Multimodal Investigation of an Open Source Software Project and its Ecology

Project: Research

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Considerable efforts have been exerted to facilitate the understanding of Open Source Software (OSS), a user-driven, collaborative innovation produced by self-organizing teams of contributors dynamically formed through online interactions (von Krogh and von Hippel 2006). These efforts predominantly focus on viewing an OSS project as an organization for technological innovation. These investigations include the quantifications of commercial and social implications of OSS deliveries (Agerfalk and Fitzgerald 2008; Cheng et al. 2011; Jaisingh et al. 2008; Raghu et al. 2008; Vitharana et al. 2010), the governance and management of an OSS project (Feller et al. 2008; Kuk 2006; Mehra et al. 2010; Sen et al. 2008; Singh and Tan 2010; Stewart et al. 2006), and the allure of developers to participate in an OSS project (Hahn et al. 2008; Li et al. 2012; Oh and Jein 2007; Roberts et al. 2006; Shah 2006; Stewart and Gosain 2006; von Krogh et al. 2012). As a depiction of a networked organization (Gallivan 2001; Markus et al. 2000) or an organization that draws upon resources from individuals and other organizations to innovate (Hanssen-Bauer and Snow 1996), an OSS project is a social system in which individuals initiate, contribute, and leave the organization almost at their own will (Roberts et al. 2006). Most research continue to consider an OSS project and its contributors in isolation independent of other projects, but an OSS project is increasingly recognized as something situated within a larger social system of people and projects or an OSS ecology (Singh 2010). Thus, research on OSS projects should not only consider an OSS project as a networked organization (intraproject), but also the entire ecology of OSS projects as an overarching networked organization (inter-projects). Such a perspective is echoed by Kane and Alavi (2008). The latter view of the ecology of OSS projects is justified, wherein members of an OSS project might also be members of other OSS projects (e.g., a developer is involved in multiple OSS projects), and an OSS project administrator may concurrently manage several OSS initiatives. The constricted focus in prior research on OSS innovation activities may not afford a complete understanding of a networked organization. The limited studies that consider the ecology of OSS projects typically focus on one specific type of OSS member, that is, the developers (Hahn et al. 2008); however, other types of OSS members, including the administrators and communication moderators, play non-trivial roles in driving an OSS project development. Furthermore, studies that focus on the OSS ecology did not simultaneously consider the dynamics within the OSS projects, which left great challenges for scholars and practitioners to have an integrated OSS understanding and to synthesize the findings across studies. Thus, a more thorough consideration of the dynamics within and across OSS projects is needed. Thus, this study proposes that the progress made in the internal process of coordinating the organizational members (intra-project) and attaining external recognition (inter-projects) could account for the survivability of that certain OSS project. Our study consists of two parts. Part I will focus on 1) the progressive development of the theoretical model of OSS project as a form of user-driven innovation model (also known as open innovation), and 2) conducting an empirical investigation focusing on understanding the way that an OSS project organization (relative to a traditional organization) draws upon resources from its ecology to innovate, and these resources, more specifically the human resources, tend to fluctuate over time. Part II will use the results of Part I to conduct a large-scale multimodal study to further understand the influences of OSSs and their combinations on consumer (including both individual users and enterprise users) response (in Mainland China). We derive managerial implications for those (but not limited to) OSS practitioners in Hong Kong who are seriously considering the deployment of OSS and seeking ways of achieving sustainable business ventures associated with OSS.


Project number9042256
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/161/01/16

    Research areas

  • open source software,social network analysis,networked organization,resource-based view,