Cave or community? An empirical examination of 100 mature open source projects (originally published in Volume 7, Number 6, June 2002)

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.

Full Text:



A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2017. ISSN 1396-0466.