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CHASE 2014 - The hard of newcomers to OSS projects

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CHASE 2014 - The hard of newcomers to OSS projects

  1. 1. The Hard Life of Newcomers to Open Source Software Projects Igor Steinmacher Tayana Conte Marco Aurélio Gerosa David Redmiles
  2. 2. Motivation  Newcomers can face barriers to make their first contribution  Literature focuses on long-term contributors  Newcomers are expected to learn about the project on their own  What about those short-time (or single time) contributors? Outsider Onboarding Contributing Newcomer Contributor Member Motivation Attractiveness Retention Onboarding Barriers Onboarding Onboarding Barriers 2
  3. 3. Goal Empirically evidence and categorize the barriers faced by newcomers onboarding to OSS projects and propose a tool to support these newcomers  Studying the barriers faced by newcomers  Creating a model of barriers for newcomers to OSS 3
  4. 4. Method • Preliminary study • Qualitative analysis using procedures of Grounded Theory • Two sources • PhD candidates (IME/USP) and undergrad students (UTFPR) • Assignment: contribute to an OSS projects • Feedback: open-ended questionnaire • 9 subjects (5 PhD candidates / 4 undergrad students) • Answers to a questionnaire answered by OSS developers • Recruitment: mailing lists and forums • Question: “In your opinion, what are the main difficulties faced by newcomers when they want to start contributing to this project? (Consider technical and non-technical issues).” • 24 complete answers 4
  5. 5. Sample Project Questionnaire Students LibreOffice 6 2 Apache Open Office 3 aTunes 3 Mozilla Firefox 3 3 Audacity 2 jEdit 1 OpenVPN 1 FreePlane 1 Emacs 1 JabRef - 4 Did not inform 3 For how long have you being contributing to the project? Count Less than 6 months 7 Between 6 months and 1 year 3 Between 1 year and 3 years 6 More than 3 years 8 5
  6. 6. Results Category # of documents (feedback/question) #quotes # barriers Issues to build/set up workspace 8 (4 / 4) 15 (10/5) 5 Code issues 15 (7 / 8) 21 (11/10) 5 Problem with documentation 15 (8 / 7) 23 (15/8) 10 Newcomer Behavior 3 (0 / 3) 3 (0/3) 2 Newcomer Tech. Knowledge 12 (4 / 8) 16 (7/9) 7 Social Interaction Issue 11 (6 / 5) 12 (8/4) 6 Finding a way to start 11 (8 / 3) 22 (18/4) 3 6
  7. 7. Issues to build/set up the workspace: Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Issues setting up • • • Platform dependency • • Finding the correct source code • Library dependencies • “the biggest problem was how to get project from SCM and it to work properly.” “The biggest problem was how to get project from SCM and it to work properly.” “when we tried to run the project, we found that some dependencies were missing... and there was not even a README file to support us” 7
  8. 8. Code Issues Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Bad Quality of Code • • • Codebase Size • • • Outdated Code • Problems Understanding the code • • • Lack of Code Standards • “huge codebase that takes time to learn” “the main difficulty was getting used to the code … [they need to] define very clearly what are the standards, including the class and methods naming.” “[a problem is] the junk code.” 8
  9. 9. Documentation Problems Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Lack of Documentation • • • Lack of Documentation on Proj. Structure • Lack of Documentation on setting up workspace • Lack of Documentation on Contribution Process • • Outdated documentation • • Unclear documentation • Spread documentation • Lack of Code Comments • Lack of Design Documentation • Lack of Code Documentation • 9
  10. 10. Finding a way to start Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Find the right piece of code to work • • Outdated list of bugs • Find a task to start • • • “We do not know what is easy when we join a project, or at least the size of the problem that we are getting into. It is necessary to take a risk and try a few possibilities.” “it's not always clear where someone new can jump in and make an impact.” “I don't know what are the easiest ones and what part of code should I start looking at” 10
  11. 11. Isn’t it newcomers fault? Newcomers’ behavior Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Lack of Commitment • • Underestimating the challenge • “[newcomers] often underestimate the challenge.” “you need courage to engage with the development community.” 11
  12. 12. Isn’t it newcomers fault? Newcomers’ knowledge Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Previous knowledge on project tooling • • Previous knowledge on VCS • • Choosing the right tooling • Lack of knowledge on technologies used • Programming language used • Learning curve • Learning curve on project tooling • • General lack of knowledge • • • “[It is hard] to become acquainted with the used tooling, when the project is rather new and/or changed the tooling it used.” “[a problem is] understanding obscure old C++” “as the projects use different frameworks, you need to understand these frameworks in order to contribute.” 12
  13. 13. Code Issues Data Source Feedback Students Questions Less than 6 months Between 6 months and 3 years More than 3 years Delayed Responses • Impolite answers • Finding someone to help • • Use of intimidating terms • Communication issues • “there should be someone responsible for receiving and coordinating the onboard of new members in the project,” “at the beginning it seemed that they did not want help” “it took time to receive answers to our email” “It is hard to get someone to give us this kind of information [find where to start].” 13
  14. 14. Other results not brought by the paper • 36 interviews with OSS practitioners • Newcomers, dropouts, and experienced members • Systematic Literature Review qualitatively analyzed • Complete model with 50+ barriers grouped in 6 categories • Technical Hurdles • Documentation problems • Newcomers’ characteristics • Cultural differences • Reception Issues • Orientation Needs 14
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  16. 16. Conclusions • Placing a first contribution in an OSS project can be a tough task • There are both technical and social issues that need to be addressed • The two most reported barriers - find a task to start and problems setting up the local workspace - are not well explored by the literature • Good receptivity and providing easy enough step-by-step guidance can make the differente • Human guidance (mentoring) is invaluable, but hard to get in these communities: how to overcome that? 16
  17. 17. Provoking questions • What can alleviate or mitigate the barriers? • What is already in place? • How to make newcomers aware of the existing barriers? (How can it help?) • What is needed to make it simple for the community to offer these solutions? • Can we increase the amount of contributions if we provide the correct tooling? • Can we apply some existing approaches to help newcomers overcoming ‘code understanding’ issues? • Have any study already addressed it? How to put it to work in practice? 17
  18. 18. Igor Steinmacher igorfs@utfpr.edu.br Tayana U. Conte tayana@icomp.ufam.br Marco A. Gerosa gerosa@ime.usp.br David Redmiles redmiles@ics.uci.edu Thanks 18

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