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Chitu Okoli

Open content and open source software

Since Summer 2004, I began a new research stream on open content and open source software. Open content is a new extension of the open source software model that applies the open sharing philosophy to the creation of non-software media such as books (e.g. Wikibooks), music (e.g. Jamendo and ccMixter), video (e.g. Kaltura), and other information products. Its primary successes so far include Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and the OpenCourseWare project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My research on open content is currently funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. My open content research primarily involves Wikipedia; however, I also conduct research on open source software.

Wikipedia and open content

Okoli, Chitu and Kevin Carillo (2013). Beyond Open Source Software: A Framework, Implications, and Directions for Researching Open Content. SSRN Working Paper Series, September 19, 2013 (

The same open source philosophy that has been traditionally applied to software development can be applied to the collaborative creation of non-software information products, such as books, music and video. Such products are generically referred to as open content. Due largely to the success of large projects such as Wikipedia and the Creative Commons, open content has gained increasing attention not only in the popular media, but also in scholarly research. It is important to rigorously investigate the workings of the open source process in these new media of expression. This paper introduces the scope of emerging research on the open content phenomenon, other than open source software. We develop a framework for categorizing copyrightable works as utilitarian, factual, aesthetic or opinioned works. Based on these categories, we consider the applicability of some implications of findings from open source software research for open content. We review some key theory-driven findings from open source software research and assess the applicability of extending their implications to open content. We present a research agenda that integrates the findings and proposes a list of research topics that can help lay a solid foundation for open content research. We also briefly review the literature for some specific directions of open content research, involving the quality of products, the marketing of digital music, and open content in developing countries.


 Context: Wikipedia has become one of the ten-most visited sites on the Web, and the world’s leading source of Web reference information. Its rapid success has attracted over 400 scholarly studies that treat Wikipedia as a major topic or data source. Objectives: This article presents a protocol for conducting a systematic mapping (a broad-based literature review) of research on Wikipedia. It identifies what research has been conducted; what research questions have been asked, and which have been answered and which remain unanswered; and what theories and methodologies have been employed to study Wikipedia. Methods: This protocol follows the rigorous methodology of evidence-based software engineering to conduct a systematic mapping study. Results and conclusions: The study specified by this protocol is currently in progress, and has thus far identified over 400 studies. Sample preliminary results are presented.

This working paper is the full (expanded) version of: Okoli, Chitu, and Kira Schabram. 2009. Protocol for a systematic literature review of research on the Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems, 1:458-459. Vol. 1. Lyon, France: Association for Computing Machinery, October 27.

Okoli, Chitu, Kira Schabram, and Bilal Abdul Kader. 2009. From the Academy to the Wiki: Practical Applications of Scholarly Research on Wikipedia. In Proceedings of Wikimania 2009. Buenos Aires: Wikimedia Foundation, August 26.

To date, over 400 peer-reviewed scholarly studies have researched various aspects of Wikipedia. These studies contribute valuable knowledge in understanding the inner workings of Wikipedia and can serve to continuously improve it. In this presentation, we offer a coherent synthesis of the scholarly research that has been conducted on Wikipedia, highlighting the main research trends, summarizing the key findings, and identifying the gaps and unanswered questions. Based on these findings, we apply the research conclusions to the practical functioning of Wikipedia and highlight implications for policy and administration for Wikipedia contributors, administrators, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Okoli, Chitu. 2009. Information product creation through open source encyclopedias. In Proceedings of the International Conference of Computing in Engineering, Science and Informatics. Fullerton, USA: IEEE, April 2, 2009.

This is the published article version of my grant application to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The grant is funded as ___.

The same open source philosophy that has been traditionally applied to software development can be applied to the collaborative creation of non-software information products, such as encyclopedias, books, and dictionaries. Most notably, the eight-year-old Wikipedia is a comprehensive general encyclopedia, comprising over 12 million articles in over 200 languages. It becomes increasingly important to rigorously investigate the workings of the open source process to understand its benefits and motivations. This paper presents a research program funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada with the following objectives: (1) Survey open source encyclopedia participants to understand their motivations for participating and their demographic characteristics, and compare them with participants in traditional open source software projects; (2) investigate the process of open source encyclopedia development in a live community to understand how their motivations interact in the open source framework to create quality information products.

Okoli, Chitu. 2009. A Brief Review of Studies of Wikipedia in Peer-Reviewed Journals. In Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Digital Society, 2009., 155-160. Cancun, Mexico.

Since its establishment in 2001, Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” has become a cultural icon of the unlimited possibilities of the World Wide Web. Thus, it has become a serious subject of scholarly study to objectively and rigorously understand it as a phenomenon. This paper reviews studies of Wikipedia that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Among the wealth of studies reviewed, major sub-streams of research covered include: how and why Wikipedia works; assessments of the reliability of its content; using it as a data source for various studies; and applications of Wikipedia in different domains of endeavour.

As the open source movement grows, it becomes important to understand the dynamics that affect the motivation of participants who contribute their time freely to such projects. One important motivation that has been identified is the desire for formal recognition in the open source community. We investigated the impact of social capital in participants’ social networks on their recognition-based performance; i.e., the formal status they are accorded in the community. We used a sample of 465 active participants in the Wikipedia open content encyclopedia community to investigate the effects of two types of social capital and found that network closure, measured by direct and indirect ties, had a significant positive effect on increasing participants’ recognition-based performance. Structural holes had mixed effects on participants’ status, but were generally a source of social capital.

I was the master’s thesis supervisor for Kevin Carillo. He published his thesis as the book listed in this entry.



Open source software

Okoli, Chitu, and Kevin Carillo. 2010. The best of adaptive and predictive methodologies: Open source software development, a balance between agility and discipline. International Journal of Agile and Extreme Software Development 1, no. Forthcoming.

 Open source software development (OSSD) is a promising alternative for synthesizing agile and plan-driven (e.g. waterfall) software development methodologies that retains most benefits of the two approaches. We contrast the traditional systems development life cycle approach, more recent agile software development methods, and OSSD. We compare the first two approaches with OSSD, highlighting its synthesis of benefits from both, with unique benefits of its own, offering solutions to areas where the other methodologies continue to face difficulties. OSSD is highly responsive to user needs, and draws talent from a global team of developers. OSSD is a low-risk methodology with potentially high return on investment. While not appropriate for all applications, especially those where the needed applications are extremely idiosyncratic to one company, it is nonetheless a valuable asset in an organization’s portfolio of software development solutions.


Okoli, Chitu (2009). A Brief Review of Studies on Open Source Software in Developing Countries in Peer-Reviewed Journals. SSRN Working Paper Series (

There has been much attention given to the promising benefits of open source software (OSS) for the development of the domestic software industries of developing countries. This study attempts to build a base for scholarly research on the subject of OSS in developing countries by reviewing the work that has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Major sub-streams of research include applications of OSS in developing countries, and the analysis and recommendations of government policies. This review also details the geographical regions covered by the scholarly research, extensions of the open source model to applications of open content, and theoretical approaches that have been adopted in the scholarly literature.

The open source movement is based on a radical retake on copyright law to create high quality software whose use and development are guaranteed to the public. In this article we trace the history of the movement, highlighting its interaction with intellectual property law. The movement has spawned open source software (OSS) communities where developers and users meet to create software that meets their needs. We discuss the demographic profile of OSS participants, their ideology, their motivations, and the process of OSS development. Then we examine the impacts of OSS on society as a whole from the perspective of the information society, discussing the effects on OSS developers, users of OSS, and society at large, particularly in developing countries.

Carillo, Kevin, and Chitu Okoli. 2005. Open Source Software Communities. In Encyclopedia of Virtual Communities and Technologies, ed. Subhasish Dasgupta, 363-367. Hershey, USA: Idea Group Reference.

Open source software (OSS) communities are an important type of virtual community today, where members convene online with the common goal of producing software that is valuable both to developers and for the general public using the open source development methodology. Participants are mostly male software developers with an average age of 30; most have at least a bachelor’s degree. OSS communities have distinctive cultural artifacts, including community norms, values, and beliefs. They exhibit a “gift culture” where “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, or to possess. They value quality of work, modesty, sharing, and altruism. As the open source movement continues to grow both as a software development methodology and as a philosophical/social/political approach to intellectual property, OSS communities will have an increasingly important role in the software industry, and it is thus important to understand them.

Okoli, Chitu, and Kevin Carillo. 2005. Intellectual Property Rights in Open Source Software Communities. In Encyclopedia of Virtual Communities and Technologies, ed. Subhasish Dasgupta, 285-290. Hershey, USA: Idea Group Reference.

 Open source software (OSS) communities are an important type of virtual community. Their very existence can be attributed to the development of various software licenses that guaranteed the free (open source) status of the software products whose creation serves as a focus for these communities. This article takes a historical perspective to tracing the evolution of OSS licenses, and the characteristics of OSS communities that have arisen as a result. The GNU General Public License was the first open source license, spawning communities with strong beliefs about software being free for sharing. However, less restrictive licenses arose that permitted profit-oriented enterprises and their employees to participate in the open source movement while retaining their proprietary options. Based on the OSS license, new licenses have recently appeared that have enabled open source virtual communities based on free sharing of text materials, beyond software.

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