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Dragging developers towards the core


  • Francesco Rullani

    (LEM - Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy and IVS – Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark.)


The paper presents a dynamic perspective on the landscape of Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) developers’ motivations and tries to isolate mechanisms sustaining developers’ contribution over time. The first part of the paper uses data gathered by the empirical studies relative to the FLOSS case to judge the relative importance of each group of incentives detected by the literature. In the second part of the paper, the same data are used to further characterize developers’ motivations in dynamics terms, showing how the relative importance of different incentives changes over time. Drawing inspiration from these results, the third part of the paper identifies a specific mechanism fostering developers’ contribution to the community activities, namely that: “Independently of developers’ exogenous preferences, the more their exposure to the FLOSS community social environment, the more their contribution to the community activities”. The key point of this hypothesis is that, if the exposure to the FLOSS community social environment is able to foster developers’ contribution beyond the level granted by their predetermined preferences, this leads directly to the evidence that the FLOSS community is provided with a mechanism sustaining and enhancing developers’ incentives to produce and diffuse code. In the last part of the paper, data relative to 14,497 developers working on during two years (2001-2002) are employed to estimate a model testing the aforementioned hypothesis. Endogeneity problems are explicitly accounted for, and robustness checks are performed in order to make sure that the observed confirmation of the hypothesis is actually an empirically grounded result.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cri:cespri:wp190

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Josh Lerner, 2005. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 20-56, April.
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    3. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
    4. Paul A. David & Dominique Foray, "undated". "Economic Fundamentals of the Knowledge Society," Working Papers 02003, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    5. Sydney Winter & Giovanni Dosi, 2000. "Interpreting Economic Change: Evolution, Structures and Games," LEM Papers Series 2000/08, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    6. Weber, Steven, 2000. "The Political Economy of Open Source Software," UCAIS Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, Working Paper Series qt3hq916dc, UCAIS Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, UC Berkeley.
    7. Paola Giuri & Gaia Rocchetti & Salvatore Torrisi, 2002. "Open Source Software: From Open Science to New Marketing Models," LEM Papers Series 2002/23, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
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    9. Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 347-363, May.
    10. Stefano Comino & Fabio M. Manenti & Maria Laura Parisi, 2005. "From Planning to Mature: on the Determinants of Open Source Take Off," Department of Economics Working Papers 0517, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    11. Paola Giuri & Matteo Ploner & Francesco Rullani & Salvatore Torrisi, 2004. "Skills, Division of Labor and Performance in Collective Inventions. Evidence from the Open Source Software," LEM Papers Series 2004/19, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    12. Dasgupta, Partha & David, Paul, 1985. "Information Disclosure and the Economics of Science and Technology," CEPR Discussion Papers 73, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Lindgren, Monica & Wåhlin, Nils, 2001. "Identity construction among boundary-crossing individuals," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 357-377, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. David, Paul A. & Shapiro, Joseph S., 2008. "Community-based production of open-source software: What do we know about the developers who participate?," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 364-398, December.
    2. 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.
    3. Paolo CROSETTO, 2009. "Turning private vices into collective virtues: a simple model and an experiment on the SourceForge development community," Departmental Working Papers 2009-14, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.

    More about this item


    Free/Libre/Open Source Software; incentives to innovate; dynamics of motivations; cooperation; community.;

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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