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The Open Source Way of Working: a New Paradigm for the Division of Labour in Software Development?

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Abstract

The interest the Open Source Software Development Model has recently raised amongst social scientists has resulted in an accumulation of relevant research concerned with explaining and describing the motivations of Open Source developers and the advantages the Open Source methodology has over traditional proprietary software development models. However, existing literature has often examined the Open Source phenomenon from an excessively abstract and idealised perspective of the common interests of open source developers, therefore neglecting the very important organisational and institutional aspects of communities of individuals that may, in fact, have diverse interests and motivations. It is the aim of this paper to begin remedying this shortcoming by analysing the sources of authority in Open Source projects and the hierarchical structures according to which this authority is organised and distributed inside them. In order to do so, a theoretical framework based on empirical evidence extracted from a variety of projects is built, its main concerns being the description and explanation of recruitment, enculturation, promotion and conflict resolution dynamics present in Open Source projects. The paper argues that 'distributed authority' is a principal means employed by such communities to increase stability, diminish the severity and scope of conflicts over technical direction, and ease the problems of assessing the quality of contributions. The paper also argues that distributed authority is principally derived from interpersonal interaction and the construction of trust between individuals drawn to the project by diverse interests that are mediated and moderated through participants' common interest in the project's successful outcome. The paper presents several conclusions concerning the governance of open source communities and priorities for future research.

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File URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/spru/publications/imprint/sewps/sewp92/sewp92.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex in its series SPRU Working Paper Series with number 92.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:92

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Keywords: open source software; hierarchies; trust; teams; co-operation.;

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References

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  1. Josh Lerner & Jean Triole, 2000. "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Papers 7600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Cowan,Robin & David,Paul & Foray,Dominique, 1999. "The Explicit Economics of Knowledge Codification and Tacitness," Research Memorandum 025, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  3. Haas, Peter M., 1992. "Introduction: epistemic communities and international policy coordination," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(01), pages 1-35, December.
  4. Bruce Kogut & Anca Metiu, 2001. "Open-Source Software Development and Distributed Innovation," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 248-264, Summer.
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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Rullani, 2006. "Dragging developers towards the core," KITeS Working Papers 190, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Feb 2007.
  2. Jean-Michel Dalle & Paul A. David, 2005. "Simulating Code Growth in Libre (Open-Source) Mode," Discussion Papers 04-004, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  3. Juan Mateos Garcia & W. Edward Steinmueller, 2003. "Applying the Open Source Development Model to Knowledge Work," SPRU Working Paper Series 94, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  4. Paul A. David & Francesco Rullani, 2006. "Micro-dynamics of Free and Open Source Software Development. Lurking, laboring and launching new projects on SourceForge," LEM Papers Series 2006/26, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  5. Maria Alessandra Rossi, 2004. "Decoding the "Free/Open Source(F/OSS) Software Puzzle" a survey of theoretical and empirical contributions," Department of Economics University of Siena 424, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  6. Rullani, Francesco, 2005. "The three dimensions of a communitarian institution. The Open Source Software Community Case," AICCON Working Papers 16-2005, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
  7. Jean-Michel Dalle & Paul David, 2005. "The Allocation of Software Development Resources In ‘Open Source’ Production Mode," Industrial Organization 0502011, EconWPA.
  8. Paul A. David & Francesco Rullani, 2008. "Dynamics of innovation in an “open source” collaboration environment: lurking, laboring, and launching FLOSS projects on SourceForge," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(4), pages 647-710, August.
  9. Jean-Michel Dalle & Paul A. David, 2007. "“It Takes All Kinds”: A Simulation Modeling Perspective on Motivation and Coordination in Libre Software Development Projects," Discussion Papers 07-024, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  10. Francesco Rullani, 2006. "Dragging developers towards the core. How the Free/Libre/Open Source Software community enhances developers’ contribution," LEM Papers Series 2006/22, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  11. Giuri, Paola & Rullani, Francesco & Torrisi, Salvatore, 2008. "Explaining leadership in virtual teams: The case of open source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 305-315, December.

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