Can I Touch Your Code? The Effects of Programming Style on Open Source Collaboration
Posted: 14 Nov 2021 Last revised: 14 Nov 2022
Date Written: October 31, 2022
Open source software (OSS) development has garnered extensive attention from both industry practitioners and academic researchers. However, existing OSS research has typically focused on the role of social or behavioral factors in affecting collaboration outcomes while neglecting to critically consider the nature of the software artifact itself. In this study, we seek to integrate behavioral factors and technical factors to extend understandings of interdependency and diversity in open source collaboration. Specifically, we investigate the role of programming style in open source collaboration, where strict coding guidelines are typically not enforced. We develop the conceptualization and theorization of within-file (component level) and across-file (system level) inconsistency in programming style and their effects on OSS development process from material and social perspectives. Additionally, two team formation factors (developer experience and team familiarity) that moderate the effects of programming style inconsistency are discussed. Using metrics identified from software engineering literature and industry standards, we measure programming style inconsistency at both the component and system levels. Our results suggest that within-file inconsistency negatively affects development activities but across-file inconsistency does not affect development progress. We also find that team familiarity alleviates the negative aspect of style inconsistency, but developer experience unexpectedly can intensify the negative effect at the component level. Our study contributes to the literature on OSS development, software engineering, and diversity in distributed groups, and offers practical insights for OSS teams.
Keywords: Open Source Software, Open Collaboration, Programming Style, Diversity, Materiality, Static Code Analysis
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