When I was at J and Beyond earlier this year, I met Aarti Mahajan. She's not a Joomla developer. She's not a Joomla site integrator. She does not sell anything related to Joomla. She doesn't even use Joomla. So why was she there?
It turned out she's conducting the first economic study on Joomla ever. Read this interview to find out more about her exciting research project and how you can contribute. This is something that will benefit us all.
Hi Aarti, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where you're from and where you currently live.
I am originally from India and currently based in one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium, Ghent, from the past 4 years. I have a Bachelors degree in Information Technology Engineering, but I have not written a single line of code since last 4 years ;-) In Belgium, I obtained my Masters in Management degree, and from the last 2 years I have been working as a scientific researcher at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Management Department at the Ghent University.
When we first met at J and Beyond 2010, you were preparing an economic study on Joomla. Can you tell us a bit about the background for this research - and why you chose the Joomla community as subject for your research?
Earlier this year, I decided to pursue my interest for research by following the doctoral programme at the university. If I have to sum up my research in few words, it would be “Exploring business models”. Going back to my academic roots, I was determined to target a particular group in the ICT sector. Open Source seemed interesting, and CMS even more, since there has been no academic research yet, and it was decided. Open Source business models have been studied to some extent in the past, but not much has been talked about opportunities for third party developers to economize on Open Source Software.
With a clear idea of research topic, I just had to select an OS CMS to study. I had to select a popular, successful, active, community-backed CMS and Joomla excelled in all aspects - a big and well-organized community being the most important feature.
What is the goal of this study?
At an abstract level, the aim is to study who can makes money with Open Source software (OSS). The different parties are, obviously the corporation that owns the OSS, the community that owns OSS or the individuals/ companies that develop products or provide services for OSS. The most interesting is the last group, and a majority of my research will deal with the study of the business models of the companies that are reliant on Open Source CMS. When I talk about business model, it is not only how you make money, but also about product innovation, customer communication, partnerships and co-ordination, pricing etc.
Another important goal is to study the entrepreneurial motivation, background and experience of the founders that led to the establishment of these companies.
What has been the most challenging part of conducting this research?
Finding people? Getting them to answer? Getting complete responses?
I am collecting data for my research with the help of a questionnaire web survey. As I mentioned earlier, the research deals with more than the revenue aspects of the business model, and hence it is time-consuming. I takes nearly 20-25 min. to complete the survey, and the difficult part is to encourage people to hang on to the end. Some people are reluctant to share company information, which I can understand, but I assure complete confidentiality and anonymity the responses. The results will only be used for academic purposes, and the results will be published in journals, presented in conferences and shared with the respondents.
The second challenge is to contact these people. I know that there are hundreds of people working on Joomla!, but there is no exhaustive list of these developers available with their contact information. Hence I am able to reach these people only through blogs, posts, forums, discussion etc.. This form of pull marketing techniques are seldom effective, since there is a lack of personal communication, and people are intimidated to contribute to the research. I would be delighted to contact these people directly and tell them about my research to convince them to participate in the research.
What are your target groups for this study?
I am focusing on two target groups. Firstly, the developers/ companies that develop extensions or templates for Joomla!. The second group is the individuals/ companies that provide all types of services for Joomla!- Web design & development, consulting, hosting, installation, support, SEO & Internet marketing, etc.
How has the Joomla Community responded so far? Do you find it supportive of your project?
The response this far is quite good. I was also able to receive feedback regarding the questions, the survey tool etc. which not only helps me to improve the research, but also to understand these terms from a practitioners’ view.
How many responses do you have at this point, and how many do you need to fulfill the requirements?
Till now I have around 70 responses. I aim to have approximately 80-100 responses from extension and/or template developers and 175-200 from service providers. The analysis will be more accurate as the number of responses go higher.
Anything more you want to add?
I would like to add that my research is purely academic, and is not affiliated to Joomla! or Open Source Matters. When I attended the J&B conference, and talked to a few people about the research, they were enthusiastic and very kind to share their experiences working with Joomla!. The Joomla! community is not just a group of people working on a common project, but people who really believe in Open Source. Though I have very limited technical knowledge of Joomla!, I am convinced to further contribute to the community in future. I can only hope to be able to design my own website with Joomla! someday.
I wish you luck on your research. If anyone wants to participate in your study, how would they proceed?
I would like to thank you for this interview and giving me an opportunity to reach out to more people. People can proceed through the following links to the questionnaire: