Open-Source Project Activity Demystified

Open-source projects are spread across a wide spectrum of maturity and activity. When choosing to use open-source it’s important to select a project that has lots of active contributors and recent development unless you’re expecting to take on the project development yourself.

Determining project activity can be done by looking at project statistics such as GitHub provides. Often projects are started by a single individual who has a particular problem they want/need to solve. Once the software is “working” the project can stagnate. A few select projects reach a critical mass where multiple contributors work to keep the project up to date, fix bugs, add features and create a large useful popular project.

Open-source activity basics

Here we will compare a small semi-active project Netflix curator with an active popular one, Angular.js to see how you can tell the difference. First, there are three basic statistics at the top of every GitHub project: Watch, Star and Fork.

Watch is the number of people who have added the project to their watchlist. This gives them updates about the project and is an indication of the number of people who care about changes to the code, rather than just use the project.

Star is the number of people who find a project interesting and want to indicate that. It also adds a bookmark for favorite projects.

Fork is the number of people who have cloned the repository with the intention of adding their own changes to it. Often times such people don’t actually contribute but it shows a level of interest in contributing.

Notice that the very popular and active Angular.js project has over ten times as many watchers as Netflix curator. As for Forks, Angular.js has an even bigger margin over Netflix curator – almost one thousand times as many forks.


A second area to look is the “Graphs” tab which shows graphically information about contributors, frequency of code changes, etc. The graphs below show the contributors to each project.

Graph of top contributors to angular.js project
Angular.js top contributors

Notice that the top 4 contributors to Angular.js each have tens of thousands of commits. The list of significant contributors is quite large which not only provides a wealth of ideas for new features but also reduces risk when a contributor leaves the project.

In contrast, the top 4 contributors to Netflix curator quickly drops to less than 100 commits – again a difference of almost one thousand times. If the main contributor leaves, or grows bored and moves on to something else, the project is completely stagnant – if you want anything you’ll need to do it yourself.

Graph of top contributors to netflix curator project
Netflix curator top contributors

Code change frequency

Next we can look at the frequency of code change. The Netflix curator exhibits a common tendency for a project to stagnate at some point as it has the basics of the desired functionality from the single original contributor.

Graphs of code update frequency for netflix curator project
Netflix curator code update frequency

A larger set of contributors with more ideas and free time helps to keep a project vibrant as you can see with the Angular.js project. Studies have shown that larger and more complex open-source projects tend to attract more developers.

Graphs for code update frequency for angular.js project
Angular.js code update frequency

Network / Project forks

Finally, we can check the network graphs to see how many people are forking the project and doing something new with it, which is a telling indicator of how many people are really interested in the project and want to do their own thing with it. Note here that we have only a couple of forks for Netflix curator that were never merged back in,

graph showing how many forks there are for netflix curator project
Netflix curator network forks

while the Angular.js project has too many forks to display.

message that there are too many forks to display
angular.js network forks

At any given time you can quickly see which repositories are most active by checking and an explanation of the GitHub statistical graphs are available at

While most typical open-source projects won’t make the most-popular list, doing a bit of investigation into the health of an open-source project can help make sure that the code you’re using will be maintained and updated to keep up with emerging technologies for years to come.

Parasoft Rides the Testing Wave

Those of you who follow me regularly know that I generally like to keep things vendor neutral. As my bio shows I’ve been working at Parasoft since 1992 on software development and testing tools. From time to time we do some pretty cool stuff and/or get some recognition that I think would be interesting for you to know about and frankly I’m proud of what we do.

Recently Parasoft participated in the Forrester Wave for Modern Application Functional Test Automation Tools and we did very well. I spend a lot of my time focusing (and harping) on very codecentric tools and ideas, but our functional test solution is really second to none. It was great to see recognition for that. Forrester Research said:

“Parasoft has the strongest continuous testing product offering, with a long list of mature features in UI automation and comprehensive functional API testing automation and rich integrations with third-party CI/CD pipeline tools … These features plus the solution’s performance and service virtualization tools make it stand out. Parasoft’s solution also stood out in our assessment of maintenance, reuse, and reporting analytics.”

The truth is that functional testing is a tedious pain and sometimes tools in this area are worse than the alternative. Open source tools in the space tend to focus on a few very narrow topics and lack basic user-friendly functions like a graphical UI. The tools from the “big boys” are not only expensive but in the end way too complicated to setup and use. We’ve managed to make something that is highly automated, easy-to-use, and rich in features. The trifecta of software testing. 😉

To get a copy of the report click here and if you haven’t seen these tools yet, you should check them out.

IoT Hall-of-Shame Facebook Page

Greetings and Happy New Year. It’s early in the month and we’ve already had our first reported IoT Hall-of-Shame entry, as you know if you follow that page or my twitter @codecurmudgeon. For those who live inside Facebook I’ve decided to make your life easier by adding a Facebook page for the Internet-of-Things IoT Hall-of-Shame as well. That way you can just follow it and it will show up in your Facebook feed.

“Things” are being hacked at a furious pace – some even call it the “Internet of Evil Things”. It’s amazing how often I find out about a new hack every single day. Is your TV going to spy on you? Is it easy to hack your phone? Is the stoplight on your corner vulnerable? Keep up to date on what’s happening.

Go check it out, like the page, follow it for the latest IoT Hall-of-Shame updates, and tell your friends. And when you hear about any IoT devices getting hacked please let me know!

Better Software East Conference

The Better Software East conference is coming up on November 13-18th in Orlando, FL. This conference about ways to improve your software development process is held concurrently with Agile Dev East and DevOps East.

I’ll be speaking at this conference on Thursday Nov 17th about “Evolving from Automated to Continuous Testing” which should be pretty interesting. And the fun part of it is that because I’m speaking I have a discount code you can use to sign-up at the conference. You can register here and if you put in the discount code BE16AH16 you can save up to $200. If you register early before Oct 14th then you can get up for $400 off, so take advantage.

About my presentation:

Testing issues can be a significant barrier to taking full advantage of agile approaches to software development and the emerging DevOps movement. To leverage these development and delivery strategies to their fullest, you need to evolve beyond automated testing to continuous testing. Arthur Hicken discusses the testing and development processes and technology that enable continuous testing. He shares insights on how to close the gap between business expectations and development activities by encapsulating clearly defining development policies for software releases.

Arthur describes how to prevent defects in code and prioritize defect remediation before a release candidate goes live. Explore ways to realistic test environments and simulations—critical features of the dev/test infrastructure—that enable continuous testing. Learn how to create a feedback loop that exposes defect patterns while highlighting opportunities to improve application design. Take back a comprehensive to do list for processes and infrastructure that must be in place for your organization to implement continuous testing and accelerate the SDLC.

About the conference:

Discover the latest in agile methods, technologies, tools, and leadership principles.

Whether you’re new to the agile process and need to get up to speed quickly or you’re experienced and ready to take your team or organization to the next level, our hands-on, in-depth workshops have you covered. Plus, Agile Dev East is held in conjunction with Better Software and DevOps East, allowing you to choose from three distinct programs.

  • Agile Development
  • Agile Testing
  • Agile Requirements
  • Agile Metrics
  • Improving the Process
  • Agile Leadership
  • Lean and Kanban
  • Agile for the Enterprise
  • Calendar

    Keep track of my calendar for other events – it’s over there on the right somewhere ——–> and don’t forget to register here and use the discount code BE16AH16. In the meantime you can follow the conversation about the conference on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn using the hashtag #BetterSoftwareCon. See you there!

Ranting about Software, Security and Tech