Homework Assignment: Peer Production and Open Source


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The first article is an interview conducted by Josh Hyatt (2008) for the MIT Sloan Management Review. The interviewee, Marten Mickos, is chief of MySQL. MySQL is the most popular open source database with a community consisting of 12 million coders who receive no compensation. In this interview, Josh Hyatt aims to discover how open sourcing can generate incredible innovation; what motivates innovators; what drives contributors; and why the number of companies making their source code available to everyone is growing. This article seemed relevant to me for companies as it gives great insights into the “secrets” of companies doing so well in open-source innovation. However, I would have preferred more information on why Mickos believes more companies are engaging in open-source innovation.

The second article, by von Hippel and von Krogh (2003), distinguishes two models of innovation: the private investment-model and collective action-model. In this article, the author advocates that open sourcing is part of a private collective-model, as it has inherits aspects of both models. Their reasoning behind this is that contributors use their own resources to privately invest in creating a software code and then choose to freely release it as a public good. I found this article interesting as it gave a different perspective to open sourcing. I do think it might be slightly outdated, as it has been published 12 years ago. Since then, I believe open sourcing has shifted more and more towards the collective action-model. Open sourcing nowadays includes communities of over 12 million coders; hence I believe there is less focus on private interaction.

The third article, written by Zhang, M. and Zhu, F. (2011), studies how incentives to contribute to an open-source network change with group size. In October 2005, Chinese Wikipedia experienced an exogenous disturbance, namely that the website was blocked to all users and contributors on mainland China. As a result, contribution levels of non‑blocked contributors shrunk by 42.8 per cent. Zhang and Zhu found that contributors receive social benefits from contributing, and that a smaller group size reduces these social benefits.I found that this article gave some interesting insights into how group size has such a major impact on perceived social benefits. It emphasizes that many contributors would rather contribute to a large online community. This article can be relevant to any company, as it would urge them to focus on increasing their community base prior to initiating an open-source database and to continue growing after this point.

To gain more knowledge about why more and more companies are engaging in open sourcing, I searched for an additional article.

In an article by Baldwin (2014), four reasons are discussed why businesses say yes to open sourcing. The first reason is that open sourcing reduces costs. The second reason is that it improves quality. If the source code is flawed, the developer community will quickly identify and erase the flaw. The high quality comes from a large community continuously contributing, testing and reviewing the product. Thirdly, open source delivers business agility. As open sourcing facilitates fast software developments, companies can react to demand on the market place quickly. They are not waiting for vendors to make the changes they want, which would slow down the development process. Finally, open sourcing reduces business risk, as companies are not dependent on one or few vendors. I found this article very helpful if you are new to open sourcing and want to get an idea of its advantages. I did have some critique with regard to quality and risk. Companies will never be able to guarantee whether the community consists of merely professionals and hence if quality can be maintained. At the same time, the company could increase its business risk, as it cannot ensure quality is maintained. If quality is below standards, the company has no right to sue anyone.

References

Zhang, M. and Zhu, F. 2011. Group size and incentives to contribute: A natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia. American Economic Review 101(4) 1601-1615.

Baldwin, H. 2014. 4 reasons companies say yes to open source. Available: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2486991/app-development-4-reasons-companies-say-yes-to-open-source.html?page=4.

Hyatt, J. 2008. The oh-so-practical magic of open-source innovation. MITSloan Management Review 50(1) 15-19.

von Hippel, E., and von Krogh, G. 2003. Open source software and the“private-collective” innovation model: Issues for organization science

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