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Project information

Project owner: Christos Bacharakis
Accountable: Lucy Harris
Team: Open Innovation
Contact: christos AT mozilla dot com


As part of the Open Source Student Network pilot program we are designing a set of experiments for better understanding the user journey of University students towards their first open source project.

The goal of these experiments is to to discover and/or validate opportunities and best practices for supporting University Tech students throughout their journey towards contributing code to Open Source Projects.

We will closely work with the Clubs of our OSSN network for recruiting students who would be interested being part of the experiments.

Open Source Contribution Survey

We would like 5-10 minutes of your time for answering some simple and easy questions regarding your experience towards contributing to an Open Source project. We are looking to gather data from everyone who have tried (failed or succeeded) contributing to an open source project in the past year. Any personal data you submit as part of this survey will be handled in accordance with our Mozilla Privacy Policy.

Survey link

Tweet size: Have you ever tried to contribute (successfully or unsuccessfully) to an Open Source Project? Please help us by filling this 5' survey! We want to better understand when and why people drop off! bit.ly/FOSSCont

The problem we are trying to solve for

Based on our recent research, there is a significant number of University students across the United States who want to contribute to Open Source projects. Most of these students drop off at some point during their journey due to various reasons.

The goal of these experiments is to identify the various reasons students drop off and provide a set of recommendations.

We also believe that through these experiments we will be able to identify if there is a intervention that Mozilla can do which will turn Computer Science students to Open Source contributors.

Questions we are trying to answer

Journey Questions
  • Are students more interested in projects tailored to their skill/language or to projects with a mission
  • Do students look for evidence of a positive community before they interact?
  • Do diverse students spend more time looking for a positive community than other students?
  • Are students interested in Major already established open source projects or to small class project
  • Students are more engaged with projects that meet a specific skill or with projects where they have a full stack understanding
  • Are projects with video introductions attract more students?
  • Is suggested bug matching based on what you just did works better than just exploring for new issues to work on?
  • Are github issues with more documentation and screenshots help students select project to work on?
  • Unclear or missing documentation will make it less possible for students to select and contribute to a project
  • How much help should be given to students?
  • Does the group effect matters for getting people on board to a project? (Groups working on the same projects vs individuals to different projects
  • Is setting up the development environment a blocker - a process which potentially can scare people away?
  • Is having the maintainer getting you onboard VS a project contributor more impactful?
  • Solving a dummy bug VS fixing an actual bug will empower students to come back and work on another issue/bug?
  • What affects the retention after 1st contribution
  • How effective are first good bugs for longer engagement
  • Easy vs hard issue - solving a bug which you can reference
  • New feature vs fix/optimize issue
  • Does an invitation back to the project have better results?
  • Suggested next projects/issues etc
  • Has this person contributed to an open source project after he/she graduate?
  • How important is the time from pushing a pull request to reviewing it. Is it an important factor for a future contribution?
Across the whole journey
  • Does regular communication play an important role? In which sequence and form?
  • Which mentorship model is more effective in each step?
  • Are bots effective in each step of the journey?
  • Do suggested next steps have better results in each step of the journey than letting students explore alone?
  • Are students more effective when they are in a group or when they are alone?

As a student

The only requirement for the students is to dedicate one hour per week for taking part into our online sessions/calls. No prior experience is a certain programming language or a technology stack is needed and we invite all students regardless their skills or experiences to sign up.

All the students will participate in small experiments throughout their journey towards their first code contribution.

The students will have the opportunity to work on a variety of open source projects based on their interests and skills. In every step of the process, they will have experienced mentors to guide them and support them.

User Journey What students will do
Discovery The process where students will identify a project to work on
Engagement There process where students will engage with a project by reading its codebase, going through the docs, issues etc
Onboarding The process of setting up the development environment
Contributing Identifying an issue/feature/bug, writing code and pushing it to the projects codebase
Retention Identifying what to do next after the first pull request

Timeline and participation

The experiments are going to begin in the first week of February and each experiments will last four weeks.

If you are interested being part of the experiments and you can dedicate just one hour per week for 4 weeks, please fill this form.


The students will have the opportunity to work on a variety of open source projects based on their interests and skills. In every step of the process, they will have experienced mentors to guide them and support them.

As mentors you will have the opportunity to work with top students from across the US who are passionate to learn and contribute to Open Source projects. If you are mentoring, maintaining or contributing to an open source project and you are looking to mentor a small group of students for contributing to your project, please drop us a line at christos AT mozilla dot com. Requirements: As a mentor you have to dedicate the minimum of 1 hour per week for supporting your students. You can always dedicate more time but it's also up to each experiment and the different mentorship model each experiment is testing.