Restrictions in Open Source: A Study of Team Composition and Ownership in Open Source Software Development Projects



This study examines the influence of source code access restrictions on the likelihood of survival of open source software projects. Building on the theories of coordination and network governance, we study the influence of access restrictions in mitigating coordination challenges and overcoming the variance in contributors’ expectationsFurthermore, given the increasing shift of organizations towards adopting the open source development approach, we investigate the changes brought to the coordination mechanisms when open source projects are owned by organizations. Using a Cox proportional hazard model, we demonstrate that the relationship between the proportion of contributors (who are given write access to the source code) and the survival of the project, is moderated by the nature of project ownership — individual versus organization owned projects. Interestingly, the observed moderation is a crossover interaction effect that changes from negative for individual owned projects to positive for organization owned projects. This research advances our understanding about contributor roles, access restrictions, and organizational participation in open source environments. The findings provide open source researchers and practitioners with fresh insights for better understanding and modeling project teams to facilitate their success. As an extension to this work, we plan to study the influence of access restrictions on the creative output of the contributors. We do this by using a training sample of code changes labelled on the basis of their creativity, which we then use to build a classification model to measure the creativity of the contributors’ code contributions.