Hierarchy and centralization in Free and Open Source Software team communications

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Knowledge, Technology & Policy, Volume 18, Number 4, p.65–85 (2006)




Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) development teams provide an interesting and convenient setting for studying distributed work. We begin by answering perhaps the most basic question: what is the social structure of these teams? Based on a social network analysis of interactions represented in 62,110 bug reports from 122 large and active projects, we find that some OSS teams are highly centralized, but contrary to expectation, others are not. Projects are mostly quite hierarchical on four measures of hierarchy, consistent with past research but contrary to the popular image of these projects. Furthermore, we find that the level of centralization is negatively correlated with project size, suggesting that larger projects become more modular. The paper makes a further methodological contribution by identifying appropriate analysis approaches for interaction data. We conclude by sketching directions for future research.


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