The Commit Size Distribution of Open Source Software

Authors: Oliver Arafat, Dirk Riehle

Abstract: With the growing economic importance of open source, we need to improve our understanding of how open source software development processes work. The analysis of code contributions to open source projects is an important part of such research. In this paper we analyze the size of code contributions to more than 9,000 open source projects. We review the total distribution and distinguish three categories of code contributions using a size-based heuristic: single focused commits, aggregate team contributions, and repository refactorings. We find that both the overall distribution and the individual categories follow a power law. We also suggest that distinguishing these commit categories by size will benefit future analyses.

Reference: In Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaiian International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-42). IEEE Press, 2009. Page 1-8.

Available as a PDF file.

Open Source Software Developer Careers

How we develop open source software can vary widely from project to project. However, the roles we play are similar across projects: user, developer, tester, documenter, committer, etc. For a while now, I have been interested in what open source means for software developer careers, in particular with respect to fame and fortune. The figure below illustrates some of this thinking:

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The Economic Motivation of Open Source Software: Stakeholder Perspectives

Author: Dirk Riehle

Abstract: Open source software has changed the rules of the game, impacting significantly the economic behavior of stakeholders in the software ecosystem. In this new environment, developers strive to be committers, vendors feel pressure to produce open source products, and system integrators anticipate boosting profits.

Reference: IEEE Computer, vol. 40, no. 4 (April 2007). Page 25-32.

Available as a PDF file or in HTML.

(This is a repost due to popular demand.)

Open Source in the Share of Wallet Wars

On their blogs, Matt Asay and Savio Rodrigues are discussing whether IBM is using open source to diminish competitor margins. I think it is obvious that IBM does this, most notably with its Linux engagement, which is squarely directed against Microsoft (Windows). It is what I call a war over the share of customer’s wallet, and open source plays a major role. The graph below shows how it works.

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Open Source Businesses and Developer Careers: Who Benefits from Open Source? How and Why?

Title: Open Source Businesses and Developer Careers: Who Benefits from Open Source? How and Why?

Presenter: Dirk Riehle

Abstract: Open source is changing how software is built and how money is made. This talk discusses the economics of open source software from the start-up firm, the system integrator, and the software developer perspective. The talk provides a strategy framework and discusses its implementation using the dual-license strategy. It explains how system integrators use open source in the share-of-wallet wars. Finally, open source defines a new developer career. This talk explains this new career and argues that it creates economic value for some while it makes life harder for others.

Reference: Main stage presentation (invited talk) at the Agile 2008 conference. Toronto, Canada: 2008.

Successful Open Source, with Little or No Agile

I’ll be participating in the panel “Successful Open Source, with little or no Agile” at Agile 2008 in Toronto, Canada, on August 7th, 2008.

Successful Open Source, with Little or No Agile

Agile adoption in the Open Source community ranges from some to none for most successful teams.

  • Can these communities learn anything from each other?
  • Are these two communities one in the same?
  • Do Open Source projects and Agile projects succeed or fail for the same reasons?

The panelists, Dennis Byrne, Dirk Riehle, Christian Robottom Reis and Naresh Jain, will use their collective experience to answer these and many other questions. We’ll also have one empty chair for anyone from the audience to be a part of the panel temporarily.

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Conflict of Interest in Open Source and PostgreSQL Replication

Community open source is open source that is not owned by any particular company. Rather, ownership is shared among a large number of diverse stakeholders. Given the right (read: permissive) license, commercial companies can provide extensions to the community project, earning a living. Since such extensions are a unique selling point of these companies, one might think that they would prefer to keep the community project small and limited in features to facilitate an easy upsell to their more comprehensive offering. This thought becomes particularly intriguing given that commercial companies typically hire the core developers of such community projects to bring the necessary expertise in-house, and as some argue, to influence the project to their liking.

I think that this common belief misses the point.

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Dave Humphrey: New Graduate Program on Linux and Open Source System Administration

For your information, a note from Dave Humphrey on LUX, a new graduate program on Linux and Open Source System Administration at Seneca College, Toronto, ON.

I wanted to let you know about a new graduate program we’re launching in September on Linux and open source system administration. LUX is designed for industry people who want to move into an open source Linux community—we’re partnering with Red Hat and Fedora—and is structured so people can still work while they study.

Dave Humphrey
Professor and Co-Founder
Centre for Development of Open Technology
Seneca College, Toronto

OSS 2.0: Leveraging The Open Source Community For Business

For your information, a research workshop on open source and business.


OSS 2.0 : Leveraging the Open Source community for business

Workshop at OSS 2008 Conference, co-located with IFIP WCC 2008 Milan (Italy)

Deadline for submission: 21st June 2008

Notification of acceptance: 11th July 2008

Final submission due: 25th July 2008

Workshop: 10th September 2008

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Open Source is a Business Strategy not a Business Model

Following up on related discussions, another common confusion in my opinion is to think that “open source” is a business model. It is not. Open source is a business strategy, in support of a business model. You still need to know how to make money, and it doesn’t happen by giving software away for free. That is to say, you need a business model like selling subscription or implementation services.

The most common commercial open source business strategy is the “dual-license strategy” as demonstrated by MySQL, Alfresco, etc. This particular business strategy is mostly a go-to-market strategy, a way by which the commercial open source company penetrates customers and fosters the sale. I’ve blogged about this before here and here.

There is more to say, obviously, and I’m working on it. Any thoughts would be appreciated!a