How to Choose a Task? Mismatches in Perspectives of Newcomers and Existing Contributors
[Background] Selecting an appropriate task is crucial, but a challenging step for newcomers to Open Source Software (OSS). Therefore, researchers and OSS projects have proposed a variety of strategies to aid newcomers. [Aims] In this research we investigate what are the gaps when comparing the perspective of newcomers and existing contributors about the importance of these strategies. Such gaps can create a gulf of expectation between newcomers who are meant to be helped and contributors who have to put effort into these strategies, which can create friction and impede the usefulness of the strategies.
[Method] We interviewed maintainers (n=17) and applied inductive qualitative analysis to derive a model of strategies meant to be adopted by newcomers and communities. Next, we sent a questionnaire (n=64) to maintainers, frequent contributors, and newcomers asking them to rank these strategies based on their importance. We used the Schulze method to compare the different rankings from the different types of contributors.
[Results] Maintainers and contributors diverged in their opinions about the relative importance of various strategies. The results suggest that newcomers want a better contribution process and more support to onboard, while maintainers might expect to solve questions using the available communication channels.
[Conclusions] The gaps in perspectives between newcomers and existing contributors create a gulf of expectation and OSS communities can benefit by prioritizing the strategies that are considered the most important by newcomers.