Understanding the Motivations, Participation, and Performance of Open Source Software Developers: A Longitudinal Study of the Apache Projects

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1060.0554

Understanding what motivates participation is a central theme in the research on open source software (OSS) development. Our study contributes by revealing how the different motivations of OSS developers are interrelated, how these motivations influence participation leading to performance, and how past performance influences subsequent motivations. Drawing on theories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we develop a theoretical model relating the motivations, participation, and performance of OSS developers. We evaluate our model using survey and archival data collected from a longitudinal field study of software developers in the Apache projects. Our results reveal several important findings. First, we find that developers’ motivations are not independent but rather are related in complex ways. Being paid to contribute to Apache projects is positively related to developers’ status motivations but negatively related to their use-value motivations. Perhaps surprisingly, we find no evidence of diminished intrinsic motivation in the presence of extrinsic motivations; rather, status motivations enhance intrinsic motivations. Second, we find that different motivations have an impact on participation in different ways. Developers’ paid participation and status motivations lead to above-average contribution levels, but use-value motivations lead to below-average contribution levels, and intrinsic motivations do not significantly impact average contribution levels. Third, we find that developers’ contribution levels positively impact their performance rankings. Finally, our results suggest that past-performance rankings enhance developers’ subsequent status motivations.

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