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Modeling Distributed Collaboration on GitHub

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Advances in Complex Systems, Volume Accepted (2014)


In this paper we apply concepts from Distributed Leadership, a theory that suggests leadership is shared among members of an organization, to help frame different models of contribution we uncover in five relatively successful OSS projects hosted on GitHub. In this qualitative, comparative case study, we show how these projects make use of GitHub features such as pull requests to burnish success. We find that projects where member pull requests are more frequently merged into the project experience more sustained participation. We also find that projects with higher success rates among contributors and higher contributor retention tend to have more distributed (non-centralized) practices for reviewing and processing pull requests. The relationships between organization form and GitHub practices are made both visible and possible as a result of GitHub’s novel interface. Our results demonstrate specific dimensions along which these projects differ and explicates a framework that warrants testing in future studies of open source software, particularly GitHub.