Knowledge and resource sharing in free and open source software community environments

Schofield, AJ 2010, Knowledge and resource sharing in free and open source software community environments , PhD thesis, Salford : University of Salford.

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This thesis describes a research study which investigated on-line communities based around Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) support and development. Specifically, the study examined how knowledge and resources are shared within these communities. Emphasis was placed on the issues of organisation and governance of these communities, collaboration, and the motivation of the participants involved. The research was carried out from an interpretive philosophical perspective and was therefore exploratory in nature, focusing on the perspectives of FOSS community participants. Following an in-depth literature review on the topics of FOSS and Knowledge Management, a multi-method approach was employed using three data collection techniques; an on-line questionnaire targeting participants in FOSS interest groups and communities, interviews with community participants and observation of two FOSS communities. The results of the research have revealed interesting findings relating to the social, managerial and technological mechanisms which facilitate knowledge transfer and creation in FOSS communities, and the important role that leadership styles, participant motivations, organisational structures and cultures, degrees of formality, relationships between participants and the use of information technology have to play in the success or failure of FOSS projects and communities. The research has shown that extremely strict or relaxed forms of leadership are likely to cause problems in a project and community, that a wide array of motivational factors drive participants, that many and varied forms of organisational structure and cultures exist, often influenced by leadership styles, that levels of formality in a community can have significant effects on knowledge sharing and collaboration, that social interaction acts as a foundation for FOSS activities but has little significance beyond that, and that to a certain extent, disagreements and arguments between participants and even project forking can be beneficial to a FOSS project and community. A generic finding was that FOSS communities vary considerably, based on the factors described above. This research therefore goes some way towards creating a generic model of FOSS communities and projects and specifies a number of 'recipes' for project and/or community success.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Cooper, GS (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Computing, Science and Engineering
Depositing User: Institutional Repository
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2012 13:34
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 11:24

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