Joining open source software communities: an analysis of newbies’ first interactions on project mailing lists Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/n870zt915

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  • Open source software has become a powerful force in the world of computing. While once confined to the domain of technical specialists, people of all types have begun to adopt this software – from the casual web-surfer who uses Firefox, to the professional web developer who codes in PHP or Python. People interested in both seeking and receiving information related to an open source software project are often directed to its mailing lists. Therefore, many newcomers, or “newbies”, will have their first interactions with the project community there. These newbies are a sustaining force for open source software projects, making it worthwhile to investigate how these interactions play out and affect the newbies’ future participation. To gain insight into the first experiences newbies have interacting with an open source software community, we conducted a study of eight mailing lists across four open source software projects: MediaWiki, GIMP, PostgreSQL, and Subversion. We analyzed the discussion threads initiated by newbies on those lists for information such as poster gender, nationality, politeness, helpfulness, and timeliness of response. Among the most interesting results, we found that newbies were generally treated very well, with nearly 80% receiving replies to their first post. We also found that receiving timely responses, especially within 48 hours of posting, had a positive correlation with that newbie continuing to participate on the mailing list over time. Somewhat surprisingly, we discovered that a newbie’s level of courtesy did not have a significant effect on whether or not that newbie received a reply.
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