Jill Coffin: Analysis of open source principles in diverse collaborative communities

June 30th, 2006 by Ross Scaife

From Infobits:

The June 2006 issue of FIRST MONDAY features selected papers from “FM10 Openness: Code, Science, and Content,” a conference held in May and sponsored by First Monday journal, the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library, and the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT). The theme of the conference was open access (in journals, communities, and science) and open source. Links to the online papers, along with citations to those not available online, are available at http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_6/.

The paper by Jill Coffin caught my eye for its useful list of characteristics.

This paper applies traits common to successful free software and open source hacker communities as a framework to analyze three non–hacker collaborative communities. These traits were distilled from my analysis of various open source communities including the Linux, Debian and Mozilla communities. While this framework may not tell the complete story of these communities, the analysis yields observations relevant to the design of collaborative systems. The framework consists of the following characteristics of successful free software/open source communities:

  • open and widespread membership based upon participation
  • geographically distributed, asynchronous, networked collaboration
  • project transparency, particularly open, recorded dialog and peer review of project materials,
  • discussion and decisions
  • a compelling foundational artifact to organize participation and build upon
  • collaborative, iteratively clarified, living documents and project artifacts
  • a mechanism for institutional history
  • a community–wide sense of project ownership
  • a hybrid political system based upon meritocracy
  • a trusted benevolent dictator, typically the project founder
  • foundational developers and early adopters who, along with the benevolent dictator, set project ethos
  • consensus as a decision–making tool
  • upholding the right to fork.

Leave a Reply