The resounding "No!" answer to Should I feel guilty for one off contributions? raises the question, for me, of how easily a user could become a contributor to a given project.

"Easily" is obviously very difficult to quantify here. The barriers to contribution for an advanced user of the project may be different to the barriers encountered by a technically advanced user who is less familiar with the project, for instance.

Are there any studies or proposed frameworks for measuring the ease of contribution or barriers to contribution of FLOSS projects?

  • I am refraining from voting to close this until this meta question is resolved. However I feel any studies (and by inference any answers here) would likely be based primarily on opinion given the difficulty in quantifying such things.
    – kdopen
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 13:58
  • @kdopen - The gist of the question is whether there have been attempts to tackle the difficult task of quantifying this. If there have been multiple a quick compare and contrast would be great. I will think about an edit to make that clearer.
    – Bell
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 17:53
  • Studies are not necessary. In most software projects beyond the very small, it is easy to contribute in some fashion if you want to. In particular, it is easy to make documentation contributions, because software developers are generally not very interested in such work. The GNU project is a partial historical exception, because Stallman considered documentation very important. But generally it is common for even important free software projects to have poor documentation. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Yes there are studies. Many studies.

Here are links to two:

There seems to be a steady stream of sociologists who find this question interesting, and run surveys, and write papers. They show up at the ASF quite regularly.

To stave off 'link only' complaints: project vary drastically in the barriers they set to new contributors. There is really no general statement to be made here; you need to study a project for yourself to get an indication of the situation.

  • If you attempt to summarise the general picture these studies, you'll definitely get my vote.
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 19:54
  • I think I did. The general picture is that here is no general picture; it varies very widely by community :-)
    – bmargulies
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 20:01
  • Interesting papers, and there certainly are quite a lot of them. Many state, or take as assumed, that there is a difference in barriers to contribution but there is very little attempt to quantify or even categorise the barriers. I suppose that the treatment I'm looking for would be more typical of Informatics or the MBA modules on technology management than it is of sociology.
    – Bell
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 14:08
  • I can tell you from personal experience that there are differences. Some projects fall over themselves to welcome new contributes; at others, only employees of company 'X' will ever have commit rights.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 1:30

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