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Paul Adams' Wanderings Around Engineering, Free Software and Berlin

Docker's 2016

At this time of year I normally start making some basic analysis of the ins-and-outs of some KDE projects. This year, to reflect upon some of the new technologies and communities I have become part of, I am going to work with some other projects.

So let’s take a look at Docker.

In Case You Haven’t Heard…

Docker is a technology for containerisation: building, deploying, executing. Here it is in their own words:

Docker containers wrap a piece of software in a complete filesystem that contains everything needed to run: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries – anything that can be installed on a server. This guarantees that the software will always run the same, regardless of its environment.

By now Docker has grown to become a crucial set of technologies within the containerisation ecosystem. So we might expect a strong community to go along with that. Here are the blue blobs for 2016:

Docker Blobs 2016

Some Basic Observations

While a keen user of Docker, I’m hardly an active member of the develop community (actually, not at all). So it is hard for me to be insightful about what we are seeing here. That said, there are some obvious observations to make:

  • That is a huge number of contributors. Until I saw this visualisation, I’m really not sure what my expectation was. But the reality exceeds it, for sure. We’re looking at 600+ contributors for 2016. Impressive.
  • There is a decent core contributor community contributing throughout the year (I wonder how many of these contributors actual work for Docker) and recruitment through the year is sound, too. Not least of which, a handful of contributors who have clearly become very active.
  • Retention is pretty bad. Just look at how white this visualisation is. The typical contributor commits during one week (I bet it is a single contribution on a single day) and then we never see them ever again.

This is clearly a strong showing from Docker in 2016. But, when we scrape the surface, we see all the hallmarks of a community that is growing faster than its management can handle. Almost without fail, community management is something that is under-resourced. Now, I do not know how big the community team at Docker is, but what I can see is 100s of contributors who are motivated enough to take that first step, but not motivated enough to stay. So if there is one thing the Docker community should be focusing on in 2017, its increasing retention of new contributors.

Congratulations to the Docker Community for its achievements in 2016 and best of luck for 2017!