Public Lab Wiki documentation


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Welcome! This is the home for all things related to evaluation at Public Lab. Many different feedback efforts are ongoing in different sectors and we try to coordinate our efforts to minimize survey fatigue or redundancy. @liz leads the evaluation team! See recent work related to evaluation here, and ask questions below to find out more.

What are we measuring towards?


All evaluation is tracked against our Logic Model, and terms in Logic Model are defined in our Community Glossary.

The creation of this Logic Model, and the Snapshot Evaluation and Evaluation Framework based on it was generously supported by the Rita Allen Foundation (May 2015-May 2018), with additional support from the Listen For Good Project.

Why we evaluate

The Public Lab community intentionally works together to create a place where collaboration thrives. We collaborate on collaboration. We seek to collectively and publicly understand how we ourselves work together, and the systems, conventions and structures which shape that cooperative practice.

To do this better, we need feedback loops that add to our self-awareness. The feedback we wish we could see includes additional stats about our community's activity, especially where there are gaps, for instance, community questions languishing unanswered, which can be heart-breaking when the topic is environmental health. We would also like to identify emerging topics in real time in order to better tune outreach; this helps us ensure that diversity stays high even as early adopters rush in.

As Chris Kelty famously wrote of his concept "recursive publics," "[we] are the builders and imaginers of this space." This theme stretches across the FLOSS community, and increasing our self-awareness will help us eliminate our collective blind spots. As FLOSS publics strive to broaden in diversity and inclusivity, careful monitoring of where onboarding processes fail is critical.

By watching channels and identifying people who connect with the community in one or more ways, we hope to become aware of the ways that people first connect with Public Lab, and what their second, third, etc steps may be. If there are not subsequent steps, what stopped people who had started to engage from participating further?

How are we measuring?

Community Surveys

Formerly, a one-size-fits-all Annual Community Survey** was delivered over email lists and posted on the website. 2017_Public_Lab_Community_Survey_.pdf. We have now replaced that low-response format with multiple surveys that reach specific segments of our community who are having shared experiences.

Stakeholder interviewing

A series of stakeholder interviews was done in 2017! You can read them here:

Online analytics

Statistics on community activity are publicly displayed at
Experiment with customizing your own queries of activity by adjusting the DD-MM-YYYY in the URL, for example → !

Research into pathways through Public Lab's ecosystem is located at

The ever-growing Data Dictionary describes the datasets that are available for analysis. Created by @bsugar, maintained by @bsugar and @liz.

Topics include:

  • Conversational dynamics on mailing lists: 2017-07-12_mailing_list_activity.png

  • Rhythms of community activity on Screen_Shot_2018-05-10_at_2.59.16_PM.png

User interface design

See the User Interface page for more on design work towards user interface and user interaction improvements. This is an area where many people are offering feedback!

Other interesting views of the Public Lab community over time


Related work

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
Learning and Evaluation Manager @thewrightjess over 3 years ago 0
Report: 2020 Software Contributors Survey @liz over 3 years ago 3
Report: 2019 Software Contributors Survey @liz about 5 years ago 7
Cultivating Community Through Cultivating Data @bsugar about 5 years ago 0
How to create a Logic Model @liz over 5 years ago 0
Creating Public Lab's Logic Model @liz almost 6 years ago 0
Newark Barnraising & Crisis Convening evaluation results @liz almost 6 years ago 1
Evaluation: Listen4Good round two results @liz almost 6 years ago 0
evaluation notes: community segments -- not what you think! @liz over 6 years ago 0
Convening diversity and inclusion initiatives across open source projects @liz over 4 years ago 3
How can I make a tag graph visualization? @bsugar over 6 years ago 7
How do we do user interface design work in a community process? @warren over 6 years ago 10
Help with a standard mini-evaluation for assessing software outreach efforts? @warren over 6 years ago 11
Exporting GoogleGroups @bsugar almost 7 years ago 6
Your input kindly requested on the 2017 Community Survey! @liz about 7 years ago 2
growing Github contributors @liz about 7 years ago 2
Evaluation: Listen4Good round one results @stevie over 7 years ago 0
How useful is a map? @clauds over 7 years ago 0
First draft of tag graph @liz almost 8 years ago 2
Creating an evaluation framework for Public Lab @Shannon over 8 years ago 2
Intended Purposes for Different Tools and Techniques @gretchengehrke almost 9 years ago 6
2013 Barnraising evaluation summary @Shannon over 10 years ago 1
Public Lab community growth, Dec 2010-Aug 2013 @warren almost 11 years ago 0
Ideas from the $35 Kickstarter backers on how they will use the spectrometer @Shannon over 11 years ago 1

Older page content

From 2014 via @liz: brainstorming possible community metrics

From 2011 via @warren, interesting! Read on:

On this page we are in the process of summarizing and formulating our approach towards self-evaluation; as a community with strong principles, where we engage in open participation and advocacy in our partner communities, this process is not that of a typical researcher/participant nature. Rather, we seek to formulate an evaluative approach that takes into account:

  • multiple audiences - feedback for local communities, for ourselves, for institutions looking to adopt our data, for funding agencies, etc
  • reflexivity - we may work with local partners to formulate an evaluative strategy, and this may often include questionnaires, surveys, interviews which we take part in both as subjects and as investigators
  • outreach - by publishing evaluations in a variety of formats, we may employ diverse tactics to better understand and refine our work; its publication in diverse venues (journals, newspapers, white papers, video, public presentation, etc) offers us an opportunity to reach out to various fields (ecology, law, social science, technology, aid)
  • location - our evaluations should be situated in geographic communities, examining the effects of our tools and data production in collaboration with a specific group of residents


Good evaluative approaches could enable us to:

  • quantify our data and present it to scientific, government agencies for use in research, legal, and
  • provide rich feedback for field mappers (in the case of balloon mapping and other public scientists to improve their techniques
  • assess the effects of our work on local communities and situations of environmental (and other types of) conflict
  • involve local partners in the quantification and interpretation of our joint work
  • ...


We're going to use a few different approaches in performing (self-)evaluation -- each has pros and cons, but we will attempt to meet the above goals in structuring them.

Approach A: Logbook questionnaire

The logbook is an idea for a printed book to bring on field mapping missions for balloon mapping.

Although this strategy can be reductive, compared to interviews, videos, etc, its standard approach yields data which we can graph, analyze and publish for public use. The results will be published here periodically. Any member of our community may use them for fundraising, outreach, or for example to print & carry to the beach to improve mapping technique.

Read more at the Logbook page.

A mini version of this questionnaire was used by Jen Hudon as part of her Grassroots Newark project and can be found here:

Approach B: Community Blog

The community blog represents a way for members of our community to ... critical as well as positive...

To contribute to the community blog, visit the Community Blog page

Approach C: Interviews

We're beginning a series of journalistic/narrative interviews with residents of the communities we work with. Read more at the interviews page.