The social structure of Free and Open Source software development

TitleThe social structure of Free and Open Source software development
Publication TypeUnpublished
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsCrowston, K, Howison, J
Date PublishedNovember
PublisherSyracuse University School of Information Studies
Type of WorkWorking Paper

Metaphors, such as the Cathedral and Bazaar, used to describe the organization of FLOSS projects typically place them in sharp contrast to proprietary development by emphasizing FLOSS's distinctive social and communications structures. But what do we really know about the communication patterns of FLOSS projects? How generalizable are the projects that have been studied? Is there consistency across FLOSS projects? Questioning the assumption of distinctiveness is important because practitioner-advocates from within the FLOSS community rely on features of social structure to describe and account for some of the advantages of FLOSS production. To address this question, we examined 120 project teams from SourceForge, representing a wide range of FLOSS project types, for their communications centralization as revealed in the interactions in the bug tracking system. We found that FLOSS development teams vary widely in their communications centralization, from projects completely centered on one developer to projects that are highly decentralized and exhibit a distributed pattern of conversation between developers and active users.

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