How to tell a project is really open

So how do you tell whether a project is truly open or not? Well one way I use is to take a look at the developer mailing list for that project. The volume of traffic there is a good judge not only of the activity of the project but how well the developers communicate with the community.

Now it’s much better to look at the archives. I remember signing up to the gcc developers list for a few minutes when 20 or so message jumped in and I quickly unsubscribed. gcc is a massively active project that has contributors that love to communicate. Good or bad, it is what it is, an open project.

And I guess there should be some metric you could calculate to measure the openness, something like number of mail messages versus lines of code committed. If that number is low, you have a closed project, if that number is high then it’s open. Not sure if that makes the most sense but then, I wonder that about most metrics anyway.

At any rate, I decided to take a look at a number of *-dev mailing list archives at and see how many pages of items there were in the last year. If you get a chance go check out the archive for the cdt-dev mailing list. I’m proud to say there we’re 26 pages of items in the last year. We score pretty high. Mind you being a diverse set of contributors, we have to communicate via the list. It’s the only way to get the message out to everyone who needs it.

So when I talk about a project being truly open, I mean the daily business of that project is done in the open on a publicly accessible forum. And if you fill up the subscribers mailboxes with good information, even better.