex, GNU Savannah, Google Code, JavaForge, KnowledgeForge, Project Kenai, and SourceForge.

Must have mailing list and web page or wiki hosting

Next, filter out those which don't have mailing lists, which removes Assembla, Bitbucket, and JavaForge. It's a shame about losing BitBucket since that's what I would have liked. With reluctance I also dropped Google Code since its mailing lists require a Google account. I think that's too high of a barrier of entry. I also dropped GNU Savannah since it doesn't have web or wiki hosting.

What's left are: Alioth, BerliOS, CodePlex, KnowledgeForge, Project Kenai, and SourceForge.

I want to try something other than SourceForge or a clone

Of those I have only used SourceForge, and done that for over 10 years. It feels very clunky and cluttered compared to Google Code and downloading packages is a nuisance for people like me who would rather curl the files than use a browser. Perhaps it's time to try something different? That puts BerliOS out, since it's derived from the SourceForge code base, as is GNU Savannah, and so is Alioth through GForge.

What's left? CodePlex, KnowledgeForge, and Project Kenai.

Must support non-member access to a mailing list

I looked at CodePlex. I think you have to be a CodePlex member in order to leave dicussions, and it uses web-based forum software instead of email. That is, I selected some of the project which have been downloaded the most often but never could find a "subscribe to the mailing list" option. Perhaps most people in the Microsoft Windows and .Net space don't do email?

In any case, it doesn't seem to fit my requirements.

Remaining options: KnowledgeForget and Project Kenai

I looked at KnowledgeForge and while it seems to fit my requirements, there aren't many people using it, although others may be using the underlying KForge application to host their own system. My concern is that the rough edges wouldn't have been worn down by other users.

That left me with Project Kenai, which also seemed to do what I wanted, and it has more and larger development projects, including JRuby. Okay, I'll try it out.

Project Kenai

(Update based on feedback. As of 27 Jan 2010 (or about two days after I registered on Kenai, and two days before I posted this essay), Oracle, who owns Sun, said they would be "phasing out of the public-facing domain used for the Project Kenai Beta site." Therefore, you shouldn't use it.)

I requested a new project hosting and got it. I set up the project, working on code, and updated the wiki. Seems to be nice enough, with really no problems to speak about. I was happy enough.

I liked some of the tweaks, like how it uses AJAX to update the displayed content rather than doing a full page submission like when editing Wikipedia. Though now that I think of it, I adore how StackOverflow shows the formatted content while you type.

Show stopper - non-member access to the mailing list

Until I got to the email part. Turns out Project Kenai does allow non-members to join a list, but they have to email subscribe request to the Sympa email system. Very much like the old majordomo list manager, and with no web-based front-end to help out.

I found that be searching the help files. There's no clue that that's even possible from the normal "mailing lists" page for a project. But perhaps I could remedy that with instructions on how to sign up without being a member.

The only way I could do that was on the wiki home page. I did that then asked a friend of mine to try it out. He followed the main mailing-list link from Kenai and never saw my note. Once on that page he couldn't figure out how to join without being a member, and he doesn't want to do all that just to join a mailing list.

Once I pointed out the manual instructions, he tried that out. I got an email which said I need to manualy confirm him as a member. On his side he only saw that he was now a member, and didn't like the lack of the Mailman-style double opt-in. As far as he could tell, anyone could register anyone else through a forged email.

That's a serious down-check, since while technically it meets my requirements, it doesn't meet the spirit.

No response to a feature requst

I posted this request to the features list a couple of days ago and got no response.

I do realize this is a free project, so I can make no demands nor should I expect fast response. That's why i waited a couple of days before writing this posting. But a reason for trying Project Kenai was because its size should mean it has more of these kinks worked out, and its support by Sun should imply there's someone to answer mail.

Just choose SourceForge?

As for the project, my conculsion is to just go ahead and use SourceForge. It's clumsy but I know it handles my needs.

Unless you have a better suggestion? Perhaps you think I should try BerliOS?


Andrew Dalke is an independent consultant focusing on software development for computational chemistry and biology. Need contract programming, help, or training? Contact me



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