Dynamics of Innovation in an “Open Source” Collaboration Environment: Lurking, Laboring and Launching FLOSS Projects on SourceForge
A systems analysis perspective is adopted to examine the critical properties of the Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) mode of innovation, as reflected on the SourceForge platform (SF.net). This approach re-scales March’s (1991) framework and applies it to characterize the “innovation system” of a “distributed organization” of interacting agents in a virtual collaboration environment. The innovation system of the virtual collaboration environment is an emergent property of two “coupled” processes: one involves interactions among agents searching for information to use in designing novel software products, and the other involves the mobilization of individual capabilities for application in the software development projects. Micro-dynamics of this system are studied empirically by constructing transition probability matrices representing movements of 222,835 SF.net users among 7 different activity states. Estimated probabilities are found to form first-order Markov chains describing ergodic processes. This makes it possible to computate the equilibrium distribution of agents among the states, thereby suppressing transient effects and revealing persisting patterns of project-joining and project-launching.
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