Why Is It So Hard Finding Programmers To Work On Your Open Source Project?

Code Project recently did a survey “How much time do you spend (on average) working on hobby programming projects?” where “A hobby project means one you’re doing outside of work or school for your own enjoyment / amusement / nefarious ends.”  1289 people responded, with the following results:

survey results.png

While not stated, the survey was intended to be per week.

Also keep in mind that Code Project caters primarily to developers using the Microsoft technology stack, so who knows what these results would be for other technology stacks.

If we consider that a usable number of hours per week on an open source project requires at least 5 hours a week, we see that about 32% of the respondents have the time to commit to “hobby” projects:

5 to 60+ hrs 407 0.315749
Never to 5 hrs 882 0.684251

If we throw out the 30-60+ hours results based on my total conjecture that most people needed for open source projects have full time jobs and are skilled professionals in their industry (here my conjecture is that someone that has 30+ hours doesn’t have a job and/or is not yet qualified as being a “skilled professional”), the numbers are even worse:

5 to 60+ hrs 307 0.2582
Never to 5 hrs 882 0.7418

Only about 26% of programmers spend time on hobby projects.

While this number seems promising, consider:

  1. Most of these programmers are probably spending time on their own projects.
  2. OK, but there are 18.2 million software developers worldwide (source)
  3. In 2012 there were over 5 million FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software) projects (source)
    1. In 2017, this number can only have increased dramatically
    2. And you’re going to attract programmers to your FOSS exactly how???
  4. Let’s say there’s 7 million FOSS projects now (2017) – (I was not able to get a number from Google past 2012)
  5. That leaves roughly 2 programmers per FOSS project.

Let’s look at the 2012 number a bit more.  In 2012, GitHub had around 1/2 million active repositories (source).  In 2014, this number was 2 million.  That’s a 4 fold increase.  The source quoted in item 3 above claimed 4.7M repositories, but according to the GitHut source, only 1/2 million of those were active (about 1/10th.)  So realistically, we should say that at least by 2014, there were 20 million FOSS projects, if we continue this 1:10 ratio of active vs. overall projects.  Again, this number can only have increased by 2017.

Let’s look at it in a different way.  What’s interesting about the GitHut graph is that it essentially shows a linear growth of active repositories between 2012 and 2014.

active repos.png

If we consider this linear trend to remain through 2016, we might expect to see another 4-fold increase by 2016, making for 8 million active repos!

Great, 8 million active repos, 18 million developers, so we still have about 2 developers per active repo to work on my project.  Uh, no.  How many of those know the programming language you use, not to mention all the other tech that your project uses?  A responder to a Quora question on how many C# developers there are (source) uses a WAG of 8 million.

C# projects on GitHub are only about 6.3% (in 2014, GitHut source) or about 140,000 projects.  Let’s say that percentage stays constant, but there’s a four-fold increase in the number of C# projects, to 540,000.

  • 8 million C# devs
  • 25% of them are available to work on FOSS = 2 million
  • 540,000 C# projects

We’re still looking at only 3 developers (ok, 3.7) for a particular project.

So I have two questions:

  1. How in the world are you going to find those 2 to 4 developers to work on your project, assuming they are even interested in your project???
  2. How in the world are you going to attract those 2 to 4 developers to your FOSS project, one out of more than 1/2 million???

Any reason to suspect my analysis is wrong?