Resilience in the Open Source Software Community: How Pandemic and Unemployment Shocks Influence Contributions to Others’ and One’s Own Projects

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Publication History

Received: November 30, 2020
Revised: June 30, 2021; January 13, 2022; April 27, 2022
Accepted: June 30, 2022
Published Online as Articles in Advance: February 28, 2023
Published Online in Issue: March 1, 2023

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Contributions by individual open source software (OSS) community members are the lifeblood of the OSS projects that power today’s digital economy and are important for the very survival of such communities. Individual contributions by OSS community members to others’ projects and their own determine whether OSS communities are resilient in the face of major shocks. Arguably, if crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic prompt users to reduce their contributions to others’ projects relative to the contributions to their own projects, such behavior can have implications for the overall resilience of the OSS community. Therefore, whether and how individuals change their contributions in the face of a crisis is an important question. We examine whether members in an OSS community increased or decreased their contributions to others’ projects relative to their own in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sudden and unexpected global health-related shock that has affected almost everyone. We also compare and contrast this behavior when the OSS community faced increasing unemployment, an economic cyclic shock that is arguably and relatively more personal. Drawing on the concept of prosocial behavior and conservation of resources (COR) theory, we hypothesize that the pandemic increased OSS community members’ contributions to others’ projects relative to their own; on the other hand, the threat of rising unemployment decreased OSS community members’ contributions to others’ projects relative to their own. Our empirical analyses of a longitudinal dataset of over 18,000 OSS community members on GitHub, with more than 1.4 million member-day observations, support our hypotheses. This study contributes by uncovering the differential effects of exogenous health-related and economic shocks on the resilience of the OSS community. We conclude with a discussion of our findings’ implications for OSS community resilience.

Additional Details
Author Onkar S. Malgonde, Terence J.V. Saldanha, and Sunil Mithas
Year 2023
Volume 47
Issue 1
Keywords Open source software community, IT knowledge workers, IT professionals, digital resilience, open source software, pandemic, unemployment, exogenous shock
Page Numbers 361-390
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