Studying the evolution of Atom's project


Hi there,

I’m a researcher studying software evolution. I’m a researcher studying software evolution. As part of my current research, I’m studying the implications of open-sourcing a proprietary software, for instance, if the project succeed in attracting newcomers Atom was in my list.

To further analyze the impacts of Atom’s migration, we analyzed the git log commit history of your project in terms of number of contributions, number of newcomers, and number of contributors per month. The following figure presents a temporal perspective regarding these three measures.


Given the numbers presented in the graphic, we would like to ask Atom developers the following questions:

  1. What motivated the project to open its source code at Github? How do you evaluate the benefits of this migration?
  2. Does this snapshot make sense? Did you find any inconsistency on the data?
  3. Do you have any internal policy to promote/attract/retain newcomers? If so, do them succeed?
  4. Why the number of contribution did not increase while the number of contributors increased?
  5. Did you expect an increasing number of newcomers joining the project right after it became open-source?

Thanks in advance for your collaboration,

Gustavo Pinto, PhD


It appears that you’re basing all of this off of the repository at Did you know that Atom is made up of far more than that single repository? Most of the Atom repositories were made public and open-source on February 26th, 2014, when Atom was publicly announced and only three were kept non-public until May 6th, 2014, when the rest of the Atom project was made public. I’m not sure that this counts as a migration from closed- to open-source because of that. It’s more going from unreleased to released.

Does that change your questions or their basis?


Hi @leedohm. Thank you for your reply. I wasn’t aware that the Atom project is made up of several repositories. However, it does not change the basis of our questions. In particular, questions 3 to 5 are interested in understanding how does the project evolve, in terms of attracting and maintaining contributors. Question 2 is about the your perception about our data. Question 1 can be skipped :slight_smile: If you have any comments regarding questions 2-5, I’d love to hear.

  1. — not applicable —
  2. Given that the Atom project is made up of over 190 public repositories at this time, I think the data will not be so clear-cut if you were to include information from all repositories. Other than that, I haven’t fact-checked the data you’ve presented.
  3. We don’t have any specific policy beyond “Newcomers are cool … we should make them feel welcome!” As far as success goes, we don’t measure it so I could only give supposition.
  4. While the number of overall committers has grown, the size of the team of maintainers who review and approve PRs has remained relatively static. This puts a cap on the amount of code that can be accepted into the project per unit of time no matter how many committers there are.
  5. I feel this may be an invalid question. The repository was private to GitHub prior to it being released as open-source. Other than employees of GitHub, nobody could see the repository or its contents before it being released as open-source and after it was released as open-source everyone was a newcomer by definition.

Let me know if you have any more questions :grinning:


Are there statistics regarding package submissions or updates? That could be useful data, and would represent a facet of the information that the study is looking for in that it would show non-dev contributions before and after the application itself was made open.


By combining the information in the apm REST API and the GitHub Releases API, this information could be obtained by anyone.


Hi @leedohm, I know that it is a kinda late, but still, I have additional questions that I’d love to hear answers from you.

What was the main motivation for open-sourcing atom?

For example, was the main motivation of the companies to attract and retain new contributors? Or was the main motivation perhaps to promote a profile of open-source-friendliness and get goodwill from the community?

Could you please elaborate a bit over it?

Additionally, were there instances that companies recruited people from the community after they contributed to the (now open-sourced) project?

Were there discussions between the companies and the community that indicate a communication between them?

Finally, what are the recommendations for policies to create a sustainable community?