I read this post by Seth Gottlieb. Just came across it today.
Seth addresses how folks can evaluate open source communities. According to him, one can look at general activity, bug lists, leadership, execution, participation and an economic ecosystem.
At first glance that all seems to make sense, especially to a guy who has been involved in proprietary software development. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if all these observations are really germane to open source development.
Certainly general activity is the first thing that anybody should look at. Is there anybody developing the software? If so, how many people are working on the project?
As for bug lists, I wonder how effective bug tracking for open source projects can be since so many of them use mail lists for ad hoc bug tracking. We considered adding bug information, but rapidly determined that many (if not most) open source projects do not use bug tracking systems as in proprietary software development. We are considering tracking mail lists as a way of viewing community activity on a project instead of bug tracking.
I also wonder about his comments on “economic ecosystem.” He writes, “Are people making money off this project? If there is no money to be made, people will gravitate to other interests that pay the mortgage.” I’m not sure this is true. While making money off one’s open source work is a fine thing, I don’t think this is everybody’s motivation. Just look at GCC, a monster effort which is arguably one of the most significant open source projects out there! Like GCC, there appear to be plenty of projects on our system that are labors of love rather then money making exercises.
I would also add a category to Seth’s list called “Use and Satisfaction.” We find it interesting to see how many people actually use an app. Further, it is interesting for us to see what other apps they use with it. That is the goal of our “Stack It” feature. We also have a new feature. As of today, users can rate a project and review it. I really hope these two features take off, since the information they yield will be super useful for any prospective open source user.
As always feedback is appreciated.