The Five Stages of Open Source Volunteering

Abstract: Today’s software systems build on open source software. Thus, we need to understand how to successfully create, nurture, and mature the software development communities of these open source projects. In this article, we review and discuss best practices of the open source volunteering and recruitment process that successful project leaders are using to lead their projects to success. We combine the perspective of the volunteer, looking at a project, with the perspective of a project leader, looking to find additional volunteers for the project. We identify a five-stage process consisting of a connecting, understanding, engaging, performing, and leading stage. The underlying best practices, when applied, significantly increase the chance of an open source project being successful.

Keywords: Crowdsourcing, open source software, open source communities, volunteering process

Reference: Riehle, D. (2015). The Five Stages of Open Source Volunteering. In Crowdsourcing. Li, Wei; Huhns, Michael N.; Tsai, Wei-Tek; Wu, Wenjun (Editors). Springer-Verlag, 2015, 25-38. Republished from The Five Stages of Open Source Volunteering. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Dept. of Computer Science, Technical Report, CS-2014-01, March 2014. Erlangen, Germany, 2014.

The paper is available as a PDF file and as HTML on this site.

5 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Open Source Volunteering

  1. Community open source software is software that is owned by a community, typically by way of distributed copyright ownership or by ownership through a non-profit foundation. Commercial open source software development is curated by a single company, which maintains the ownership of all relevant intellectual property.

    This seems like a really narrow definition of ‘commercial’, considering vast contribution by paid employees to open source projects that employer does not own all relevant IP for.

    According to Mickos, commercial open source rarely receives and incorporates code contributions from their user communities [9], however, community open source does.

    What does rarely mean? Has the difference in user contributions to commercial vs community (as defined) been quantified? ‘Commercial’ open source projects bother being open source and taking flak for costs of being ‘commercial’ and open source (eg CLAs), so presumably they find some value in external contributions and should still follow your advice to get more?

    Excellent distillation overall, I really enjoyed reading and will find it useful to share!

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for the comments!

      I stand by my definition though I can see how it may be confusing.

      In my definition, delberately, Apache projects, the Eclipse platform, even OpenStack components are community open source software, because they are being developed jointly by a group of companies. Those companies have commercial motives, but the software they are developing jointly is not competitively differentiating to any of the participants.

      Products built on top of these community software components are commercial, of course, but they may or may not be open source.

      So, I consider a group of companies with commercial motives still a commuity and the community work not commercial open source software.

      Does this make sense?


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