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June 5, 2017updated 06 Jun 2017 4:02pm

GitHub Survey: Harassment & little diversity found in the open source community

21% of open source contributors left projects they were working on after experiencing negative behaviour.

By James Nunns

Negative experiences are dogging the open source community to such an extent that many leave projects that they are working on.

That’s according to the 2017 Open source Survey hosted on GitHub of over 6,000 contributors to open source projects, which found that 45% had witnessed and 16% had experienced negative behaviour, most of which is explained as “rudeness.”

Things like sexual advances, stalking, or doxing each other, has been encountered by less than 5% of respondents and experienced by less than 2%. However, 25% of women respondents said that they had experienced “language or content that makes them feel unwelcome,” this number stands at 15% for men.

Read more: Mark Shuttleworth labels some free software users as “anti-social” and “muppets”

The knock on effect is that 21% left projects they were working on after experiencing negative behaviour.

GitHub survey

Another problem that open source is facing is when it comes to diversity. A staggering 95% are men with just 3% women and 1% non-binary. While women are about as likely as men (68% vs 73%) to say they are very interested in making future contributions, they are less likely to actually do so (45% vs 61%).

Open source also has an issue when it comes to documentation. Documentation is important for helping to orientate newcomers and typically includes information around how to contribute, the terms of use of contribution, the standards or conduct, and so on.

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Incomplete or outdated documentation is described as a “pervasive problem” that is observed by 93% of respondents, however, many (60%) contributors say they rarely reply or never contribute to documentation.

The terms of use of open source projects are often critical for those who participate whilst on the job. Licenses are the most important type of documentation to users and contributors, with 64% saying an open source license is very important in deciding whether to use a project, and 67% say it is very important in deciding whether to contribute.

Although there are a number of big issues that open source as a whole has to deal with, there are positives to come out of the survey.

Read more: Red Hat CEO on being an open source zealot

Most consider open source to be more secure, on average, than proprietary software, although users are less convinced of the advantages of open source when it comes to stability or user experience.

Over half of the respondents said that working on open source projects helped them to get their current jobs and most say that their employers accept or encourage the use of open source applications (82%) and dependencies in their code base (84%), although some said their employers policies on the use of open source is unclear (applications 13%, dependencies 11%).

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