The Role of Mentoring and Project Characteristics for Onboarding in Open Source Software Projects

Fabian Fagerholm, Alejandro Sanchez Guinea, Jürgen Münch, Jay Borenstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Context: Onboarding is a process that helps newcomers become integrated members of their organisation. Successful onboarding programs can result in increased performance in conventional organisations, but there is little guidance on how to onboard new developers in Open Source Software (OSS) projects. Goal: In this study, we examine how mentoring and project characteristics influence the effectiveness and efficiency of the onboarding process. We study a collaboration program involving a total of nine Open Source Software projects and more than 120 students from different universities around the world as part of Facebook's Education Modernization Program. Method: We use quantitative measurements of source code repositories, issue tracking systems, and discussion fora to examine how newcomers become contributing members of their OSS projects. Results: We found that developers receiving deliberate onboarding support through mentoring were more active at an earlier stage than developers entering projects through conventional means. Also, we found that project size and lifetime influenced onboarding. Conclusion: Empirical decision support can contribute to a more effective onboarding process in OSS projects. Mentor support in critical stages can accelerate the process, but project maturity is also a significant factor that increases the effect of onboarding.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement
Publication date2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
EventUnknown host publication - , International
Duration: 1 Jan 1800 → …

Fields of Science

  • 113 Computer and information sciences
  • onboarding
  • organisational socialisation
  • open source software
  • csae study
  • mentoring
  • software teams
  • distributed development

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