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Chitu Okoli

Posted on Jun 25, 2010 in Research summaries

Feller et al 2008: From Peer Production to Productization: A Study of Socially Enabled Business Exchanges in Open Source Service Networks

Joseph Feller, Patrick Finnegan, Brian Fitzgerald, and Jeremy Hayes 2008. From Peer Production to Productization: A Study of Socially Enabled Business Exchanges in Open Source Service Networks. Information Systems Research (19:4), December 2008, pp. 475-493.

I read this paper because of my interest in theoretical perspectives on open source software.

  • Context and theory: Open Source Service Network (OSSN): "A network of firms that collaborate in order to service customer software needs based on open source solutions." This is a new form of collaboration among open source providers, that shows a high degree of interorganizational governance. OSSNs here are explicit, formal groupings, distinct from third party OSS directories and portals, distinct from OSS and FS foundations to support specific products, and distinct from proprietary software service provider networks. The theoretical background comes from research on interorganizational networks, with a focus on constructs that indicate network effectivenes and social mechanisms for coordinating and safeguarding exchanges.
  • Research question: What social mechanisms contribute to network effectiveness in OSSNs? The model tests the effects of social mechanisms (restricted access, macroculture, collective sactions and reputation) in overcoming exchange problems (that is, coordinating and safeguarding exchanges), which they theorize to enable network effectiveness (conceptualized as the access to and transfer of strategic resources).
  • Methods: This study carried out a three-phase approach:
  1. They used theory on interorganizational networks to develop the model (described in the research question above).

  2. They conducted qualitative interviews and workshops on one OSSN to refine the proposed relationships between factors.

  3. They conducted a quantitative survey on three other OSSNs (71 usable responses) to validate the relationships.

  • Results: Facilitating the coordinating and safeguarding of exchanges does indeed enable access to, and transfer of, strategic resources. A shared macroculture and collective sanctions facilitates the coordination of exchanges; collective sanctions facilitates the safeguarding of exchanges.

  • Implications:

    • For practice: (1) The membership of exchnages must be carefully managed. (2) Social mechanisms are effective only if members' actions are visible to all other members. (3) Active participation in OSS projects enables the acquisition of the requisite competencies to participate in OSSNs.
    • For research: (1) The multimethod approach was effective in answering the research questions. (2) Research needs to focus more on the role of social and informal mechanisms in facilitating the success of OSS and other peer production communities. (3) Research on interorganizational business networks should look more at the social mechanisms in play.

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