July 28, 2008, 3:41 PM — Earlier I mentioned SourceForge.net's annual Community Choice Awards, designed to honor open source software projects in a variety of categories. This year's awards were open to any open source projects, not just ones that were hosted on SourceForge.net, so they promised to be an accurate representation of the entire field.
Now it's done. Your input was received and the votes were tallied. The winners were announced on Thursday during a ceremony at the O'Reilly Group's OSCON open source convention. And in the end -- though it was a worthwhile exercise -- the roster of honorees offered few surprises.
OpenOffice.org was the big winner. The open source office productivity suite captured the award for best project overall, as well as being voted in as best project for the enterprise and education markets.
Linux took the title for "Most Likely to Change the World," prompting me to wonder whether it's really fair to give a "most likely" award to something that has already done what it's "most likely" to do.
The project voted "Most Likely to Get Users Sued" was eMule, a peer-to-peer file sharing client. No surprise there.
More revealing, however, was the winner of the "Best New Project" title. Magento, an open source e-commerce package, took the honors there, proving that interest in open source software remains strong among business customers.
Other awards were more dubious. A Web-based management solution for MySQL databases, phpMyAdmin, was voted "Most Likely to Be the Next $1 Billion Acquisition." No doubt that's a testament to how useful phpMyAdmin is to so many Web admins in small to midsized businesses -- but come on. A billion?
And Wine, the Windows compatibility layer for Linux, was voted "Most Likely to Be Accused of Patent Violation," despite the fact that avoiding intellectual property disputes has been one of the Wine project's goals from Day One. Not to mention recent news that the patent office seems on the verge of a major rethink of software patents.
All in all, the Community Choice Awards seemed like a good, fun idea, but the voting yielded little insight. Most of the winners are very well-known and established. No real dark horse candidates took center stage. As a popularity contest it performed adequately, but surely the field of open source software is wider than that?
Maybe what is needed is a contest that's modeled less after the Viewer's Choice Awards and more after the Academy Awards. Instead of a free-for-all, the community at large could submit nominees to be voted on by an "academy" of open source luminaries, who would convene by secret ballot.
What does Richard Stallman think is the most important free software project of the year? What's on Linus Torvalds' Linux desktop? What does Nicholas Negroponte think is the most important open source software package for education? An Academy Awards of Open Source could shed light on what excites the industry's top thinkers -- and better still, imagine all the infighting and bickering it would cause!