Tracking GitHub activity of crypto projects — introducing a better approach

GitHub activity is an interesting metric when analyzing ICOs and crypto projects. Developers’ time is a relatively expensive resource and if a given project has a lot of developers dedicating their time and skills it could mean several things:

  • These people believe that the project will be successful
  • The project is shipping more features
  • There is less probability the project is just an exit scam

Of course one could argue that with enough money you can “simulate” developer activity, but I think in practice we are not at the stage where scams are going to invest the money and effort to do that. Also faking dev activity will be quite obvious for someone that check your public GitHub and will compromise the project a lot.

There are a couple of websites that try to track dev activity and compare projects, but if you dig deeper in their stats you will find some bothering results.

Particl beats Ethereum in dev activity?

Did you know that the Particl project has more git commits than Ethereum, according to https://cryptomiso.com? May be that will be the new ETH? Time to invest?

Particl and DigiByte have more dev activity than Ethereum and Bitcoin?

After digging into this interesting finding you will find the following. Particl has forked the bitcoin source code and this way “inherited” all their commits and contributors. This is an interesting observation, which is not an isolated case:

Cryptomiso is actually showing that a given project is a fork with small letters below each chart, but this is not the case with DigiByte, as they didn’t fork the repository, but copy/pasted the code.

Another interesting finding is that cryptomiso tracks only one of the source code repositories of Ethereum, which does not give an accurate picture of the dev activity happening in the project. If you look at the Ethereum organization you will notice there are a bunch of quite active repos.

The above observations are quite bothering, as they make comparison of projects very hard. You need to investigate each project separately to see if it is not a copy/paste of some other project and if the correct repos are tracked (in which case there nothing much you can do).

What about using Coincheckup to compare the projects? Sort by 1y commits and we disappointingly see the same problem: DigiByte and Particl are ranked 8th and 12th. Ethereum is on the third page lagging behind projects like Bitcoin Gold, which doesn’t have a single commit in the last month!

Another nail in the coffin of the commit history tracking approach is the fact that commits can be easily faked and people actually do that so that they can draw pixel art on their github profiles: https://github.com/gelstudios/gitfiti

Is there a better way?

So we see that tracking commits leads to quite disappointing results, so can we do better? Well, in Santiment we developed a better methodology for estimating developer activity and this is tracking the number of GitHub events that the project organization generated. The events include:

  • number of code pushes
  • number of issue interactions — add/delete/edit comments in issues
  • number of pull request interactions —add/delete/edit comments in PRs
  • number of github wiki edits
  • number of comments on commits
  • number of repos open sourced

Here is some more information regarding GitHub events: https://developer.github.com/v3/activity/events/

The benefits of this approach are the following:

  • If you fork some repository you don’t “inherit” the events
  • You can’t alter your historical track record
  • Dev activity is not only committing code, but also reporting issues and discussing code changes — GitHub events include these

Results

Much better picture, with ETH and BTC on the top 2 places

Let’s see how our methodology performs. You can compare crypto currencies here: https://sanbase-low.santiment.net/currencies (click “Dev Activity 30d” to sort by dev activity). You can see that Ethereum is the absolute winner with much of a head start. If you analyze their organization you will see that this is normal as there is a vast amount of repositories and people contributing to them. Runner ups are very popular platforms like Bitcoin, Cardano and Steem. DigiByte is much much down the chart together with projects like Bitcoin Gold.

Let’s look at ERC20 tokens: https://sanbase-low.santiment.net/projects (don’t forget to sort the table by dev activity). The winners are Status, EOS, BAT, Golem and even TRON, who has been getting quite a bit of negative attention recently! Check their GitHubs and you will see just how much stuff is going on there.

From the ERC20 tokens Status, EOS and BAT are the most active

So, it seems that tracking events is a much better metric than commits and it successfully avoids the pitfalls I described above. It also reveals some interetesting insight: some ERC20 projects have a larger dev activity than most blockchain platforms. This shows the immense brainpower currently concentrated on the ETH platform. May be there is a way to aggregate these stats and get an idea of how much dev activity is happening across the projects on different blockchain platforms? If you are interested in developing such metrics let us know in the comments or find us in our Discord https://santiment.net/discord.

Santiment is a crypto market intelligence platform, building smart tools and a vibrant community aimed at bringing clarity to crypto trading and investing. To learn more, visit our website at https://santiment.net, sign up for our newsletter at http://eepurl.com/cfgl3n, and join the conversation on our Discord channels.