Self-organization of teams for free/libre open source software development

TitleSelf-organization of teams for free/libre open source software development
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsCrowston, K, Li, Q, Wei, K, Eseryel, YU, Howison, J
Secondary TitleInformation and Software Technology Journal
Keywordscase study, compiere, coordination, DESIGN, distributed teams, egroupware, email, email archives, forum, free/libre open source software development, gaim, INTERNET, mailing list, metadata, qualitative research methods, self-organizing teams, sourceforge, SYSTEMS, task assignment, WORK

This paper provides empirical evidence about how free/libre open source software development teams self-organize their work. Following a case study methodology, we examined developer interaction data from three active and successful FLOSS projects using qualitative research methods, specifically inductive content analysis, to identify the task-assignment mechanisms used by the participants. We found that "self-assignment" was the most common mechanism across three FLOSS projects. This mechanism is consistent with expectations for distributed and largely volunteer teams. We conclude by discussing whether these emergent practices can be usefully transferred to mainstream practice and indicating directions for future research.


"First, the data from these projects that we needed for analysis had to be publicly available (ruling out projects that limit access to their email lists or trackers). Second, we chose the projects that had more than 7 members"..."projects that have attracted numerous developers beyond the initial project founders, are continuing to release software, have numerous downloads and have an active user community that provides feedback"
"3 FLOSS projects were selected for analysis, namely Gaim, eGroupWare and Compiere ERP."

all had sourceforge hosting

Data: "The primary data used for our study were interactions on the main developer communication forum, either a developer mailing list or web-based discussion forum."

Analysis: "For this project, we inductively content-analyzed developer email interactions to identify the task assignment mechanisms used in the process. We coded each instance of task assignment identified on three dimensions: who assigned the task, to whom, and how"

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