Preliminary empirical identification of barriers faced by newcomers to open source software projects

Igor Steinmacher, Ana Paula Chaves, Tayana Uchoa Conte, Marco Aurelio Gerosa

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

41 Scopus citations


When newcomers try to join an open source soft-ware (OSS) project, they face many barriers that hinder their first contribution, leading in many cases to their dropping out. Many projects leverage the contribution of outsiders, and the sustainability of the project relies on retaining some of these new-comers. This research aims to identify the barriers that hinder newcomers' onboarding to OSS projects. Our method consisted of a qualitative study conducted with data obtained from four different sources: (i) systematic literature review, (ii) feedback from nine graduate and undergraduate students after they tried to join OSS projects, (iii) 24 responses to a questionnaire sent to 9 OSS projects, and (iv) semi-structured interviews with 36 sub-jects from 14 different projects, including newcomers and experi-enced members. The method to select the candidate papers in the systematic literature review was querying four digital libraries and backward snowballing. The data obtained from the practi-tioners from all three sources, and the primary studies obtained in the systematic review were analyzed using used procedures of Grounded Theory's open and axial coding. The analysis resulted in a conceptual model composed of 58 barriers, grouped into six different categories: cultural differences, newcomers' characteris-tics, reception issues, orientation, technical hurdles, and docu-mentation problems. We could observe recurrent barriers evi-denced in different data sources. We could notice that the onboarding process of a newcomer to an OSS can be a tough task. This research brings empirical support relying on data from different sources, organizes and discusses the existing common wisdom about barriers faced by newcomers to OSS projects, which deserve attention from researchers and OSS communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 28th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, SBES 2014
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781479942237
StatePublished - Oct 31 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event28th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, SBES 2014 - Maceio, Brazil
Duration: Oct 1 2014Oct 3 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings - 28th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, SBES 2014


Conference28th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, SBES 2014


  • newcomers
  • onboarding
  • open source software
  • qualitative analysis
  • systematic literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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