Sad metrics on community decline

I’ve been saying it for a while, but never really put hard evidence to it. Our community has declined and by the numbers I’ll produce, I’m going to say it declined a lot. I just wrote a quick shell script to parse the number of messages posted to each given list (cooker, expert, and newbie) since 2003 (takes the total for each month and adds them together to get the yearly total). Of course, we still have 3.5 weeks in December, but I doubt that will make the numbers any more “impressive”.

Of course, to put things into perspective, some of this has likely been off-loaded to the Club forums. I have no idea how many posts are there and how they change from year to year. It also looks like 2005->2006 was extremely significant, but my memory is hazy and I don’t remember what happened there (well, I’m too lazy to try and figure out what happened there… something negative anyways).

EDIT: Well, a few comments have put this more into perspective, especially for the cooker list. Anne reminded me that all the bugzilla mails used to go to cooker@ and they don’t anymore (having the bugs@ list). That accounts for the massive drop in “activity” on the cooker list. And it seems like forums are becoming so much more popular that the mailing lists are dying as a result (not necessarily a bad thing, but at the same time… maybe shut down the “support” lists and go for a straight-forum model?) Anyways, I’ll leave the numbers up as food for thought, but it’s not such a “sad metric” as I first said. My bad. =)

For cooker, the main development list:

  • cooker-2008: 14288
  • cooker-2007: 40088
  • cooker-2006: 52681
  • cooker-2005: 52225
  • cooker-2004: 51977
  • cooker-2003: 51180

For the expert list, which is a community-driven support list:

  • expert-2008: 2274
  • expert-2007: 5667
  • expert-2006: 5798
  • expert-2005: 16090
  • expert-2004: 22190
  • expert-2003: 22085

And for the newbie list:

  • newbie-2008: 1460
  • newbie-2007: 2342
  • newbie-2006: 4860
  • newbie-2005: 13687
  • newbie-2004: 2823
  • newbie-2003: 35134

Something else to chew on.

21 comments for “Sad metrics on community decline

  1. December 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    In the spanish community http://blogdrakenet numbers of newbies are continue growing.
    In fact we are surprise by some of the stadistics (very positive in new people registering and contributing).

    I don’t have at this moment those numbers, but will ask to publish them.
    We would have to compare whith the staditics from others communities.

    Perphaps what you’re seeing is not a smaller community but a more distributed one.

  2. December 5, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Very very possible. Like I said, the decline on the expert and newbie lists could very well be due to the popularity of forums (be they the Club forums or the various mandrivauser.* forums).

    I’m not a big forum guy, so I don’t look there… mailing lists make more sense to me (although I realize I’m very much in a minority here).

    I’m glad to here the spanish community is thriving. =)

  3. December 5, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Aaarg… Anne just brought something to my attention.

    There used to be the bugzilla mails going to cooker, and they’re not anymore. Which accounts for the massive drop there.

    /me thinks that makes his metrics rather useless…

  4. December 5, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    jajaja, that’s true!. nor do I thought about it. 🙂

  5. December 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I have been using Mandriva since Mandrake 8 (with about an interruption for a year on Kubuntu), I use the forums a fair amount, and I did not even know there were mailing lists for support – although I did know there was a Cooker list for developers.

  6. December 5, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    As Villacampa says, disregarding the broken Cooker numbers, I think the numbers on users’ mailing lists simply reflect the trend away from mailing lists towards forums. I entirely agree with you that mailing lists are much more efficient, but people these days are increasingly used to forums, and that’s where the action is.

    Back in 2003 I think the official forums were just starting out, and up to IIRC 2006 they were still restricted – only Club members could access every forum.

    Via the magic of the very convenient Wayback Machine, I can see that in the last year, there have been 188,573 posts on the official forum in the last year (covering all languages). That’s somewhere around 500 posts per day. I’d guess they’re mostly split even between English and French. In user numbers, in December 2007 we had 44,361 registered forum users; now we have 56,115. Increase of around 12,000 in a year. Probably some old accounts went inactive, but that’s still 12,000 new registrations.

    There were 39,596 registered forum users in January 2007 (unfortunately Wayback doesn’t have a snapshot from Dec 2006), so an increase of only 4,000 during 2007. There were 113,623 posts between Jan 2007 and Dec 2007. Even allowing for the extra month (so give another 10,000), that means 2008 forum traffic was up nearly 50% over 2007.

    In December 2005 there were 26,771 registered users, so there was an increase of 13,000 users in 2006 – so around the same as there’s been in 2008. That’s interesting – I think it’s probably because the forums were opened up that year. There was a total of 95,518 posts between Dec 2005 and Jan 2006, so knocking off 8,000 to account for the extra month, that’s a one year figure of around 87,000.

    So to recap the forum numbers:

    2006: 87,000
    2007: 123,000
    2008: 188,000

    and here was me wondering why it seemed to take me longer and longer to do the forums each day =)

  7. Mark Watts
    December 5, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    You may find that support issues (the majority of postings to forums and mailing lists are to help fix something that doesn’t work) are reducing simply because more stuff simply “works” straight from install than ever before.
    If it works, why would a user need to join-in with the community at all?

    Also, users are finding answers to their questions in other places – non-Mandriva forums, Wikis etc. so they naturally have less need to join a mailing list.

  8. December 5, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Adam… those are some good numbers. Thanks for that digging.

    I guess I’m one of the old/obsolete guys… =) But, then again, I’m still using mutt while everyone else is using Thunderbird or KMail or Evolution or any one of the many new-fangled GUI email clients.

    I never much got the appeal of forums, but it’s apparently because I’m a dinosaur and everyone else really likes them. Anyways, those are some impressive numbers.

  9. mark
    December 6, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I cant comment whether the community is in decline or not, but for me i HATE mailing lists. I REALLY hate them.

    If I can use a forum, I will do so. Mailing lists tend to spam my mail account and I really dont enjoy reading them all.

    A forum is so much nicer to use and I will always use a forum when possible.

  10. December 7, 2008 at 3:47 am


    Mailing lists are maybe old technology. I used to use them. Now I just google for stuff.

  11. Carls
    December 7, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    One reason Mandriva is down in popularity for new users is the incredible arrogance of their replies to questions from newbies. There is a lot of “système D” still there (get yourself out of the fog, roughly). For examples, just tune in to their forums…

  12. December 7, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    If u are correct then it is heart breaking for me. I am using mandriva from 2006. It is the operating system of my choice. Long live mandriva

  13. Clifford
    December 8, 2008 at 2:17 am

    I started using Mandrake with its very first version and gave up on Mandriva two years ago after I got tired of the dealing with bugs that were going unresolved, packages being unmaintained, and lots of incomplete or missing documentation. Before anyone suggests, “Well, why didn’t you pitch in and help?”, I did. I used to be a very active contributor on the IRC channel and though it’s not the be all and end all, I had “voice” on the channel. I documented things and became proficient enough with MDV packages to create my own packages.

    It used to annoy me when people would accuse Mandriva of making it deliberately difficult to find the free version so that people would be more inclined to buy the boxed set. Now, I don’t think that’s an unjustified criticism. I haven’t had a boxed set of Mandriva for years so I have no idea what, if any, difference there is in the quality of the documentation for Club members but if the documentation for Club members isn’t any better, this distro is all but dead. Then again, if it is appreciably better, it’s still dead. You don’t tend to get much useful user contributed documentation if it’s all hidden behind a for-pay “membership” site. All you have to do is to look at the amount of free documentation for Debian and its derivatives and Red Hat and its derivatives and you’ll see a striking difference in favour of those distros in the quality and quantity compared to Mandriva. That’s a shame because Mandriva has some excellent features and it’s still the most polished desktop distro on the market. People rave about K/Ubuntu but I can tell you as a Kubuntu user that it’s still not up to the standard of Mandriva in terms of polish.

    If Mandriva is so good, why not continue using it? Simple. I want to use a distro that has a vibrant and active community behind it with lots of high-quality documentation. I wasn’t getting that with Mandriva so I rather than fight, I switched. It hasn’t been a bed of roses in Ubuntu land and I still keep a foot in the Red Hat camp via Fedora (10 is very impressive). On balance, I prefer either of those distros to Mandriva today.

    I use Linux not only on my desktop but on servers. Especially Fedora has some very impressive features, like FreeIPA, clustering, and Cocoon for deployment. Having a sentimental soft spot for Mandriva, occasionally, I’ll get sucked into installing Mandriva and attempting something like Mandriva Terminal Server only to be disappointed, again, that the docs are ancient and incomplete and the packages unmaintained.

    By the way, I hate forums and prefer mailing lists. If that’s the primary mode of support for Mandriva, that only further reinforces why I no longer want to use it. There are ways of integrating forums and mailing lists but it takes a bit of work.

  14. manuell
    December 8, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Could you give us the numbers for the “bugzila ML”?

  15. December 8, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Yup. Here they are. Keep in mind the archive for the bugs list started in July of 2007, so the 2007 stats are for only half a year:

    • bugs-2008: 62819
    • bugs-2007: 35256
  16. December 8, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Clifford: re the mailing list vs forum thing, I’m with you. Regarding documentation, I have no idea how that is going or what is happening there. When I first started with Mandriva, part of my duties was to work on documentation and it was excellent (not because of me, of course, but there were a number of us working on it).

    Also, the Club thing hasn’t been “for-pay” for quite a while. Anyone can join the Club now AFAIK, and the forums are open to the public as well as everything else. I think the only thing that is for-pay now is a subscription to download the powerpack release.

  17. Bob
    December 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I dunno. All of the LUG lists I’ve been on over the years have declined in volume. I think it’s because the various Linux distros have just become so good that folks have a lot less grief both installing and using it all so there is just less to write about. Similarly, a few years ago folks used to lug hardware to a monthly meeting of a LUG I was in to get problems sorted. Now the odd laptop comes in by arrangement so folks can demonstrate this or that cutting edge stuff. I now go to a weekly meeting of computer buffs, mixed environment, Mac, Win and a few Linux heads. Only Win users bring their boxes to sort problems.

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