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Micro-dynamics of Free and Open Source Software Development. Lurking, laboring and launching new projects on SourceForge

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  • Paul A. David
  • Francesco Rullani

Abstract

Quantitative methods are employed to describe two fundamental processes in the creation of free (libre) and open source software (FLOSS) that are at work in the collaborative development environment of the SourceForge.Net platform: resource mobilization, and entrepreneurial initiatives which generate new development projects. The micro dynamics of the individuals' involvements in these processes are analysed by defining activity states that correspond to lurking (contributing to projects without become a member), laboring (joining one or more projects as members), and launching (founding one or more projects). The transition probability matrices constructed from observations on the activities of 222,835 individuals who registered on SF.net (during a 14-month period, mainly in 2001) characterize first-order Markov chains describing processes that are ergodic. The existence of a limiting “equilibrium” distribution of individual joining and launching activities is used to abstract from effects of transient disturbances (arising from the flow of new registrations), in order to reveal the implications of the underlying entrepreneurial and recruitment dynamics at work on the platform. Although only a small proportion of this cohort of SF.net registrants become even minimally active, and a still smaller proportion among those join projects, the active core of project members still numbers in the tens of thousands, and their ranks contain well more a thousand who found new projects. SourceForge is seen to be more than an attractor of projects that are being born again under open source licenses: this virtual collaborative development environment shares the regenerative properties of tangible industrial districts that give rise to new, innovative enterprises.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul A. David & Francesco Rullani, 2006. "Micro-dynamics of Free and Open Source Software Development. Lurking, laboring and launching new projects on SourceForge," LEM Papers Series 2006/26, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssa:lemwps:2006/26
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Free, and yet better than costly goods: open source software
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2008-03-20 04:06:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Paolo CROSETTO, 2010. "To patent or not to patent: a pilot experiment on incentives to copyright in a sequential innovation setting," Departmental Working Papers 2010-05, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Open source software; Collaborative development environments; Industrial districts; Project founding; Project joining; Entrepreneurship and social communication skills; SourceForge; Markov chain models.;

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