Understanding the Motivations, Participation, and Performance of Open Source Software Developers: A Longitudinal Study of the Apache Projects

TitleUnderstanding the Motivations, Participation, and Performance of Open Source Software Developers: A Longitudinal Study of the Apache Projects
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsRoberts, JA, Hann, I-H, Slaughter, SA
Secondary TitleManagement Science
Pagination984 - 999
Date Published07/2006
ISSN Number1526-5501
Keywordsapache, change logs, contributions, email, email archives, extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, mailing lists, MOTIVATION, open source software, participation, software development performance, source code, status, Survey

Understanding what motivates participation is a central theme in the research on open source software (OSS) development. Our study contributes by revealing how the different motivations of OSS developers are interrelated, how these motivations influence participation leading to performance, and how past performance influences subsequent motivations. Drawing on theories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we develop a theoretical model relating the motivations, participation, and performance of OSS developers. We evaluate our model using survey and archival data collected from a longitudinal field study of software developers in the Apache projects. Our results reveal several important findings. First, we find that developers’ motivations are not independent but rather are related in complex ways. Being paid to contribute to Apache projects is positively related to developers’ status motivations but negatively related to their use-value motivations. Perhaps surprisingly, we find no evidence of diminished intrinsic motivation in the presence of extrinsic motivations; rather, status motivations enhance intrinsic motivations. Second, we find that different motivations have an impact on participation in different ways. Developers’ paid participation and status motivations lead to above-average contribution levels, but use-value motivations lead to below-average contribution levels, and intrinsic motivations do not significantly impact average contribution levels. Third, we find that developers’ contribution levels positively impact their performance rankings. Finally, our results suggest that past-performance rankings enhance developers’ subsequent status motivations.


"analyzing archival data collected from OSS project records over a period of four years"
"Apart from the source and binary codes of the actual software programs, Apache products include developer websites, change logs, documentation, and developer communications in the form of e-mail archives. From these products, we extracted two types of information: each contributor’s progression along the Apache career path, and each contributor’s source code contributions to the project."

Short TitleManagement Science
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