Managing the Boundary of an 'Open' Project

TitleManaging the Boundary of an 'Open' Project
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsO'Mahony, S
Date PublishedOctober
Keywordsdebian, membership, social network analysis

In the past ten years, the boundaries between public and open science and commercial research efforts have become more porous. Scholars have thus more critically examined ways in which these two institutional regimes intersect. Large open source software projects have also attracted commercial collaborators and now struggle to develop code in an open public environment that still protects their communal boundaries. This research applies a dynamic social network approach to understand how one community managed software project, Debian, develops a membership process. We examine the project's face-to-face social network during a five-year period (1997-2001) to see how changes in the social structure affect the evolution of membership mechanisms and the determination of gatekeepers. While the amount and importance of a contributor's work increases the probability that a contributor will become a gatekeeper, those more central in the social network are more likely to become gatekeepers and influence the membership process. A greater understanding of the mechanisms open projects use to manage their boundaries has critical implications for research and knowledge producing communities operating in pluralistic, open and distributed environments.

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