Help me find a good programmer community for my research...
June 2, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I am an academic who studies things like online communities and entrepreneurship. I would like to conduct a survey of open source and non-open source developers to see their commitment to helping out other programmers and their attitudes to entrepreneurship. When I last did research on this, Sourceforge was the place to go, but I have been outside of this world for awhile and it has moved on, perhaps to Github? Please help me figure out a good site to survey! Details inside...

I need help on finding a site where:
(a) individual programmers hang out
(b) it contains a mix of people with different types of projects and commitment levels to open source and not, commercial and non
(c) there is some method of contacting people on the site - either via email or some internal mail system
(d) there is some way of measuring community connections - perhaps questions answered or discussion posts made?
(d) there are ideally some objective stats associated with developers - especially great would be a list of projects associated with different open source statuses

I think this sounds a lot like Github, but smaller online sites would be great as well. Similarly, if there is some sub-segment of Github or another site I should concentrate on, that would also help me focus my efforts.
posted by blahblahblah to Computers & Internet (1 answer total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe you know most of this, but:

There's a lot of different kinds of open source projects, but Github is extremely well established in large parts of the "open source community," for some definition of that concept. There are other similar alternatives, but Github is almost a de facto standard.

However, while Github is quite "social," it's not really a communication platform. There are "pull requests," patches sent from one person to a repository for reviewing and merging, which often lead to discussions. Similarly with issue tickets. But it's not a chat or a forum.

Most likely, any active collaborative project you see on Github also has other channels: typically a mailing list and/or an IRC channel (typically on Freenode). Some projects are strongly related to a specific language; these will tend to be discussed in the relevant language channels, or sometimes in branched off channels.

As an example, the "Diagrams" package for Haskell has a website hosted on the's subdomain for community projects (and see here for some vague and secretive info about that). There is a "Get Involved" page showing the use of many common collaboration tools: Github, a mailing list, an IRC channel, a wiki, and a Trello board. I'd say this is a particularly well-organized project with plenty of community involvement.

In addition to source control, many open source projects, especially libraries, are hosted in special language-specific repositories that also track dependencies and versions, so that users and developers can easily install and upgrade packages. Haskell has Hackage, Ruby has RubyGems, Python has PyPI, Node has npm, and so on ad nauseum.

A common chain of events might be that someone notices a bug or missing feature; jumps into the IRC channel to probe around a little; asks on the mailing list if this is a real bug or some weird misunderstanding; gets the latest "HEAD" from Github and fixes the problem; commits the fix to their own forked repository and sends a pull request; engages in some discussion and changes some details; and finally has their fix applied to the "master" branch, to be released at some future point. If the problem is of larger scope, the person might just open an issue with detailed information and leave it to some core developer.

Of course, another important part of community building consists of hackathons, conferences, and such. Also podcasts (e.g. the Haskell Cast), YouTube tutorials, etc etc. It's kind of astounding how much global work, effort, and organization is put into all this!
posted by mbrock at 12:34 PM on June 2, 2014

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