Size of teams behind Linux distros
enrico at enricozini.org
Thu Apr 12 16:25:32 PDT 2012
On Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 02:14:05PM -0500, Jason Hsu wrote:
> I've been curious about the size of the teams behind Linux distros. I
> met a Gentoo developer at the Minnebar conference last Saturday and
> learned that there are about 200 people working on Gentoo and about
> 1000 people working on Debian. I understand that the productive Linux
> Mint team is surprisingly small, though I have no idea how small.
> (50? 20? 10? Even fewer?)
> How big are the teams that you're familiar with?
It is in fact rather hard to count the size of a distro. In the case of
Debian (I'm using Debian as an example because I know it well, but most
of what I'm saying can be applied to others), these are the official
It's 951 full developers, plus 170 debian maintainers. However, of those
(especially of the full developers) there are an unspecified number who
are not very active anymore and have not yet been spotted by the MIA
team. So looking at official membership numbers you have a bias based
on how inactive members are detected, and also a bias based on how high
each distribution raises the bar of official membership.
However, there are also many people who do packaging work and are not
DDs or DMs, plus another number of people who do not do packaging
work, are not official developers but still regularly do translation
work. We are brainstorming how to track such non-packaging contributions
so that we can acknowledge their contributors like we do with packagers,
but still cannot do that properly.
Still depending on where you draw the line, a distribution is also built
by people sending patches to the BTS, or helping out staffing booths at
events, or helping people in web forums or participating in local
communities, or adopting it at work, or building solutions or businesses
And if an ecosystem is healthy, then the work done by people on
derivatives should eventually get contributed on the main distribution.
And each derivative has its own ecosystem which is rather hard to track.
It even took quite some effort to start a census to track Debian
The point here is that if one wants to estimate the manpower that ends
up in a distro, it's probably more fair to look at the size of the
ecosystem rather than the number of official developers. Although,
indeed, that is really rather hard to estimate.
 http://mentors.debian.net/ has many examples, but it also happens in
several teams in Debian.
GPG key: 4096R/E7AD5568 2009-05-08 Enrico Zini <enrico at enricozini.org>
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