Contributor Turnover in Libre Software Projects

TitleContributor Turnover in Libre Software Projects
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsRobles, Gregorio, and Gonzalez-Barahona Jesus
Secondary TitleOSS2006: Open Source Systems (IFIP 2.13)
Pagination273 - 286
Keywordsapache, committers, core, cvs, cvsanaly, developers, evolution, freebsd, gimp, gnome, kde, mono, mozilla

A common problem that management faces in software companies is the high instability of their staff. In libre (free, open source) software projects, the permanence of developers is also an open issue, with the potential of causing problems amplified by the self-organizing nature that most of them exhibit. Hence, human resources in libre software projects are even more difficult to manage: developers are in most cases not bound by a contract and, in addition, there is not a real management structure concerned about this problem. This raises some interesting questions with respect to the composition of development teams in libre software projects, and how they evolve over time. There are projects lead by their original founders (some sort of “code gods”), while others are driven by several different developer groups over time (i.e. the project “regenerates” itself).
In this paper, we propose a quantitative methodology, based on the analysis of the activity in the source code management repositories, to study how these processes (developers leaving, developers joining) affect libre software projects. The basis of it is the analysis of the composition of the core group, the group of developers most active in a project, for several time lapses. We will apply this methodology to several large, well-known libre software projects, and show how it can be used to characterize them. In addition, we will discuss the lessons that can be learned, and the validity of our proposal.

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