[DZone Research] Open Source Communities and Contributing to OSS

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[DZone Research] Open Source Communities and Contributing to OSS

Everyone likes feeling part of something, which is part of what makes OSS attractive. But the number of devs using OSS far outweighs those contributing to it.

· Open Source Zone ·
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This article is part of the Key Research Findings from the DZone Guide to Open Source: Democratizing Development.


As part of 2018 DZone Guide to Open Source, we surveyed 629 software professionals about various aspects of developing and using open source software. In this article, we take a look into how respondents interact with and contribute to open source communities. 

It Takes a Village

When it comes to the adoption of an open-source solution, the community surrounding it plays just as large a role as the software itself. Indeed, the two biggest reasons respondents expressed for choosing open-source technologies are community-centric in nature. The most popular reason for adopting a particular OSS solution is a helpful community, with 74% of respondents claiming this plays a role in their adoption of the software. Popularity of the solution among developers was the second most popular reason, with 68% of respondents telling us this factor influences their decision to use a particular open-source project. Some other important factors included: maturity of the solution (62%); community guidelines (45%); reading potentially helpful use cases online (42%); frequent activity (40%). Here again, the community-centric nature of a developer's choice of open source projects is apparent.

Though devs are occasionally faced with hostile community interactions, these situations seem to be few and far between. We asked our readers how often they experience negative interactions when dealing with fellow community members, and 65% told us they only have such experiences a few times a year; the second most popular answer was a few times per month, with only 12% of respondents.

Contributing to Open Source

While the community around a particular open-source project will define its adoption rate, most developers do not contribute to open-source projects. Of the 469 respondents who told us that they use open-source in personal projects, 44% said they contribute to open source. And of the 594 developers who said they use open source in their professional projects, only 27% stated that they contribute to open source. Indeed, whereas 88% of total survey respondents use open-source software, only 16% actively contribute to projects. Of those who contribute, the most popular capacity in which they contribute is to help with bug fixes (68%), followed closely by answering questions from new users (59%), and adding new features (53%).

Despite this low contribution rate, only 6% of respondents said that they are not likely to contribute to projects in the future. Of those who use open source in their personal projects, 27% said they are“somewhat likely” to contribute to OSS projects in the future, and 25% said they are “planning to contribute in the near future.” Of those who use open source for projects at work, 38% said they are somewhat likely to contribute to open source at some point down the line, and 30% said they are planning on contributing soon. Thus, as open source continues to gain in popularity, it seems as though the contributor population will continue to increase, as well.


If we consult the Mecca of all things open source, the GitHub Open Source Survey, we see this gap between OSS users and contributors is not unique to the DZone community. Interestingly, the GitHub report posits that if gender imbalance in the software field and OSS communities is righted, then this wide gap between users and contributors would lessen. 

How do you think developers can help make OSS projects more thriving communities? 

This article is part of the Key Research Findings from the DZone Guide to Open Source: Democratizing Development.

dzone research, open source, open source communities, open source contributing

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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