How open source software works: "free" user-to-user assistance

TitleHow open source software works: "free" user-to-user assistance
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsLakhani, KR, von Hippel, E
Secondary TitleResearch Policy
Accession NumberWOS:000183049000004
Keywordsapache, help, logs, MOTIVATION, participants, Survey, usenet

Research into free and open source software development projects has so far largely focused on how the major tasks of software development are organized and motivated. But a complete project requires the execution of "mundane but necessary" tasks as well. In this paper, we explore how the mundane but necessary task of field support is organized in the case of Apache web server software, and why some project participants are motivated to provide this service gratis to others. We find that the Apache field support system functions effectively. We also find that, when we partition the help system into its component tasks, 98% of the effort expended by information providers in fact returns direct learning benefits to those providers. This finding considerably reduces the puzzle of why information providers are willing to perform this task "for free." Implications are discussed.


"The empirical data we collected for study was related to postings to the Apache Usenet help forum, CIWS-U (comp.infosystems.www.servers.unix). "
"For data regarding long-term participation in CIWS-U—who participated, long-term trends, etc.—we examined Usenet posting patterns from 1996 to 1999."
"The Usenet log data was obtained from a World Wide Web service called (since acquired by Google)"

Full Text
PDF icon lakhani2003.pdf248.56 KB