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Optimizing Contribution Pathways


November 12, 2015

One of the main elements of the ONOS Community Plan is creating and optimizing contribution pathways. Pathways are simply steps someone can take to successfully contribute to the project. Clearly defining these steps is crucial to scale an active community so that every contribution doesn’t have to be crafted in an ad-hoc way.

The good news is that there are pathways already in place for a few areas: Coding, Documentation, Testing and UI. We can start looking to see if people are successfully following these pathways now and then we can find ways to make these steps easier to use. I’ve been digging in to the Documentation pathway and this is a good example of how we can optimize the process of helping people get involved.

As a starting point, we can see that not many people have been able to follow the path to the point where they can get specific information about how to help out. Checking out the traffic on the Contributing to ONOS Documentation wiki page shows just a handful of people reading it each day (the recent spike in the image is me checking out the page a few times while researching).

doc_contribution_wiki_pageviews

My theory is that we’re asking people to take too many steps to get there. Each additional step we ask people to take makes the pathway that much harder to follow—we can assume that some percentage of people will drop off on each step. To get to that wiki page from the onosproject.org home page initially took 4 steps:

We can remove one of these steps by linking to the Documentation wiki page directly from the How to Contribute page. Compare the before and after views of that page below. There are now links in each section that go to the page with how to contribute to that area, but before there seemed to be a dead-end. There was a section talking about contributing to coding or documentation but someone needed to go past that and click on ‘More Information’ at the bottom of the page.

contribute_page_before

contribute_page_after

Another step we can remove is to have the ‘Community’ item in the main navigation of the site go directly to the How to Contribute page. With these simple changes on the site, the pathway is now 2 steps instead of 4:

We made both of those changes to the site a few days ago and we’re beginning to see a positive sign—traffic to that documentation contribution page has gone up. This chart shows a definite bump in traffic.

doc_contribution_pageviews_after

Once we have a working pathway, we can also start looking at other ways to get people started on it. For instance, Ayaka had a great idea to provide information about how to contribute to people who download and run the ONOS software. Here is a proposal for a message of the day that would show up when people start to use the ONOS command line interface. We can try this and see if it puts more people onto our pathways.

cli_contribute_link

This first optimization test shows that people are interested in learning about how to contribute and we can make it easier for them to find out how to do that. This is an encouraging first start, but there is certainly more we can do. For instance, would it help to remove several steps and embed starter Jira bugs directly in the wiki documentation about contributing? Would it make it easier if people could sign up for Slack directly on the ONOS site?

We can set up an ongoing process where we look for optimization opportunities, test out a potential fix and then measure if that helps contributors or not. If you’re interested in helping us identify possible ways to optimize things, please leave comments or feedback here.

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