Marketing an open-source project – Part VI

This is the sixth post of the “Marketing an Open Source Project” series. This blog entry aims to explain the aim of the conducted research, which methodology approach was used and what are the known limitations of the findings. If you haven’t read the first article, you can find it here.


The two main goals of this research were 1) to produce a rich description of the barriers regarding marketing and the reasons behind them in community-driven OSS projects, and 2) to identify how to remove those barriers to build a brand strategy.

Using qualitative methods like semi-structured interviews and data analysis from online forums, the study explored various OSS community members’ roles, motivations, and perspectives on marketing, aiming to understand the reasons behind the existing obstacles. Due to the lack of knowledge in the field, exploratory research was selected.

Semi-structured interviews were the most appropriate technique for this research, as it allows research participants to discuss their experiences, allowing researchers to discover the meanings of participants’ opinions and thoughts [1], hence facilitating the discovery of a particular subject [2].

The questions were designed to ask the interviewee about:

  • their role within the OSS projects,
  • motivation for belonging to the OS community,
  • their attitude towards marketing,
  • their thoughts on the chances and threats of marketing the project.

Sample characteristics

Based on its exploratory nature, a non-probability purposive sampling strategy was used for this research. Non-probability sampling “relies on personal judgment of the researcher rather than chance to select sample elements” [3]. In qualitative research, purposive sampling is often used rather than random sampling to provide high-quality data [4]. Hence, the survey was distributed online in various OSS project forums, such as PostgreSQL, iDempiere and Ubuntu, and via e-mail to the author’s acquaintances.

Size is typically small for exploratory research design. Thirteen diverse participants were chosen purposively, reflecting different OSS project roles, skills, and opinions (functional users, developers, project leaders, sponsors).

It is evident that qualitative research does not lead to generalisations, however, it gives deeper insights into the thoughts of the community members. The research gives an initial understanding and opens new ideas as the answers come out of the experience of the interviewees.

Data collection and analysis methods

The data collection involved online interviews and secondary data analysis from OSS project activities.

Online interviews were conducted due to the complex differences between participants (English language skills, time zones, availability times, etc.). Therefore, to facilitate the interview, semi-structured interview questions were uploaded to the internet and participants were asked to fill in their responses within three months, which was deemed an appropriate amount of time.

Data analysis was conducted for each participant, identifying emerging themes and issues related to the topic, and linking them back to the literature where applicable. The interview analysis was carried out manually by the researcher. Additionally, secondary data was gathered and analysed to identify how other existing OS projects engage in marketing activities.

The results of the interviews are not analysed to make definite conclusions about the barriers in terms of marketing OS projects – its purpose is to gain a deeper understanding, give direction and act as previous research for future research projects regarding the subject.


Limitations include the exploratory nature, small sample size, and self-selection of projects, potentially affecting generalizability and perspectives included in the analysis. Clarifications couldn’t be made during online interviews, impacting response accuracy.

Although all the selected projects have different target markets, they all produce business software. Thus, the results of the exploratory research cannot be generalised to OSS projects producing software for individuals.

Another limitation is that the number of projects to be studied was self-selected for convenience, and a larger sample could offer more support for the findings. Additionally, as challenging as it was to obtain thirteen study participants willing to complete the interviews, it should be interpreted as the study participants had something to say about the topics addressed and had a real interest in marketing in OSS projects. Again, this sampling strategy limited the perspectives that were included in the data analysis.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts where we’ll unveil the findings from the interviews and secondary data analysis.


[1] Murray, C. D. & Sixsmith, J., 1998. E-mail: A qualitative research medium for interviewing?. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, January, Volume 1, p. 103–121.

[2] Fossey, E., Harvey, C., McDermott, F. & Davidson, L., 2002. Understanding and evaluating qualitative research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, December, Volume 36, p. 717–732.

[3] Malhotra, N. K., 2004. Marketing research: An applied approach. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

[4] MacDougall, C. & Fudge, E., 2001. Planning and Recruiting the Sample for Focus Groups and In-Depth Interviews. Qualitative Health Research, January, Volume 11, p. 117–126.