Subject: success metrics -- user adoption rates
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 12:21:32 +0900 (JST)

I'll get the (constructive) criticism out of the way first and save
the unadulterated compliments for last ;-)

>>>>> "Paul" == Paul Rohr <paul@abisource.com> writes:

    Paul>   What's a "good" user adoption rate for an Open Source project?

I've been uneasy with this question, as a definition of a "success
metric," for a couple of days, and I figured out why.  The quotes
around "good" are entirely justified!  First (not very generously),
I'll point out that "the nearer 100%, the better" is the obvious
answer.  Not that anybody on FSB would be so tendacious, except to make
the point that lots of people won't "get" it.

The real problem is that there are two important viewpoints.  One is
"good" == "better than we needed to stay in business" (either by
directly generating revenues, or by attracting customers to your
revenue-generating activities).  But this is going to be conditioned
by the particular project (namely the development costs to be
amortized, and the specifics of the process by which adoption
influences revenues).

The other is "good" == "better than an OSS project would be expected
to do".  This is also conditional on the specific project, however,
because it depends on both the type of the software (one would expect
that a new entrant into a field with highly customized products will
get low penetration) and on the existing competition.

I assume you mean the latter, but the conditionality isn't well
expressed.  Of course given the contest rules and hints, the contest
does implicitly give all that conditionality, plus some extra
information I didn't ask for.  But it's only one data point, so not
all that useful for extrapolation.

One problem with the contest is that it doesn't measure "good," it
measures "actual".  Next time, would you do the contest in terms such
as "how many downloads do we need to pay our mortgages?" or "If Redhat 
was distributing this product under their brand, how many downloads do 
you think they would get?"  :-)

    Paul> Yes, it's a cheesy contest -- guess how many downloads we've
    Paul> had and win a free t-shirt -- but we're developers at heart
    Paul> and none of us have ever learned how to do dignified market
    Paul> research without hiring suits.  :-)

What's so cheesy about it?  Making it a contest, well ... (OTOH
something like that is necessary to get people to be a little serious
about it).  But you're doing the community a real service by educating
a few people about what a real FSB is doing in terms of volume.  I bet
there are several people on this list who do "custom" rather than
"pre-packaged," and have little idea of what kind of adoption rate
something like AbiWord could get.

People bandy about numbers like "7 million Linux installations
world-wide" or whatever, but do they really have an idea of what that
might mean for a practical FSB's plans?  I wonder how many FSB-
wannabees out there would take the plunge if they had some way of
estimating their revenue stream?

I wonder if all the FSBs out there shouldn't be doing something like
it.  :-)

But then, I'm not a suit, nor am I particularly impressed with a lot
of the dignified market research technique I've seen :-) :-)

-- 
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