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Informational Hold-Up, Disclosure Policy, and Career Concerns on the Example of Open Source Software Development

We consider software developers who can either work on an open source project or on a closed source project. The former provides a publicly available signal about their talent, whereas the latter provides a signal only observed by their employer. We show that a talented employee may initially prefer a less paying job as an open source developer to commercial closed source projects, because a publicly available signal gives him a better bargaining position when renegotiating wages with his employer after the signal has been revealed. Also, we derive conditions under which two effects suggested by standard intuition are reversed: a “pooling equilibrium” (with both talented and untalented workers doing closed source) is less likely if differences in talent are large; a highly visible open source job leads to more effort in a career concerns setup. The former effect is because a higher productivity of talented workers raises not only the value but also the cost of signaling; the latter stems from more effort and the choice of a high visibility job being substitutes for the purpose of signaling. Results naturally apply to other industries with high and low visibility jobs, e.g. academic rather than commercial research, consulting rather than management.

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File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Blatter_Niedermayer_08-06.pdf
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Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 08-06.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2008
Date of revision: Sep 2008
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0806
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

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  1. Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David H. Autor, 2000. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," NBER Working Papers 7637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Acemoglu, D. & Pischki, J.S., 1996. "Why Do Firms Train? Theory and Evidence," Working papers 96-7, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Michael Waldman, 1984. "Job Assignments, Signalling, and Efficiency," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 255-267, Summer.
  5. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  6. Mukherjee, Arijit & Stern, Scott, 2009. "Disclosure or secrecy? The dynamics of Open Science," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 449-462, May.
  7. Arijit Mukherjee, 2008. "Career Concerns, Matching, And Optimal Disclosure Policy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1211-1250, November.
  8. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2001. "The open source movement: Key research questions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 819-826, May.
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