What Do You Think?

What do you think?

This refrain is commonly found in forum posts, emails, and other postings throughout our community, both from employees of Liferay and its wider open source community.  It's important to be a better listener than a better talker, and to that end we in the community (and specifically your Community Leadership Team) are always asking this question, in order to gauge how best to serve.
One important facet of any community is to encourage new members as much as possible, both in a technical sense and in a motivational sense.  If you know precisely what motivates one to participate and/or contribute, you can tailor the resources in the community to target that motivation and efficiently bring new blood into the fold.  To that end, last year, an interesting question was posed.  "What motivates our community?".   A long discussion ensued, and we came to the conclusion that we don't really know, but we should ask what people think.  Back in October we did just that: we launched the 2012 Liferay Community Survey, using the questions developed by some of our most active community members.
I thought you might be interested in the results from this survey, so have a look.  I posted the full results of each question, but what follows are some highlights and some of the actions we are taking to address what we found.  We also discussed this in detail at the most recent Community Leadership Team meeting, and several members also provided valuable insight which I included below.
One caveat: this is not a scientifically accurate survey.  There's probably some unintended bias in the questions, and some leading questions, but we tried hard to come up with good questions to address what we wanted to know most.  If you have any ideas for future surveys, feel free to share here or in the forums.  Also, as Ryan correctly points out, correlation does not imply causation.  The number of rings in a tree trunk grows each year, as does the S&P 500, but one does not cause the other!  So keep that in mind when drawing conclusions.  Now, on with the show!

Survey Results

We had 142 respondents this time around, which I was personally happy with [see full results]. Interestingly enough, there were almost 50 people who started the survey but did not finish.  Perhaps the survey was too long, or not interesting enough?  

The Basics

No surprises here.  We've seen a nice uptick in community activity in India (check out the India User Group if interested in getting involved) and we've a number of high quality partners active in India as well.  A diverse community is a healthy community, so I would like the see the gender gap closed as much as possible. I believe there is a lot of innovation and missed opportunity from women that are unfortunately locked away in cultural stereotypes.You can read more about Women in Computing, and if you have any input, let's hear it! My 7 year old daughter has already given me an earful from using Liferay :)


A couple of interesting bits here.
  • How did you discover Liferay?  Note the small percentage of "Educational Institution".  Steve George has been doing some work here to develop a University Outreach package that can be used worldwide to help bring Liferay to university students, and it's a standing item on our quarterly community meetups.  The students and professors gain a new teaching tool, and we of course gain well qualified graduates who will hopefully champion Liferay once they reach the "real world". 
  • How Long have you used Liferay vs. How many years have you contributed to Liferay?  Note the difference (Ryan did).  People have known and/or used Liferay on average about 3-4 years, but only contributed for 1-2 years.  So, there is a 1-2 year time period during which (we hypothesize) people are using and getting to know Liferay, and only then do they start contributing.  1-2 years is a long time to wait for these, and it points at a lack of community contribution on-ramping for new developers (and not just coders).  We in the community are continuing to work on Liferay University, hopefully bringing easy to follow curriculums for new members to understand Liferay and be able to contribute their knowledge and expertise quicker.

Information Sources

Also not a surprise - most of us use the Forums, Wikis, Blogs, and Official Documentation to get information on Liferay.  I'm proud to also see 11% of you get information from the source code itself.  That's a huge (but not only) benefit of open source, right?  So, yay for open source!

Project Details

Here we begin to ask some motivational questions.  We started by asking - why do you use Liferay CE and/or EE?  The results are not really a surprise, but its interesting to see the numbers.  The main reason to choose CE over EE for production use is that a project is too small to justify the cost.  That makes sense.  Liferay is used in a wide variety of solutions, from small, one-person web shops to large companies, so not everyone needs the features and benefits of an enterprise edition.  It's also nice to see a nice distribution of answers to the question "Why would you use Liferay EE (vs. CE)?".  Typical reasons for enterprise use.
Following this we asked what Liferay's #1 priority should be going forward, and again no major revelation here - quality, quality, quality.  We in the community have made some good progress here with the many special projects (BugSquad, Community Verifier, etc) that directly contribute to quality and usability, and will continue to do so.  Within Liferay's engineering halls, our community-born engineering lead, Jorge Ferrer, has been making a lot of changes and improvements both internally and externally to how Liferay is produced.  On the testing front, check out Manuel's presentation ( en Español) from the Spain Symposium on the Liferay test infrastructure.  For documentation (always a crowd favorite), Rich and team are hard at work here. Follow his blog for more detail.  And finally, in order to make more stable and predictable releases, Liferay has already started producing Milestone builds of the next version.  This will give everyone a chance to see the current state of the project and provide early feedback, and allow Liferay to improve its development and release process, to produce high quality, stable, and regular (predictable) builds with certainty, vs. waiting until the last minute to discover some fatal showstopping flaw.


Ok, here's where it gets interesting.  The first question is "do you contribute to Liferay?".  And then depending on your answer, the survey went down one of two paths.  Path 1 was for people who do contribute (and thankfully the majority of you do!), and asked questions about why you contribute, how much, what kinds, and so forth. Path 2 was for those that said they did not contribute, and we asked why not, etc.
For those that contribute, it's nice to see that the main motivation is for sharing skills and knowledge, and to "give something back".  Very altruistic, which is also part of the company's mission.  In addition, most people think that they give more than they get, and that others give more than they do.  Most contributions are in the form of knowledge in our forums, community projects, translations, etc.  Some of the less popular items (such as 100 PaperCuts or Liferay University) need a little tender love and care, which I hope we can do going forward.  
On the other hand, for those that do not contribute, the main reasons are lack of time and knowledge. Both of these can be helped by having better documentation, better quality, less of a learning curve, etc, which makes it easier to learn and hopefully result in less time taken to contribute.  So that I think will be a major focus for 2013. 

Also interesting to note the "No expected benefit" response.  This is related to another question in the survey, "does your company reward OSS contributions".  
Most companies worldwide do not, according to these results. I believe that many companies see OSS participation as something that takes away from an employee's normal duties, and I'd like to encourage all of you working at companies with this outlook to think about the benefits (direct and indirect) of participation.  Not only from the perspective of Liferay and its application within your company, but with your longer term career goals.  Participation and collaborative development is a great way to not only learn new skills, but make new friends and contacts, and feel good about the work that you do.
And on a related note: "No expected benefit" and "Takes too long to see a result" go hand-in-hand - some tickets go a long time before eventually being addressed, so people naturally assume they are being ignored, and are not willing to contribute in the future since their prior issues either took forever to be addressed, or not addressed at all.  This is unacceptable for an open source project and we are addressing this with a new Community Contribution Coordination process (more on this in a separate blog post).
As far as what might motivate one to start (or increase) participating and contributing, not surprisingly "when I have more knowledge" and "when I have more time" are at the top of the list.  Of course, this mirrors the other question "why do you not contribute".  "when I get free (online) training" ranks high as well, and I expect that the coming Liferay University content will address this.  "When I get special powers/privileges" was an interesting response.  What kind of powers/privileges do you think might be beneficial?  Some ideas mentioned by the leadership team included the ability to blog on (this is in the works, still), and perhaps discounts on sales if you prove your worth by contributing.  These are all ideas that are being explored.  What say you?


One other thing caught my eye: almost 75% of you believe contributing and learning Liferay enhances your job opportunities.  This is fantastic, as it aligns nicely with the company's mission of helping others through technology.  If knowing that ServiceLocalUtil bypasses permission checking (vs. ServiceUtil) helps you get a job, then our work is done!

Be sure to check out the full list of questions and results and see if you can draw any conclusions of your own, and feel free to share them here.


Overall, the results seem to confirm several things:
  • Most people find out about Liferay outside of academia
  • There is a time gap between finding Liferay and being able to contribute.
  • Most people contribute because they want to share knowledge and give back.
  • Most contributors feel they get more than they give (which is OK!)
  • The biggest hurdle to contribution is lack of time and knowledge.
  • Liferay should focus more on quality, not as much on features.
  • Most companies do not see benefit to OSS participation.
Earlier in this post I mentioned several initiatives already underway to address these (indeed many of these concerns have been brought up before).  Additional things that we could do:
  • Create an open source "beat sheet" - this is a tool that sales people use that give quick summaries of their product vs. their competitors.  In this case, our competitors include companies who rely upon yet do not understand open source and do not encourage employees to contribute, and active users of Liferay who may be apprehensive about contributions for whatever reason.  And BTW - this also applies to Liferay itself!  
  • Incentivize contributions through special privileges like those mentioned by the CLT
  • Make contribution even easier by linking the product to the community more explicitly.  For example, a Bonfire plugin for Liferay (not a browser plugin, or maybe a browser plugin tied to the Liferay server).
If you have additional ideas on how to make our community even better, let's hear them!
Finally, we might want to do this survey again next year and see how the numbers change as a result of work done over the year.  

Survey Prize Winners

Of course, we had to dangle a small carrot in front of you to take the 10-15 minute survey, and so here is the result:  Prizes! Bear in mind it's not our primary motivator in the community (hey, we're a small company and can't afford it anyway).  The fine folks at Liferay, Componence, and MyOffice24x7 all contributed to the making of this survey and have generously provided the following prizes to three lucky participants!

Spy Tank - Winner: Matt Burke

Rover 2.0 App-Controlled Wireless Spy Tank. Faster, smarter, better! Rover 2.0 goes where no app-controlled tank has gone before. Drive it with your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch device, or with Android smart phones and tablets. See in the dark using Rover's built-in night vision. Stream and record live video and stills. Upload videos and stills to Facebook, Youtube and Twitter sites right from the App Control the angle of the video camera remotely.

iPad Foosball Table - Winner: Daphné Bellemin

Sure it’s cool to live in an ultra small, super expensive space in a hip city. But you miss out on a lot of stuff, like king sized beds and giant table games. Take foosball for example. There’s no way the real-life version of Chandler and Joey’s apartment on Friends could house one. Unless it was stored in the bathtub and all the other furniture was moved out of the way during play. Luckily, the folks at New Potato Technologies have created this elaborate iPad housing that serves as a full-fledged foosball table, complete with stubby legs and eight two-axis control rods. It looks like it can support up to four players, but how you can cram four people around even the larger-sized iPad is a mystery left for you to figure out.

Raspberry Pi - Winner: Venka Reddy

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.
I agree with the results. And as a contributor, I think GIT is not for beginners. And GITHUB is even more complicated. A more detailed guide about how to work with github, how to contribute, keep in sync, manage between the upstream, local and origin, etc, would help a lot.
I agree with the delay on getting results. Not only about when to have them as GA, but when to have them in the upstream.
I want also to note that bugs long time ago fixed in EE are not in the CE; for instance the redeployment of EXT plugins.
Very interesting post!
Thanks James!
James great info.