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Motivation and Sorting in Open Source Software Innovation


  • Sharon Belenzon
  • Mark Schankerman


This paper studies the role of intrinsic motivation, reputation and reciprocity in driving open source software innovation. We exploit the observed pattern of contributions - the 'revealed preference' of developers - to infer the underlying incentives. Using detailed information on code contributions and project membership, we classify developers into distinct groups and study how contributions from each developer type vary by license (contract) type and other project characteristics. The central empirical finding is that developers strongly sort by license type, project size and corporate sponsorship. This evidence confirms the importance of heterogeneous motivations, specifically a key role for motivated agents and reputation, but less for reciprocity.

Suggested Citation

  • Sharon Belenzon & Mark Schankerman, 2008. "Motivation and Sorting in Open Source Software Innovation," STICERD - Economics of Industry Papers 47, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stieip:47

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Walther, 2010. "Corruption in Open-Source Software Organisations: A Theoretical Framework," Working Papers halshs-00690332, HAL.

    More about this item


    open source software; innovation; incentives; intrinsic motivation; motivated agents; reputation; reciprocity.;

    JEL classification:

    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L17 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Open Source Products and Markets
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


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