Recommendation 6: New Developer Engagement Models
New developer engagement models will help attract, retain, and support developers in the Wikimedia community. Increased attraction and retention rates will, in turn, lead to a more significant and diverse developer community that addresses various software needs the movement has. Also, the new models would make Wikimedia a friendly and welcoming place, wherein the developers can learn, grow, and innovate; thereby leading to the growth of Wikimedia projects.
To build the essential ecosystem of free knowledge, we will need to grow existing Wikimedia projects and create new ones. That will require technical work, which won't be possible without building the technical capacity of the movement. To do so, we will need to adopt new engagement mechanisms to make the experience of contributing to Wikimedia fun and smooth for developers.
Here is a summary of a few reasons from the more extended version of the developer community scoping document that explains why this recommendation is important:
- New developers whom Wikimedia attracted in the last few years has seen a stagnant trend. Retention rate is poor.
- Wikimedia lacks a systematic process to onboard new developers, track their progress, and retain them.
- The Wikimedia developer community lacks diversity. Based on a small sample set – attracts very few women and non-binary developers (~22% annually), and receive fewer contributions from university students. Majority of our volunteer developers are from Western Europe, South East Asia, and North America, but we are missing participation from so many regions.
- Based on the code contributions to Gerrit and Git repositories tracked using the Wikimedia community metrics software Bitergia; the Wikimedia Foundation staff makes most code contributions. In the fiscal year 2017-18, ~19.27% contributions came from volunteer developers. It is important to note that this finding is biased, as currently, we cannot track all the data sources
- There haven't been many efforts to support collaboration with external open source organizations or developer communities.
- There haven't been many efforts to help build local developer communities.
Sidenote: There hasn't been a comparison done with other Wikimedia-like open source communities to investigate how problematic these stats are.
We are better set up and equipped to build the ecosystem of free knowledge. We are bigger in size. Our volunteer developer pipeline and attraction and retention stats have received significant improvements. Overall, we are a healthy and diverse community ready to take on complex challenges.
Here are some specific examples of outcomes:
- Local developer communities are set up and willing to help grow their language wikis.
- Collaborations with external organizations bring new contributors.
- Researched on community engagement models of large software companies and NPOs, NGOs, FOSS or educational organizations with an extensive technical volunteer base.
The efforts to grow the editor and developer communities could happen independently of each other and take place in silos.
The existing members of the community, especially mentors and maintainers, could burn out while supporting new members.
Movement organizers involved in building editor and developer communities should collaborate, exchange their learnings with each other frequently, to understand the priorities better and avoid any reinventing of the wheel.
There should be clear growth paths for existing members of our community. We help more people become maintainers, ensure their needs are addressed as well.
It calls for expanding the resources for Wikimedia Foundation's Technical Engagement team to investigate engagement models, build partnerships with other open-source organizations and increase our knowledge on the scope and breadth of technical contributors. Particularly for investigating engagement models, we could use a consultant service.
It is related to the scoping question “How can we better attract, support and retain diverse technical contributors particularly: building and supporting local developer communities and prioritizing projects which will engage technical contributors?”.
Increasing diversity and capacity in the developer community, ideally, is one of the planned outcomes of this recommendation. In that sense, it is related to the work of the Diversity & Capacity Building working group. The three working groups can coordinate in the future while developing the implementation plan for the recommendations.