The development Open Source Software fundamentally depends on the participation and commitment of volunteer developers to progress on a particular task. Several works have presented strategies to increase the on-boarding and engagement of new contributors, but little is known on how these diverse groups of developers self-organise to work together. To understand this, one must consider that, on one hand, platforms like GitHub provide a virtually unlimited development framework: any number of actors can potentially join to contribute in a decentralised, distributed, remote, and asynchronous manner. On the other, however, it seems reasonable that some sort of hierarchy and division of labour must be in place to meet human biological and cognitive limits, and also to achieve some level of efficiency. These latter features (hierarchy and division of labour) should translate into detectable structural arrangements when projects are represented as developer-file bipartite networks. Thus, in this paper we analyse a set of popular open source projects from GitHub, placing the accent on three key properties: nestedness, modularity and in-block nestedness –which typify the emergence of heterogeneities among contributors, the emergence of subgroups of developers working on specific subgroups of files, and a mixture of the two previous, respectively. These analyses show that indeed projects evolve into internally organised blocks. Furthermore, the distribution of sizes of such blocks is bounded, connecting our results to the celebrated Dunbar number both in off- and on-line environments. Our conclusions create a link between bio-cognitive constraints, group formation and online working environments, opening up a rich scenario for future research on (online) work team assembly (e.g. size, composition, and formation). From a complex network perspective, our results pave the way for the study of time-resolved datasets, and the design of suitable models that can mimic the growth and evolution of OSS projects.
Online division of labour: emergent structures in Open Source Software
A. Solé-Ribalta, J. Borge-Holthoefer, M.J. Palazzi, J. Cabot, J. L. Cánovas Izquierdo