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"Attracting & Retaining Volunteer Software Developers"

Sonali Shah


First Author :

Sonali Shah
Business Administration
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1206 S. Sixth Street, M/C 706
Champaign, IL 61820


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Abstract :
Open source software projects rely on the voluntary efforts of thousands of software developers, yet we know little about the factors that drive and shape initial and continued developer participation. This paper inductively derives a framework for understanding participation – reasons to create code, reasons to contribute code, and knowledge of the software code - from the perspective of the individual software developer based on data from two software communities with different governance structures. A need for software-related improvements drives initial participation and the creation of software code in both communities studied. The majority of participants leave the community once their needs are met; a small subset however chose to remain involved. For this set of developers, participation becomes a hobby. Hobbyists are critical to the long-term viability and sustainability of the software code and community: they take on tasks that might otherwise go undone and work to maintain the simplicity and modularity of the code. Governance structures affect this evolution of motives. Implications of these findings for firms interested in implementing “hybrid” strategies designed to combine the advantages of open source software development with proprietary ownership and control are discussed.
Keywords :
innovation, motivation, open source software development
Footnotes & Acknowledgements :
This research would not have been possible without the many software developers and users who gave graciously and thoughtfully of their time – thank you. I thank Carliss Baldwin, Roberto Fernandez, and Eric von Hippel. I alone am responsible for errors, oversights, and faulty reasoning.
Manuscript Received : 2004
Manuscript Published : August 2004
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