Jan. 25th, 2010

terriko: Yup, I took this one. The eyes are paper, not photoshop (chair)
This is a letter I just sent to several researchers who were conducting a survey on open source developers. As you can see below, I never answered the survey, and I explain why in hopes that future researchers will learn from these mistakes and present more compelling research initiatives.

Dear Barbara Scozzi and Antonio Messeni Petruzzelli,

I just wanted to let you know why I never took part in your survey, despite the fact that I have taken part in similar surveys in the past.

The first reason should be readily apparent from the subject line of this message: your message really looked like spam. This was especially true when I received multiple copies of the message from your team, to the same email address.

The second is that you sent the survey in Microsoft word (.doc) format, which seems like an inappropriate choice when contacting open source software developers. Typically, OSS developers prefer to use open source alternatives such as Open Office, and many people have been burned by years of MS Word viruses and are justifiably hesitant to open such an attachment. And honestly, I would have preferred to do a quick web survey rather than spend time opening, editing and returning a document to you. There are a variety of survey tools available and I highly recommend you investigate these options for future research. They can make the task of responding to your survey much less onerous for participants.

The third is that you managed to mis-spell my first name in the salutation of the first email I received from your research team, despite the fact that my first name is spelled correctly in the Sourceforge user data you seem to have used to find me. While this may seem minor, this sort of small rudeness did leave me with a negative first impression of your team.

Finally, you may wish to be aware that if you are reaching current GNU Mailman developers, as seemed to be the case, you may do better searching on Launchpad, which we switched to for development over a year ago, if memory serves.

You may wish to take a look at Mary Gardiner's writings regarding how best to present yourselves and your research when doing such surveys. She has a very short summary here:


And further discussion of related issues here:


Thank you for your time, and I hope this letter helps you engage more participants in your future endeavours.

terriko: (Default)

It was pouring rain last night, and Winterlude has become Waterlude. Such is life. It'll probably freeze again next weekend, but right now I was entertained by the reflections in the puddles on the canal, so I took a few winterlude->waterlude photos.

On the bright side, it was comfortably warm for a walk to the library, and the sunset was pretty too:


terriko: (Default)

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