Collaboration in OSS Communities: Who Solves Whose Problems?
48 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2017
Date Written: May 19, 2017
In open collaboration, an economically important form of organizing technology development in online communities, both producers and users, either firm or independent users, invest their resources to develop and share technological problems as well as solutions freely accessible to the public. Existing literature draws ambivalent conclusions about whether and how the different actors engage in joint problem solving. Given potential conflicts of interest and variance in problem types, in terms of who shares the problem and how much generative efforts a problem demands, we know little about the role and nature of joint problem solving in open collaboration. Taking a dynamic view towards knowledge collaboration, this paper uses granular data about problem solving in OpenStack, a large and successful open source software development community, to examine joint problem solving in open collaboration. We show that not all problem types channel participation in the same way. Both producers and users prefer firm user problems. Secondarily, they also focus more on generative problems unless they are independent users. Our findings contribute to the theoretical puzzle about whether and when open collaboration is actually about “collaboration” and informs managers about opportunities for greater joint problem solving.
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