Supporting the user experience in free/libre/open source software development

TitleSupporting the user experience in free/libre/open source software development
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsBach, P

With the increasing number and awareness of free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) projects, Internet users can download a FLOSS tool that meets just about any need. The user experience of projects, however, varies greatly and identifying FLOSS projects that offer a positive user experience (UX) is challenging. FLOSS projects center on software developer activities with little attention to user-centered design activities that could increase the user experience on the project. The purpose of this dissertation is to understand open source software ecology in order to bring support for user experience design activities on FLOSS projects. CodePlex, an open source project hosting website, serves as the open source software ecology.

The research consists of two phases, a descriptive science phase and a design science phase. In the descriptive phase fieldwork in the form of ethnomethodologically informed ethnography describes the everyday activities of three groups: the team that produces CodePlex, the participants who use CodePlex to produce open source projects, and user experience practitioners who bring their expertise to design software with a positive user experience. The descriptive phase also includes an analysis of activity awareness of the three groups. The design science phase consists of a claims analysis that provides design rationale for a design that proposes to support UX activities on CodePlex. The results show that activity awareness contributes to the socio-technical solution where UX activities can be supported as a new community of practice, with features that support building social capital. The UX support features include a UX workspace where UX contributors recognize their value and other features that support the presence of UX throughout the project site and the CodePlex community.

This dissertation contributes empirical materials from the descriptions of everyday activities of the three groups and analytic materials generated from the activity awareness and claims analyses that are translated into design representations. Specifically the contributions include (1) mechanisms of articulation work of the three groups and how the mechanisms contribute to the design representation; (2) the demonstration of a translation science in computersupported cooperative work (CSCW) and human-computer interaction (HCI); and (3) an understanding of how UX activities and software engineering activities integrate.

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