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Modular Design and the Development of Complex Artifacts: Lessons from Free/Open Source Software

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  • Alessandro Narduzzo
  • Alessandro Rossi

Abstract

Software design and development in Free/Open Source projects are analyzed through the lens of the theory of modularity applied to complex systems. Both the architecture of the artifacts (software) and the organization of the projects benefited from the paradign of modularity, in an original and effective manner. Our study shows that three main routines, or shortcuts, emerged and were effectively applied. First, some successful projects inherited previously existing modular architecture, rather than designing new modular systems from scratch. Second, popular modular systems, like GNU/Linux kernel, evolved from an initial integrated structure through a process of evolutionary adaptation. Third, development of modular software took advantage from the violation of one fundamental rule of modularity, that is information hiding. Implications and extensions of Free/Open Source projects' experience are discussed in the conclusions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Computer and Management Sciences, University of Trento, Italy in its series ROCK Working Papers with number 021.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2003
Date of revision: 12 Jun 2008
Handle: RePEc:trt:rockwp:021

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  1. Brusoni, Stefano & Prencipe, Andrea, 2001. "Unpacking the Black Box of Modularity: Technologies, Products and Organizations," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 179-205, March.
  2. von Hippel, Eric, 1990. "Task partitioning: An innovation process variable," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 407-418, October.
  3. Langlois, Richard N., 2002. "Modularity in technology and organization," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 19-37, September.
  4. Bonaccorsi, Andrea & Rossi, Cristina, 2003. "Why Open Source software can succeed," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1243-1258, July.
  5. Josh Lerner & Jean Triole, 2000. "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Papers 7600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Langlois, Richard N. & Robertson, Paul L., 1992. "Networks and innovation in a modular system: Lessons from the microcomputer and stereo component industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 297-313, August.
  7. Egon Franck & Carola Jungwirth, 2002. "Reconciling investors and donators - The governance structure of open source," Working Papers 0008, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU).
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