With the growing use of crowd-sourcing, the interaction between self-forming communities and traditional organizations is increasing in importance. Existing research has focused on factors affecting an individual's level of participation in open sourced work and on the organization of open source efforts, but scant attention has been paid to the significant strategic organizational involvement in these endeavors (75% of Linux kernel contributions are from paid developers). As design and development evolves within open communities, there are an increasing number of ways that organizations may seek to balance 'contributions to' and 'differentiation from' an open community, for reasons of cost, resource management, and time to market.

Building on principles of public sharing, collaboration, and organizational learning, this project focuses on why and how organizations participate with open communities. Through action research and a qualitative field study of organizations participating with the Linux open-source community, we explore how the open-source environment interacts and merges with traditional organizations. A two-by-two classification scheme is used to explore the value chain of participation for organizations that differ in their degree of contributions to a common product and degree of downstream product differentiation. A pedagogical framework and curricular materials will be developed and disseminated to improve organizational decision making about open community involvement.

Open communities provide real options for organizations seeking to improve systems design, development, and support. This project develops a solution to a practical problem that is of value to research participants and creates new theoretical knowledge of value to the academic community involved in research and pedagogy. It helps organizations understand and navigate the complexities of actively participating in open communities and benefit from a philosophy best characterized as 'We all give a little; we all get a lot.' A better understanding of organizational participation will enable increased participation in open communities by expanding the number and diversity of participating organizations and increase the involvement of existing organizational partners. These advances in both theory and pedagogy will improve connections among academic and practical issues regarding open communities and result in improved effectiveness in addressing major societal and organizational challenges.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Advanced CyberInfrastructure (ACI)
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Mark Suchman
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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Eau Claire
United States
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