Community Structure, Individual Participation and the Social Construction of Merit

  • Matthias Studer
Part of the IFIP — The International Federation for Information Processing book series (IFIPAICT, volume 234)


FLOSS communities are often described as meritocracies. We consider merit as a social construction that structures the community as a whole by allocating prestige to its participants on the basis of what they do. It implies a hierarchy of the different activities (web maintenance, writing code, bug report...) within the project. We present a study based on the merging of two datasets. We analyze the archive of KDE mailing lists using a social network. We also use responses to a questionnaire of KDE participants. Results bring empirical evidences showing that this hierarchy structures the community of KDE by allocating more central position to participants with more prestigious activities. We also show that this hierarchy structures individuals participation by giving greater “membership esteem” to members involved in more prestigious activities.

Key words

Collective Self-esteem Community of Practice Meritocracy Open Source Social Network Analysis Social Structure 


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Copyright information

© International Federation for Information Processing 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Studer
    • 1
  1. 1.department of econometricsUniversity of GenevaGeneva 4Switzerland

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