Older Adults and Free/Open Source Software

TitleOlder Adults and Free/Open Source Software
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsDavidson, J, Mannan, UA, Naik, R, Dua, I, Jensen, C
Tertiary AuthorsRiehle, D, Gonzalez-Barahona, JM, Robles, G, Möslein, KM, Schieferdecker, I, Cress, U, Wichmann, A, Hecht, B, Jullien, N
Secondary TitleThe International SymposiumProceedings of The International Symposium on Open Collaboration - OpenSym '14
Pagination1 - 10
PublisherACM Press
Place PublishedBerlin, GermanyNew York, New York, USA
ISBN Number9781450330169

The global population is aging rapidly, and older adults are becoming increasingly technically savvy. This paper explores ways to engage these individuals to contribute to free/open source software (FOSS) projects. We conducted a pilot diary study to explore motivations, barriers, and the contribution processes of first-time contributors in a real time, qualitative manner. In addition, we measured their self-efficacy before and after their participation. We found that what drove participants were intrinsic motivations, altruism, and internal values, which differed from previous work with older adults and with the general FOSS population. We also found that self-efficacy did not change significantly, even when participants encountered significant barriers or setbacks. The top 3 barriers were lack of communication, installation issues, and documentation issues. We found that asking for and receiving help, and avoiding difficult development environments were more likely to lead to success. To verify these results, we encourage a future large-scale diary study that involves multiple demographics. Given our pilot study, we recommend that future outreach efforts involving older adults focus on how to effectively communicate and build community amongst older contributors.

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