FOSS is an acronym for Free and open-source software. In this post I will look at two particular FOSS projects and gather some facts about them in order get some feel for the scale of the project, and a bit of understanding about how the projects operate from a developer’s perspective.
The two FOSS projects that I will be looking at are:
By looking through the websites of these two projects I was able to learn many things about them. In terms of how many people are working on these projects, over the past twelve months, 43 developers contributed new code to VUFind. It claims to be one of the largest open-source teams in the world, and is in the top 2% of all project teams on Open Hub. For this measurement, Open Hub considers only recent changes to the code. Over the entire history of the project, 94 developers have contributed. By looking at the Mifos website, it was a lot less clear just how many people were working on the project, it lists the management team, board of directors, advisors, partner council, local chapters as well as “star contributors” but doesn’t give a clear idea of total number of people working. Their Github page had 11 contributors listed.
In terms of activity, VUFind claims to have Stable Y-O-Y development activity. Over the last twelve months, VUFind has not seen any change in activity. In light of this, they support their claim by saying this may be a good sign, and an indication that development is continuing at the same pace and not dropping off. The Mifos website never explicitly states any statistics or factoids about activity or is difficult to find after a good look. When I looked at their GitHub page however, there were updates to code within the hour which I take to be a very good indication of activity.
VUFind seems really easy for anyone interested in helping with the project. There is literally a “Getting Started” tab right on the website with links to an installation guide, platform-specific documentation and more advanced topics such as installing multiple instances, or using Nginx instead of Apache, for example. Mifos similarly seems very straightforward for anyone interested in getting started. Their “Resources” tab provides links to training, documentation, community and support and there is a “getting started guide” under technical resources.
Both projects use Atlassian’s JIRA Issue tracker. Mifos claims that “every bug, feature, request, or development tasks gets recorded, prioritized, and tracked in JIRA” on their site. Below are some visualized metrics I was able to find on their JIRAs for recent issue tracking activity.
Both projects seem to have a good handle on issue tracking but VUFind seems to be more active in closing cases as Mifos still has 100 open cases which is 24% of all their cases.
In terms of business models and how both of these projects can operate as “free and open source,” VUFind is developed and maintained by Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library. Mifos is supported by a network of certified local partners and maintained and extended by a global team of volunteers.
Contributors or anyone interested in keeping up with VUFind have several channels available to them such as developers calls, information and minutes related to the regular online discussion for VUFind developers, conferences and presentations, and mailing lists. Mifos similarly has mailing lists, live chat-rooms, and collaborative question-and-answer portal – MifosConnect as well as a blog and several social media channels such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook,and LinkedIn.
The most interesting thing to me about this whole exercise has been learning about just how extensive all of the resources and tools available for these projects are and how much depth there is to some of these resources such as documentation and user/developer manuals. It was definitely a lot more than I was expecting when I started this exercise.