The Effects of Diversity in Global, Distributed Collectives: A Study of Open Source Project Success

TitleThe Effects of Diversity in Global, Distributed Collectives: A Study of Open Source Project Success
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsDaniel, Sherae, Agarwal Ritu, and Stewart Katherine J.
Secondary TitleInformation Systems Research
Pagination312 - 333
Date Published06/2013
ISSN Number1526-5536

Diversity is a defining characteristic of global collectives facilitated by the Internet. Though substantial evidence suggests that diversity has profound implications for a variety of outcomes including performance, member engagement, and withdrawal behavior, the effects of diversity have been predominantly investigated in the context of organizational workgroups or virtual teams. We use a diversity lens to study the success of nontraditional virtual work groups exemplified by open source software (OSS) projects. Building on the diversity literature, we propose that three types of diversity (separation, variety, and disparity) influence two critical outcomes for OSS projects: community engagement and market success. We draw on the OSS literature to further suggest that the effects of diversity on market success are moderated by the application development stage. We instantiate the operational definitions of three forms of diversity to the unique context of open source projects. Using archival data from 357 projects hosted on SourceForge, we find that disparity diversity, reflecting variation in participants' contribution-based reputation, is positively associated with success. The impact of separation diversity, conceptualized as culture and measured as diversity in the spoken language and country of participants, has a negative impact on community engagement but an unexpected positive effect on market success. Variety diversity, reflected in dispersion in project participant roles, positively influences community engagement and market success. The impact of diversity on market success is conditional on the development stage of the project. We discuss how the study's findings advance the literature on antecedents of OSS success, expand our theoretical understanding of diversity, and present the practical implications of the results for managers of distributed collectives.

Short TitleInformation Systems Research