Understanding how and why open source contributors use diagrams in the development of Ubuntu

TitleUnderstanding how and why open source contributors use diagrams in the development of Ubuntu
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsYatani, K, Chung, E, Jensen, C, Truong, KN
Secondary TitleProceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems
Place PublishedNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-60558-246-7
Keywordsdevelopers, diagramming, interviews, open source software (oss), software development, Ubuntu, visual representation

Some of the most interesting differences between Open Source Software (OSS) development and commercial co-located software development lie in the communication and collaboration practices of these two groups of developers. One interesting practice is that of diagramming. Though well studied and important in many aspects of co-located software development (including communication and collaboration among developers), its role in OSS development has not been thoroughly studied. In this paper, we report our investigation on how and why Ubuntu contributors use diagrams in their work. Our study shows that diagrams are not actively used in many scenarios where they commonly would in co-located software development efforts. We describe differences in the use and practices of diagramming, their possible reasons, and present design considerations for potential systems aimed at better supporting diagram use in OSS development.


"To examine how and why diagrams are used in any and all aspects of the software development process of an OSS project, we performed a series of semi-structured interviews with contributors to one particular effort—Ubuntu."
"Our study was divided into two phases. First, we asked participants to complete a questionnaire and provide us with information and materials for discussion. The questionnaire featured questions about participants’ OSS experience, project participation, their roles in each project, and basic demographics. We also asked participants to share diagrams they had created, modified or used as part of their work on Ubuntu. In the second phase of the study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with participants."

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