Rice University Studying the Sociology of the Linux Community

by Heather Mead

The Jones School of Management at Rice University in Houston, Texas is conducting an academic research project that studies on-line social interactions and how on-line communities form around an idea, product or brand. Recognizing the strong community ties built around Linux, the project has chosen to focus part of the study on us. To this end, a survey has been posted on SurveyPro.com targeted at members of Linux user groups, mailing lists and other communities of Linux enthusiasts.

Specifically, the study hopes to determine participants' levels of interest and dedication to these on-line communities, as well as their motivation for joining the groups. Jones School faculty member Utpal Dholakia explains that they want input "from those individuals who interact with the more-or-less same group of individuals on-line...regularly."

The survey asks questions about age and gender, number of face-to-face meetings vs. on-line interactions, feelings about missing meetings and on-line contact, how much money is spent of Linux-related items and how much time is spent in Linux-related activities. Because the project has a sociological bent, many of the questions center around community members' feelings and attitudes.

Here are a few sample questions:

  • About how often do you visit Linux-related web-sites in a month?

  • How would you express the degree of overlap between your own personal identity and the identity of "Linux" as you interpret it?

  • Express the degree to which you might intend to participate in discussions with the group of friends you mentioned above during the next one month.

Come on guys, you know you spend a good part of the day reading and posting to different Linux lists (or telling us what you think of LJ articles)--we know it too. So take a few minutes to complete this survey; all of the information will remain confidential and is for academic use. And if you need another motivator, one of the last questions on the survey asks for your favorite Linux group or organization, and five from the final results will receive $100 donations.

Heather Mead is associate editor of Linux Journal.

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