Red Hat on Patents and Total Growth of Open Source

A couple of days ago, Red Hat filed a brief with the EPO (European Patent Office), arguing that patents hinder software innovation (as masterfully summarized by Glynn Moody). From Red Hat’s press release:

Today Red Hat took its efforts to confront the problem of software patents to new ground by filing a brief with the European Patent Office. The brief explains that software patents hinder software innovation, and that there is a sound legal basis not to expand availability of such patents in Europe.

I particularly liked that Red Hat uses Amit Deshpande’s and my work on the Total Growth of Open Source software as evidence of the significance of open source. An added bonus is that our little academic paper is referenced right next to the work of one of my heroes, Eric von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation.

The good news is that I have tons of material to make an even stronger case for the economic significance and future impact of open source. The bad news is that time and resources are in short supply… but that will change eventually.

The Commercial Open Source Business Model

Abstract: Commercial open source software projects are open source software projects that are owned by a single firm that derives a direct and significant revenue stream from the software. Commercial open source at first glance represents an economic paradox: How can a firm earn money if it is making its product available for free as open source? This paper presents the core properties of commercial open source business models and discusses how they work. Using a commercial open source approach, firms can get to market faster with a superior product at lower cost than possible for traditional competitors. The paper shows how these benefits accrue from an engaged and self-supporting user community. Lacking any prior comprehensive reference, this paper is based on an analysis of public statements by practitioners of commercial open source. It forges the various anecdotes into a coherent description of revenue generation strategies and relevant business functions.

Reference: Dirk Riehle. “The Commercial Open Source Business Model.” In Proceedings of the Fifteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS 2009). AIS Electronic Library, 2009. Paper 104.

Available as HTML or PDF file.

Modeling Micro-Blogging Adoption in the Enterprise

Abstract: Despite a broad range of collaboration tools already available, enterprises continue to look for ways to improve internal and external communication. Micro-blogging is such a new communication channel with some considerable potential to improve intra-firm transparency and knowledge sharing. However, the adoption of such social software presents certain challenges to enterprises. Based on the results of four focus group sessions, we identified several new constructs to play an important role in the micro-blogging adoption decision. Examples include privacy concerns, communication benefits, perceptions regarding signal-to-noise ratio, as well codification effort. Integrating these findings with common views on technology acceptance, we formulate a model to predict the adoption of a micro-blogging system in the workspace. Our findings serve as an important guideline for managers seeking to realize the potential of micro-blogging in their company.

Reference: Oliver Günther, Hanna Krasnova, Dirk Riehle, Valentin Schöndienst. “Modeling Micro-Blogging Adoption in the Enterprise.” In Proceedings of the Fifteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS 2009). AIS Electronic Library, 2009. Paper 544.

Available as a PDF file.

Micro-Blogging in the Enterprise: Focus Groups Evaluation Results

A couple of weeks ago, Oliver Günther and I reported about the results of the Micro-Blogging in the Enterprise Focus Groups we had undertaken in December 2008. The report was an internal talk at SAP Labs LLC in Palo Alto and drew a record audience. I’m glad to report that we can publish the slides for this talk. Mark Finnern had previously blogged about it. If you are interested in this work, a more comprehensive presentation can be found in our upcoming AMCIS paper on micro-blogging adoption in the enterprise.

Continue reading “Micro-Blogging in the Enterprise: Focus Groups Evaluation Results”

Bringing Open Source Best Practices into Corporations Using a Software Forge

You may have noticed our work on improving corporate software development at SAP using an in-house software forge. The main benefit is in transferring open source best practices to our software development processes. At an upcoming industry conference presentation I’ll be talking about some of the lessons we learned. Here is the abstract of the talk:

Abstract: A software forge is a tools platform for collaborative software development, similar to integrated CASE environments. Unlike CASE tools software forges have been designed for the software development practices of the open source community. Open source software projects succeed where waterfall and agile methods fail: They can cope with changing requirements and they can scale to large project sizes. Thus, corporate software development can learn from open source best practices. In this presentation, I discuss our experiences with using a software forge to bring open source best practices into SAP. We present the design principles and benefits of a firm-internal software forge, and we present a case study of how one project inside SAP benefited significantly from being on the forge.

Reference: Dirk Riehle. “Bringing Open Source Best Practices into Corporations Using a Software Forge.” Talk at SEACON 2009. Hamburg, Germany: 2009.

Call for Papers: Onward! 2009

For your information, the call for papers for Onward! 2009. I’m on the program committee (and was last year’s chair).


The conference for new ideas, new paradigms,

and reflections on everything to do with programming and software.

Co-located with OOPSLA 2009

Orlando, Florida October 25-29 2009

Sponsored by ACM SIGPLAN in cooperation with SIGSOFT

Continue reading “Call for Papers: Onward! 2009”

Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges (Abstract)

Abstract: Over the past 10 years, open source software has become an important cornerstone of the software industry. Commercial users have adopted it in standalone applications, and software vendors are embedding it in products. Surprisingly then, from a commercial perspective, open source software is developed differently from how corporations typically develop software. Research into how open source works has been growing steadily. One driver of such research is the desire to understand how commercial software development could benefit from open source best practices. Do some of these practices also work within corporations? If so, what are they, and how can we transfer them?

Keywords: Inner source, firm-internal open source, corporate source, software forge, open collaboration, open source.

Reference: Dirk Riehle, John Ellenberger, Tamir Menahem, Boris Mikhailovski, Yuri Natchetoi, Barak Naveh, Thomas Odenwald. “Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges.” IEEE Software, vol. 26, no. 2 (March/April 2009). Page 52-58.

Available as HTML or as a PDF file.

Estimating Commit Sizes Efficiently

Authors: Philipp Hofmann, Dirk Riehle

Abstract: The quantitative analysis of software projects can provide insights that let us better understand open source and other software development projects. An important variable used in the analysis of software projects is the amount of work being contributed, the commit size. Unfortunately, post-facto, the commit size can only be estimated, not measured. This paper presents several algorithms for estimating the commit size. Our performance evaluation shows that simple, straightforward heuristics are superior to the more complex text-analysis-based algorithms. Not only are the heuristics significantly faster to compute, they also deliver more accurate results when estimating commit sizes. Based on this experience, we design and present an algorithm that improves on the heuristics, can be computed equally fast, and is more accurate than any of the prior approaches.

Reference: In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Open Source Systems (OSS 2009). Springer Verlag, 2009. Page 105-115.

Available as a PDF file.

The Sweet Spot of Code Commenting in Open Source

In a large-scale study of active working open source projects we have found an average comment density of about 20% (= one comment line in five code lines). Given that much of open source remains volunteer work, we believe that a comment density of 20% represents the sweet spot of code commenting in open source projects: Neither are you over-documenting your code and hence wasting resources, nor are you under-documenting and thereby endangering your project.

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The Comment Density of Open Source Software Code

Author: Oliver Arafat, Dirk Riehle

Abstract: The development processes of open source software are different from traditional closed source development processes. Still, open source software is frequently of high quality. Thus, we are investigating how open source software creates high quality and whether it can maintain this quality for ever larger project sizes. In this paper, we look at one particular quality indicator, the density of comments in open source software code. In a large-scale study of more than 5,000 projects, we find that active open source projects document their source code, and we find that the comment density is independent of team and project size, but not of project age. In future work, we intend to correlate comment density with project success or failure.

Reference: In Companion to Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2009). IEEE Press, 2009. Page 195-198.

Available as a PDF file.