Returning to DebConf

I first started using Debian sometime in the mid 90s and started contributing as a developer and package maintainer more than two decades years ago. My first very first scholarly publication, collaborative work led by Martin Michlmayr that I did when I was still an undergrad at Hampshire College, was about quality and the reliance on individuals in Debian. To this day, many of my closest friends are people I first met through Debian. I met many of them at Debian’s annual conference DebConf.

Given my strong connections to Debian, I find it somewhat surprising that although all of my academic research has focused on peer production, free culture, and free software, I haven’t actually published any Debian related research since that first paper with Martin in 2003!

So it felt like coming full circle when, several days ago, I was able to sit in the virtual DebConf audience and watch two of my graduate student advisees—Kaylea Champion and Wm Salt Hale—present their research about Debian at DebConf21.

Salt presented his masters thesis work which tried to understand the social dynamics behind organizational resilience among free software projects. Kaylea presented her work on a new technique she developed to identifying at risk software packages that are lower quality than we might hope given their popularity (you can read more about Kaylea’s project in our blog post from earlier this year).

If you missed either presentation, check out the blog post my research collective put up or watch the videos below. If you want to hear about new work we’re doing—including work on Debian—you should follow our research group blog, and/or follow or engage with us in the Fediverse (, or on Twitter (@comdatasci).

And if you’re interested in joining us—perhaps to do more research on FLOSS and/or Debian and/or a graduate degree of your own?—please be in touch with me directly!

Wm Salt Hale’s presentation plus Q&A. (WebM available)
Kaylea Champion’s presentation plus Q&A. (WebM available)

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