EMPIRICAL FINDINGS ABOUT FACTORS THAT FOSTER THE COLLABORATIVE SUCCESS OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE PROJECTS
As participants of FOSS4G are aware, in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), volunteers and paid professional software developers often collaborate via the Internet to produce software that is given away without monetary cost, and can be modified by users to fit their needs. Moreover, individuals, businesses, academic institutions and governments worldwide, are increasingly using FOSS technologies for some of their computing tasks. The collaboration techniques used to produce open source software have begun to change business models in the software industry, and understanding these techniques may be important for other fields, including scientific collaboration. This paper summarizes the results of over five years of research aimed at understanding what factors make open source software collaborations succeed, or become prematurely abandoned. This research included theoretical study, statistical analysis of public and private data on open source projects, interview research, and most recently, a major survey of software developers that was conducted with the help of SourceForge, Inc., owner of one of the most important global hosting sites for open source software projects. After examining many variables, we have produced consistent, statistically significant results that show that leadership and attracting a community who use the software and/or contribute to the project are the most important factors for success. Other factors like open source experience, marketing, and financing play lesser, but supportive roles. These findings have great relevance to the FOSS4G community, and provide strong empirical evidence about factors associated with successful or abandoned FOSS projects. FOSS4G 2010 will be one of the first venues where we present these important results.
Robert English - University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Charles Schweik - University of Massachusetts, Amherst/OSGeo.org, Chair of Education
Meng-Shiou Shieh - University of Massachusetts, Amherst