Interpersonal Trust in Open Source Software

Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2023-02-28
Keywords: Emotion, Organizational Behavior

Do you trust your colleagues? Do they trust you? How can you tell, and what impact does trust (or the lack of it) have on how people interact with other members of their team and whether or not they continue contributing to a project? Questions like these about the role of emotional awareness in software development have been receiving more attention in recent years as concerns about the sustainability of open source software have moved to center stage. This new paper presents some preliminary insights, and its classification of different kinds of trust and how they are reflected in things like pull requests is also a great starting point for discussion within teams.

Amirali Sajadi, Kostadin Damevski, and Preetha Chatterjee. Interpersonal Trust in OSS: Exploring Dimensions of Trust in GitHub Pull Requests. In Proceedings of the 45th International Conference on Software Engineering (NIER Track), ICSE '23, 2023. URL:

Interpersonal trust plays a crucial role in facilitating collaborative tasks, such as software development. While previous research recognizes the significance of trust in an organizational setting, there is a lack of understanding in how trust is exhibited in OSS distributed teams, where there is an absence of direct, in-person communications. To foster trust and collaboration in OSS teams, we need to understand what trust is and how it is exhibited in written developer communications (e.g., pull requests, chats). In this paper, we first investigate various dimensions of trust to identify the ways trusting behavior can be observed in OSS. Next, we sample a set of 100 GitHub pull requests from Apache Software Foundation (ASF) projects, to analyze and demonstrate how each dimension of trust can be exhibited. Our findings provide preliminary insights into cues that might be helpful to automatically assess team dynamics and establish interpersonal trust in OSS teams, leading to successful and sustainable OSS.