Models of FOSS Collaboration

In these notes we exam different models of collaboration in open source projects.

We are particularly interested in how the content that is shared -- be it encyclopedia knowledge (Wikipedia) or source code (Linux) -- is controlled.

There are many different models possible, ranging from very democratic models (Wikipedia) to what are called benevolent dictatorships (Linux) and many forms of hybrid models in between (Drupal, Sahana).

Contents

Wikipedia: Direct Democracy

  • Anonymous users can edit Wikipedia entries.
  • Traditional Encyclopedia: Hierarchy of publisher, editors, authors.
  • Wikipedia: Anyone can write, edit, publish.
  • Neutral point-of-view and good faith guide user's contributions.
  • Jimmy Wales, as a kind of constitutional monarch, has final say.
  • Bureaucrats, stewards, developers, administrators have responsibilities (rather than rights) and help manage the site.
  • Wales and the Wikipedia board of directors have authority to mediate editorial disputes, remove abusive and uncooperative users.

Linux: Benevolent Dictatorship

  • A single individual decides what code goes into the Linux codebase.
  • Traditional Software Development: a) Plan, b) Analyze, c) Design, d) Implement.
  • FOSS Development: a) Code; b) Review; c) Pre-commit test; d) Development release; e) Parallel debugging; f) Production release.
  • Originally, only Linus Torvald, the project's founder, had authority to commit code to the main Linux repository.
  • The Linux Development Team: http://www.kernel.org/faq/#account

Sahana: Core Development Team

Drupal, Content Management System: A Team of Maintainers

  • Drupal is code that enables a non-programmer to create and maintain various kinds of Web sites.
  • What is a content management system: http://drupal.org/about
  • Drupal's Development Model: http://drupal.org/contribute
  • Distinguish between: Drupal Software vs. Content on a Drupal-supported Website
  • Example: Whitehouse.gov is a Drupal-managed web site.