Read the Docs 2016 Stats

Congrats, you made it through 2016! Read the Docs has been rolling along, and we’ve had another interesting year as well.

For a quick summary:

  • Our level of contributions and commits has gone down a good bit this year.
  • Our traffic and user growth has been quite steady, which is particularly impressive at the scale we’re operating at.
  • Our efforts at funding the project have also started to bear fruit, and 2017 is looking to be the year that Read the Docs will become a sustainable project.

We will go into more detail below about each of these details.

Note

You can always see our stats for the last 30 days.

Our posts from 2013, 2014, and 2015 are also available.

Page Views

Our stats:

  • 252 Million Page Views (+48%)
  • 56 Million Unique Visitors (+47%)

Page view growth has been steady again this year. This is particularly impressive given the scale that we’re operating at. We’re quite happy to see folks using Read the Docs more and more, as well as seeing many other projects using our theme or other concepts that we’ve pioneered in the general software ecosystem.

We remain one of the largest sites on the internet.

Site Stats

The stats, in total numbers:

  • 53673 projects (+91%)
  • 64585 users (+65%)

Read the Docs has some high profile projects that push a lot of traffic. There are however thousands of smaller libraries and projects that fill out that full range of documentation that we host.

We are happy to host documentation for all open source projects, and are glad the community finds the service useful.

Community

This year, we had:

Our community activity is much lower this year, which is a multi-year trend that we’ve been seeing. This is in part due to the maturity of the project and code base, but also because we’ve struggled to attract and retain new contributors. The code base and project are reasonably hard to set up, and we haven’t had enough time and focus on onboarding contributors into the project.

Additionally, as a hosted service, the majority of issues we receive are support requests. These issues don’t necessarily lend to user contributions, and are generally low priority for us as we don’t have any additional time to volunteer to resolving them.

It’s been our plan to address this support gap for a while. Starting this year, we plan to create a part-time role, dedicated to handling support. Ideally, we would promote someone from our community for this role, however this pool doesn’t exist at the moment.

As maintainers, we are discouraged by the continued lack of interest in contributing to our project, but fully realize that we also have a role in this. We can reduce complexity and make our projects more approachable. We can also be more vocal about where and how you can start to contribute. In the past, we assumed users would come to us with interest in contributing, however we’ve also received feedback that it’s not apparent we require the help. If you’re interested in contributing, never hestitate to ask where you can contribute. We’re happy to have contributions of any size.

We certainly aren’t the only project that has trouble attracting contributions, there is a plethora of examples in the open source ecosystem of this problem. It would be great if projects could rely strictly on volunteers for maintenance, however there are economics of this problem that we can solve by ourselves.

Funding

Our hosting costs continue to be sponsored by Rackspace, which is fantastically generous of them.

Our largest initiative this year has been our attempt at building Ethical Advertising into our site. The project has been well received, which we have been grateful for. Funding is a fundamental part of sustainability, and we’re glad people are supportive of our efforts to get there.

The best outcome of our sustainability efforts is that we’re going to be able to hire someone part time to handle support for our users. Support has always been an area that we have not done our best work, nor have we had enough time to handle it well. We’re excited to give support and community development more consistent attention, and hope that it leads to a better experience for users and perhaps even more contributions.

Our other efforts at sustainability are also progressing. Our commercial hosting service is starting to slowly build revenue from users who want private documentation. We hope to continue to build that into another source of revenue, which can help support development of the code base.

Conclusion

2016 has been another year of mixed results.

We are continuing to see more users and folks who are reading documentation on our platform. We think the software industry is caring more and more about documentation by the year, and we’re helping to play a role.

The downside is that as a community project, we still continue to have trouble attracting contributions, especially repeat contributions. We hope that with some of the changes we make this year this won’t continue to be the case.

Either way, thanks to everyone that has helped us this last year! We appreciate all your support, contributions, and patience, and hope we can make 2017 the year that we can call our project sustainable.