Cave or Community? An Empirical Examination of 100 Mature Open Source Projects

Sandeep Krishnamurthy


Starting with Eric Raymond's groundbreaking work, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", open-source software (OSS) has commonly been regarded as work produced by a community of developers. Yet, given the nature of software programs, one also hears of developers with no lives that work very hard to achieve great product results. In this paper, I sought empirical evidence that would help us understand which is more common - the cave (i.e., lone producer) or the community. Based on a study of the top 100 mature products on Sourceforge, I find a few surprising things. First, most OSS programs are developed by individuals, rather than communities. The median number of developers in the 100 projects I looked at was 4 and the mode was 1 - numbers much lower than previous numbers reported for highly successful projects! Second, most OSS programs do not generate a lot of discussion. Third, products with more developers tend to be viewed and downloaded more often. Fourth, the number of developers associated with a project was positively correlated to the age of the project. Fifth, the larger the project, the smaller the percent of project administrators.

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