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

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Citation: Georg von Krogh, Sebastian Spaeth, Karim R. Lakhani (2003) Community, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation: a case study. Research Policy (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1016/S0048-7333(03)00050-7
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1016/S0048-7333(03)00050-7
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1016/S0048-7333(03)00050-7
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Community, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation: a case study
Tagged: Business (RSS) FLOSS (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)

von Krogh, Spaeth, and Lakhani (2003) is an inductive study on the factors that influence whether individuals join free, libre, and open source software projects. It is an inductive study based primarily on emails sent to the FreeNet project's mailing list.

The article is interested in what contributes to a user "joining" a project. Individuals are called "newcomers" when they post to a mailing list for the first time. "Joining", in the authors operationalization, involves a person being granted CVS commit access and, in their data window, involved 30 developers. The authors are interested in creating propositions that will explain why some users transitions from newcomers to joiners.

An important part of the authors story is what they authors call a "joining script" which involves a particular and recognized way of showing up, participating in conversation, and then asking to join. Users who deviate from this scripts are suggested to be less likely to be granted commit access.

An important concept in the story is also modularity and how users contribute to a particular module (e.g., Baldwin and Clark). The authors suggest a proposition that explains that these modularity barriers influence specialization that, in turn, influences the way that people join the project.

The authors also introduce the concept of "feature gifts" which are large features that new contributors "give" to the project. The authors introduce several propositions related to these gifts (i.e., they are related to the newcomers specialization, they will tend to incorporate previous knowledge and experience and are "related to contribution barriers").

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

The paper continues to be one of the most highly cited papers on FLOSS and provides and influential framing for articles speaking about project joining.