Knowledge, Technology & Policy

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 65–85 | Cite as

Hierarchy and centralization in free and open source software team communications

  • Kevin Crowston
  • James Howison


Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) development teams provide an interesting and convenient setting for studying distributed work. We begin by answering perhaps the most basic question: what is the social structure of these teams? We conducted social network analyses of bug-fixing interactions from three repositories: Sourceforge, GNU Savannah and Apache Bugzilla. We find that some OSS teams are highly centralized, but contrary to expectation, others are not. Projects are mostly quite hierarchical on four measures of hierarchy, consistent with past research but contrary to the naive image of these projects. Furthermore, we find that the level of centralization is negatively correlated with project size, suggesting that larger projects become more modular, or possibly that becoming more modular is a key to growth. The paper makes a further methodological contribution by identifying appropriate analysis approaches for interaction data. We conclude by sketching directions for future research.


Efficiency Score Open Source Software Social Network Analysis Project Size Global Software Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Crowston
    • 1
  • James Howison
    • 1
  1. 1.the Syracuse University (NY) School of Information StudiesItaly

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