The Entrainment of Task Allocation and Release Cycles in Open Source Software Development

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Publication History

Received: March 25, 2020
Revised: June 30, 2021; June 30, 2022; March 15, 2023
Accepted: May 13, 2023
Published Online in Issue: March 1, 2024

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In this study we identify a process of “entrainment” around open source software (OSS) development release cycles to capture patterns of self-organized task allocation among developers. We conducted an abductive, computationally intensive study of eight OSS projects, using relational event modeling to analyze 1,169,489 actions covering 93 major software releases. The process of entrainment that we identify involves three task allocation mechanisms: (1) developer-issue inertia, (2) developer contribution frequency, and (3) issue popularity. Our analysis demonstrates that these mechanisms and the phases of the release cycle entrain each other. Before a major release, developers engage in a concentrated mobilization phase, whereby they democratize development activity and increasingly allocate community contributions to the set of issues related to the release. After a major release, the extended cleanup phase garners a greater share of development work from recently highly active developers and dilutes the activity of these developers across a wider range of issues. Our theorizing suggests that major releases constitute important events around which OSS communities self-organize and we characterize how this occurs. Our research contributes to theorizing on organizing in OSS communities by explaining how self-organizing task allocation interacts with release cycles through the mechanism of entrainment. We also contribute to the literature on entrainment by showing how it may unfold in the context of online peer production communities such as OSS.

Additional Details
Author Aron Lindberg, Aaron Schecter, Nicholas Berente, Phil Hennel, and Kalle Lyytinen
Year 2024
Volume 48
Issue 1
Keywords Open source software, release cycles, self-organization, entrainment, task allocation
Page Numbers 67-94
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