Seeking Reliability in Freedom: The Case of F/Oss

COMPUTERIZATION MOVEMENTS AND TECHNOLOGY DIFFUSION, M. Elliott, K. Kraemer, eds., pp. 405-426, New Jersey: American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2008

16 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2009

See all articles by Hamid R. Ekbia

Hamid R. Ekbia

Indiana University

Les Gasser

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

The risks and hazards involved in computerized environments have turned 'reliability' into a major organizing theme in the free software movement. The idealized vision in this computerization movement is that more reliable, secure, and efficient software can be produced under the free/open source software (F/OSS) model than in the alternative proprietary model. The principal public rationales for this vision credit widespread community participation, egalitarian social structures, and open sharing of designs, code, and experience. Interestingly, detractors point to just these elements as reliability risk factors for F/OSS-built products. Both of these visions are frequently based on simplistic accounts of development processes that ignore many of the complexities involved-complexities that cross both social and technical dimensions. This chapter describes and explores the gap between the movement visions, their detractors, and richer outside realities. We report findings from a longitudinal study of Bugzilla-a large-scale, shared, online collaborative issue-tracking and representation system widely used to manage software problems in F/OSS projects, including the well-known products of the Mozilla Foundation. We show how the processes involved in bug-fixing are significantly more convoluted than suggested by the advocates of F/OSS. We also argue that arguments made by F/OSS detractors are biased and dystopian in nature. Both the advocates and detractors base their claims on implicit or explicit assumptions that we analyze here.

Suggested Citation

Ekbia, Hamid R. and Gasser, Les, Seeking Reliability in Freedom: The Case of F/Oss (2008). COMPUTERIZATION MOVEMENTS AND TECHNOLOGY DIFFUSION, M. Elliott, K. Kraemer, eds., pp. 405-426, New Jersey: American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1418592

Hamid R. Ekbia (Contact Author)

Indiana University ( email )

1320 E. 10th St.
LI015
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/hekbia/

Les Gasser

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL Champaign 61820
United States

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