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Developer Initiation and Social Interactions in OSS: A Case Study of the Apache Software Foundation

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Journal Article

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University of California, Davis Davis

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Maintaining a productive and collaborative team of developers is essential to Open Source Software OSS success, and hinges upon the trust inherent among the team. Whether a project participant is initiated as a committer is a function of both his technical contributions and also his social interactions with other project participants. Ones online social footprint is arguably easier to ascertain and gather than ones technical contributions. We investigate the extent to which the likelihood of achieving that status can be modeled solely as a social network phenomenon. For 6 different projects we compile and integrate a set of social measures of the communications network among project participants and a set of technical measures. We use these sets to predict whether a project participant will become a committer, and to characterize their socialization patterns around the time of becoming committer. We find that the social network metrics are more significant predictors of ones likelihood to becoming a committer. Further, we find that this is true to the extent that other predictors need not be included in the models. In addition, we show that future committers are easy to identify when using the first three months of data of their social activities. Interestingly, we find that on average, for each project, ones level of socialization ramps up before the time of becoming a committer. After obtaining committer status, their social behavior is more individualized, falling into few distinct modes of behavior. Finally, we find that it is easier to become a developer earlier in the projects life cycle than it is later as the project matures. These results should provide insight on the social nature of gaining trust and advancing in status in distributed projects.

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