Debian vs. SourceForge – Round 3

Posted on February 22nd, 2009 by Karl Beecher

The tour through the comparison between Debian and SourceForge comes to a close by questioning whether Debian acts as a catalyst to evolutionary activity when a project is inserted into the repository. It has already been strongly suggested that projects packaged in Debian are recipients of significantly greater rates of activity.

Of the 50 projects in the Debian sample, 22 of them had a known history of evolutionary activity (monthly averages of number of developers and number of commits) that pre-dated its insertion into Debian, providing us with a “before” and “after”. So we compared the before and after of each project.


In 18 out of 22 projects, the distinct number of developers increases after being added to Debian. The remaining 4 experience no change, and have only 1 or 2 known contributors.


All projects have a greater number of commits in the after period than in the before period. However, the rate of commits in each period (the total commits within that period divided by its duration) only increases for 10 of the 22.


In summary of this trilogy I can say, from an absolute standpoint, that our results suggest Debian projects tend to be older, larger, attract more developers and a greater amount of activity, and all to a very significant degree. Furthermore, from an evolutionary perspective, the “Debian effect” seems to cause the pool of developers contributing to a project to increase when it is packaged by Debian, along with a half-decent chance that activity increases also.

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2 Responses to “Debian vs. SourceForge – Round 3”

  1. It would be great to find comparable projects that were not added to Debian and see if the Debian-add event has an effect independent of the passage of time for such projects.

    I tend to think that adding to Debian increases distribution and thus users and thus potential pool of developers. I also suspect there might be winner-takes-all effects as similar projects that are not added to debian suffer from user transfer to the debian added project. But hey, that’s all speculation :)

  2. Profile photo of Karl Beecher Karl Beecher says:

    Good point about Debian effects, James, I tend to suspect that too.

    I agree about finding comparable non-Debian projects. Trying to do so throws up problems, but this, and some of the later research, looks at other repos as well as an attempt to isolate a “Debian effect” only seen in Debian-distributed projects.

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