Communication in Open Source Software Development Mailing Lists

Anja Guzzi, Alberto Bacchelli, Michele Lanza, Martin Pinzger, Arie van Deursen

Open source software (OSS) development teams use electronic means, such as emails, instant messaging, or forums, to conduct open and public discussions. Researchers investigated mailing lists considering them as a hub for project communication. Prior work focused on specific aspects of emails, for example the handling of patches, traceability concerns, or social networks. This led to insights pertaining to the investigated aspects, but not to a comprehensive view of how developers communicate. Our objective is to increase the understanding of development mailing lists communication.

We quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed a sample of 506 email threads from the development mailing list of a major OSS project, Lucene. Our investigation reveals that implementation details are discussed only in about 35% of the threads, and that a range of other topics is discussed. Moreover, core developers participate in less than 75% of the threads. We observed that the development mailing list is not the main player in OSS project communication, as it also includes other channels such as the issue repository.

The entire dataset used in the experiment, including the cards, the resolved aliases, and detailed statistical results, can be downloaded from the column on the right.

@INPROCEEDINGS{Guzzi2013MSR, author={Anja Guzzi, Alberto Bacchelli, Michele Lanza, Martin Pinzger, Arie van Deursen}, title={Communication in Open Source Software Development Mailing Lists}, booktitle={The 10th Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories}, year={2013}, pages={277-286} }