Type of Document Dissertation Author Sagers, Glen Willard URN etd-03302007-173851 Title Is Bigger Always Better? Toward a Resource-Based Model of Open Source Software Development Communities. Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Management Information Systems, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title David Paradice Committee Chair G. Stacy Sirmans Committee Member Katherine Chudoba Committee Member Molly Wasko Committee Member Keywords
- Open Source
- Virtual Communities
- Software Development
- Open Source Software
- Free Software
Date of Defense 2007-03-12 Availability unrestricted AbstractOpen Source Software (OSS) has exploded over the last few years as a means of producing high-quality software. The members of OSS project communities develop and support the software on a mostly volunteer basis, usually with no financial remuneration. This software is then made freely available (in both monetary terms and licensing terms) to those who wish to utilize it. Much has been written about the use of OSS in business, motivations of the volunteers, OSS software quality and how OSS communities are organized and governed. Two aspects of OSS that remain unexplored revolve around how an OSS project community is sustained, and whether such a community is necessary for the success of the software. These questions form the basis for this study.
In this study, OSS is first demonstrated to have many properties of a public good, with the associated attributes of non-rivalry and non-excludability. Unlike typical public goods, OSS is not subject to underproduction as it may be disjunctively produced. It is not subject to overutilization either, since multiple copies may be made for essentially zero cost. The key issue
to be investigated in OSS is neither production nor consumption of the public good, but rather
how to sustain the project community which writes, supports, and improves the software. Sustaining this community is possible due to network effects – that is, the software becomes more useful as more individuals use it. Among this body of users are some individuals who are willing to donate their time and talents to the community.
A model of community success which proposes that resources furnished by project members are converted into benefits to the community through communication activities is utilized to answer the research questions driving this study. A community must maintain access to a pool of resources such as the time, energy, knowledge and material resources of its members. These resources are converted into benefits for the community through
communication activities. Increased communication activities about support and development issues relating to the software lead to a more successful software product and a more successful community, as indicated by higher levels of social capital within the community. A more successful OSS project – in terms of both software and community – will be able to grow through retention of existing members and attraction of new members. These individuals in turn increase the resources available to the community.
Objective and survey data from 39 projects hosted on Sourceforge are examined
longitudinally to determine whether the number of members in an OSS community influences
communication activities within the community. The effects of communication activities among
project members on software and community success are then measured. The influence of
software and community success on the projects' ability to retain and attract members is
assessed. Findings indicate that community size is crucial to maintaining communication
activities among members and that increased size also leads directly to retention of existing
members. The variety of topics in communications between members negatively influences
some aspects of community success, while the number of bugs reported increases one measure of
software success. Success of both the community and the software affects the attraction of new
members, while only community success leads to the retention of existing users. Overall, the
results indicate that size of the community does matter in writing, supporting and improving the
software and show that an active community is crucial in sustaining the OSS project.
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