The open source community is nasty and that's just the docs

Survey of ~6,000 contributors also finds widespread harassment, gender imbalance

The open source community is nasty in many ways, according to a survey of over 6,000 contributors to open source projects.

The 2017 Open Source Survey was hosted on GitHub, which “collected responses from 5,500 randomly sampled respondents sourced from over 3,800 open source repositories” and then added “over 500 responses from a non-random sample of communities that work on other platforms.” The questionnaire was also made available in Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian.

The full data dump is available here.

Interestingly, those behind the survey broke out “negative incidents” into a separate spreadsheet in that trove. That data reveals that 18 per cent of open source contributors have “personally experienced a negative interaction with another user in open source”. Fully half of participants “have witnessed one between other people”.

Most of the negative behaviour is explained as “rudeness”, which has been experienced witnessed by 45 per cent of participants and experienced by 16 per cent. GitHub's summary of the survey says really nasty stuff like “sexual advances, stalking, or doxxing are each encountered by less than five per cent of respondents and experienced by less than two per cent (but cumulatively witnessed by 14%, and experienced by three per cent).” Twenty five per cent of women respondents reported experiencing “language or content that makes them feel unwelcome”, compared to 15 per cent of men.

This stuff has consequences: 21 per cent of those who see negative behaviour bail from projects they were working on.

Open source communities also look a bit uncharitable when it comes to documentation: 93 per cent of respondents bemoan its qualities, but only 60 per cent ever contribute.

But there's lots of upside too. More than half of respondents said that working on open source projects helped them to get their current jobs. The survey also finds that projects that take care to document their work well attract more developers, of both genders. Projects that take steps to make it easy to report antisocial activity also thrive.

GitHub's summarisers think that is important because open source is a sausage factory: just three per cent of those who responded to the survey are women. The summary also suggests that lots of contributors - 26 per cent - are migrants and may therefore not find documentation written by native English speakers easy.

The report makes for interesting reading in light of the fact that the world's most prominent open source developer, Linus Torvalds, says he is “a really unpleasant person” but that any venom he directs to fellow kernel developers is all in the name of better code, rather than personal slurs, as was the case with his sweary rant about punctuation in kernel comments. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022