Network Governance in Open Source Software Development
Associate Professor, Department of Management
College of Business, Florida State University
January 29, 2010
Alter Hall 405, 1000am – 1130am
Open source software (OSS) development projects are typically comprised of a network of volunteers bound together by social structures rather than contractual obligations. Understanding how OSS projects engage in self-governance, by relying on social influences to coordinate the efforts of individuals through technology-enabled network forms of organization, has become increasingly important for organizations seeking to make sense of the future of knowledge-intensive work. Based on the theoretical framework of network governance, this study examines 1) whether social controls and trust influence coordination and conflict management among open source software project members, and 2) whether coordination and conflict management affect project success. Using survey, social network and objective data from 39 open source projects, this study empirically tests a path model examining 1) the influence of structural embeddedness (the centralization and density of the discussion forum communication network) on the development of social controls (restricting access to the development team, the use of collective sanctions and concern about individual reputation) and on the development of relational ties between network members (trust); 2) the impact of social controls and trust on the project’s coordination (expertise and project) and conflict management; and 3) the influence of coordination and conflict management on project success. The results indicate that higher levels of density in the communication network predict greater concerns about individual reputation in the network. Contrary to expectations, higher network density is related to less restricted access to the development team, and network centralization has a negative relationship with concern about reputation. Restricted access, concern about reputation, and trust lead to better coordination. The results also provide evidence that better coordination enhances project success, but not the ability to manage conflict within the project.
For a copy of the full paper, click here.