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Research: Who are Open Source Developers?

By grex in News
Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 01:09:29 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

There is plenty of literature dealing with the process of developing Open Source and its economical significance. And there are also piles of text about the tools that are used in or for Open Source... but, what do we know about all those committed developers? About where they come from, what project they work for, what they know...?

To cut it short, among all speculations there is little to no empirical data. That's why a research group at the Technical University of Berlin has started Widi (Who Is Doing It?), a questionaire aimed at the strong community of Open Source and Free Software developers to tell something about their social, cultural and professional environment. This data will complete automatic examination of gigs of source code by means of freely available tools the research group is refining.


The questionaire can be found in several languages on http://widi.berlios.de. The requested data is recorded anonymously, no entry is mandatory. Interesting up-to-date statistics, portraying the actual distribution on each item, can be accessed at any time.

Anybody who has some time been involved in Open Source/free software development is kindly asked to donate five minutes of her precious time for filling it out. More than 5000 developers already have.

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Research: Who are Open Source Developers? | 5 comments (5 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
More! (3.25 / 4) (#1)
by jd on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 11:06:36 AM EST

You need much, MUCH more information, to produce a good questionaire. (eg: Is someone using the stable GNOME? The unstable one? The Ximian/Helix variant? Something they've rolled themselves?)

By using broad, sweeping generalizations, you can get the general trend, yes. But you've no means of finding out the fine detail.

You also need to validate your answers better. 1901 seems, well, a little unlikely. 1999 is definitely out, unless someone cloned Mozart. (But even he didn't start producing masterpieces until the age of 9.)

Many "formal" surveys use questions that overlap, and then verify for correctness by eliminating those overlaps which don't agree. That tends to make for a big questionnaire, though. (You'd be looking at 5 times the size, for accurate results.)

In lieu of such rigorous cross-checking, some bounds-checking would be useful. I strongly believe that =active= participation in 99 projects is a claim someone would need to prove, before I'd believe it.

One idea would be a text box, asking for a list of all the projects the person is involved with. If the sizeof(list) != entered(number), then one of those two entries is invalid.

Also, if a person states they are unemployed, they can't then be earning a salary. And the list of basic cross-checks goes on.

Otherwise, this is a great idea!

I think the general trend is what they're after (4.00 / 4) (#2)
by leviathan on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 12:01:21 PM EST

Or at least, they really *really* don't care which version of Gnome you're using, or even if you're using it at all. They're trying to find out 'who is doing it', not what it is.

Granted they could have some overlapping questions, and I'd hope they will do some sensible bounds checking to remove anomolies before doing final results, but the questionnarie has to be short if a significant number of people are going to fill it in on a whim, online.

There's also only so much you'll get me to fill in online; probably less than I'd give on a paper form in fact. The questionnaire as it stands goes a long way towards not setting off the 'privacy' alarm that many of us have on a hair trigger. As more detailed questions and more people won't respond.

--
I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

Work/Income (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by vectro on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 01:29:33 AM EST

Actually, the way the questions are phrased, I was able to put "I am not employed" and a nonzero yearly income. Setting aside the assumption that the only source of income could be employment, one could have earned income earlier (or expect to later) in the year, but be presently unemployed.

In my case, I do occasional consulting - enough to have a nonzero income, but not enough to consider it a "job". And I have interest income and capital gains, as well.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Nice idea... take it further. (3.66 / 6) (#3)
by Hubris Boy on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 01:46:23 PM EST

Not a bad idea, as far as it goes. There's a thesis topic in here for some lucky sociology grad. Still, I was a little disappointed by the limited scope of the questions. It's nice to know where the respondents live and what languages they speak, but I think this project would be a lot more useful (and entertaining) if they'd add a few more questions:
  • How many hours per week do you spend on role-playing games?
  • Do you still live with your parents?
  • Have you ever had sex?
  • With another person?
  • Number of Star Trek conventions you've attended?
That sort of thing.

Okay, okay... put your flamethrowers down. What I'm trying to say is that I didn't really get a good picture of the respondents. The questionnaire is a good idea, but I think it could be developed a little further. People who have taken the trouble to visit the site probably won't mind answering a few more questions.


Interesting, but... (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by Nurgled on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 08:32:58 AM EST

The stats sure are interesting, but I have to ask: Are there really loads more Open Source developers in Germany than elsewhere, or has this German site just been pushed more on German-language sites?



Research: Who are Open Source Developers? | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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