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From Pierre Smits <>
Subject Measuring Contributors, Contributions and Community Actvity
Date Sat, 02 Aug 2014 22:05:43 GMT

First of all, and I guess that you are aware of this, the document ‘How the
ASF Works’ describes the following roles regarding non-committing
participants in the communities of the ASF  projects:

The *user*: A user is someone that uses our software.
For the sake of brevity lets accept that this can also be an organisation
that consumes the work of a project, and is represented by a person.

The description then reads on that these ‘users’ contribute to the Apache
projects by providing feedback in the form of bug reports and feature
suggestions. And users participate in the Apache community by helping
others on mailing lists and support forums.

The *developer* (aka the *contributor*): is a user who contributes to a
project in the form of code or documentation. They take extra steps to
participate in a project, are active in the developer mailing list ,
participate in discussions, provide patches, documentation, suggestions,
and criticism.

Both descriptions use the word ‘contribute’, but the first group of
participants is regarded as users (not contributors), and the second group
does (more or less) the same as the first group (but has this aka
‘contributor’ which the first doesn’t have, but is also described as

I would say that a user of the work of a project participates in the
community, because he (or the organisation he represents) consumes the work
and has questions thereabouts. Questions like:
- What is this function we’re talking about?
- When will the function be released?
- Where can I find the documentation?
- Why does this function not work?
- How should this function work?

And why is that? I would say, because nine out of ten times the second most
important work  of the project is incomplete, inconclusive, to complicated,
to extensive, etc. I am talking about the documentation related to the code.

Or he might even rant about how shitty the work or the project is.

A contributor is a person who does more than just ask these questions. He
provides feedback in the user mailing list to such questions, he hold
presentations on the project and the work of the project, he registers bug
reports , he improve documentation or the code base of the project, or
write books about the work, blogs, tweets, etc, etc.

Nevertheless, without the clear-cut distinction between the two there will
always be ambiguity about what a contributor is, and might lead to the
(perception of) degradation of this participant to second class. As has
been written about in the past few weeks.

*Measuring contributors*
When talking about measuring the number of contributors in a community we
should first clear the definitions.

Based on what a contributor does, one could say that it could be measured
by whether a participant is subscribed to the dev mailing list and/or the
equivalent of a JIRA account for registering bugs and patches. As it more
likely that a contributor will register to the dev mailing list to
participate there as well or have a Issue Mgt account than somebody who is
just using the work.

But that is not totally conclusive, as some contributors can choose to
operate only in the user mailing list, or hold presentations. Such
activities doesn’t make them less of a contributor. So something more needs
to be done there. Or am I wrong here?

*Measuring community activity (project liveliness)*
I agree with you that measuring the number of unanswered threads in the
user mailing list says something about community activity. But, the same
goes for unanswered threads in the dev mailing list. So that should be
included as well when trying to have something conclusive to say about the
liveliness of a project.

But why exclude trends in influx of new users and new contributors, as both
also say something of the liveliness of the community and hence the
project? The first indicates adoption, the second commitment.

The first aspect (new users) is easy to measure by counting the new user
mailing list registrations in a period, or even the first posting of a new
registrant, or the combination of both. This should be feasible to achieve.
Or isn’t it?

The second aspect (new contributors) can be measured by registrations of
new accounts in the dev mailing list of a project, and/or registration of a
JIRA (or equivalent) account. Or even the number of reactions made by each
registrant to a thread in the user mailing list. But I suspect that it also
needs to be a combination of sorts. Don’t you agree?

Best regards,

Pierre Smits

Services & Solutions for Cloud-
Based Manufacturing, Professional
Services and Retail & Trade

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