The voice of The Apache Software Foundation

Widening the Circle: The open source journey from user to contributor Aizhamal Nurmamat kyzy Riona MacNamara

September 13, 2019

Open source draws its strength from the communities that use and build it. It’s their diversity of perspective, skills, and accountability that makes individual projects stronger and builds a richer and solid ecosystem. But while open source is used by the entire world, that broad user community is not yet reflected in the contributor base. In fact, diversity in open source is significantly worse than in proprietary software. While we claim that contribution is open to all, clearly not everybody feels empowered or welcome to contribute to open source projects. And that’s a problem. How can we fix this? How can we enable all developers everywhere to contribute to open source and take advantage of the opportunities it presents? In Q1 2019, Google’s Open Source Strategy team commissioned a user research study to better understand why users do (or do not) contribute back to the project, and how documentation can help remove roadblocks to that project’s adoption and usage – and encourage and enable community contributions. In this talk, we’ll cover the methodology and participant profiles of the study, and describe the four essential user personas we identified – along with their critical user-to-contributor journeys. And we’ll also distill the research to provide concrete recommendations and best practices for creating documentation that helps your community flourish and your project thrive.

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