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Chitu Okoli chitu.okoli.org

Posted on Jul 30, 2010 in Research summaries

Stewart and Gosain 2006: The impact of ideology on effectiveness in open source software development teams

Stewart, K. and Gosain, S. The impact of ideology on effectiveness in open source software development teams. MIS Quarterly 30, 2 (2006), 291-314.

I read this paper for a theory-based perspective on the open source software (OSS) phenomenon.

  • Rationale: There has been considerable research on the motivations and outputs of OSS processes. One underlying characteristics of the OSS phenomenon is that it is largely driven by particular ideological perspectives. This research investigates if adherence to classical OSS ideology has positive effects on the outcomes of the software development process.
  • Objectives: This research investigates if adherence to classical OSS ideology has positive effects on the outcomes of the software development process.
  • Key questions: What are the effects of OSS ideology (norms, beliefs and values) on affective and cognitive trust and on communication quality? What are the effects of trust on team inputs (size and effort)? What is the effect of communication quality and team inputs on task completion?
  • Theoretical background: Ideology has three aspects: norms (expectations of others' behaviours), beliefs (causal statements considered to be true), and values (preferences of behaviours or outcomes) (Trice and Beyer 1993). There are two kinds of trust: affective trust (based more on emotion) and cognitive trust (based more on rational considerations) (McAllister 1995).
  • Methodology: Quantitative positivist surveys: An open-ended survey of Sourceforge project administrators was used to formulate the items in the constructs; the main survey was administered on a larger set of administrators. The constructs were refined using factor analysis, and the model was tested using PLS.
  • Data sources if any: Sourceforge project administrators in the communications and multimedia project categories.
  • Key findings: Affective trust was positively related to team size and effort; cognitive trust was not. Various aspects of OSS ideology were indeed positively related to both cognitive and affective trust. However, freedom beliefs were negatively related to cognitive trust. Team effort and communication quality was positively related to task completion, but team size was not. Collaborative OSS values were positively related to communication quality.
  • Key contribution to knowledge: OSS ideology does increase trust, which in turn increases team size and effort. However, freedom beliefs were found to negatively impact cognitive trust. Team size did not impact task completion. (However, I think this finding might be because what is relevant is the size of the core, and the amount of effort they put in, rather than the total number of registered developers).
  • Key implications: Consensus-building ideological factors, such as collaborative values and refraining from forking might strengthen the group, yet not yield positive outcomes in task completion. Corporations that employ OSS might want to ensure that developers indeed incorporate OSS ideology in order to be effective in that environment.

References

McAllister, DJ Affect- and cognition-based trust as foundations for interpersonal cooperation in organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 1 (1995), 24-59.

Trice, HM and Beyer, JM (1993), The Cultures of Work Organizations, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

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