#open source

Managing successful communities in open source




3 mins read


Open Source Insights

There is no community tool that will replace building meaningful connections. Working in open source can be challenging to track and measure. Identifying what is success in a project can be hand-wavy and is sometimes met with a focus on the wrong metric. Organizations like the CHAOSS give us a lot of metrics, but no direction. There is currently no definitive statement on what success looks like in open source, but I have a few opinions to share.

data on the react-router

In a recent talk I gave on discovering unconventional metrics, I outlined the overlooked metrics of new outside contributors and company representation.

conference talk on unconventional metrics

Link to conference talk

New issues show interest

One key indicator of a thriving open source project is a consistent influx of new contributors opening issues. When a project regularly attracts new participants who are willing to invest their time in reporting bugs, suggesting improvements, or requesting features, it demonstrates the project's vitality and relevance to a growing community.

podcast episode with brendan burns

Link to podcast

The Kubernetes project learned this first hand 10 years ago (this July) when they saw several issues opened by Red Hat employees. Find that story in my conversation with Brendan Burns here.

This cohort of engaged users, who may eventually become code contributors or long-term maintainers, is essential for the sustainability and growth of the project. By tracking the number of issues created by new authors over time, open source maintainers can gauge the success of their community-building efforts and the overall health of their project.

Open Source Contributors Metrics

It is not enough to track issues; tracking how issues are uniquely created by outside contributors play a role in the success of a project. These individuals, who are not part of the core development team, represent connected companies and communities with an interest in the project. Their contributions help to enhance the project's functionality, usability, and accessibility. Moreover, outside contributors serve as ambassadors for the project, spreading awareness and attracting new users and developers to the community. By leaning into this metric, open source maintainers can ensure the long-term viability and impact of their project.

The chart below highlights confidence for stargazers and forkers in the top 8 most popular JavaScript projects.

contributor confidence

A metrics we are testing internally now is the “Contributor Confidence,” the ability for an individual to contribute more than once. Open source generally over indexes on good first issues, but following the journey through repeat contributions tells a better story for health.

Tracking Success

Open source is the bedrock for so many developing tools and companies, it would be paramount to figure this out so we can see the continued growth from the projects we depend on.

Tools focused on measuring community tend to focus on drive-by interactions like forks and comments but rarely give a sense of what impact the project is providing. Now with the acquisitions of and last week, I could not be more proud and validated that the path we are on for sustaining open source through meaningful metrics is needed more than ever.

By focusing on open source projects, we're able to provide specialized insights that cut through the noise to give you the information you need for an impactful open source project.

coming soon dashboard

Remember open source feels better when done together. Explore OpenSauced to discover how you can measure. Follow our changelog for updates as we ship more metrics to our workspaces.

bdougie profile picture


Chief Sauce Officer for OpenSauced.

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