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Heartbeat: Measuring Active User Base and Potential User Interest


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Presentation for OSS 2009 in Skövde, Sweden.

Presentation for OSS 2009 in Skövde, Sweden.

Published in: Technology

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  • 1. Heartbeat Measuring Active User Base and Potential User Interest in FLOSS Projects Andrea Wiggins, James Howison & Kevin Crowston 4 June, 2009
  • 2. Introduction
    • Success measures for FLOSS
      • Internal versus external - success according to whom?
    • Software usage is a desirable success measure, but difficult to obtain
    • Goal: Develop an algorithm to estimate active user base and general interest based on download counts
  • 3. Measuring Software Use
    • Many ways to measure usage
      • Surveys
      • Usage reporting agents
      • Mining online data (downloads)
    • Downloads provide a proxy for usage
      • Must get software before you can use it
      • Usually FLOSS software is downloaded, which can be counted
  • 4. Problems with Downloads
    • Downloads often used as direct proxy for usage, but…
      • Cannot indicate how many downloads “convert” to actual use
      • Regular users are counted multiple times due to release updates
      • Measures inflated by user experimentation
      • Only counts one distribution channel
      • Release rates vary, hard to compare
  • 5. Hypothesis Development
    • Experience-based theory
      • What is the experience of adopting FLOSS for end-user applications?
      • Try it out, adopt it, update it when notified
    • H1: There is a relatively constant level of downloads by new users trying out the software
    • H2: Regular users respond relatively quickly to new releases
  • 6. Idealized Release/Download Grey area: potential user downloads White areas: active user downloads Ideally, we would expect that… - experimentation rate is nearly constant, growing over time - active user base updates after release, growing over time
  • 7. Data & Analysis
    • Daily time series data on package downloads
      • FLOSSmole
    • Release data for each package
      • SRDA
    • Analysis with Taverna
  • 8. Descriptive Results - BibDesk
    • Spikes following new releases
    • Cyclic weekly effects
    • “ Flat” periods between releases
    • Growth over time in both baseline and spikes
  • 9. Descriptive Results - SkimApp
    • Similar overall patterns
    • Recently founded, less data
    • More rapid release cycle than BibDesk
    • In both projects, occasional non-release spikes appear - one-time marketing?
  • 10. Quantifying User Base
    • Calculations based on daily downloads for two one-week observation periods centered around release date
    • Potential user base : sum of daily downloads before release
    • Active user base : sum of daily downloads after release, less the baseline average download rate
  • 11. Numerical Results - BibDesk
    • Consistent baseline experimentation rate
    • Large variance for installed user base
      • Further smoothing might help
    • User base may be declining in BibDesk, due to small target audience and competition
  • 12. Numerical Results - Skim-app
    • Stable baseline, but substantial variance in calculated installed base
      • Big spike in April 2008: first release in 3 months
    • Overall trends toward growth in both user base and baseline
  • 13. Discussion - Limitations
    • Download data are problematic for a number of reasons
    • Calibrating the measures
      • Varying the duration of time periods leads to substantial changes
      • User response rate varies by project
      • Very sensitive to release date accuracy
      • Also difficult to sample releases with sufficient time in between for baselines
  • 14. Discussion - Uses
    • Generalizability
      • Assumes swift user response
      • Different cases for end user versus enterprise software, varying market sizes
    • Use with caution
      • Examine data for consistent release response patterns
      • Either measure can serve as a dependent variable for project popularity
  • 15. Future Work
    • Compare these findings against more dynamically selected time ranges
      • e.g. time required to return to a rate close to the pre-release baseline
    • Application to more projects, and comparison against other measures
    • Statistical fitting for growth estimates
    • May apply to other non-FLOSS downloaded software, e.g. iPhone apps
  • 16. Conclusions
    • Introduced a measure for estimating baseline user interest, and one for active user base in FLOSS projects
    • Baseline measure shows good face validity in longitudinal time series
    • Active user base measure shows surprising variance
  • 17. Thanks!
    • Questions?
    • {awiggins|crowston} , [email_address]
    • Background image derived from photo by Vincent Kaczmarek,