Publication of Research on Company Contributions to OSS Projects

IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering has published an article on company contributions to community open source projects authored by partners in the LIM-IT project.

"On Company Contributions to Community OSS Projects" reports an investigation of how practitioners working for businesses interact with eight community OSS projects of various sizes in diverse domains, including cloud computing and the internet of things. The article also investigates why contributors working for companies use particular ways of working to achieve the strategic aims of the businesses that commission their work.

Through analysis of interviews with practitioners, the article provides insights into how individuals working on behalf of companies can and do interact with projects, and the motivations for their actions arising from business and technical pressures. Factors influencing contributor work practices can be complex and are often dynamic and include considerations such as company and project structure, as well as technical concerns and business strategies.

For example, interviewees reported the value of using mailing list questions to send signals to multiple audiences, including the core developers and their own clients. Other interviewees described the challenges of delivering business products and services that depend on software from the OSS projects investigated, and how those challenges can motivate approaches to the company's software development process that may involve additional work in the short term, but are expected to bring long-term benefits to the business.

The article also describes the motivations of some businesses that contribute to OSS projects in ways that intended to support the project itself rather than just making technical contributions such as implementing new features and fixing bugs. In most such cases, interviewees reported that the OSS project was a significant component of a company product, and, in a few cases, critical to the business. Company contributions aimed at sustaining the OSS project, often made through core developers employed by the business, included nurturing new contributors and improving software quality, and have the benefit of supporting the long term aims of the business.

The article is published as open access.

The LIM-IT Project
The LIM-IT project is a collaborative research project between eight Swedish companies and the Software Systems Research Group at the University of Skövde. The project is financially supported by the Swedish Knowledge Foundation. The overarching goal of LIM-IT is to develop, use, and scrutinise effective work practices and strategies for the development, procurement, and organisational implementation of software systems in a number of complex application domains, where such software systems with associated digital assets typically involve several open source projects (as well as proprietary software).


Submitted by,
Simon Butler, School of Informatics, University of Skövde, Sweden
Björn Lundell, Software Systems Research Group, University of Skövde, Sweden & OSI Affiliate Member, Open Source Sweden

Image credit: "PubCompanyContribsOSSP.png" is a derivative of "BUSINESS_cubestalk.png", via OpenSource.com, and used with permission under a Creative Commons with Attribution (CC-BY-SA) license.