Community, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation: a case study

TitleCommunity, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation: a case study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
Authorsvon Krogh, G, Spaeth, S, Lakhani, KR
Secondary TitleResearch Policy
Keywordscvs, email, email archives, freenet, INNOVATION, mailing lists, roles, source code

This paper develops an inductive theory of the open source software innovation process by focussing on the creation of Freenet, a project aimed at developing a decentralized and anonymous peer-to-peer electronic file sharing network. We are particularly interested in the strategies and processes by which new people join the existing community of software developers, and how they initially contribute code. Analyzing data from multiple sources on the Freenet software development process, we generate the constructs of "joining script", We are grateful to helpful comments from two anonymous reviewers. We also thank Chris Argyris, John Seely Brown, Eric von Hippel, Stefan Haefliger, Petra Kugler, Heike Bruch, Simon Gchter, Simon Peck, and Hari Tsoukas for helpful comments and suggestions. Ben Ho and Craig Lebowitz provided technical assistance with data importation and parsing. We would like to thank Ian Clarke and the Freenet developers for their willingness to participate in our study and providing key insights into the open source development process. Karim R. Lakhani would like to acknowledge the generous support of The Boston Consulting Group and Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council doctoral fellowship. Georg von Krogh and Sebastian Spaeth acknowledge the generous support from the Research Foundation at the University of St. Gallen.


first, telephone interviews
"Secondly, we collected the project’s public email conversations stored in the projects’
mailing lists which is archived on Freenet’s website"
"The third source of data included the history of changes to the software code available
via the project’s software repository within the CVS (‘Concurrent Versioning System’) source
code management tool"
"Fourthly, in order obtain contextual understanding of the project we collected publicly
available documents related to open source in general and to the project in particular. Among
the most important sources were the Freenet project web pages (e.g. the Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ)7), Ian Clarke’s master thesis (1999), newspaper interviews with the core
developers, and a technical paper (Clarke, Sandberg, Wiley, & Hong, 2000) describing the
Freenet project written by some of the developers."

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