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Collaboration in Linux Kernel Mailing Lists

While there is quite a bit of data about the people and companies who commit Linux kernel code, there isn’t much data about how people work together on the kernel mailing lists where they decide what patches will be accepted. Using a few of the top subsystem mailing lists as examples, Dawn Foster will share her PhD research into how people collaborate on the kernel mailing lists, including network visualizations of mailing list interactions between contributors. You can expect to learn more about the people, their employers, and other data that impacts how people participate on the mailing lists. For example, do timezones influence collaboration? How about source code contributions? Dawn will also give a brief overview of her 20+ year career both before and after going back to school to get her PhD along with some information about her involvement in OpenUK.

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Collaboration in Linux Kernel Mailing Lists

  1. 1. COLLABORATION IN LINUX KERNEL MAILING LISTS Dr. Dawn M. Foster @geekygirldawn Director of Open Source Community Strategy fosterd@vmware.com fastwonderblog.com Open Source at VMware @vmwopensource blogs.vmware.com/opensource
  2. 2. WHOAMI Geek, traveler, reader 20+ year tech career focused on community & open source (Intel, Puppet, Scale Factory, …) PhD from the University of Greenwich focus on Linux kernel collaboration Kubernetes contributor OpenUK Board, CHAOSS Governing Board and Maintainer, Bitergia Advisory Board @geekygirldawn Photos by Mom, Josh Bancroft, Don Park
  3. 3. ABOUT MY RESEARCH Interviews with 16 Linux kernel developers Quantitative analysis focused on kernel mailing list collaboration @geekygirldawn
  4. 4. 16 KERNEL INTERVIEWS Gender Men 13 Women 3 Maintainer Yes 13 No 3 Company HQ Region N. America 9 S. America 0 Europe 5 Asia 2 Participant Region N. America 9 S. America 1 Europe 5 Asia 1 Company Size (employees) < 100 2 100 - 1,000 2 1,000 - 10,000 6 10,000 - 100,000 4 100,000 + 2 @geekygirldawn
  5. 5. LOCATION DOESN'T MATTER "The Linux community doesn't care where you're located, ever. You can be on the moon as long as you have a good internet connection." "Similar time zones can be helpful because I can get a reply immediately. But it is not super important." Photo by NASA @geekygirldawn
  6. 6. KERNEL FIRST, EMPLOYER SECOND “At the core I'm a Linux kernel guy. … At some point, I'm probably going to have the inkling to try something else, and then … I'll be a Linux kernel guy at the next place.” "In 5 years, I'm not sure if I'll be in [Company] or not, but I'm pretty sure I'll be working on the kernel." @geekygirldawn
  7. 7. TRUST AND FREEDOM "They're fine with whatever as long as they have feature support." "I have considerable freedom to decide what to work on and which direction to take." "There's no real direction, no one really telling me do this or do that, I just keep stuff running." Photo by NuePaddy@geekygirldawn
  8. 8. RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT "There are many community developers who I feel very comfortable with at a social level, ... who I look forward to spending time with at conferences. In some cases, I'd say they're genuine friendships." "Having a functional social relationship makes it much easier to feel that asking them for a favor is justifiable and with a strong expectation that you'll be able to return that favor at some point in the future." Photo by Linux Foundation@geekygirldawn
  9. 9. WORK WITH COMPETITORS "I think there's an effective social contract that you are willing to help people who work for competitors on the assumption that you'll get about the same amount of benefit from them." "When we're dealing with other Linux kernel developers, we are dealing with them as kernel developers, rather than as competitors, per se." Photo by Linux Foundation@geekygirldawn
  10. 10. COMPANY AFFILIATION "Whether they are fresh out of school in Hungary or whether they've been working for Google for 20 years or somewhere else. Personally, I don't really care." "If I don't know them personally or if they don't use their work email, I don't necessarily know." "I would be a bit more forgiving and give them maybe a little bit more kid glove treatment if I knew they were not being paid to do it." @geekygirldawn
  11. 11. MAILING LISTS Subsystem lists vs. LKML VGER vs. MAINTAINERS Photo by Judith E. Bell@geekygirldawn
  12. 12. LINUX-PCI@VGER.KERNEL.ORG COMPANIES 2013-10-31 to 2015-10-31
  13. 13. LINUX-PCI@VGER.KERNEL.ORG PEOPLE 2013-10-31 to 2015-10-31@geekygirldawn
  14. 14. PCI ML STATISTICS (AKA MAGIC) @geekygirldawn
  15. 15. PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS •People in TO / CC much more likely to reply •People who commit to same areas of source code more likely to reply •Maintainers / committers more likely to reply, less likely to be replied to @geekygirldawn
  16. 16. More likely to reply: •Work for same organization •Previous interactions in same mailing list threads @geekygirldawn PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS
  17. 17. Not significant: •Physical location (time zone) •Type of organization (company, non-profit, hobby, academic) Photo by NASA@geekygirldawn PCI MAILING LIST RESULTS
  18. 18. @geekygirldawn Vision: To develop and sustain UK Leadership in Open Technology: • Open Source Software • Open Source Hardware • Open Data First organisation actively uniting these @openuk_uk  / Openuk.uk 
  19. 19. @geekygirldawn How is OpenUK achieving this? • Building a visible and loud community around Open Technology in the UK by uniting people across existing projects • Influencing Legal and Policy to make sure the UK is a great place to do Open • Building Education and Learning in Open Technology @openuk_uk  / Openuk.uk 
  20. 20. THANK YOU Dr. Dawn M. Foster fosterd@vmware.com @geekygirldawn fastwonderblog.com Open Source at VMware blogs.vmware.com/opensource @vmwopensource

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