Stability and Efficiency of Communication Networks in Open Source Software Development
22 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2006 Last revised: 15 May 2011
Date Written: December 1, 2005
Open source software (OSS) development teams use informal communication to coordinate their work towards common goals. According to software engineering folklore, the architecture and the organization of the final product depend on the communication patterns of the contributors. Unlike in a formal organization, the communication network structures in an OSS project evolve unrestricted and unplanned. Little is known about the stability and efficiency of the communication structures that would evolve in OSS projects. In this paper, we use the connections model of the social networks theory by incorporating the salient features of OSS development to study the communications structures that might emerge in OSS projects. We characterize the stable and efficient structures. We find that for a given scenario there may exist several stable structures which are inefficient. We also find that there does not always exist a stable structure that is efficient. This can be explained by the fact that the stability of the structure is dependent on individual's maximization of self utility whereas the efficiency of the structure is dependent on maximization of group utility. In general, tension exists between stable and efficient structures because the players act in their self-interest rather than the group-interest. We discuss the results of the model in the context of OSS development. We also provide numerical simulation to illustrate the tension between stable and efficient networks. We further discuss implications of our results and provide directions for future research.
Keywords: Open source software development, Social networks, Efficiency, Stability, communication structure, coordination structure.
JEL Classification: L86, C7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation