Implicit coordination in open development environments

Project Details

  • Project Overview
    This project studies how implicit coordination is occurring in modern software development projects and its effect on software productivity and quality. Previous studies on coordination in OSS projects have studied explicit communication. However research has also theorized on the existence of coordination without direct communication or implicit coordination in OSS projects, suggesting that it contributes to their success. Nevertheless, due to the intangible nature of implicit coordination, no studies have confirmed these theories. The project investigates how implicit coordination can now be measured in modern collaborative development environments and its effect of software productivity and software quality.
  • SEGAL Members Involved
    Kelly Blincoe, Daniela Damian

Project Description

We conducted a case study of a popular OSS GitHub-hosted project, Rails. In a mixed-method research approach, we surveyed 986 developers, interviewed 14 developers and conducted a repository analysis. We investigated two GitHub features that support implicit coordination —issue subscriptions and following relationships. The findings from our study indicate that both of these features are widely adopted by OSS users. There are various reasons why users choose to use these features. The main reason for subscribing to issues is to obtain information on dependencies, a form of implicit coordination. Survey respondents believed that subscribing to issues reduced their direct communication. However, many of our interviewees and survey respondents indicated that notifications from following others introduced too much noise and, therefore, were not useful. Our future work will include studies of implicit coordination in other modern development environments like SourceForge, Jazz or Bitbucket. These studies will allow us to develop a more general understanding of implicit coordination and the features that support it.

Kelly Blincoe and Daniela Damian. Implicit Coordination Supported by GitHub: A Case Study of the Rails OSS Project. In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Open Source Systems (OSS ’15), Florence, Italy, 2015.

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