Once openSUSE 13.1 has been released, it is time for the openSUSE Team to focus on the future. We want to share some ideas we have about the project in general and factory in particular. The topic is not easy. so this mail is a little long and dense, but hopefully worth it. It won't be the last one so let me know how to improve it.
This is the first of a series of mails we will publish the following days with different ideas. The process we are proposing has no intention of pointing at anybody, revisiting the past or enforce any situation within the community. Our goals are:
* Share a picture as a starting point of discussion. * Use the discussed picture as a reference to agree on actions we all can/want to execute.
FIRST STEP: PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
One of the first things we did was digging into numbers that provided us information about the status of the project. Data cannot be the only source to create a complete picture, but it is helpful as first step.
In order to better understand the rest of the mail, you probably want to look the following references:
* Alberto Planas talk at oSC13: openSUSE in Numbers * Alberto Planas' slides from the above talk * First openSUSE Team blog post: Numbers in openSUSE * Second openSUSE Team blog post: More on statistics * Jos post about numbers
One important note about the numbers: since most of the behaviors of the variables reflected on the graphs were consolidated, at some point we decided to stop adding effort in collecting numbers until 13.1 was released. Once the Release is well established, we will update them and evaluate the influence of this Release in the global picture.
I won't try to go very deep in the analysis. It would be too long. There are many interpretations that can be done based on the graphs. I will just point out the most relevant for our purpose. Feel free to add others.
Following Alberto Planas' order from his slides...
The number of downloads do not measure our user base, but provide hints about the impact of the work done every 8 months, the potential new users we might bring to the project and, looking at pre-release downloads, the number of testers.
Taking a look at the graphs, we can see that the overall number of downloads is growing at a slow path (slope). This behavior is not consistent in every release. For instance, 12.1 was more downloaded that 12.2 or 12.3. More and more people uses zypper for updating the distribution though.
2.- UUIDs (installations that update regularly)
* Looking at the number of machines that regularly update against openSUSE repositories (daily, weekly and monthly), we can easily conclude that the situation is very stable. The speed of growth (daily and weekly stats) or decline (monthly) is low.
* What the graph do not show is the acceleration. It has been negative (small in value) for quiet some time now.
* When looking at the architectures, we see that x86_64 is more popular than i586. This behavior is accelerating, as confirmed in the download numbers collected for 12.3
* When looking at the mediums where those installations come from, we clearly see three dominant ones: .iso (dvd version), ftp (net installs) and Live CD.
* There is a relevant detail that Alberto mentioned in his talk. More than half, almost 2/3, of openSUSE installations are not using the last version many weeks after Release date. There is also a significant amount of installations using unmaintained or Evergreen versions.
3.- Factory and Tumbleweed installations/"users"
Factory is our ongoing development effort. As you can see in the graph, the number of Factory installations is constant. Tumbleweed was very successful when it came out. Many developers and bleeding edge users liked it. Its popularity is decreasing though.
4.- Contributors to factory and devel projects
The numbers of users that are submitting request to factory/devel projects is increasing. Now we have more non SUSE contributors. SUSE ones remain constant. The overall growth is about 27 new contributors per year, a little bit more than 2 new contributors per month.
5.- Social media and comparison with Fedora
openSUSE is, in the social media channels evaluated, in the range of Fedora. Comparing our numbers, I guess we all agree with this general trend that states that openSUSE is a more user oriented distribution than Fedora is. We have less downloads but more users (installations updating regularly).
SOLVING THE PUZZLE
All the above pieces shows a stable picture. Every sign of growth or decline is, in absolute and/or relative numbers, small except social media, due to their explosion as communication channels (which I do not think is way different from what other Free Software communities are experiencing).
ADDING CONTEXT TO THE PICTURE
openSUSE coexist with other "coopetitors" (Free Software competitors + cooperators) and competitors (closed sources distributions). Touchscreens, cloud, big data, games...the Linux ecosystem is evolving and there are new users with new needs.
New players are consolidating their positions: Arch, Chakra, Mint... Ubuntu is moving to the mobile space, Debian is getting some attention back from previous Ubuntu users....
On the other hand, some distros that were relevant in the past have disappeared, our 13.1 has got more attention than previous ones, SUSE is healthy and willing to invest more in openSUSE in the future ...
In the above context, how is our "stable" situation perceived? How do we think it should be perceived?
INTERPRETING THE PICTURE
If we agree that the overall number of users of Linux based server + "traditional" desktop OS (let's remove the mobile/embedded space and cloud for now), is growing, not following the "market" growing trend might be perceived as a wake up call, a clear sign that improvements needs to be done.
But if we agree that we are playing in a risky and challenging field, stability can be perceived as a healthy sign.
After these months of analysis and discussions with both, contributors and users, I would like to ask you if you agree with the the idea that the first picture is more prominent than the second one. But, does the second one provide us a good platform to improve our current position?
SHARE YOUR OWN PICTURE
Let me propose you some questions:
1.- What other variables we should put in place to create an accurate picture of the current state of the project?
2.- What is the perception you think others have from the project?
3.- What is your perception, your picture?
To get some context you might want to take a look at the following contents:
* Current strategy * Ralf Flaxa keynote at oSC'13 * Jos article: Strategy and Stable * Jos article: Strategy and Factory
Please point us to other relevant references:
 Alberto Planas talk at oSC13: openSUSE in Numbers: http://youtu.be/NwfohZ8RBd8  Alberto Planas' slides from the above talk: https://github.com/aplanas/opensuse-data/tree/master/osc13  First openSUSE at SUSE team blog post: Numbers in openSUSE http://lizards.opensuse.org/2013/07/04/numbers-is-opensuse/  Second openSUSE at SUSE team blog post: More on statistics http://lizards.opensuse.org/2013/08/23/more-on-statistics/  Jos article about numbers: http://blog.jospoortvliet.com/2013/08/on-distributions-numbers-and-breaking....  Current strategy: http://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Strategy  Ralf Flaxa keynote at oSC'13: http://youtu.be/fdroo2JZano  Jos article: Strategy and Factory: http://blog.jospoortvliet.com/2013/07/osc13-strategy-and-factory.html  Jos article: Strategy and Stable: http://blog.jospoortvliet.com/2013/08/osc13-strategy-and-stable.html