From Fan to President: Logan Abbott Discusses How BizX is Bringing Iconic Brands SourceForge and Slashdot Back to Open-Source Roots

How SourceForge and Slashdot Are Returning to Their Open-Source Roots

TL; DR: Logan Abbott, along with the developers and engineers at BizX, were “super stoked” at the opportunity to acquire SourceForge and Slashdot, two iconic sites in the dev community. SourceForge, an open-source software repository and distribution network, is reestablishing their reputation by focusing on providing clean, safe downloads; meanwhile, tech news aggregator and forum Slashdot is stripping out years of unneeded cosmetic changes in an effort to win back former users. Leveraging their own open-source experiences, Logan and his team are looking to reinforce the properties’ ability to provide tools, software, and forums where IT professionals and developers can share programs and discuss trends.

Logan Abbott had been a SourceForge user and Slashdot reader since he first got on the Internet some 15 or 20 years ago.

Even though the sites combined still attract 40 million visitors each month, their reputations had suffered in recent years from decisions that took SourceForge and Slashdot away from traditional open-source values and their original audiences.

When Logan heard the sister sites were for sale, he was eager for his company, BizX, to get their hands on the two web properties.

“It wasn’t just me,” said Logan, a Part Owner and Vice President of Business Development at BizX. “Our whole DevOps and Engineering teams were salivating at the opportunity, too.”

BizX oversees websites in a variety of industries, including travel and tourism, personal finance, and telecommunications. Acquiring SourceForge and Slashdot seemed like a natural fit to Logan.

“Obviously, I knew the brands, and they were very important to me,” he said. “It was a no-brainer to go for it.”

Collage of headshots of Logan Abbott and Engineering Leads Dave Brondsema and Kenton Taylor

(Left to right) President Logan Abbott and Engineer Leads Dave Brondsema and Kenton Taylor used SourceForge early.

After the acquisition in late January 2016, Logan was appointed President of SourceForge and immediately got to work by ending the site’s embattled DevShare program that bundled adware into software installations. Slashdot is stripping away unnecessary cosmetic updates and features, instead focusing on their slogan of “News for Nerds.”

“I think we can bring the sites back to their roots and do what people want us to do in terms of integrity with open-source,” Logan said. “We can create a sustainable business and don’t have to resort to stuff people don’t want or is contrary to the open-source ethos.”

SourceForge: Now Even Easier to Find and Share New Software Safely

BizX’s DevOps team of 30 people steers the overall direction of SourceForge and Slashdot with input from Logan and a few other executives.

“Engineering is the DNA of our company,” Logan said. “They’re the closest thing we have to the actual people who use SourceForge.”

SourceForge analytics and usage stats

According to 2013 research, SourceForge is a trusted open-source resource for millions of users.

As users themselves, BizX developers and other experts can highlight new or interesting projects on SourceForge by featuring them on the homepage as Project of the Month or Editor’s Choice.

“We’re in open-source all day, so we definitely use it for a lot of stuff, develop with it, and help it along,” Logan said.

Discontinuing DevShare: First Step in Restoring Their Trusted Reputation

Within 48 hours of the BizX acquisition closing, SourceForge shuttered DevShare, a program that offered developers a chance to monetize their software by bundling additional software installers that often included malware.

“If you’re a brand new user on the Internet and you download some sort of open-source FTP client, for example, the next thing you know, you’ve got all sorts of other software that’s installed on your computer,” Logan said. “No one likes that.”

Logan and the SourceForge team expected they would need to find another way to help developers make money but found that the developers weren’t looking for SourceForge to play that role.

“They developed these projects because that’s what they like to do,” Logan said. “Sometimes there are whole teams of people who develop a project in their spare time, not looking to get paid for it because they’re just looking for a free, open-source alternative for, say, a word processor.”

Virus-Scanning Partners Ensure Users’ Safety When Downloading

SourceForge also partnered with Bitdefender and ESET, malware detection tools that both scan each piece of software uploaded to the site.

“People can feel safe downloading from our site,” Logan said. “The vast majority of our site was completely clean anyway, but there are always rogue developers out there when you have 500,000 pieces of software on your site.”

A Fresh Look and Heightened Security with HTTPS

In the roughly seven months since BizX took over, Logan said SourceForge has tackled a lot of the “low-hanging fruit,” like transitioning the site to HTTPS.

Now, their attention is turned to bringing SourceForge up to 2016 standards established by other software and code repositories.

A much-needed redesign is on the horizon, according to Logan: “I don’t think the design has been touched in 10 or more years.

“We just want to make SourceForge a trusted name again,” he said. “We’re just trying to make it sustainable and keep it around forever.”

Slashdot: Going Back to What Worked to Serve the User Community

Slashdot hasn’t received quite the overhaul that SourceForge has, according to Logan.

“We haven’t done much except for remedying all the stuff that people didn’t like about it,” he said. “Slashdot is an iconic old tech site, but the community doesn’t respond well to cosmetic changes.”

Slashdot analytics and usage

Slashdot’s online community has combined user-generated content and social media since 1997.

BizX stripped away much of the recent UI tweaks and removed the ads and videos that were being forced on users.

“It’s a site with people who have been around for 20 or more years,” Logan said. “They know what they like, and we’re going to listen to them.”

Logan doesn’t have to go far to hear the reviews and suggestions of Slashdot’s original audience — many of BizX’s DevOps team were among the first 10,000 users to register. Now, Slashdot’s users number among tens of millions.

Positive User Feedback Shows Connection to Open-Source Community

Even as the dust continues to settle on SourceForge and Slashdot, Logan is thankful to hear “enormously positive” feedback from users and developers who seem to appreciate the renewed dedication to open-source values.

Screenshots of SourceForge and Slashdot's websites

Sister sites SourceForge and Slashdot are respected tech brands looking for a comeback.

The personal stake that Logan and the BizX DevOps team has in the success of SourceForge and Slashdot means taking a developer-centric approach that is sure to resonate with the sites’ audiences. In fact, Logan said many of the best ideas and improvements on SourceForge and Slashdot have come from BizX’s on-site developers.

“Usually, when one of them calls for something and it makes sense, it becomes a cacophony of people calling for it,” Logan said. “The biggest thing for people to look for from us in the future is just that we’re actually listening to them, and we’re getting stuff done pretty quickly.”

Alexandra Leslie

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