openSUSE 10.2 Survey Analysis (in 15 minutes or less)

May 4, 2007

Stephan Binner recently posted survey results for openSUSE 10.2 on the Planet (scroll down…a little more…a little more…stop!..right there.) We need more surveys and posted results like this. Are the questions and results mind-blowing? Maybe/maybe not. But since we have almost nothing to compare with historically, any insight into a distro’s user base is incredibly helpful. Thanks to Binner and his team for taking this survey and more importantly posting the results for everyone to review.

With that said, I’m going to briefly discuss the results of each survey question, as such topics are interesting for the KDE promotional community.

  1. Age: A nice sensible bell curve is shown, with a slightly larger tail for the 60+ crowd due to the larger age pool. Regardless, would you have guessed that 10% of users are over 50? I don’t know the exact background of the polling procedures – would older users be more likely to see the poll or more likely to respond? Such are the concerns of any survey.
  2. Gender: Unless polling biases took place (unlikely) this is not entirely surprising but nonetheless worrisome. We have more users over 60 than female (yes, I get it that those demographics overlap)? What does it take for the computing industry in general to make a more concerted effort on this front? This is not uniquely a KDE/SUSE/OSS issue whatsoever.
  3. Computer skills: Bo hunting skills, computer hacking skills…..Now, out of all the questions that I’d like to see compared to 1/3/5 years ago, it might be this one. How have the demographics changed in recent years? And is there any correlation within the age groups? Are younger users more technically savvy (due to computing ubiquity) or actually less (not needing to know about computing fundamentals any more) ? Either way, the largest group define themselves as experienced users without technical skills. Keep that in mind.
  4. Profession: Without knowing the results of the “Other” category, it’s tough to learn much here, except more students and IT workers use SUSE than managers. No kidding.
  5. Net connectivity: The bars certainly don’t seem to match up with the corresponding numbers, bu c’est la vie mon ami. Throw out what country you live in (broadband varies quite a bit based on geography), gender and age..openSUSE users are connected. These are the results where people say, “We should really print less physical CDs, upgrade the ftp server and find some more mirrors.” And there’s at least 662 ISDN users still in the world. Who knew?
  6. Flatrate: No clue what this means. Googling doesn’t shed much light – I assume some Euro/German broadband option. Either this question makes sense and it tells us that the polling group mostly come from Germany/Europe, or the polling group is geographically diverse and this is a bad question.
  7. Priorities: Well, I could write for days on this topic. For example: usability is ranked just as highly as security and hardware support.
  8. OS: Wow, there are more SUSE users than Windows users in the world! Maybe I’m reading that wrong. The results are interesting when you think of “Who’s likely to take this survey?”  I’d love it if this very same survey were taken by people for Mepis/Kubuntu/Mandriva/Xandros/Freespire and see how ages/genders/etc compare.  Are there actually different user archetypes within the distro universe, or are the free/commercial/newbie/advanced distros all pretty homogeneous?
  9. Dual boot: I’m not sure if this question had people respond in the affirmative if they have other PCs with Windows or virtual instances…that many have specifically dual-boot? That would surprise me. Given the results of question 8 maybe this makes sense more.
  10. Interface: Wellwellwell. First off, I salute you – 460 console users! Secondly I love playing with statistics – so on question 8 over 30% of people mainly use Mac or Windows but over 70% also use KDE mainly? Back to question 6, I suppose if most survey takers were from Germany/Europe this result might not be too surprising. Great to see in any case. I can’t write further without getting historically snarky on Novell.
  11. Install/administer: Higher results of non-graphical users than I’d expect. This is a seemingly hybrid result between the users that are experienced but non-technical and the high number that described themselves as IT workers and/or system administrators.
  12. Discovery: So 18 percent found out about SUSE by downloading the ISO? How do you download something before you know about it? Odd result. “Word-of-mouth” and “Linux Community” probably overlap a bit, but you see the importance of treating the community well and the power of image.
  13. Involvement: It might actually be good to see a lot of people that aren’t involved with the community. A sign of expansion and a big user base that are truly “users.” Of course, with that being said, you still want increased involvement on all fronts (basic bug reporting seems like little to give back for getting free software). With the number of IT workers and system administrators responding, you think you’d have more reporting and documentation. IRC and mailing list numbers are encouraging though.
  14. History: Wow, 11% actually said 10.2 was their first experience with Linux? That’s actually fairly decent – Novell people have to be pleased with that fact. Their product was desirable enough to get those responders to take the plunge.
  15. Downloading: Again, a lot of online activity.
  16. Familiarity: Over time, if this poll is continued by SUSE, I’m sure they would want to see plenty of new users, but still hold on to the faithful users over time. 15% have used SUSE over 6 years on this poll? High-five yourselves you old-schoolers.
  17. Updates: About what I’d expect. Over time if less technical users join the bandwagon, will fewer updates happen?
  18. Use: Not a lot of commercial only use. How does the SLED initiative interplay?
  19. Desktop: These numbers seem about right. Apparently 38% like Ktuberling? As I’ve said before: Hopefully this generation of consoles (Wii, PS3 and that other one) helps people get their game fix. The more people that can play cool console games, the less people complain about the gaming situation on linux/bsd/gnu-kde.
  20. Home server: Very specific question – not surprised at all of the people that skipped this question.
  21. Development: Pretty even, huh? I wonder what the numbers would be for only one but not the other. Did 67% just say “Yeah, I do both” ? More skipped this question than answered, which points to earlier answers about the fact that not everyone does development on their PCs.
  22. Rating: Hm…they actually rated the lowest on support service, whereas on question 7 people rated support service as one of the least important areas. Well, which is it people? The big space between 7 and 22 is something that survey takers like to do to reset the opinions of the responders, let them get distracted with other questions, then revisit the topic. So Novell people can compare 7 and 22 and check out what’s important to people with how they rank on these points. I recommend that you, faithful reader, review the comparisons as well.
  23. Improvements: Hey openSUSE, get better hardware support! Just as users don’t care about the layers or separation between openSUSE, the linux kernel and driver development….so is KDE on the hook. With 70% using KDE as an interface and users getting less technical and in tune with the OSS world, you can bet people will continue to think “KDE needs better hardware support” or “Why doesn’t KDE work with my wireless card?” I fully recommend a fully staffed Help Desk hotline by Martin Klingens to field these calls.
  24. Novell products: Their product visibility and awareness. Not too interesting to me.
  25. Ditto.

Gay-ron-teed to be uninsightful or your money back.  So what are your thoughts?  Anything surprising?  Did you read results differently?

4 Responses to “openSUSE 10.2 Survey Analysis (in 15 minutes or less)”

  1. liquidat Says:

    About the flatrate stuff:
    In several European and other countries you have to pay your Internet connection per minute or per traffic amount.
    Or at least, you were used to do so until several years ago, when the first company offered a 24/7 connection with as much traffic as you like for a fixed price. This one was called “flatrate“, it is a fixed payment tariff.

    I’m surprised that you don’t know about this. How does this work in your country? Did you had flat rates from the beginning?

  2. wadejolson Says:

    I figured it was something along those lines. In the US, it was mainly one price for the broadband (no conditions on 24/7 or downloading amount). Now they’re starting to introduce some bandwidth caps.


  3. Very interesting results, sure. It seems to me like it’s the only major distribution with that kind of KDE user (well, and team) percentage. Funny how things change even in just a couple of years (i.e. Mandriva, birth of Ubuntu, etc).

    These really large surveys are so great to see in OSS, like you say, since we really don’t get any other surveys with these types of numbers (27,000!). Still, the types of users that knew about this survey anyway were still people that would i.e. log on to opensuse.org or be subscribed to opensuse-announce, so it can be dangerous making too many generalisations from the results.

    With regard to hardware support, I think that’s one big screaming issue for a whole horde of people in the Linux OSS. I’ve countlessly heard “I got into distro X because it’s the only distro that supported my wireless card.”

  4. Diederik Says:

    > I’ve countlessly heard “I got into distro X because
    > it’s the only distro that supported my wireless card.”

    It could also be true that the kernel detected the card, but this event doesn’t popup through the “system support libraries” to the desktop. So for beginners, it looks like the system doesn’t see the card. While sometimes restarting that app makes it rescan and see the device.


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