New Developers/Quarterly/2018-01

This is the second edition of the New Developers Quarterly, a report covering activities, metrics, surveys and lessons learned in the Onboarding New Developers program. This report covers October to December 2017.

Your questions and feedback are welcome in the Discussion page.


Newcomer-focused events, programs, and activities between October–December 2017:

Key findingsEdit

1. Low response rates (~14%) for Wikimedia and Wikimania Hackathon follow-up emails

The follow-up emails included an invitation to participate in a post-event engagement research study and a question; if there is any way we could offer help. 14% newcomers responded to the email, and 6% participated in the research study. We would like to understand how useful this approach is, and more about newcomers who attend Wikimedia events. Thus, we would continue this strategy for a few iterations. In the next round, we plan to send emails immediately afterward to have higher response rates. The current study took us some time to prepare and was rolled out a few months after Wikimania.

2. New developers gain useful information through Wikimedia events

From a very few event participants that we chatted with through the post-event engagement research study, we learned that they got busy with their professional work after the Hackathon and were not contributing much to Wikimedia projects. But they had gathered enough information at the Hackathon that they could use if they want to start contributing again.

3. Newcomers continue to struggle in understanding the code contribution process

From the survey results of both the previous and the current report, it is apparent that new developers struggle initially in understanding the code contribution process, applying coding conventions, learning how to get around Gerrit, git-review, etc. We have been continuing to make progress on improving our related documentation for new developers. We will continue to watch for improvements in this area in the next editions. 

4. Dedicated mentors time, a support channel, and self-contained tasks are some suggestions made by new developers

We have already piloted a test instance of Wikimedia Developer Support channel which is running on Discourse. We plan to monitor its use closely and also brainstorm on possible action items for other suggestions made by newcomers.

5. Completion rate for the new developers survey has improved by (~25%)

Shortening the survey, that we piloted among new developers for the previous edition of this report helped gather more responses.

6. Do new developers tend to be working professionals with over five years of experience developing software?

Similarly, in the previous report, the small sample of responses in the current one as well have shown a higher percentage of experienced professional developers than we expected. We will keep watching for these answers in future surveys.

7. Lack of an automated process to measure retained new developers who contribute to code repositories outside Gerrit

Our retention rates in general and more specifically of outreach programs and events are very low. But the data only covers those code contributions that have landed in Gerrit. We are currently not set up to measure code activity efficiently from outside Gerrit.

New developers metrics and trendsEdit

See also Technical Collaboration Metrics - Onboarding New Developers.

Volunteers contributing patches for reviewEdit

140 volunteers contributed between October–December 2017. (Source)

QoQ: -6.0%. YoY: -14.6%.

New volunteers attractedEdit

49 new volunteers contributed between October–December 2017. (Source)

QoQ: -15.5%. YoY: -31.0%.

New volunteers retainedEdit

Percentage of volunteers active one year (±3months) after their first contribution, out of all new volunteers attracted one year ago. (Source: Calculation on data)

QoQ: +6.2%. YoY: +44.6%.

Quarterly data (October–December 2017)Edit

Review of changesets by new volunteersEdit

233 changesets were contributed by new volunteers. (Source: Calculation on data[1]. Data as of January 19th, 2018.)

Projects with most new volunteersEdit

49 new volunteers contributed to 23 repositories. (Source: "Repos by New Authors")

Outreach eventsEdit

  • Wikimedia Hackathon 2017 (May 2017):
    • Attracted 37 new volunteers.
    • Retained 0 new developers who were still active two quarters after the event (October–December 2017). (Source)
  • Wikimania Hackathon 2017 (August 2017):
    • Attracted 47 new volunteers.
    • Retained 0 new volunteer who was still active one quarter after the event (October–December 2017). (Source)

Outreach programsEdit

  • Google Summer of Code 2017 (May–August 2017):
    • Out of 4 new developers who used Gerrit and who completed the internship (7 new developers in total), we retained 0 developers
  • Outreachy Round 15 (December 2017–March 2018):
    • Attracted 6 new developers

Survey analysisEdit

Read through below for a quick summary:

We sent a survey to 36 new developers who submitted code for the first time between September–November 2017. We used the shorter version of the survey designed for the previous quarterly report to understand more clearly demographics and background, motivations, challenges and needs of our new developers.

Out of the 36 new developers to whom we reached out, 18 (50%) completed the survey.

Demographics and background informationEdit

  • Respondents of the survey were from United States of America (3), India (3), Germany (2), Cameroon, China, Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Pakistan and United Kingdom
  • A little over half the respondents said they belong to the working professionals category
  • 67% identified themselves as male and 27% as female


New developers indicated that they first heard about Wikimedia as a place to contributing code through a MediaWiki workshop in Cameroon, their work colleagues, Outreachy, familiarity with Wikimedia tech (such as by using extensions, Toolforge,, or by hosting a wiki, etc.).


  • Some challenges that new developers face around Wikimedia infrastructure are: understanding the codebase, Gerrit, coding conventions, non-availability of projects in Github, determining who is the project owner or code reviewer, etc. Other behavioral challenges are deciding what task to work on, learning a language, lack of knowledge of MediaWiki, hesitating to ask questions, etc.
  • Learning resources and channels that new developers refer to when they get stuck: IRC, Google, Stack Overflow, MediaWiki pages, Phabricator, PHP manuals, API docs, asking an experienced developer, etc.

Experience contributing to WikimediaEdit

More than 75% of the respondents said they are satisfied with their experience contributing to Wikimedia. More than half of the respondents to this survey said they are likely to recommend Wikimedia for code contribution to friends and colleagues.

Suggestions for improvementEdit

Here are some suggestions made by new developers (responses below have been only slightly edited):

  • How-to documentation
  • An automated way to convert files to adhere to the coding style guide
  • GitHub pull requests
  • Dedicated mentors time to help newcomers initially when they begin contributing
  • An IRC channel for new contributors where everyone is there to help one another
  • Easy steps in the task description to reproduce a problem

Actions items from the previous reportEdit

We discussed the possible actions items from the previous report and made some progress on them:


  1. Steps: After extracting the list of "New Authors", use that list to filter on authors on Gerrit and its "Status" section.