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The evolution over time of the many aspects of software development activities

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When interested in understanding how the activity of a software project is evolving over time, there are too many parameters to follow, even considering only those that can be directly extracted from development repositories. In our previous post on plotting the activity of a project, we proposed a miriad of plots to show the many aspects of this activity. However complete this perspective may be, it is still somewhat confusing for the untrained eye, and it is difficult to relate how different parameters were behaving on the same time span. Therefore, we have been exploring using Envision to show a more compact, yet complete, view of what is happening in the project over time.

GNOME Shell activity over time
GNOME Shell activity over time

If you browse the real webpage, you’ll notice how you can move the pointer over the plots, to see how they are related, and find out numerical information at any point in time. In this case, information from the GNOME Shell git repository is presented in the left, while the right shows data about the activity in its Bugzilla repository (it could be top and bottom instead of left and right, if you have a narrow browser). You can drag the selectors on both ends of the lower plots to select the time frame which is of interest, to study it in more detail. The idea is to visualize in just one shot how the project is performing, but with enough information to perceive the evolution of the different parameters at the same time.

In the case of GNOME Shell, it is for example quite apparent how the number of commits and committers (proxies for the raw activity in maintaining and improving the project, and for the community doing the work, respectively) are evolving in similar, but different ways. In particular, it can be observed how during peaks of activity (usually around release time), the community is also increasing (probably due to developers active when they feel their work is more needed). But looking in more detail, it is also apparent how while the general trend in commits since GNOME 3.0 is decreasing, the developer community remains much more stable (being for example even larger for GNOME 3.2 than for GNOME 3.0).

GNOME Shell tickets opened / closed
GNOME Shell tickets opened / closed

The same kind of details can be also observed for tickets. While opening and closing trends are somewhat similar, with peaks around release time, both are not exactly equal. An interesting detail is how after GNOME 3.0 the number of opened tickets remained strongly high for at least March-June 2011, closed tickets started to peak the month  before, February 2011 (last-minute bug fixing before releasing), and declined sharply right after the release (in April they are 173 versus 243 in March.

Of course, this is still very preliminary information, and just a preview of what we’re preparing as a dashboard for following what happening in the projects of your interest. But maybe you start to get the idea…



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