I’m just completing Jeff and Pia Waugh’s Australian Open Source Industry & Community Census [1]. There are some things that can be improved with that survey in particular and surveys in general.

It seems to be assumed that everyone is trying to work full-time. I admit that there are probably few people who have decided that they don’t need as much money as they would earn in full-time work and reduced their work hours to match their financial needs (as I have done). Surveys that just ask a for a figure of how much is earned add to the pressure to earn as much as possible, which isn’t what’s best for most people.

I have the impression that the questions about “how long have you been doing X” assume that doing so is contiguous. If that’s the case then asking “when did you first do X” and giving a drop-down list-box of the last 20 years to select from would probably be better (more precise and remove confusion).

Debian wasn’t listed as a Linux distribution! It only has Ubuntu, RHEL, Fedora, and SUSE.

The question mixing kernels and distributions was a little strange. It gives BSD as a kernel option but no BSD option in user-space, so apparently it’s assumed that there is only one user-space/distribution for BSD (there have been some attempts to release Debian with the various BSD kernels). Also it wasn’t clear what you have to do regarding the kernel to select it (is the couple of hundred lines of patches I submitted to the Linux kernel adequate to let me list it?).

There were a bunch of questions that would get very predictable answers. Do you want to have access to official government web-sites and documents with free software? I guess that they want to get a large number of people requesting such things. Incidentally much of that is in the Greens IT policy…

Immediately below the buttons on the screen to go to the Next and Previous pages there is a link to clear the form and exit. When doing something difficult like sys-admin work it’s expected that a command to wipe out your work will be immediately next to something innocuous, but for something that generally doesn’t require much concentration (such as filling out a survey) it would be good to have the dangerous options a little further away.

At the end of the survey there are questions about whether you want to be contacted about events held by various companies. I think that it would be better to have an RSS feed of such events that we can poll when we have spare time. I’m sure that the PR people running the events are happy when they see a good number of people signed up to their mailing list. But if you actually want to get people to sign up without prior contact the best thing to do is have it on a web site with an RSS feed (either a blog or a CMS) so that it can be polled, syndicated, and googled.

2 comments to Census

  • When doing something difficult like sys-admin work it’s expected that a command to wipe out your work will be immediately next to something innocuous

    Errr, no it isn’t. Not unless the application in question was written in the sixties or by a violent psychopath.

    – Chris

  • Hi Russell,

    Thank you for the feedback. It was a difficult survey to put together and we tried to not make too many assumptions. We wanted things like income and years spent in different areas (which might have been more clear than “how long”) to get an idea about the various demographics of our community. We certainly didn’t assume most people would be working full time and had some examples of non-full time people test it prior to rollout :)

    We didn’t put every single technology into the options (we obviously couldn’t) but I agree that we should have included Debian. Generally we are quite happy with it and we did get some of the community to test it prior to release so we are sure that we will get some good analysis out of it.

    Thank you for participating :)