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COLLABORATION IN LINUX
KERNEL MAILING LISTS
Dawn M. Foster
@geekygirldawn	
  
dawn@dawnfoster.com	
  
fastwonderblog.com
OSS	
  Strategy	
  Lead	
  
Pivotal
University	
  of	
  Greenwich	
  
London,	
  UK
WHOAMI
Geek, traveler, reader
OSS Strategy Lead at Pivotal
20+ year tech career focused on
community & open source 

(Intel, Jive, Puppet Labs, etc.)
PhD at the University of Greenwich
researching Linux kernel Photos by Josh Bancroft, Don Park
@geekygirldawn
ABOUT MY RESEARCH
Interviews with 16 Linux kernel developers
Quantitative analysis focused on 

kernel mailing list collaboration
@geekygirldawn
16 KERNEL INTERVIEWS
Gender Men 13 Women 3
Maintainer Yes 13 No 3
Company HQ
Region
N. America 9 S. America 0 Europe 5 Asia 2
Participant
Region
N. America 9 S. America 1 Europe 5 Asia 1
Company Size
(employees)
< 100 2 100 - 1,000 2
1,000 -
10,000
6
10,000 -
100,000
4 100,000+ 2
@geekygirldawn
LOCATION DOESN'T MATTER
"The Linux community
doesn't care where you're
located, ever. You can be on
the moon as long as you have
a good internet connection."
"Similar time zones can be
helpful because I can get a
reply immediately. But it is
not super important."
Photo by NASA
@geekygirldawn
KERNEL FIRST, EMPLOYER SECOND
“At the core I'm a Linux kernel
guy. … At some point, I'm
probably going to have the
inkling to try something else,
and then … I'll be a Linux
kernel guy at the next place.”
"In 5 years, I'm not sure if I'll
be in [Company] or not, but
I'm pretty sure I'll be working
on the kernel."
@geekygirldawn
TRUST AND FREEDOM
"They're fine with
whatever as long as they
have feature support."
"I have considerable
freedom to decide
what to work on and
which direction to
take."
"There's no real direction,
no one really telling me do
this or do that, I just keep
stuff running."
Photo by NuePaddy@geekygirldawn
RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT
"There are many community
developers who I feel very
comfortable with at a social
level, ... who I look forward to
spending time with at conferences.
In some cases, I'd say they're
genuine friendships."
"Having a functional social relationship
makes it much easier to feel that asking them
for a favor is justifiable and with a strong
expectation that you'll be able to return that
favor at some point in the future."
Photo by Linux Foundation@geekygirldawn
WORK WITH COMPETITORS
"I think there's an effective social contract that you are willing
to help people who work for competitors on the assumption
that you'll get about the same amount of benefit from them."
"When we're dealing with other Linux kernel
developers, we are dealing with them as kernel
developers, rather than as competitors, per se."
Photo by Linux Foundation@geekygirldawn
COMPANY AFFILIATION
"Whether they are fresh out of school in Hungary or
whether they've been working for Google for 20 years
or somewhere else. Personally, I don't really care."
"If I don't know them
personally or if they don't
use their work email, I
don't necessarily know."
"I would be a bit more
forgiving and give them
maybe a little bit more
kid glove treatment if I
knew they were not being
paid to do it."
@geekygirldawn
MAILING LISTS
Subsystem lists vs. LKML
VGER vs. MAINTAINERS
Photo by Judith E. Bell@geekygirldawn
LINUX-PCI@VGER.KERNEL.ORG COMPANIES
2013-10-31 to 2015-10-31
LINUX-PCI@VGER.KERNEL.ORG PEOPLE
2013-10-31 to 2015-10-31@geekygirldawn
LINUX-CRYPTO@VGER.KERNEL.ORG COMPANIES
2013-10-31 to 2015-10-31@geekygirldawn
LINUX-CRYPTO@VGER.KERNEL.ORG PEOPLE
2013-10-31 to 2015-10-31@geekygirldawn
PCI ML STATISTICS

(AKA MAGIC)
@geekygirldawn
PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS
• People in TO / CC much more likely
to reply
• People who commit to same areas of
source code more likely to reply
• Maintainers / committers more likely
to reply, less likely to be replied to
@geekygirldawn
PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS
More likely to reply:
• Work for same organization
• Previous interactions in same mailing list
threads
@geekygirldawn
PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS
Not significant:
• Physical location (time zone)
• Type of organization 

(company, non-profit, hobby, academic)
Photo by NASA@geekygirldawn
NEXT STEPS
Back to work!
Photo by Mark Ramsay@geekygirldawn
CHAOSSCON EUROPE
FEBRUARY 1, 2019
Brussels, the day before FOSDEM.
Submit talk proposals.
https://chaoss.community/chaosscon-2019-eu/
@geekygirldawn
Centre for Business Network Analysis
University of Greenwich
THANK YOU
OSS Strategy Lead
Pivotal
Dawn Foster
@geekygirldawn
dawn@fastwonder.com
fastwonderblog.com

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Collaboration in Linux Kernel mailing lists

  • 1. COLLABORATION IN LINUX KERNEL MAILING LISTS Dawn M. Foster @geekygirldawn   dawn@dawnfoster.com   fastwonderblog.com OSS  Strategy  Lead   Pivotal University  of  Greenwich   London,  UK
  • 2. WHOAMI Geek, traveler, reader OSS Strategy Lead at Pivotal 20+ year tech career focused on community & open source 
 (Intel, Jive, Puppet Labs, etc.) PhD at the University of Greenwich researching Linux kernel Photos by Josh Bancroft, Don Park @geekygirldawn
  • 3. ABOUT MY RESEARCH Interviews with 16 Linux kernel developers Quantitative analysis focused on 
 kernel mailing list collaboration @geekygirldawn
  • 4. 16 KERNEL INTERVIEWS Gender Men 13 Women 3 Maintainer Yes 13 No 3 Company HQ Region N. America 9 S. America 0 Europe 5 Asia 2 Participant Region N. America 9 S. America 1 Europe 5 Asia 1 Company Size (employees) < 100 2 100 - 1,000 2 1,000 - 10,000 6 10,000 - 100,000 4 100,000+ 2 @geekygirldawn
  • 5. LOCATION DOESN'T MATTER "The Linux community doesn't care where you're located, ever. You can be on the moon as long as you have a good internet connection." "Similar time zones can be helpful because I can get a reply immediately. But it is not super important." Photo by NASA @geekygirldawn
  • 6. KERNEL FIRST, EMPLOYER SECOND “At the core I'm a Linux kernel guy. … At some point, I'm probably going to have the inkling to try something else, and then … I'll be a Linux kernel guy at the next place.” "In 5 years, I'm not sure if I'll be in [Company] or not, but I'm pretty sure I'll be working on the kernel." @geekygirldawn
  • 7. TRUST AND FREEDOM "They're fine with whatever as long as they have feature support." "I have considerable freedom to decide what to work on and which direction to take." "There's no real direction, no one really telling me do this or do that, I just keep stuff running." Photo by NuePaddy@geekygirldawn
  • 8. RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT "There are many community developers who I feel very comfortable with at a social level, ... who I look forward to spending time with at conferences. In some cases, I'd say they're genuine friendships." "Having a functional social relationship makes it much easier to feel that asking them for a favor is justifiable and with a strong expectation that you'll be able to return that favor at some point in the future." Photo by Linux Foundation@geekygirldawn
  • 9. WORK WITH COMPETITORS "I think there's an effective social contract that you are willing to help people who work for competitors on the assumption that you'll get about the same amount of benefit from them." "When we're dealing with other Linux kernel developers, we are dealing with them as kernel developers, rather than as competitors, per se." Photo by Linux Foundation@geekygirldawn
  • 10. COMPANY AFFILIATION "Whether they are fresh out of school in Hungary or whether they've been working for Google for 20 years or somewhere else. Personally, I don't really care." "If I don't know them personally or if they don't use their work email, I don't necessarily know." "I would be a bit more forgiving and give them maybe a little bit more kid glove treatment if I knew they were not being paid to do it." @geekygirldawn
  • 11. MAILING LISTS Subsystem lists vs. LKML VGER vs. MAINTAINERS Photo by Judith E. Bell@geekygirldawn
  • 16. PCI ML STATISTICS
 (AKA MAGIC) @geekygirldawn
  • 17. PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS • People in TO / CC much more likely to reply • People who commit to same areas of source code more likely to reply • Maintainers / committers more likely to reply, less likely to be replied to @geekygirldawn
  • 18. PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS More likely to reply: • Work for same organization • Previous interactions in same mailing list threads @geekygirldawn
  • 19. PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS Not significant: • Physical location (time zone) • Type of organization 
 (company, non-profit, hobby, academic) Photo by NASA@geekygirldawn
  • 20. NEXT STEPS Back to work! Photo by Mark Ramsay@geekygirldawn
  • 21. CHAOSSCON EUROPE FEBRUARY 1, 2019 Brussels, the day before FOSDEM. Submit talk proposals. https://chaoss.community/chaosscon-2019-eu/ @geekygirldawn
  • 22. Centre for Business Network Analysis University of Greenwich THANK YOU OSS Strategy Lead Pivotal Dawn Foster @geekygirldawn dawn@fastwonder.com fastwonderblog.com