Interesting GNOME Census problems

community, gnome 9 Comments

We’ve been running into some interesting issues with the GNOME census, which are causing us to twist our tiny brains to get useful results. I thought it might be interesting to share some of them.

  1. – a large number of people commit with their address (or, but have also committed with a different address in the past. So many of you received our survey request twice or more (oops). addresses pose another problem too – when attempting to identify a developer’s employer, gitdm uses domain name matching, and some many gainfully employed GNOME hackers use their addresses to commit, that doesn’t work very well (oops). Finally, we have observed so far that the response rate among unpaid GNOME developers is much higher than the response rate among professional GNOME developers, which has made identifying employers for specific addresses even more difficult.
  2. – Some Canonical developers commit with their address, some with their address, and others apparently use their address. Some unpaid Ubuntu hackers & packagers also commit with email addresses. So identifying the exact number of Canonical developers & Canonical upstream commits has proven very difficult.
  3. Time – many GNOME developers have changed employers at some point, or gone from being unpaid GNOME developers to paid GNOME developers, or changed companies through acquisition or merger. Old email addresses bounce. And yet, it’s the same person. Dealing with time has been one of our toughest challenges, and one where we still don’t have satisfactory answers.
  4. Self-identity – One of the issues we’ve had running the survey is that simple domain name pattern matching doesn’t tell the whole story. Does someone who works for Red Hat on packaging and then spends his evenings hacking his pet project count as a volunteer or a professional? We have noticed a significant number of people who commit with their professional email addresses and consider themselves volunteers on the GNOME project. For a problem which is already complicated enough, this adds further nuance to any quantitative statistics which result.

Thank you all to everyone who has taken the time to answer the 3 to 7 questions (depending on how you self-identify) in the survey – the data has been interesting, and has led us to question some of our preconceptions. To those of you who have not answered yet, let me assure you that the email we sent was not a spam, and Vanessa is doing a great job collating your answers and (in some cases) preparing follow-up questions.

Any insights which people might be able to give in elucidating the issues we’ve noticed are welcome! Please do leave comments.

Maemo Community Council voting open

community, General, maemo 7 Comments

The voting tokens have just been sent out for the Q1 2010 Maemo Community Council elections.

I already have over 100 bounced emails, so if you think that you should have a vote and you have not received an email with a voting token yet, please send me an email or leave a comment, I will look up your Maemo username and send you on the voting token/email combo we have on record so that you can vote.

Voting runs until March 30th – you can find more information about the election and the council in the Maemo wiki.

The GNOME Census project

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec 9 Comments

I’ve been working on a project for the past few weeks, and it’s time to take the wraps off.

For as long as I’ve been involved in GNOME, we have been asked the same questions over and over again: How many GNOME developers are there? Which companies invest in GNOME, and how much? Where can I go for professional GNOME development services? And for as long as I’ve been involved in GNOME, the best answer that we can give is pretty hand-wavey – we talk about hundreds of developers, thousands of contributors, the advisory board, an ecosystem of expert independent companies, but we never do get around to putting meat on the bones.

I decided that we should do something about that, and so for the past few weeks, an intern called Vanessa has been working to help me dissect the underbelly of the GNOME project.

What is the GNOME Census?

We’re aiming to answer three questions as completely as we can:

  • Who develops GNOME, and what do they work on? What does the GNOME developer community look like? How many GNOME developers are there?And how many contributors doing things other than development?
  • What companies are investing in GNOME, and how? Are there modules where companies are co-operating, or have contributing companies been concentrating on disjoint parts of the project?
  • Finally, if you’re a company looking for expert developers for custom GNOME development, where should you go? What does the commercial ecosystem around the GNOME project look like?

We’ve been using tools like gitdm, cvsanaly and artichow to get some nice quantitative data on modules in GNOME git and repositories. We will be running a survey of GNOME developers, and doing one-on-one interviews with key people in the GNOME commercial ecosystem to go beyond the figures and get some qualitative information about future plans and priorities as well.

So why take on the project?

Well, it seemed like fun. Answering interesting questions is always challenging and interesting. And it also seemed useful – if people are always asking for this information, there must be a reason they want to know, right?

Financially, this is an investment. I am paying Vanessa to help with the study, and it is taking a lot of my time. I initially looked for a sponsor for the project, but reaction was tepid, no-one wanted to bear the full cost of the report, but everyone I spoke to agreed that it would be useful and they would definitely like to have a copy when it got done. So I hit on the following idea for funding the project:

When the report is eventually available, I will be selling some copies to recoup costs. When I have sold a sufficient number to cover the cost of the project, I plan to release the report under a Creative Commons license. Those who are eager to get the results and information sooner rather than later will subsidise the availability of the report for everyone. I have submitted a proposal for GUADEC to present the conclusions of the report, and I anticipate that it will be available under a free licence by then.

Who’s the target audience?

ISVs are interested in knowing how active projects are before committing resources. The GNOME Census will help reduce the uncertainty when choosing GNOME as a platform. GNOME distributors will be able to leverage this report to show the vibrancy, size, activity and commercial ecosystem around the GNOME platform. For companies who have been long-time investors in GNOME’s success, the census will give them well-deserved recognition, especially in areas where that investment has not been very end-user visible, but has had a huge effect on the quality of the user experience. Finally, for companies building software platforms on top of GNOME, and for companies in the GNOME commercial ecosystem, this report will allow swift identification of service providers with a high credibility level through their involvement in GNOME and the core developers who are working for them.

So what now?

We will be launching a survey this week asking GNOME developers who they work for, and whether they have worked for other companies previously – because of the widespread use of email addresses in GNOME, unfortunately it has not always been easy to identify companies behind the people. We also want qualitative information on projects you work on, whether you work on GNOME in your free time, and more. We are be breaking down GNOME development by core platform, external dependencies, GNOME desktop, GNOME hosted applications and other GNOME applications. Vanessa will be sending out a very short survey to everyone who has committed to GNOME, and we need your help to make the census as useful as possible to the GNOME project.

Thanks for your help!

GUADEC Call for participation deadline – arriving fast!

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, maemo 1 Comment

I just realised this morning that after a very long call for participation period, we’re now in the last week before the call for participation deadline for GUADEC – you should have proposals in by 23:59 UTC on March 20th to be eligible for selection (although a little birdie tells me that might get extended to the end of the weekend). Of course, I knew that the deadline was sometime in the end of March, but I didn’t realise that we’d gotten so far through the calendar!

So get your proposals in about all things GNOME, GNOME 3, GNOME Mobile, usability, accessibility, webability, open data, free services, scaling the community, developer tools, whatever – but get them in quick. It’s better to get a poor proposal in now & improve it next week than wait until next week to polish what you have now.

For guidelines on a good talk proposal, I really like the OSCON guidelines as a list of good dos & don’ts for conference proposals – in general, make the proposal (and your presentation, if accepted) not about you or your project, but about your audience and what they can do with your project – so clearly identify the target audience & why they would attend, and make the title short & action-based, rather than vague, weird or overly clever.

Good luck to teuf and his merry band evaluating all the proposals!


community, gnome 3 Comments

In honour of the recent discussions on foundation-list, I would like to resend everyone to this piece by Dan Spalding, which I’ve mentioned previously. It had a huge influence on me, and hopefully will on others too.

As a teaser, here’s an extract of the target audience:

Consensus decision making is a model of the society we want to live in, and a tool we use to get there. Men often dominate consensus at the expense of everyone else. Think about the man who…

  • Speaks for a long, loud, first and often
  • Offers his opinion immediately whenever someone makes a proposal, asks a question, or if there’s a lull in discussion
  • Speaks with too much authority: “Actually, it’s like this…”
  • Can’t amend a proposal or idea he disagrees with, but trashes it instead
  • Makes faces every time someone says something he disagrees with
  • Rephrases everything a woman says, as in, “I think what Mary was trying to say is…”
  • Makes a proposal, then responds to each and every question and criticism of it – thus speaking as often as everyone else put together (Note: This man often ends up being the facilitator)

It’s rarely just one man who exhibits every problem trait. Instead it’s two or three competing to do all the above. But the result is the same: everyone who can’t (or won’t) compete on these terms – talking long, loud, first and often – gets drowned out.

This is a result of society’s programming. Almost no men can actually live up to our culture’s fucked up standards of masculinity. And our society has standards for women that are equally ridiculous. In one way, we both suffer equally. That’s why we all yearn and strive for a world where these standards – which serve to divide us and reduce us and prop up those in control – are destroyed.

In another way these standards serve those who come closest to living up to them. Sure, we all lose when a few men dominate a meeting. But it’s those men who get to make decisions, take credit for the work everyone does, and come out feeling more inspired and confident.

Like I said, Dan’s piece opened my eyes to my own bad behaviour, and also enabled me to improve as a meeting/round-table/discussion facilitator. Hopefully a reasoned reflective analysis of their behaviour by the most disruptive elements of foundation-list will also have a similar effect on them. I certainly hope so.