On the Central Role of Mailing Lists in Open Source Projects: An Exploratory Study

  • Emad Shihab
  • Nicolas Bettenburg
  • Bram Adams
  • Ahmed E. Hassan
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6284)


Mailing lists provide a rich set of data that can be used to improve and enhance our understanding of software processes and practices. This information allows us to study development characteristics like team structure, activity, and social interaction. In this paper, we perform an exploratory study on the GNOME project and recover operational knowledge from mailing list discussions. Our findings indicate that mailing list activity is driven by a dominant group of participants, that it is greatly connected to development activity, yet influenced by external factors like market competition. Our results provide a broad picture of the central role played by mailing lists in open source projects.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Baysal, O., Malton, A.J.: Correlating social interactions to release history during software evolution. In: MSR 2007, p. 7 (2007)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bettenburg, N., Shihab, E., Hassan, A.E.: An empirical study on the risks of using of off-the-shelf techniques to process mailing list data. In: ICSM 2009 (2009)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bird, C., Gourley, A., Devanbu, P.: Detecting patch submission and acceptance in oss projects. In: MSR 2007 (2007)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bird, C., Gourley, A., Devanbu, P., Gertz, M., Swaminathan, A.: Mining email social networks. In: MSR 2006, pp. 137–143 (2006)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bird, C., Gourley, A., Devanbu, P., Swaminathan, A., Hsu, G.: Open borders? immigration in open source projects. In: MSR 2007, p. 6 (2007)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bird, C., Pattison, D., D’Souza, R., Folkiv, V., Devanbu, P.: Latent Social Structure in Open Source Projects. In: Nyberg, K. (ed.) FSE 2008. LNCS, vol. 5086, pp. 24–35. Springer, Heidelberg (2008)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Boehm, B., Basili, V.R.: Software defect reduction top 10 list. Computer 34(1), 135–137 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    German, D.M.: The gnome project: a case study of open source, global software development. Software Process: Improvement and Practice 8(4), 201–215 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    German, D.M.: Using software trails to reconstruct the evolution of software: Research articles. J. Softw. Maint. Evol. 16(6), 367–384 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hossain, L., Wu, A., Chung, K.K.S.: Actor centrality correlates to project based coordination. In: CSCW 2006, pp. 363–372 (2006)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ogawa, M., Ma, K.-L., Bird, C., Devanbu, P., Gourley, A.: Visualizing social interaction in open source software projects. In: Asia-Pacific Symposium on Visualization, pp. 25–32 (2007)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Pattison, D., Bird, C., Devanbu, P.: Talk and work: a preliminary report. In: MSR 2008, pp. 113–116 (2008)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rigby, P.C., German, D.M., Storey, M.-A.: Open source software peer review practices: A case study of the apache server. In: ICSE 2008, pp. 541–550 (2008)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Rigby, P.C., Hassan, A.E.: What Can OSS Mailing Lists Tell Us? A Preliminary Psychometric Text Analysis of the Apache Developer Mailing List. In: MSR 2007, p. 23 (2007)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Robles, G., Gonzalez-Barahona, J.M.: Developer identification methods for integrated data from various sources. SIGSOFT Softw. Eng. Notes 30(4), 1–5 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Tsunoda, M., Monden, A., Kakimoto, T., Kamei, Y., Matsumoto, K.-i.: Analyzing oss developers’ working time using mailing lists archives. In: MSR 2006, pp. 181–182 (2006)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Weissgerber, P., Neu, D., Diehl, S.: Small patches get in! In: MSR 2008, pp. 67–76 (2008)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Yamauchi, Y., Yokozawa, M., Shinohara, T., Ishida, T.: Collaboration with lean media: how open-source software succeeds. In: CSCW 2000, pp. 329–338 (2000)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Sowe, S.K., Stamelos, I., Angelis, L.: Understanding knowledge sharing activities in free/open source software projects: An empirical study. J. Syst. Softw. 81(3), 431–446 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lakhani, K.R., von Hippel, E., Lakhani, K.R.: How open source software works: Free user-to-user assistance. Research Policy 32, 923–943 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Howison, J., Inoue, K., Crowston, K.: Social dynamics of free and open source team communications. In: Second Intl. Conf. on Open Source Systems, June 2006, pp. 319–330 (2006)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emad Shihab
    • 1
  • Nicolas Bettenburg
    • 1
  • Bram Adams
    • 1
  • Ahmed E. Hassan
    • 1
  1. 1.Software Analysis and Intelligence Lab (SAIL)Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

Personalised recommendations