Tuesday, February 21, 2012

OpenEd Researcher Badge #1 - Open Source

This entry is the second of three content entries for the Open Ed Researcher badge. The articles and other resources linked herein are related to the use of open source software, particularly in the higher ed community. I also have an interest in researching the design and management of open source projects. A final interest that I have in this area is the motivation that drive the volunteer participants in the open source community.

Peer Reviewed Article #1
Higher education sub-cultures and open source adoption. The first peer-reviewed article that I have linked is found in the journal Computers & Education.  This article is behind a pay-wall so I recommend that you consider access through your University library if you do not want to pay the $24.95 purchase price.  The citation (APA format) is:
van Rooij, S. (2011). Higher education sub-cultures and open source adoption. Computers & Education57(1), 1171-1183.
The article reports the second survey of academic institutions in the United States regarding the use of open source software (OSS) in their institution.  The first survey covering this topic was conducted in 2006.  This second, nearly identical survey, was conducted in 2009.  The authors purpose was to evaluate the awareness and  adoption of open source software at institutions of higher education, particularly among two major sub-cultures on campus: the academic sub-culture, and the technologist sub-culture.  The author posits that the adoption of new teaching and learning technologies on campus are the result of a consensus of these two sub-cultures.

The academic sub-culture is represented in the survey by Chief Academic Officers (CAO), or the equivalent role, at the institutions that were identified through research by the author.  The technologist sub-culture was represented by the Chief Information Officrs (CIO), or the equivalent role, at these same institutions.

The author notes that in the original survey (2006) there was limited familiarity by the CAO group concerning the availability and use of OSS.  There was wider familiarity and move to adopt by the CIO group.  While the CIO group was aware of OSS for academic use, they were also familiar with OSS that they were using for other purposes in their institutions (operating systems, web servers).  In the literature review, the author quotes prior research that finds:
The impact of culture and sub-cultures on technology adoption has been richly explored. In their review of the literature on information technology and culture, Leidner and Kayworth (2006) conclude that cultural values play a role in determing patterns of technology development, adoption, usage, and outcomes. The occupational sub-culture of technologists must be perceived as possessing the knowledge necessary to deploy and maintain a new technology.
For the academic sub-culture, the ability to capitalize on the maximum learning affordances offered by various technologies based on solid pedagogy as well as on awareness of available technologies (Dabbagh & Bannan- Ritland, 2005) is a key input to adoption. The different and sometimes competing perspectives of the technologist and academic sub-cultures have only begun to be explored. For example, Smith (2006) examines the impact of the faculty sub-culture on the adoption of technology in the classroom of a large mid-Western public university. Drawing on Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory (1995), Smith notes that the academic sub-culture, of which the faculty is a part, tends to support a conservative diffusion of technology unless it is essential to the content of the course or it is supported financially by the administration.
The authors primary interest is in the knowledge and adoption of OSS that is used for managing learning of campus (LMS).  One of the interesting findings if the survey is that the awareness of such OSS LMS systems among the CAO group increased substantially in the three years between surveys.  Along with this awareness, the survey noted an alignment of values within these two sub-cultures related to the adoption and use of OSS LMS on campus.

There are two other issues that the author attempted to address related to the adoption of OSS LMS.  The first is a hypothesis that the change in the economic situation between the two surveys my have changed the priority and awareness in the CAO community.  The author writes that the economic situation appears to have elevated efficiency and LMS cost concerns above some of the more stringent pedagogical and faculty motivation concerns that weighed more heavily in their thinking in the 2006 survey.  This economic concern matched the level of that in the CIO group in the first and second survey as far as priority.

One of the greatest economic concerns within both sub-cultures was the cost of commercial LMS installations (Blackboard, etc.) and the risks involved with the transition away from these proprietary LMS environments to the OSS LMS environment.  The concerns arise largely from the lack of a formal support structure for the OSS LMS and the unknown experience of others who have attempted that transition.  But there are increasingly visible successful transitions that are now being published in the literature that are breeding greater confidence in the decision to adopt an OSS LMS in response to economic conditions.  

The second issue the author addresses is how the use of OSS aligns with institutional strategies for the use of technology on campus.  The 2006 survey of the CIO sub-group showed an amazing lack of institutional policy related to technology on campus in those institutions surveyed in 2006.  The second survey reveals how the implementation of regulations and rules governing security had changed the policy structures on campus related to technology in the three year interim.  The 2009 survey shows that institutional policies governing the use of technology by the academic sub-culture is still sorely lacking. perhaps indicating the lower importance placed on using technology by this academic sub-culture.  The table below shows the changes as reported by the CIO group.

% with
% w/o
% with
% w/o
Faculty use of technology

Ownership of intellectual property developed by faculty
Recognition/reward for use of technology part of faculty professional development
Recognition of use of technology part of faculty recruitment, retention, & tenure

Campus technology policies

Security of new technologies
Compliance w/ regulations (FERPA, etc.)
Evaluation of acquisition, implementation, and maintenance costs of new technologies
Adoption of new technologies

% with = percent of institutions with a policy defined for the topic
% w/o = percent of institutions without a policy defined for the topic

At the conclusion of the discussion section of his paper the author writes:
Adoption patterns and key drivers as reported by the CAOs and CIO indicate a shift from the strong dichotomy seen in the 2006 survey administration to some meeting of the minds in 2009. In 2006, CAO engagement with OSS lagged far behind that of CIOs, consistent with what the software engineering literature identified as the gap between the technologist who is the end-user of infrastructure-level software and the non-technologist who is the end-user of business or academic application-level software, and the need for mutual understanding between users and developers (Behlendorf, 1999; Courant & Griffiths, 2006; Evans, 2002; Glass, 2003).
Although CAO focus remains on technology in the service of pedagogy, the 2009 data indicate that CAOs are beginning to recognize total cost of ownership as a critical factor in OSS adoption decision-making. In the same vein, CIOs are beginning to recognize the importance of faculty satisfaction and support, along with technical efficiencies and cost effectiveness. Consequently, it could be argued that economics is the great equalizer and that the current economic climate has pushed cost of ownership into the minds of both academics and technologists (Green, 2009; Claffey, 2009).
In addition, there is now considerable evidence that OSS teaching and learning applications, particularly Moodle and Sakai, have evolved into sustainable communities that provide support mechanisms as well as technical expertise, reducing traditional barriers to widespread OSS adoption (Collins & Committee, 2009; McDonald, 2009). Consequently, the Mellon Foundation’s recent cessation of grant funding to Sakai and other OSS projects is not expected to be fatal to Sakai adoption (Parry, 2010).
Evidence of success is important to the academic sub-culture, particularly for faculty transitioning from commercial systems to OSS teaching and learning applications (Sclater, 2008), but also for non-technical support staff seeking to build their own best practices inventory. The academic sub-culture responds favorably to OSS for teaching and learning when, like any technological change, it is (a) evident, so that there is an awareness of OSS and of how OSS is being used, (b) easy to use, without having to choose from a host of features, functions, and complex user interfaces, and (c) essential, so that the what’s-in-it-for-me (WIFM) is clear, rather than being a mandate from above (Haymes, 2008).
I think this research and report are important factors to consider as we look at OSS in the higher education community.  My personal experience with the administration at my current University is that there is little knowledge or concern about the faculty mastering technology in general expectations so there is a wide variance in the use of, and support for, academically-related technology.  Some faculty love it and are very adept at using technology to better serve their students.  Others see it as an added nuisance that gets in the way of their "real" work.  This sub-culture in particular seems to hold great sway over the adoption of technology in general, let alone any conversation about using open source. 

Peer Reviewed Article #2
Intrinsic motivation in open source software development. The second peer-reviewed article that I have linked is found in the journal Journal of Comparative Economics.  Like the first article in this post, this article is also behind a pay-wall so I recommend that you consider access through your University library if you do not want to pay the $31.50 purchase price.  The citation (APA format) is:
Bitzer, J., Schrettl, W., Schroder, P. (2007). Intrinsic motivation in open source software development. Journal of Comparative Economics,35(1), 160-169.
This authors consider the motivations of those who contribute to OSS projects from the perspective of the academic study of economics.  The literature review indicates that this was a research topic of great interest in the early years of the last decade (2000 - 2007).  Many publications that the authors cite indicate that there is some type of signalling that occurs when a developer contributes to an OSS project.  Signalling is the economic term that is used to describe the motivation that someone has to send a message of some kind to a receiver in order to obtain a greater reward.  The most typical form of signalling is a job applicant informing a potential employer of educational attainment or prior employment successes and experience.  This information is not known to the employer without a signal from the candidate.  And the candidate is providing this signal in hopes of gaining some reward or satisfaction that is external to them (a job, higher salary, recognition from others, etc.)  This form of signalling was put forward by many researchers as a reason for the participation by some in the OSS community.

These authors were troubled by an indication that this did not always ring true, especially for those developers who initiated the projects that were created and made open source.  The authors indicate that most developers would seek some type of economic benefit from their software, or at least keep it private so that others could not exploit the benefit.  But the community is filled with projects and developers willingly treating their projects as a public good (thousand of applications in development are currently listed at SourceForge.net).  As the authors point out, typically
in general, economics would predict that privately provided public goods suffer from problems of under-provision, delays in supply, and inferior quality.
But this is not the case with the product of OSS projects, particularly those that become well-known and established.  There are many extrinsic motivations that can come from participating in these projects that may include social recognition, association with particularly effective code, and even the reaching of some altruistic goal regrading freedom (i.e. Richard Stallman).

These authors argue that there are some intrinsic motivations that appear to be present in those who write software that solves a problem that they need to address and then freely share it, and those who become involved in those sharing projects forming an OSS community.  The authors write:

The paper departs from existing economic accounts of the OSS phenomena by arguing that traditional signaling payoffs cannot satisfactorily explain the involvement of hundreds of thousands of volunteer programmers in a veritable flood of humble and utterly invisible OSS projects and activities. In particular we argue that signaling – although it can have a role in explaining the involvement of programmers in mature and famous OSS projects – rarely features among the motives of those who start up OSS projects. Instead we rely on a set of predominantly intrinsic motives that have been discussed in the wider OSS literature: (a) user programmers that actually need a particular software solution, (b) the fun of play or mastering the challenge of a given software problem, i.e. homo ludens payoff, and (c) the desire of belonging to the gift society of active OSS programmers. In particular the latter two motives, though widely acknowledged in social the sciences in general, are often ignored in economics, yet carry important insights for the case at hand.
Our paper incorporates these three motives into a simple dynamic private provision-of-public-goods model. Given this set-up, the privately provided public good OSS becomes less of a puzzle. We are able to characterise the contributing individual and to determine the time of provision, generating results that compare well with empirical accounts of the OSS phenomenon. 
In contrast to the standard models of the private provision of public goods (e.g. Bliss and Nalebuff (1984) or Alesina and Drazen (1991)), but in line with results of Hendricks et al. (1988) and Bilodeau and Slivinski (1996), this model features no delay. Open source software is provided at ‘maximum’ speed. The individual who will actually provide the OSS is characterised as follows. Ceteris paribus the provider extracts a higher gain from using the software, obtains a larger gift benefit, has a longer time horizon (i.e. is a younger individual), has lower costs of development, and is equipped with a high value from play.
I will include in this post a link to the results of a survey published by Martine Aalbers in 2004 with some demographics regarding participants in OSS projects.  For those who read this paper you will see that the authors propose an economic model that can be used to predict who will participate and what will motivate that participation.  The use an equation to inform the understanding of these intrinsic motivations.  That may be of interest to you but I found that the greater interest (at least for me) was the discussion of motives.

Peer Reviewed Article #3
Investigating recognition-based performance in an open content community: A social capital perspectiveThe third peer-reviewed article that I have linked is found in the journal Information & Management.  Like the first two articles in this post, this article is also behind a pay-wall so I recommend that you consider access through your University library if you do not want to pay the $31.50 purchase price.  The citation (APA format) is:
Okoli, C. and Oh, W. (2007). Investigating recognition-based performance in an open content community: A social perspective. Information & Management,44(3), 240-252.

This article was referred to in an earlier post in this blog and I repeat much of that post here to fulfill the assignment for this badge, and also because it relates to my interest in the motivations of participants in teh community.  This article points out a form of signalling through the extrinsic motivation to secure social capital with others through their participation.

The article points out that those not familiar with the OSS community, and who are more familiar with the traditional economic models and motivations for financial and recognition aims are often puzzled by those who willingly participate in the OSS community.  The authors surveyed 465 active Wikipedia participants to assess their motivations using social capital theory for perspective.

Discussing the principles of motivation that appear to be prevalent in the literature the authors wrote:

One notable motivation is the participants’ desire to be recognized in their virtual community of open source participants. This occurs when a participant receives informal praise and acknowledgment from their fellows, and also by tangible tokens such as recognition in the open source communities by the granting of administrative, or “insider”, rights that permit high-quality contributors to add their changes directly with minimal prior review, and to have an important role in deciding the direction of the project. Thus the action is equivalent to promoting an employee to manager status in a traditional organization and thus is a recognition of achievements.
The literature further identifies incentives for participants in open source communities that included: 
  • pragmatic motivations to improve an application that they were using
  • social motivations to support the work of other volunteers
  • hedonic, or intrinsic motivations
As one considers the development of an effective open community effort, the article states that 

. . . since most are volunteers with individual motivations for participation. Aligning performance measures with motivations would be helpful to organizers and evaluators of OSS projects. According to the resource-based model of social structure sustainability, online social structures should provide members with positive benefits, such as the opportunity to be influential, to affiliate or champion, and the ability to disseminate ideas rapidly. While not absolutely necessary for participation, it is very important for open source participants to be recognized for their contributions; thus they gain status and respect in the community. To better encourage participation in open source projects, research is needed to understand the dynamics of recognition as an incentive, and how the attainment of this motivation serves as an indication of a participant's performance, in the sense that they have achieved a desired individual goal. (footnote links will take you to the footnote in the article)
I found the consideration of these motivations enlightening.  I also think that these descriptions could be applied to those creating content that they intend to publish as open resources.  That may be why the Creative Commons licenses all require attribution.  This allows the egalitarian goals of sharing to match with the motivational goals of recognition.

This article discusses two "types" of social capital: that which comes within a closed network (or network closure) and that which comes and that which comes from open or loosely-structured networks (or structural holes).  The "closed, dense or cohesive network view, such as [proposed by] Coleman and Walker et al., . . . argued that closure or density of social relations is the primary ingredient for the generation of social capital."

Counter to this view, proposed by Granovetter and Burt is

the structural hole view, assert that “true” social capital can be efficiently produced and maintained under open or loosely coupled networks, in which members can access the resources available in heterogeneous sub-networks. They have stated that loosely developed networks rich in structural holes allow the individuals to access and mobilize social resources and that bridges, structural holes or weaker ties are the building blocks necessary to construct or configure the network and thus produce “fresh” information while “social redundancies” are minimized. Thus the diversity and uniqueness of information become the crucial aspects of social capital, and they require a network rich in structural holes.
Both of these views have validity in the previous research.  The research in this study tried to assess which view was most effective at motivating participant performance.  Their findings showed that the network closure type of social capital (direct and indirect ties within the network) "had a significant positive effect on increasing participants’ recognition-based performance."  The structural holes type of social capital (loosely structured or more open networks) "had mixed effects on participants’ status, but were generally a source of social capital."

Reflecting on the findings of this study I wonder about it's application to the OER community.  The findings from this study seem intuitive to me.  When you participate in a community motivated towards a shared goal, with participants known to you, and with whom you communicate, there is an energy to keep the momentum going.  We read the Cathedral and the Bazaar earlier in the OER course and Raymond shared the experience of the torch for his popmail/fetchmail application and noted that were he not there to accept the role of championing additional development, the application may have stalled at the point where he took it over.  I believe that a closed network would be more likely to keep its subject maturing and developing than a loose network would.  I believe that any substantial effort to advance anything requires a committed and dedicated group that feeds off of itself and enhances motivation and performance. 

From my outsider perspective I have seen this in the OER movements.  There is a group of champions who are evangelical in their zeal to motivate positive change in society.  I do not use evangelical or zeal in the negative ways that they are sometimes terms of mockery in our society.  I believe that the efforts, based on strong moral convictions of the need to bless our fellowmen, have enabled this collection of individuals and growing network to motivate each other as they call for change.  We see evidence of their success in initiatives being advanced in institutions of learning and the halls of governments.

Additional Resource #1
Motivation for participating in an online open source software community.

The first additional resource I provide is a link to the survey results I mentioned earlier.  These results were reported by Martine Aalbers in 2004.   The survey reports on some of the key demographics of those who participate in the OSS community.  This community is participating in the Blender project.  The linked document is an appendix with some discussion from a much larger publication. I find that the participant demographics align with the participant demographics reported by Bitzer in the intrinsic motivation article I posted above.  The participants are younger, predominantly male, highly qualified and educated.

Additional Resource #2
Mozilla Seminar for CS 547 at Stanford

This is a video from one of the open courses at Stanford.  The course is the CS 547 course and this particular session is about 1 hour long.  The lecturers are John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla, and Mike Beltzner, Director of Firefox. The video talks about the Firefox development strategies. One interesting note is that the lecturers state that approximately 40% of the developers of Firefox are paid, "which is about the same percentage of other large open source projects." That was news to me.


Additional Resource #3
Is There Such a Thing as Free Software? The Pros and Cons of Open-Source Software

This is a link to an article in Educause Quarterly where Thomas J. Trappler, the director of software licensing at UCLA, who talks about some of the issues that arise when considering the use of OSS at institutions of higher education.  He makes the point that there may be some immediate economic arguments in favor of moving to OSS "to save money because no license fee is required."  He also notes that "the use of OSS can provide other benefits, including improved flexibility for customization and reduced likelihood of vendor lock-in."

He cautions, however, that "OSS is not a panacea, and along with its benefits come some risks, including the potential increased need for in-house support. Additionally, complex intellectual property issues affect incorporating OSS in new works and contributing new code to existing OSS projects."
 He goes on to list other issues that should be considered when evaluating the move to OSS on campus.  This article has some excellent points to consider when discussing the possibilities of OSS with administrators.

Additional Resource #4

This is a report by the Digital Connections Council for the Committee for Economic Development that was prepared and submitted in June 2006.  The Committee for Economic Development is an independent research and policy organization of over 200 business leaders and educators. CED is non-profit, non-partisan, and non-political. Its purpose is to propose policies that bring about steady economic growth at high employment and reasonably stable prices, increased productivity and living standards, greater and more equal opportunity for every citizen, and an improved quality of life for all.
This report attempts to explain the issues related to OSS from the perspectives of the users, producers, and the software companies.  It also propose public policy such as:
Governments should not dictate standards, particularly in fast-developing areas of technology. But, governments should strongly encourage the development of open standards, especially with regard to infrastructural technologies, because of the substantial benefits of open standards in fostering competition and promoting economic development.
The results of government-funded research should be readily accessible and freely available to be used in standards development.
Another proposed policy is:
The Council opposes any mandate that would require any governmental agency to utilize only a particular form of software license or development process, be it proprietary or open source. Procurement decisions should be based on identifying and obtaining the software that best meets the needs of the particular governmental activity involved.
The Council recommends that governments at all levels should identify critical governmental functions, particularly as they involve citizen-government interactions, and place a high priority on requiring interoperability across various platforms for any software that is acquired related to performing these critical functions.
The government should advocate open standards and interoperability in critical areas of governmental function and should support royalty-free licensing of any intellectual property required to implement such standards The government should consider additional areas in which interoperability would provide significant improvements in governmental performance, such as in the area of homeland security, where the lack of interoperability of first responder data and communications systems on September 11th provided a lesson in what not to do.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has an exemplary record in such studies and should continue to expand the areas under review. The U.S. government should not be an advocate in the international arena for any particular type of software licensing or development and should oppose mandates for the utilization of any particular type of software licensing or development.
This policy recommendation relates to OSS.  There are many other recommendations in this report and some of the recommendations have been, or currently are being, considered in patent and copyright law discussions.

Additional Resource #5
Toward an Understanding of the Motivation of Open Source Software Developers

This report from the conference proceedings of the 2003 International Conference on Software Engineering provides an excellent discussion about participation in OSS projects.  The authors note some commonalities among successful OSS communities and analyze these effective participants communities from the perspective of Lave and Wenger's Legitimate Peripheral Participation in communities of practice.  This theory includes the adoption of roles in the community.  The adoption of the roles "structuralizes" the projects and provides sustaining strength as they move forward.

These articles and resources all point to the need for an active, motivated, and freely participating community of OSS is to bear fruit and endure.  Some of the considerations and motivations that are found here lead to conversations about effective planning and execution of strategies by organizations, communities, and others interested in perpetuating the availability and quality of open source software for the public benefit.

1 comment:

  1. Darin, simply excellent. I'm really excited to see your proposed research questions. Please keep up this exemplary work.