Organizing for openness: six models for developer involvement in hybrid OSS projects

Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2021-09-09
Keywords: Governance, Open Source

A statistical study compares a few properties of a large number of subjects numerically. A case study, on the other hand, applies multiple methods to a single subject to "triangulate" on the truth, i.e., to see whether those different perspectives yield similar conclusions. The former are more popular, in part because they require coding rather than close reading, but many of the insights I find most useful come from the latter.

Maenpaa2018 is a great example. It examines the organization and governance of six commercially-influenced open source projects: Eclipse, Qt, Sailfish, NetBeans, GTK+, and Vaadin. Their two main questions are what role orchestrators play (i.e., who decides what happens next and how), and how visible the inner workings of governance are. There are no prescriptive conclusions; instead, they show that many different models can work well provided everyone knows the rules and believes they're being applied equally. While I would have liked to see a couple of cases of projects that didn't survive and thrive, the six studied here can serve as inspiration for anyone interested in exploring hybrid models.

Maenpaa2018 Hanna Mäenpää, Simo Mäkinen, Terhi Kilamo, Tommi Mikkonen, Tomi Männistö, and Paavo Ritala: "Organizing for openness: six models for developer involvement in hybrid OSS projects". Journal of Internet Services and Applications, 9(1), 2018, 10.1186/s13174-018-0088-1.

This article examines organization and governance of commercially influenced Open Source Software development communities by presenting a multiple-case study of six contemporary, hybrid OSS projects. The findings provide in-depth understanding on how to design the participatory nature of the software development process, while understanding the factors that influence the delicate balance of openness, motivations, and governance. The results lay ground for further research on how to organize and manage developer communities where needs of the stakeholders are competing, yet complementary.