2008Q2 Grant Proposal - The Perl Survey

Category: Grants

Comments (9)

A grant for something somewhat non-codish. How interesting! I think this sort of thing has a lot of potential value to the community.

A grant for something somewhat non-codish. How interesting! I think this sort of thing has a lot of potential value to the community.

I like the depth of statistics involved and just making it repeatable and comparable will be useful.

As Dave repeated, it is quite interesting to have a proposal for something non-codish. But I have my doubts about the real usefulness of it for $3000.

Having participated in survey projects myself, and having a wife who is a statistician, I know how time consuming and challenging it is to get something like this right. Ambiguous or leading questions can spoil an entire data set. I think the applicant sounds experienced and has written an excellent proposal. $3000 is a very reasonable price for the amount of work involved.

I did not participate in the previous survey because of the requirement to submit my email address. I would like to hear how Kieren plans to address or mitigate the problem of ballot stuffing and/or how the survey data will be kept anonymous.

(Note: sorry about the silly username, I am actually the applicant).

Chris is correct about the amount I requested. I used the 4 survey projects, I was involved last year to estimate what would be reasonable to ask for (at well below market rate). I also discussed it with a colleague.

I have tried to get around to looking at the analysis of the data of the original survey on my own time, but it is a fiddly and time consuming job that I haven't been able to find the tuits for in my spare time.

Retaining anonymity is easy in terms of data storage. I'm not sure how many people did not complete the survey due to the email address requirement - this is partly what the discussion work would be about - to estimate the size of this population, and maybe estimate how they might differ from the survey sample. I could think about using a CAPTCHA, or something related for people who did not want to provide an email address.

I did think about splitting this project into three parts of $1000 each, comprising

1. analysis,
2. discussions/scoping subsequent surveys and
3. running the second survey

However, I decided that the timing of the grants process, the timing of the conference season and my need to apply for a separate travel grant meant that this would be much less worthwhile than applying for the whole thing at once.

Also, the goal at the end of this process is a survey instrument that's easy to administer, and doesn't require a whole lot of time to do a thorough analysis. I think the value of providing a replicable survey is far greater than a one-off proposition.

I think something like this has enormous value to both the Perl community specifically and the Open Source community at large. Perl has pretty large and mature community compared to some of the other "scripting" languages out there, a professionally done study like this could give some real insight into what makes it work. I think it would be well worth the money.

Kirrily did a great job in organising the first Perl Survey. Through it I got to understand a lot more about the whole Perl community than I had experienced in just my little part of the world. I think it's superb that Kieren is willing to reorganise the survey (with Kirrily's blessing) so that we can evaluate the information from it with a real understanding of its statistical validity.

That Kieren is also able to bring a solid understanding of the social sciences into play is an even greater bonus. With his experience I am sure that we'll be asking the right questions, to get meaningful results.

A solid, repeatable survey, is both excellent PR for Perl and something we can share to improve the Open Source world in general. Like the Perl Best Practices book, it's also something that we'll be leading the open source languages in. It'll also help answer that question of "So who's using Perl these days?"

Although $3000 is a lot of money, I think what we'll be getting from it, will be useful for many years into the future; for both Perl 5 and Perl 6.

Kieren's research comes at an essential time for Perl as there is a growing chasm between the real state of Perl both in development and in industry and the general perception of Perl . This application will help to raise the understanding of Perl and its current evolutionary shape, not just for our own community but the business community as well.
The survey and its associated reports should highlight areas where we can improve, it will give us an understanding of our strengths and weaknesses and in particular how Perl is seen by the wider communities.
My belief in the importance of his research is backed by the commitment of my company to Kieren's work. Shadowcat Systems will be sponsoring some of his research as well as providing free hosting for the associated questionnaire.

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