Older Adults and Free/Open Source Software: A Diary Study of First-Time Contributors

Title: Older Adults and Free/Open Source Software: A Diary Study of First-Time Contributors

Authors: Jennifer Davidson (Oregon State University), Umme Ayda Mannan (Oregon State University), Rithika Naik (Oregon State University), Ishneet Dua (Oregon State University), Carlos Jensen (Oregon State University)

Abstract: 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.

This contribution to OpenSym 2014 will be made available as part of the OpenSym 2014 proceedings on or after August 27, 2014.

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