User Contribution and Desirable Software


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Presentation of theory construction using the soft systems methodology approach to examine why open source software development projects require user participation to produce desirable software.

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User Contribution and Desirable Software

  1. 1. User Contribution to Software Desirability Andrea Wiggins 18 April, 2008 IST 800 - Theory Construction
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Adaptation of soft systems methodology approach </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The research question </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inputs : Outputs :: User participation : (more) Desirable software </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Iteratively developed models </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A little bit of theorizing </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Problem Statement <ul><li>Many FLOSS projects rely on voluntary user contributions </li></ul><ul><li>There are several qualitatively different types of contributions </li></ul><ul><li>Want to understand the relationship between user participation and desirability of software </li></ul>
  4. 4. Research Question <ul><li>“ Why is ongoing user participation required for open source software development projects to create desirable software?” </li></ul><ul><li>Key variables: user participation, desirability of the software. </li></ul><ul><li>Relationship: User participation on an ongoing basis is a necessary condition to developing desirable FLOSS software </li></ul><ul><li>Population of study is FLOSS projects: virtual teams in which users participate in software development and signal its desirability through their participation. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Clarifying RQ Concepts <ul><li>User participation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ongoing means continued involvement of users, not necessarily of the same users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sustained participation by individuals can also be evaluated, and should be beneficial </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Desirability of software </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Downloads: motivation is not important </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct contributions to development </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Finding Out - Rich Pictures
  7. 7. Finding Out - Process Model
  8. 8. Brainstorming: Initial Overview Models
  9. 9. Brainstorming: Activities by Actors <ul><li>Many interrelated types of user contributions </li></ul><ul><li>Developers are users too </li></ul><ul><li>Not all users participate in the same ways </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple user “types” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Inputs - Outputs <ul><li>Thought about ways that users contribute to FLOSS projects </li></ul><ul><li>Some interactions are indirect, all can be observed in some way </li></ul><ul><li>The contributions vary in potential value to the project, but all types are needed </li></ul><ul><li>Download software - initially and repeatedly </li></ul><ul><li>Subscription to lists </li></ul><ul><li>Post to lists, forums </li></ul><ul><li>Make feature requests </li></ul><ul><li>Submit bug reports </li></ul><ul><li>Submit patches </li></ul><ul><li>Join project team </li></ul>
  11. 11. Abstracting Types of Participation <ul><li>Inheritance from “lower” categories </li></ul><ul><li>Passive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>downloading, subscribing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Active </li></ul><ul><ul><li>posting, requesting, bug reporting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Engaged </li></ul><ul><ul><li>patch submission, join project team </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Passive Participation
  13. 13. Active Participation
  14. 14. Engaged Participation
  15. 15. Compare to Reality <ul><li>Feedback from FLOSS experts: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Model can be improved by indicating how process steps are observed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Abstracted processes good, but YMMV </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider role of time in processes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>SSM is made for optimizing very specific grounded processes, but theory construction requires abstraction… </li></ul>
  16. 16. Refined (Abstract) Model
  17. 17. Observations from Models <ul><li>In many FLOSS projects, users contribute critical functions to the support of software development </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Users find the software desirable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence from downloading, user participation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Users support ongoing development through participation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Most participation is aimed at influencing the software development </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Role of Infrastructure <ul><li>Duality of project infrastructure: enables dialog between users and project team, which becomes infrastructure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Infrastructure or technology? </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. theory from Models <ul><li>In many FLOSS projects, infrastructural duality both provides mechanisms for participation and dialog among users, and captures these resources as further infrastructure. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of this infrastructure, users can contribute critical functions that support software development. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Future Work <ul><li>Engage questions about why specific mechanisms for user contributions to FLOSS are effective & widely adopted </li></ul><ul><li>Compare models to case studies & archive data to identify other user contribution process variations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Numerous case studies available, as this is the primary research method for FLOSS </li></ul></ul>