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

Abstract

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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alho, K., & Sulonen, R. (1998). Supporting virtual software projects on the web. Paper presented at the Workshop on Coordinating Distributed Software Development Projects, 7th International Workshop on Enabling Technologies: Infrastructure for Collaborative Enterprises (WETICE’98).Google Scholar
  2. Armstrong, D. J., & Cole, P. (2002). Managing distance and differences in geographically distributed work groups. In P. Hinds & S. Kiesler (Eds.), Distributed work (pp. 167–186). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bergquist, M., & Ljungberg, J. (2001). The power of gifts: Organizing social relationships in open source communities. Information Systems Journal, 11(4), 305–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carmel, E., & Agarwal, R. (2001). Tactical approaches for alleviating distance in global software development. IEEE Software (March/April), 22–29.Google Scholar
  5. Cox, A. (1998). Cathedrals, bazaars and the town council. Retrieved 22 March 2004, from 〈http://slashdot.org/features/98/10/13/1423253.shtml〉.Google Scholar
  6. Crowston, K. (1997). A coordination theory approach to organizational process design. Organization Science, 8(2), 157–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crowston, K., Howison, J., & Annabi, H. (in press). Information systems success in Free and Open Source Software development: Theory and measures. Software Process—Improvement and Practice.Google Scholar
  8. Curtis, B., Krasner, H., & Iscoe, N. (1988). A field study of the software design process for large systems. CACM, 31(11), 1268–1287.Google Scholar
  9. Cutosksy, M. R., Tenenbaum, J. M., & Glicksman, J. (1996). Madefast: Collaborative engineering over the internet. Communications of the ACM, 39(9), 78–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gacek, C., & Arief, B. (2004). The many meanings of open source. IEEE Software, 21(1), 34–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ghosh, R. A. (2002). Free/libre and open source software: Survey and study. Report of the floss workshop on advancing the research agenda on free/open source software. From 〈http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/workshopreport.htm〉.Google Scholar
  12. Grinter, R. E., Herbsleb, J. D., & Perry, D. E. (1999). The geography of coordination: Dealing with distance in R&D work. In Proceedings of the group ’99 conference (pp. 306–315). Phoenix, Arizona, US.Google Scholar
  13. Herbsleb, J. D., & Grinter, R. E. (1999). Architectures, coordination, and distance: Conway’s law and beyond. IEEE Software (September/October), 63–70.Google Scholar
  14. Hertel, G., Niedner, S., & Herrmann, S. (2003). Motivation of software developers in open source projects: An internet-based survey of contributors to the Linux kernel. Research Policy, 32(7), 1159–1177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kamada, T., & Kawai, S. (1989). An algorithm for drawing general unidirected graphs. Information Processing Letters, 31, 7–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Krackhart, D. (1993). Graph theoretical dimensions of informal organizations. In K. M. Carley & M. J. Prietula (Eds.), Computational organization theory (pp. 89–111). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  17. Krishnamurthy, S. (2002). Cave or community? An empirical examination of 100 mature open source projects. First Monday, 7(6).Google Scholar
  18. Kuwabara, K. (2000). Linux: A bazaar at the edge of chaos. First Monday, 5(3).Google Scholar
  19. Mockus, A., Fielding, R. T., & Herbsleb, J. D. (2000). A case study of open source software development: The Apache server. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE’2000).Google Scholar
  20. Mockus, A., Fielding, R. T., & Herbsleb, J. D. (2002). Two case studies of open source software development: Apache and Mozilla. ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, 11(3), 309–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Moon, J. Y., & Sproull, L. (2000). Essence of distributed work: The case of Linux kernel. First Monday, 5(11).Google Scholar
  22. Nejmeh, B. A. (1994). Internet: A strategic tool for the software enterprise. Communications of the ACM, 37(11), 23–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Raymond, E. S. (1998a). The cathedral and the bazaar. First Monday, 3(3).Google Scholar
  24. Raymond, E. S. (1998b). Homesteading the noosphere. First Monday 3(10).Google Scholar
  25. Scacchi, W. (1991). The software infrastructure for a distributed software factory. Software Engineering Journal, 6(5), 355–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wasserman, S., & Frost, K. (1994). Social network analysis: Methods and applications. New York: Cambridge.Google Scholar
  27. Ye, Y., & Kishida, K. (2003). Toward an understanding of the motivation of open source software developers. In Proceedings of 2003 international conference on software engineering (ICSE2003). Portland, OR.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 2006

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations