Even if two of my pet projects didn't garner any awards in the SourceForge.Net 2008 Community Choice Awards, it was still a thrill to hang out at Portland, Ore.'s superstylish Jupiter Hotel and see everyone from one of Microsoft's open source guys, Sam Ramji, to SourceForge community manager Ross Turk himself take the stage.
The good folks of ThinkGeek were also on hand to provide attendees with swag bags full of tech toys and were raffling off a slew of other fun stuff, including the budget-destroying Optimus Maximus Keyboard ($1,589!).
Between the awards, people hung out, drank, ate, and fragged and jammed.
After Ross was done handing out the awards (OpenOffice.org and phpMyAdmin were major winners this year), I snagged him for a few minutes to follow up on my previous chat with him about the CCA -- and to have him show me his nifty Tux tattoo.
"The whole contest was incredible," he exulted. "We had more votes than we anticipated, by about a factor of two -- over 130,000 votes total, which is surprising to us. Opening the voting up to external projects was great, too -- 17 of the 72 nominees, including the Linux kernel itself, were externally hosted projects."
It seemed to me that having Linux itself show up was par for the course at this point.
"Me, I was afraid Linux would sweep every category," Ross said with a laugh. "Hey, as the awards get more momentum, maybe that'll happen. It is to a high degree a popularity contest, and I think we'll have a fair challenge next year figuring out how to make that not happen.
"One problem is that a lot of projects won't tell their users to vote for anything, but on the other hand, eMule won best new project last year -- even though it wasn't new at all. We need to get people to think about their votes and get the communities engaged. Maybe Slashdot can help us out on that; that's something they have a lot of experience with!" (Slashdot.org's own Rob Malda was himself at the awards ceremony, and we chatted briefly before he was swept off by other folks.)
"There were a number of folks who won in multiple categories, so I think there's something about the way those projects talk to their own communities that might have something to do with it. I think we're going to talk to these winners more now and ask what their secret is. As people catch on how to market themselves for an awards program like this, certain things will be amplified that are generally normalized."
One thing I was fairly certain of, since this had happened to me, was that some of Ross' own favorite projects probably didn't win anything. In my case, it was 7-Zip and PortableApps, but I was curious what Ross' favorites were.
"We'd have to be Switzerland to not take sides, but if that wasn't the case, I wanted Zenoss to win something. And I can say that because I myself have no control over the process!"
How will next year's competition be worked out?
"I got a couple months to think about it, but here's some ideas: More transparency in the voting process -- like live voting feedback -- and some more controls over things. We're also trying to find more interesting ways to engage externally hosted projects, but there's a chance that'll happen naturally with increasing awareness of the contest."
I pointed out that forges in general are on the rise -- SugarCRM has its own forge, for instance -- and asked how he thought that would make an impact on SourceForge itself.
"I think it's a natural progression. I think as open source gains momentum and moves up the software stack from OSes to applications and higher, people need more specialized tools. That's a challenge we're going to have -- how to embrace that Balkanization in a new way. We talk about it constantly on our own."
Ross had to split after that, sadly, but left me with plenty to chew over -- and a general dare for the audience, which he announced at the beginning of the evening: Anyone who steps into the immediately adjacent tattoo parlor on the premises and gets the best tech-based tat wins a thousand bucks.
I'm going to have to catch up with him and see if there were any winners...
[Postscript: I mangled the news about the tattoos. Straight from Ross Turk's mouth: "The deal with the tattoos was that we'd pay for them; there was no $1000 prize for the best tat. However, we did do 16 cumulative hours of tattooing across 4 artists, so it was a huge success. Maybe next year we should offer a reward for the best one?"]