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Open Source Maturity Model Explored

About a month ago Ayende posted his thoughts on the Maturity Model found in Open Source Projects.  Ayende's method for determining maturity is simple:

From my point of view, there is a very easy model for the maturity of an Open Source project. Look at the answers in the project's mailing list. The questions do no matter.

The model is simple, the higher the percentage of answers given by non project members, the more mature the project is.

I thought of this today when I came across the group info page for the RhinoMocks and saw the statistics for this month.  I was struck by how low on the list Ayende is:

image 

You can see here that Ayende is tied for #5 on the list.  (Yes that's me on the list, but that's beside the point.)  In two polls (poll #1, poll #2) done over the last two years Roy Osherove has found RhinoMocks to be the #1 mocking framework of those polled.  I believe it is safe to say at this point that RhinoMocks is mature.  Measured with Ayende's method above and the data for this month's RhinoMocks group, I'd say that RhinoMocks is quite mature.  Ayende, the project creator/owner, sits at #5, which is pretty good.

Being familiar with open source I wanted to explore the maturity idea a bit further in depth on some other projects.  I posted on twitter a question about what open source projects people are using.  I wanted to take a few projects that are out there and explore a little bit to see if Ayende's assertion was in fact correct.

Other Projects

(Note: I am only exploring projects which have groups on Google.  These projects are in no particular order.)

jQuery

Members: 15487

image

(Note the absence of John Resig)

Castle Project

Members: 795

image

(Note the absence of Hamilton Verissimo)

NUnit

Members: 204

image

(While I would rank NUnit as "mature" Charlie Poole is the top answerer, which does not match Ayende's method)

MbUnit

Members: 353

image

(The findings in NUnit are not isolated, Jeff Brown, the MbUnit lead, is the top answerer)

NHibernate

Members: 1434

image

(This is where I started to douby my original hypothesis.  I did not expect to see project owners so high up on the list for such a seemingly mature project.  However NHibernate has a learning curve to it that may hinder would-be helpers from ever getting to the point where they can confidently answer questions regularly on the framework.)

FluentNHibernate

Members: 301

image

(Again project owner is top answer, by a long margin here).

StructureMap

Members: 209

image

(This one again surprised me a bit, especially given the work that I know Jeremy has done with documentation)

MvcContrib

Members: 302

image

TestDriven.NET

Member: 184

image

(Owner and creator, Jamie Cansdale, clearly the favorite)

Spark (Mvc View Engine)

Members: 83

image

(Owner and creator, Louis DeJardin, sits atop the #1 position)

Conclusion

When I started to dig, I wasn't sure what I find.  In many cases here the project owner is sitting right at or near the top of the top answerer list. Still, I think Ayende's original assertion is somewhat correct, however more has to be considered.  For example, a very well documented framework may lead to questions being asked that are rather difficult and therefore a larger number of questions answered by project founder may not really prove anything.  In other cases there may be a framework which is widely used but users don't feel compelled or comfortable answering questions for that group, for any number of reasons.  Ultimately any notion of what presumed before exploration was blasted to bits.

These projects above are not fringe projects, they're relatively mainstream for a certain sector of the .NET crowd.  If you haven't checked out any of these projects (admittedly I did not attempt to introduce them at all) I would encourage you do so.  One thing is for certain judging from the numbers above, these projects are viable, strong, and have a good following.

What do you think of the figures above?  Is Ayende right?  What strikes you about the projects and their discussion groups?


Posted 03-16-2009 11:49 PM by Tim Barcz

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Comments

Tuna Toksoz wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 2:48 AM

Great post and findings. As the time goes by, people try to share what they learn, this is the idea behind OSS, isn't it? :)

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on 03-17-2009 2:58 AM

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Sergey Shishkin wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 9:11 AM

I think it's overmaturity :) Measuring the newsgroup is not enough anymore, you need to see how much content in general (books, blogs, articles, presentations etc.) has been generated by non-members.

alberto wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 9:24 AM

TDD.NET is not OSS.

And according to Ayende's criteria, it is not only the project owner that should be low on the list, but any project member.

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 9:34 AM

@alberto,

Your absolutely correct on the criteria.  I did take a few liberties there...here's why:

I am a committer now on RhinoMocks, but mostly because I answer a lot of questions.  I've only been a committer for about a month.

I know of a few other people who were active in project and then were asked to be part of the project team.  If that is the case you'll almost never have someone at the top of the list who isn't a project member because the project team will snatch them up.

Mike Murray wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 10:50 AM

I wonder if "this month" is the best representative time period for every project.  Perhaps to really be comparable, you have to take a project's "busiest" month, or maybe even the "slowest" month.  Maybe there is a trend that project owners get more involved in "slow" months or something.

It would be interesting to see if any of these approaches reach similar results to what you've reached, or if we get something completely different.  Just thinking out loud...

sergiopereira wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 10:58 AM

This ranking model makes very little sense. At best, I think it just finds which projects have chatty owners, projects that mostly the owners care about, projects that the owners are tired of, etc. Sometimes one of these situations will coincide with projects that have a large enough adoption. If I could create my own rank, I'd count how many times a project is referenced in other projects (along the lines of the google page rank).. This may already exist.

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 11:02 AM

@Mike

You're absolutely right.  Originally I wanted to show the decline of certain project members in certain projects as a graph over time, however I wasn't able to find that data very easily on Google.

I thought it would be interested to see a project in it's infancy start out with the project owner clearly answering the most questions and then slowly see that person responses dwindle as other users answer more questions (in other words a negatively sloping line).

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 11:04 AM

@Sergio

Interesting...I think if that were the case one of the testing frameworks would win, or Castle's DynamicProxy, that sucker is everywhere.

Louis DeJardin wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 11:35 PM

I'd say that's a fair metric to some extent. There are an increasing number of people who answer questions, which is terrific, and I'll try not to let things fall through the cracks.

But I'll also join in small conversations and will also throw out additional options if there are a few ways of doing the same thing, so that might skew the numbers a bit. I'd also hate to think I could advance the project along the maturity model by withholding my two cents. :)

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-17-2009 11:40 PM

@Louis

Thank you for your comments, I was hoping a project owner or two would throw in their thoughts.

I watched the Alt.NET talk that Aaron Jensen did and I must say Spark is impressive.

Louis DeJardin wrote re: Open Source Maturity Model Explored
on 03-18-2009 3:00 AM

Thanks - it's remarkable how far you can get by adding small ideas individually as you need them. kiss, yagni, etc.

To be honest if I had sat down in advance with the intent of building spark I'm sure it wouldn't have come together.

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