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Measuring Success

There are fairly standard ways of measuring whether a proprietary project is successful. These include product sales, market share, number of bugs, meeting schedule deadlines, and other familiar assessments. Many of these also apply to open-source projects, but there are additional metrics that are necessary.

Each of the business goals for your project should have an associated measure. Here are some possible metrics for various business goals.

  • Ubiquity: number of users, number of mentions by the press, response by competitors
  • Standards development: number of participating parties, number of parties adopting the standard
  • Design help: number of additional user/designers, amount of email on mailing lists
  • Development help: number of outside developers, number of bugs reported/fixed, number/quality of contributions, amount of email on mailing lists
  • Appeal to community: quality and number of comments in open-source community

By default your project will be measured the same way a proprietary one is, which will probably result in the open-source activities getting shortchanged. For a successful open-source project you need to get management to agree to a different set of metrics. The performance reviews for any employee participating in an open-source project need to include measures for their open-source-related activities. Note that just adding new metrics in with all the standard existing ones won't work; you cannot expect people to successfully do both their old jobs and take on the new tasks required to create a healthy open-source community.

Innovation Happens Elsewhere
Ron Goldman & Richard P. Gabriel
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