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The Wonder of the FOSS World

April 2, 2011

This is a big “Thank you”. I’m in awe at the power of the FOSS community and of the willingness of folks to help.

This is a story about a student of mine who is completing a senior honor’s project. Andrew McGrath is conducting a survey of FOSS developers on the use of documentation. He is building off a survey that Tim Lethbridge, Janice Singer, and Andrew Forward created to determine how documentation is used by software engineers in industry. (“How Software Engineers Use Documentation: The State of the Practice”. IEEE Software, November 2003, pg 35-39.) Andrew is investigating the differences between FOSS practices and industry practices. Due to a variety of reasons, we are late in constructing the survey and we have a short timeline as we need the responses by April 14th.

On Thursday (3/31), I posted a request on, known as TOS, requesting that folks post the URL for the survey on any FOSS developer lists that they may know of. Leslie Hawthorn picked up the post within minutes and tweeted it. This caught the attention of Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier and Esther Schindler then retweeted . Thank you all for spreading the word!

Addition on 4/3/11: Today I learned that FOSSwiki had retweeted the survey info!!!

Within an hour, the URL for the survey had been distributed widely and survey completions were going up. I’m deeply thankful for those who marketed the survey and also for those who have completed the survey. The willingness of members of the FOSS community to help is a real blessing. Oh, and Andrew has been contributing to OCRFeeder, a document layout analysis and optical character recognition system that is part of the GNOME Assistive Technology suite.

We’ll post the results of the survey and some observations on the data in a couple of weeks so that folks can see what we found out.


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