Homework Assignment – Open Source & Peer Production – 439338

Open source projects are becoming a significant economic phenomenon, defined as “internet-based communities of software developers who voluntarily collaborate to develop software that they or their organisations need” (von Hippel & von Krogh, 2003; pp.209). My homework assignment focuses on the three key readings whilst also exploring two case studies and future applications of open source development.

von Hippel & von Krogh’s (2003) text provides a useful introduction to open source development and proposes three models which aid in the understanding of contributor motivation. The private-investment model explains the traditional format of innovation, whereby an organisation provides extrinsic incentives for individuals to produce intellectual property which is protected by the parent organisation. The collective-action model notes that individuals are motivated to contribute to community innovation developments – often creating public goods – when the market fails to provide an adequate product or solution for a need. Neither models, however, explain open source software and thus, the private-collective model is proposed. This model notes that individuals gain intrinsic benefits from contributing, such as learning, enjoyment and improved carrer prospects (for more information see Purohit, 2014).

The second paper, by Zhang & Zhu (2010), focuses on an empirical study of Chinese Wikipedia. Traditional literature (e.g. Olson, 1965; Hardin, 1971) states that as group size increases the relative importance of an individuals contribution, and thus altruism, decreases which leads to free-riding behaviour. Free-riding is where a user extracts benefits from open source development, but does not directly contribute towards the project and is a major concern of peer production projects. Subsequently, many hypothesise that free-riding is more likely to occur in large groups. Zhang & Zhu, however, noted that the contributions of non-blocked users during enforced bans in China declined by 42%. These findings are attributed due to a decline in the social benefits received from contributing when the community size is reduced, thus dominating free-riding effects.

An Interview with MySQL CEO Marten Mickos delves in to the managerial implication of open source development. Mickos states the importance of building a culture of innovation within an organisation and sourcing innovation from as many sources as possible.

For my additional reading, I researched the importance of social ties in OSS. Mallapragada, Grewa and Lilien (2012) state that by increasing a users embeddeddness (volume of input) and brokerage (novelty of input) product development time is cut by 51%. The theory is illustrated in the below model:

Mallapragada, Grewa and Lilien (2012)

Mallapragada, Grewa and Lilien (2012)

Using the case of Firefox, I investigated the security risks and benefits of OSS. Whilst having transparent code can make developers more vulnerable to breaches, it is found that the increased flexibility of OSS communities allows for more agile responses (Barth et al, 2011). I also drew upon the case of Fetchmail email client to illustrate that OSS adds value to all stages of the project life-cycle as users were able to quickly and thoroughly test new developments, leading to agile release.

Finally, I explored the hypothetical application of OSS in Greece, whereby the benefits of low cost sourcing of expert producers could provide economic relief to the country (Papadopolous et al., 2013)


Barth, A., Li, S., Rubinstein, B., & Song, D. (2015). How Open Should Open Source Be?. Eprint Arxiv:1109.0507, 1-19. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.0507

Hardin, R. (1971). Collective Action As An Aggregate N-prisoner’s Dilemma. Syst. Res., 16(5), 472-481. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bs.3830160507

Mallapragada, G., Grewal, R., & Lilien, G. (2012). User-Generated Open Source Products: Founder’s Social Capital and Time to Product Release. Marketing Science, 31(3), 474-492. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mksc.1110.0690

Mickos, M. (2008). The Oh-So-Practical Magic Of Open-Source Innovation. MIT Sloan Management Review, 15-19.

Olson, M. (1965). Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Papadopoulos, T., Stamati, T., Nikolaidou, M., & Anagnostopoulos, D. (2013). From Open Source to Open Innovation practices: A case in the Greek context in light of the debt crisis. Technological Forecasting And Social Change, 80(6), 1232-1246. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2012.10.030

Purohit, S. (2014). #Hackademics: How Hacker Culture Is Changing Recruitment. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 October 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/siya-raj-purohit/hackathons-hackademics-how-hacker-culture_b_4591539.html

von Hippel, E., & von Krogh, G. (2003). Open Source Software and the ‘Private-Collective’ Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science. SSRN Electronic Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1410789

Zhang, X., & Zhu, F. (2011). Group Size and Incentives to Contribute: A Natural Experiment at Chinese Wikipedia. American Economic Review, 101(4), 1601-1615. http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.101.4.1601


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