Pots of Gold at the End of the Rainbow: What is Success for Open Source Contributors?

Bianca Trinkenreich, Mariam Guizani, Igor Wiese, Tayana Conte, Marco Gerosa, Anita Sarma, Igor Steinmacher

Success in Open Source Software (OSS) is often perceived as an exclusively code-centric endeavor. This perception can exclude a variety of individuals with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, in turn helping create the current diversity & inclusion imbalance in OSS. Because people's perspectives of success affect their personal, professional, and life choices, to be able to support a diverse class of individuals, we must first understand what OSS contributors consider successful. Thus far, research has used a uni-dimensional, code-centric lens to define success. In this paper, we challenge this status-quo and reveal the multi-faceted definition of success among OSS contributors. We do so through interviews with 27 OSS contributors who are recognized as successful in their communities, and a follow-up open survey with 193 OSS contributors. Our study provides nuanced definitions of success perceptions in OSS, which might help devise strategies to attract and retain a diverse set of contributors, helping them attain their "pots of gold at the end of the rainbow".

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