The Open Source Way of Working: a New Paradigm for the Division of Labour in Software Development?
The interest the Open Source Software Development Model has recently raised amongst social scientists has resulted in an accumulation of relevant research concerned with explaining and describing the motivations of Open Source developers and the advantages the Open Source methodology has over traditional proprietary software development models. However, existing literature has often examined the Open Source phenomenon from an excessively abstract and idealised perspective of the common interests of open source developers, therefore neglecting the very important organisational and institutional aspects of communities of individuals that may, in fact, have diverse interests and motivations. It is the aim of this paper to begin remedying this shortcoming by analysing the sources of authority in Open Source projects and the hierarchical structures according to which this authority is organised and distributed inside them. In order to do so, a theoretical framework based on empirical evidence extracted from a variety of projects is built, its main concerns being the description and explanation of recruitment, enculturation, promotion and conflict resolution dynamics present in Open Source projects. The paper argues that 'distributed authority' is a principal means employed by such communities to increase stability, diminish the severity and scope of conflicts over technical direction, and ease the problems of assessing the quality of contributions. The paper also argues that distributed authority is principally derived from interpersonal interaction and the construction of trust between individuals drawn to the project by diverse interests that are mediated and moderated through participants' common interest in the project's successful outcome. The paper presents several conclusions concerning the governance of open source communities and priorities for future research.
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