Author: Lawrence O'Sullivan
December 10, 2003
The reduced cost of communications provided by the internet has opened the way for virtual communities to share information and has enabled a new paradigm of collaboration. The Open Source community has used this evolutionary approach to collaborative effort to produce high quality software that is available at low cost. These Open Source products are increasingly finding their way into the corporate environment. Open Source software is characterized by its license, which makes the code and its derivatives freely available to anyone (Open Source Initiative). This license is fundamental to community efforts and the community’s culture.
The research shows that free software or [Open Source Software Development] projects develop rich organizational cultures in their virtual communities. To preserve the presence of online communities like GNUe [a specific project], several structural features are important ongoing interaction, identity persistence, and knowledge of previous interactions. For the perpetuation of a free software development community, I propose that persistence of rich cultural beliefs and values in the work itself is also needed. (Elliot, 2003)
A company wishing to leverage the potential of the Open Source community needs to understand the beliefs, values, motivations, processes, and organizational structures that enable projects to succeed. Open Source developers tend to be male, I.T. professionals, in their late twenties who volunteer for projects to improve their skills and share their knowledge. They believe in sharing information, open discussion and building consensus. The developers are closely connected to the software users. Frequently they are one and the same. It is the large number of users and user feedback that drives the quality and direction of software developments.
Open source software tends to be developed by loosely organized, ad-hoc communities consisting of contributors from all over the world who have never meet face-to-face and yet who share a strong sense of commitment. ... The success of open source software has forced people to reconsider their traditional views on software development, individual psychology, and organizational dynamics (Kim).
People issues play a large part in the success of an open source project (Hissam, et al, 2001). Companies successful with Open Source will adapt to the community's norms, provide vision, enthusiasm, support openness, and respect views from the community (Long, 2003).