Newcomer experience and contributor behavior in Perl and other FOSS communities - Survey

My name is Kevin Carillo. I am a PhD student currently living in Wellington (New Zealand) and I am doing some research on Free/Open Source Software communities.
If you have joined the Perl community within the last 2 years, I would like to kindly request your help. I am interested in hearing from people who are either technical or non-technical contributors, and who have had either positive or negative newcomer experiences.

The purpose of the research is to work out how newcomers to a FOSS community become valued sustainable contributors.

You can complete the survey via my university's survey platform. For more detail on the project aims, see below.

What is the project about?
I am basically studying how the experience of a FOSS community newcomer has an influence on this person’s actions and project contributions in the community.

Citizenship behaviors in FOSS communities
The first assumption that motivated this project is that attracting new members has become crucial for a large majority of FOSS communities but this is not a sufficient condition to ensure the success and prosperity of a project.

Suppose a community manages to get 50 new members per month and suppose a large number of them do not comply to the code of conduct, commit changes without considering the people or modules/components being affected by the commits, do not attend or contribute to any of the community events, and do not assist any other members when they seek for help … Down the line, the health of the community is going to be affected and the future of the project seriously jeopardized.

So, yes … it is important to attract newcomers but a community needs to make sure that a certain proportion of these newcomers become ‘good’ contributors from the community perspective. ‘Good’ in the sense that they shall contribute to the well-being and growth of the community. ‘Good’ as good community citizens.

What do newcomers really experience?
Keeping all that in mind, FOSS projects have thus to do a good job at ‘socializing’ their newcomers and turning them into contributors. Doing a good job here means that FOSS projects shall ensure that they help generate those citizenship behaviors from newcomers by designing appropriate newcomer programmes and procedures.

FOSS projects rely on a large array of initiatives to facilitate the integration of newcomers. The Google Summer of Code is an obvious example of such initiative, but there are many more such as the use of newcomer resources (e.g. tutorials), newcomer sub-communities, formal/informal mentoring, sponsorship…

However, it seems that the other side of the coin is less understood by communities: the actual experience of newcomers.

How are the contributions and the behavior of a new member affected if he or she has received formal mentoring by one or several experienced members? What about if the new member has been actively involved in a newcomer sub-community? How important is the support of a community towards its newcomers? These are some of the questions I am trying to answer.

What’s in it for Perl?
The data you provide will help gain insights about the experience of newcomers within the Perl community. In addition, it will allow to understand how to design effective newcomer initiatives to ensure that Perl will remain a successful and healthy community.

About the survey
This survey is anonymous, and no information that would identify you is being collected. I expect the survey to take around 20 minutes of your time.
The results will also be used to improve the survey before it is later administered to contributors from other FOSS projects.

The survey is available at:
It will be available until Monday, 22 October, 2012.

If you know members of the Perl community who you think would be interested in completing it, please do not hesitate to let them know about this research.

I will post news about my progress with this research, and the results on my blog. Don't hesitate to contact me at or


Fyi you should separate out data about Perl 5 as against Perl 6. They have dramatically distinct communities / cultures. For example, P5P, the home of Perl 5 contributors, is an infamously argumentative mailing list. #perl6, the home of Perl 6 contributors, is associated with "being nice to people and butterflies". Perl 5 has millions of users. Perl 6 has a few dozen. Chances are good you won't get any Perl 6 data. But if you do, don't just mix it in with Perl 5 data.

At the moment Perl 6 is akin to a sub-project with a goal very pertinent to your survey. As Larry Wall said in 2000: "I want Perl 6 to be the community's rewrite of ... the community."

Things haven't yet (12 years later!) panned out as he hoped. In particular, it's taken longer than the couple years some folk (not Larry!) claimed it would take.

So the Perl 6 software has continued to mature, and the community vibe has always been very welcoming to all comers, but many vocal Perl 5 users regularly "hate on" Perl 6 because it's late, which kinda kills participation, which makes it take longer, which leads vocal Perl 5 users to regularly "hate on" Perl 5 because it's late, which...

Anyhow, probably far more detail than you can easily process. So, I suggest you treat Perl 6 as a sub-project.

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About Kevin Carillo

user-pic I am a PhD student doing some research about free/open source software communities. I am interested in newcomer experience and the concept of citizenship in FOSS.