Sustained Participation in Open Source Software Projects

Project: Research

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The open source software development (OSS) model has attracted academic and corporate attention over the last decade [1, 2]. OSS represents an alternative software development mechanism that may potentially result in high quality software at relatively low costs [3], and has now metamorphosed into commercially viable forms, a phenomenon labeled "OSS 2.0" [4]. Numerous OSS projects have achieved remarkable adoption success. Gartner group estimates that the market for OSS IT services will reach US $4.3 billion by 2010; 60% of the largest North-American companies planned to implement OSS applications, half of these for mission critical needs [5]. Similarly, the OSS software enterprise user community has been growing rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong.Despite the notable success stories, many more OSS projects have failed, frequently due to insufficient volunteer participation [6-8]. OSS communities cannot survive or thrive without individual developer participation [9]. Because participants are often self-employed freelancers and volunteers rather than employees, it is not possible to rely on standard employment contracts and incentives to motivate and retain them [6]. While this challenging "voluntary participation" dynamic has energized considerable research into OSS developer participation [10], most research to date has focused on identifying individuals' initial reasons for participation – sometimes with an implicit assumption that these reasons might also be related to extended participation, but only rarely with any explicit consideration of long-term effects. Thus, the objective of this study is to address the research question:what mechanisms sustain voluntary developer participation in OSS communities?Considering that 80 % of OSS projects fade away due to insufficient long-term participation and quality output [11, 12], additional research into this question is imperative [13, 14].


Project number9041452
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1027/03/13