Do CONTRIBUTING Files Provide Information about OSS Newcomers' Onboarding Barriers?

Felipe Fronchetti, David C. Shepherd, Igor Wiese, Christoph Treude, Marco Aurélio Gerosa, Igor Steinmacher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Effectively onboarding newcomers is essential for the success of open source projects. These projects often provide onboarding guidelines in their 'CONTRIBUTING' files (e.g., CONTRIBUTING.md on GitHub). These files explain, for example, how to find open tasks, implement solutions, and submit code for review. However, these files often do not follow a standard structure, can be too large, and miss barriers commonly found by newcomers. In this paper, we propose an automated approach to parse these CONTRIBUTING files and assess how they address onboarding barriers. We manually classified a sample of files according to a model of onboarding barriers from the literature, trained a machine learning classifier that automatically predicts the categories of each paragraph (precision: 0.655, recall: 0.662), and surveyed developers to investigate their perspective of the predictions' adequacy (75% of the predictions were considered adequate). We found that CONTRIBUTING files typically do not cover the barriers newcomers face (52% of the analyzed projects missed at least 3 out of the 6 barriers faced by newcomers; 84% missed at least 2). Our analysis also revealed that information about choosing a task and talking with the community, two of the most recurrent barriers newcomers face, are neglected in more than 75% of the projects. We made available our classifier as an online service that analyzes the content of a given CONTRIBUTING file. Our approach may help community builders identify missing information in the project ecosystem they maintain and newcomers can understand what to expect in CONTRIBUTING files.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationESEC/FSE 2023 - Proceedings of the 31st ACM Joint Meeting European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering
EditorsSatish Chandra, Kelly Blincoe, Paolo Tonella
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages16-28
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9798400703270
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 30 2023
Event31st ACM Joint Meeting European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering, ESEC/FSE 2023 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: Dec 3 2023Dec 9 2023

Publication series

NameESEC/FSE 2023 - Proceedings of the 31st ACM Joint Meeting European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering

Conference

Conference31st ACM Joint Meeting European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering, ESEC/FSE 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Period12/3/2312/9/23

Keywords

  • FLOSS
  • novices
  • onboarding
  • open source
  • software engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software

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