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I’m BuddyPress-ed for Time

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Volunteerism is the heart and soul of any successful, healthy Open Source project. So, when Paul Gibbs posted the following Tweet a week ago,

Apparently I’ve made 1317 posts on the #buddypress forums. This puts me ahead of @apeatling on 1053, @johnjamesjacoby on 1257. @jeffsayre wins with 1454!
1:08 PM Dec 13th by Tweetie

it made me remember a post on Andy Peatling’s blog from several months ago about giving back to the Open Source projects from which we personally benefit.

Andy’s take was that commercial users of Open Source projects should strive to contribute back at least 1% of their time to the project. You can read Andy’s take on this issue here.

I agree with Andy. Further, I think it should apply to all users—not just those of us (like myself) who are building or plan to build commercial SaaS solutions based on Open Source projects.

BuddyPress is not the only Open Source project from which I and many others derive benefits. BuddyPress requires WordPress Mu and further benefits from bbPress. These three Open Source projects, managed by the corporation Automattic, also depend on other Open Source projects—PHP, MySQL, Javascript, JQuery, and probably a few others.

Also, we all depend on some sort of server operating system and Web server software, more than likely both Open Source in nature. Finally, you might even throw in the Open Source licensing schemes that the aforementioned Open Source projects are licensed under.

But, this post is about BuddyPress. Paul’s tweet made me wonder how much time I’ve given back to the BuddyPress project, the Open Source project with which I am most associated. So, I did a few calculations:

Time spent answering forum questions:
1454 posts x avg. of 7 minutes per post = 170 hours

(N.B. Some posts require twenty or so seconds, but many others I’ve spent 20+ minutes carefully answering. So, I’ve settled on an acceptable average of 7 minutes per post.)

Time spent on forum (reading, moderating, but not answering):
80 hours

(a guesstimate)

Time spent answering private BuddyPress PMs and emails:
40 hours

(a fair guesstimate, but I’ve probably spent a little more)

Time spent on IRC:
70 hours

(These are active, participating hours, not passive hours. That equals about 2 hours a week)

Time spent developing (my Privacy Component, Trac patches, and a few not yet released plugins):
373 hours

(based on my calendar entries)

Total volunteer hours contributed to the BuddyPress project to date:
733 hour

Now, the average number of hours a person works each week in the United States in 40 hours. That adds up to 2,080 total work hours per year. I’ll use this figure for one measure of my contribution. Of course, 80 of those hours are often granted to employees as vacation time (if you’re lucky).

But, is there really a normal work week? I’ve never had a job where I’ve worked fewer than 50 hours per week on average. Currently, and for the past decade or more, I’ve worked at least 10 to 12 hours per day, 6 days a week. Often, it is more like 14 to 16 hours each day. Now, if I’m fortunate, and wise, I might actually take 2 weeks off in a year.

So, to be conservative, let’s assume I work an average of 12 hours per day, 6 days per week, and 50 weeks a year. That adds up to 3,600 total work hours per year. Yikes!

Now granted, since I am one of a handful of active BuddyPress forum moderators, the amount of time I volunteer might be a little higher than most. But, these calculations cover just 8 months of my involvement in the BuddyPress project to date. They also do not count the many non-paid hours I’ve spent via iChat, Skype, or on the phone discussing BP with others. So, I’m guessing my actual, yearly total is higher.

The Results

What percentage of my working year do I volunteer to the BuddyPress project? The results are in:

Using an average American work year:

733 hours / 2080 hours per year = 35.2%

Using my work year:

733 hours / 3,600 hours per year = 20.4%

Boy, I need to go make some money or at least go on a vacation. But, at least I’ve banked a few volunteer hours using the 1% gauge!

There surely are a number of other BuddyPress developers who kindly give of their time to this extent as well. What percentage of your working year have you volunteered to the BuddyPress project this year?

Article Comments

  1. If you’re running yourself as a business it starts to make the non FOSS tools look like good value.

    1% of time a year is fine by me, and in effect we do that for WP where we make our real money, through free plugins and the like. In fact, more than 1%. But think about it from an economics or psychological point of view and you have to think very carefully about what you put in and what you get out. Early adopters do well – not so sure about late adopters though….

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      David-

      Thanks for your comments. I agree that it is important to make sure that you are not giving too much more than you’re receiving. One of the reasons I choose to use as many FOSS tools as makes sense in my business is because of the sheer number of volunteers contributing to these projects.

      The quality of the projects often greatly improve over time but the cost to my business remains the same. That usually cannot be said for propriety software tools.

  2. Ron says:

    Andrea has over 5000 posts in the MU forums. If it were an average of 7 min per post that’s about 600 hours.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Ron-

      Andrea (and you!) have contributed enormously to WordPress’ OS ecosystem. If there were an award for volunteerism in an OS project, she surely would get the prize.

      • Andrea_r says:

        I don’t do it for prizes or recognition though, I truly like to help people, and I’m really behind the whole project. :)

        • Jeff Sayre says:

          I agree with you as I, too, like to help people when I can. But, it is usually those volunteers who think that they don’t deserve recognition that often do!

  3. American Yak says:

    w00t for Jeff & Andrea and all!

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