Measuring Community Growth

The discussion held a few weeks ago at Community Leadership Summit around how to ‘measure’ open source projects were very interesting. There was even a keynote by David Eaves during OSCON about the topic (well worth 15 minutes of your time, watch it below).

There are many people comparing different open source projects, I keep seeing blog posts trying to extrapolate complex concepts from too simple facts. For example, it’s hard to evaluate if an open source project is growing just by looking at the total number of commits per week: when number of commits slow down it may mean that the codebase has reached maturity, not necessarily it’s a sign of diminishing interest. Other simple facts visible on github like the number of followers, forks or ‘watchers’ may not mean much if the developers of that project don’t use the ‘social’ features offered by github.

To measure the “growth” of a project I usually look at a whole bunch of numbers and trends (more importantly) like the total number of committers over time, total new committers over time and also things that are not code-related traffic on mailing lists/forums, websites, google searches, activity on bug trackers as indicators of growth of a community. The total number of commits is more meaningful when taken as one element of ‘livelihood’ of a project (is it still maintained?) but it needs to be integrated with other elements to avoid making mistakes.

All the people interested in measuring open source communities should join the Metrics Working Group at The Open Source Way and push the conversation forward.

Week 2012-07-29 in review

  • argh! redirect email is one of the most useful features in an email client. Thunderbird doesn't have it 🙁 So annoying #
  • Mate, where is Ali G in the London Olympics ceremony? Come on #
  • Message to the world: more sailing less tweeting, folks! It's a beautiful day out there #

Week 2012-07-22 in review

  • I don't remember networking at #oscon ever being so awful! It's useless! #
  • I'm seeing a lot less GNU/Linux machines at #oscon than I remember/expected. #
  • What's happening to #oscon connectivity? AT&T is failing as usual and conference wifi is bad too. Disappointing. #
  • I had my little fun with spell check today #oscon 😉 http://t.co/YZXdhHfj #
  • Very impressed by the efforts put by bluehost for open source project in http://t.co/LPDeI3Vx #OSCON #
  • Back from #OSCON with a new T-shirt wardrobe and hundreds of unanswered emails. Happy Friday 🙂 #
  • Inboxing zero before the weekend after spending a week at #OSCON .. a huge task, still 6 messages to go (was 87 this morning). #

Week 2012-07-08 in review

  • Diamo la colpa a Monti in tribuna: porta sfiga #
  • It's only soccer but hopefully Spain will take home a major check to save their banks. My theory holds: country more needy wins #
  • Caught a fever at the first signs of San Francisco summer. Not good. #
  • My ubuntu-powered computer freezes randomly at least once a week. Time to check for defective RAM. #

Mozilla Foundation drops Thunderbird

I’m sad to read that finally Mozilla Foundation realized that Thunderbird is a lemon: Mitchell Baker announced on her blog that “continued innovation of Thunderbird is not a priority” so its evolution will stop and putting the project in ‘maintenance mode’. The Foundation will only provide for security fixes starting from November 2012 and leaving the future evolution of this free software email client to ‘the community’.

As I wrote on G+, I never liked Thunderbird. There is no email client today that I like: they’re all based on very old concepts developed at the time when people had to deal with few messages per week. The only innovation I’ve seen in email came from Google’s Gmail, with the convenient conversation view and with the great integration of chat and addressbook with Circles. Gmail is not the email client I use: I never bought into that sort of convenience. I always wished that somebody would develop a new, modern, email client for my desktop.

With Thunderbird at its sunset and GNOME Evolution its only viable substitute, I’m starting to despair. I have some hopes on Geary, Yorba Foundation’s new email client.

Week 2012-07-01 in review

  • Comunque vada, splendida Italia: niente crampi, sempre all'attacco. Bravi #
  • Stoked! This password manager is what I was looking for: just makes Firefox PM better http://t.co/WuH5tA6F Mozilla make this default please #
  • Take time to read What Happened to Silicon Values? How the valley went from empowering to exploiting consumers http://t.co/IiXwTuDr #
  • It was just a football game, but man, I reached such high level of satisfaction watching Italy kicking Germany's behind, again. #
  • Google Chrome is now on iOS. Too bad I use Firefox 🙁 #
  • Ha ragione Marchionne: domanda sciocca. Una + intelligente sarebbe: come pensa di migliorare le condizioni degli operai?… #
  • OH: Sailing is a humbling experience – plenty of opportunities to do something stupid, especially in front of others. #