The EPEL team that operates as part of the Red Hat Community Platform Engineering (CPE) group, has ran two surveys over the years 2022 and 2023, with the purpose of understanding how Fedora and EPEL community members use and contribute to EPEL, and their overall satisfaction with EPEL. The results of these surveys will help us prioritize our future work and plan activities for the growth of the project, and since we believe that this results might be interesting for the wider audience, we decided to share them here.
Both of the surveys were different in their approach. The first one had more widespread and open-ended questions, which helped us explore more perspectives and narrow down things. This in turn helped us to ask more focused and targeted questions in the second survey.
About our community
The purpose of some of the questions was to know more about our community. This is useful information for us to see how EPEL is being used and to find growth opportunities in the project. In the following charts we grouped those choices in regard to users groups to compare those behaviors and measure them.
From what we can see on the charts, usage targets tend to be more focused on the server side. It is good to see that many people use EPEL on their workstations considering that we have lots of packages built for that purpose. On the other hand, IoT is a space where resources are scarce. We expected to see fewer people using EPEL packages there because of this.
Between the differences, we noticed that CentOS Stream tends to be more popular for contributors in comparison to users. We believe that this is because this distribution enables EPEL contributors to be a step ahead to updates that can change their packages. This can also help them provide contributions to the base project, which is a strength of CentOS Stream.
A big part of our community uses EPEL in a professional context. Some of them get are actually paid to do this work which helps the EPEL community, but it’s not the norm and it’s usually not a priority. We provide a job description on the role of a sponsored package maintainer in our documentation. If you think that your company or employer can sponsor a developer to focus on EPEL, this document can help to kick start that conversation.
EPEL’s purpose is to improve the experience given by RHEL and other similar distributions by making more of Fedora’s package library available for them. Most of the users and contributors are happy about the project in general. We measure the Happiness Index as the average of the numeric value responses to the question “How happy are you with EPEL?”.
We don’t think it would be fair to directly compare the results. The main problem is that in 2022 this question was both optional and it was targeted on the topics of contributing and usage, while in 2023 it was mandatory and about general satisfaction.
The results we got were overall positive, considering that both surveys got resulting indexes above 4. Seeing that there are still people indifferent shows us we still have space where we can help the project grow.
People shared their views and concerns regarding the project, most of them being reasonable and constructive. Some of the recurrent topics were between getting more packages and updates, making the processes simpler for maintainers, and improving the bootstrap process for newer EPEL versions.
We also noticed from the feedback and based on the suggestions that communication and documentation are points that need improvement.
Not everything we read were things that could get addressed, but it helped us understand the community perspective on several topics.
So… What now?
Before closing this blog post, we want to thank the people that participated in this survey. We plan to work on turning your insights into action.
Currently there is a running initiative to further improve EPEL 10. It’s main focus is simplifying the packaging process for maintainers and helping users have an easier time when using our repositories. This will further improve the changes made during EPEL 9 that helped us get the infrastructure up and running.
We are also working on a reorganization of the current documentation site. This is still a work in progress, but we plan to give a further push on it in the following months.
Aside from these initiatives, we will continue participating with the community by addressing questions, resolving problems, packaging more useful software, and participating in common EPEL activities.
If you want to get involved in the project, you can find us in the Fedora EPEL Matrix channel. We also hold EPEL Steering Committee meetings every week, and hold monthly office hours where you can meet us and ask questions.