Almost There: A Study on Quasi-Contributors in Open Source Software Projects

Igor Steinmacher, Gustavo Pinto, Igor Scaliante Wiese, Marco A. Gerosa

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Recent studies suggest that well-known OSS projects struggle to find the needed workforce to continue evolving-in part because external developers fail to overcome their first contribution barriers. In this paper, we investigate how and why quasi-contributors (external developers who did not succeed in getting their contributions accepted to an OSS project) fail. To achieve our goal, we collected data from 21 popular, non-trivial GitHub projects, identified quasicontributors, and analyzed their pull-requests. In addition, we conducted surveys with quasi-contributors, and projects' integrators, to understand their perceptions about nonacceptance. We found 10,099 quasi-contributors-about 70% of the total actual contributors-that submitted 12,367 nonaccepted pull-requests. In five projects, we found more quasi-contributors than actual contributors. About one-third of the developers who took our survey disagreed with the nonacceptance, and around 30% declared the nonacceptance demotivated or prevented them from placing another pull-request. The main reasons for pull-request nonacceptance from the quasicontributors' perspective were "superseded/duplicated pull-request"and "mismatch between developer's and team's vision/opinion."A manual analysis of a representative sample of 263 pull-requests corroborated with this finding. We also found reasons related to the relationship with the community and lack of experience or commitment from the quasi-contributors. This empirical study is particularly relevant to those interested in fostering developers' participation and retention in OSS communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-266
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering
StatePublished - 2018
Event40th International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2018 - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: May 27 2018Jun 3 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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