I mentioned back in December that we have an ongoing relationship with Notre Dame University where we provide them with a monthly dump of all of our data, and they provide this to people doing research into how Open Source software development works.
I’ve been having fairly regular conversations with the director of that program, and he’s been sending me a steady supply of research papers that have come out of it. I rather expected most of them to be very esoteric and not particularly practical for every-day consumption, but I’ve been wrong on that count.
One paper I found particularly interesting was one titled “Heartbeat: Measuring active user base and potential user interest in FLOSS projects” by Andrea Wiggins, James Howison, and Kevin Crowston. It was so clearly expressed that when I got to the end of it, their conclusion seemed like I should have known it all along.
By watching download traffic on projects, and correlating peaks with releases, you can determine what part of that is the installed base updating to the latest version, and what part is new users contributing to project growth.
This is supported by data from various SourceForge projects, and expressed as some very simple mathematical equations, which you can quite happily skip if you’re not a mathematician.
You can read the whole paper over at FLOSShub.
I’ll be sharing other papers over the coming months, as I find ones that seem to be not only particularly insightful, but also immediately applicable to those of us involved in Open Source communities.
Next on my list is a paper titled “Defining Open Source Software Project Success“, by the same team of collaborators.