Four case studies into shocks to open source projects

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Title: Four case studies into shocks to open source projects
Author: Ahonen, Lauri
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Tietojenkäsittelytiede
Abstract: Software development is massive industry today. Billions of dollars are spent and created on im- material products, and the stakes are very high. The failure modes of commercial software projects have been extensively studied, motivated by the large amounts of money in play. Meanwhile, failures in open source projects have been studied less, despite open-source projects forming a massive part of the computing industry ecosystem today. As more and more companies depend on open-source projects, it becomes imperative to understand the motivations and problems in the volunteer-staffed projects. This thesis opens with an introduction into the history of open source, followed by an overview of the actual day-to-day minutia of the tools and processes used to run a project. After this background context has been established, the existing body of research into open-source motivation is surveyed. The motivation of the people working on these projects has been studied extensively, as it seems illogical that highly-skilled volunteers pour their efforts into supporting a trillion-dollar industry. The existing body of motivation research establishes why people work on open-source projects in general, but it does not explain which projects they choose to work on. Developers drift between projects unguided, as they are free to choose where they allocate their time and energies. The contributions into open-source projects follow a Pareto distribution, and the majority of projects never manage to attract large amounts of contributors. Others lose steam after an internal or external shock drives away the contributors. To explore the latter phenomenon, four case studies are done into crises various open-source projects have faced, and how the actions of project leadership has affected the outcome for the project. Two of the shocks are caused by illegal activities by a project member, and two are caused by social disagreements.
Subject: open source

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