A network perspective on open source software development: Team formation and community participation

Chen Zhang, Purdue University


In the past few years there has been a surge in self-organizing voluntary teams and online communities collaborating online to produce goods and services. Open source software development has been frequently identified as an example of new way of organizing production. However, despite the increasing prevalence of open source software development, much is yet to be understood about the dynamics of self-organizing production communities. In this dissertation, we investigate the self-assembly of open source project teams and members’ continued participation in open source user communities. The dissertation consists of two essays.^ The first essay entitled “Emergence of New Project Teams from Open Source Software Developer Networks: Impact of Prior Collaboration Ties” examines how open source project teams are formed and how individuals self-select into open source project teams. This essay focuses on how the collaborative network of developers influences their choice of newly-initiated projects to participate in. We empirically test the impact of prior collaborative ties with and perceived status of project members on the self-assembly of open source project teams. We find that a developer is more likely to join a project when he has developed strong collaborative ties with the project initiator. He is more likely to join a project when other developers with higher perceived status in the collaborative network have joined the project. In addition, projects that have attracted more developers into their teams are more likely to attract additional developers.^ In order for open source projects to sustain their development they need to be able to attract and more importantly retain participation of volunteer users and developers. Despite the studies that have examined the dynamics in information-sharing online communities, little research has been conducted to investigate participation continuance in online innovation communities such as open source project communities. In the second essay, we attempt to answer the following research questions: How do communication activities with other members in an innovation community influence an individual’s continued participation? How does an individual’s involvement in the innovation process impact his continued participation? We find that interactions with other community members do influence an individual’s return to the community. However, individual differences do exist in members’ continuance behavior; their level of involvement in the OSSD process has a direct influence on their continued participation in the project community.^ Overall, the findings suggest that the network that an individual is embedded in influences his choices and behavior in the context of open source software development. The open source collaboration network impacts developers’ choices of new projects to join during the self-assembly process of project teams. In the open source user community interactions between an individual and other community members directly affect his continued participation in the community.^




Prabuddha De, Purdue University, Jungpil Hahn, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Business Administration, Management|Information Science

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