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[ox] Germany Leads In Open-Source Development

Germany Leads In Open-Source Development

(11/01/00, 7:54 p.m. ET) By Stuart Glascock, TechWeb News

SEATTLE -- Paul Jones, director of, had a hunch about where to
find the largest concentration of contributors to the open-source software
development, but little hard data existed about membership in collaborative
open source communities.

So, the poet, professor, author, and computer scientist with a high forehead
and hair that cascades over his shoulders set out to quantify his instincts.

Jones, a University of North Carolina journalism and library science
professor and director of the UNC MetaLab and ibiblio, studied the
demographics of the Linux developer community, counting the people who were
contributing to open source.

He wanted to know where they came from and how large their contributions
were. As part of that effort, Jones oversees ibiblio, an expansive
collection of information on the Internet, created and maintained by the

Were there five of six people doing massive contributions to open source or
hundreds of people doing one or two? Jones wanted to know.

It turns out that more than 50 percent were people adding just one or two
pieces to the growing project. Jones estimates that 250,000 developers
worldwide are involved in open-source work, either contributing code,
writing documentation, or tracking bugs.

Jones was also keenly interested in where these people were coming from --
and the answer confirmed his initial suspicions.

"We knew the Germans were really active, but we didn't know how active,"
Jones said. "We were really knocked out when we saw the Germans were the
second largest contributors."

Jones' research showed German contributions to open-source software were
greater than people with .edu e-mail addresses, and also greater than the
number of people with .org and .gov. e-mail addresses.

"The other thing we did is combined all the EU and treated it like one
country," he said. "It turns out it would be greater than all the dot-coms."

Cultural variations may explain the preponderance of European open source
developers, Jones said.

"If you are a German-speaking engineer, the only way you can play in
software and have impact is in open source," he said. "Also there are
countries that recognize the value of community. "

Europeans tend to place a greater emphasis on society, while Americans focus
more on individualism, he said.

In a research paper titled, "A Quantitative Profile of a Community of Open
Source Developers," Jones and his colleagues on the UNC Open Source Research
Team (Bert J. Dempsey, Debra Weiss and Jane Greenberg) described their

The paper is on the Web at

The researchers examined collection statistics, including "custom monitoring
scripts on the server, as well as an analysis of the contents of
user-generated metadata embedded within the Archives," they wrote.
"User-generated metadata files in a format known as the Linux Software Map
(LSM) are required when submitting open-source software for inclusion in
non-mirrored portions of the MetaLab Linux Archives.

"The over 4,500 LSMs in the Archives then provide a demographic profile of
contributors of LSM-accompanied software as well as other information on
this broad subset of the Linux community," the paper continued. "To explore
repository evolution directly, an instrumented Linux Archives mirror was
developed, and aggregate statistics on content changes seen over a
month-long period are reported.

"In sum, our results quantify aspects of the global Linux development effort
in dimensions that have not been documented before now, as well as providing
a guide for more detailed future studies."

Looking at e-mail suffixes by author field, the researchers found that
Europeans represented 37 percent of contributions; followed by 23 percent
from .com addresses; 12 percent from .edu domains; 10 percent from .net; 7
percent from .org; and 11 percent from other sources.

"The demographics of contributors reveals a strikingly strong European
influence within the Linux community," the researchers wrote.

Jones recently traveled to Seattle to participate in an IBM Corp. (stock:
IBM) event designed to generate interest in writing code for open source and
in IBM's free, online collection of content and resources focused on open
standards known, as developerWorks.

In October, IBM donated $250,000 (mostly in the form of server hardware) to
UNC to support Internet projects, including iBiblio. About two-thirds of the
equipment in the grant will consist of IBM eServer xSeries running Linux to
run the ibiblio information project.

Ibiblio is also partly operated in collaboration with Red Hat Center, a
private foundation started by Red Hat Inc. (stock: RHAT) founders Bob Young
and Marc Ewing.


[English translation]
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