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Internet Success

Internet Success: A Study of Open-Source Software Commons, by Charles M. Schweik & Robert C. English (MIT Press, 2012)


The use of open-source software (OSS)–readable software source code that can be copied, modified, and distributed freely–has expanded dramatically in recent years. The number of OSS projects hosted on (the largest hosting Web site for OSS), for example, grew from just over 100,000 in 2006 to more than 250,000 at the beginning of 2011. But why are some projects successful–that is, able to produce usable software and sustain ongoing development over time–while others are abandoned? In this book, the product of the first large-scale empirical study to look at social, technical, and institutional aspects of OSS, Charles Schweik and Robert English examine factors that lead to success in OSS projects and work toward a better understanding of Internet-based collaboration.

Drawing on literature from many disciplines and using a theoretical framework developed for the study of environmental commons, Schweik and English examine stages of OSS development, presenting multivariate statistical models of success and abandonment. Schweik and English argue that analyzing the conditions of OSS successes may also inform Internet collaborations in fields beyond software engineering, particularly those that aim to solve complex technical, social, and political problems.



“Charles Schweik and Robert English have written a book that illustrates, for scholars and Ph.D. students around the world, the challenge of undertaking careful research on the intellectual commons and then summarizing it in a responsible manner. The final chapter will be of substantial importance to anyone thinking of studying how individuals develop creative settings for jointly producing a common good. I strongly recommend this outstanding book.”
–Elinor Ostrom, Senior Research Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University; Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Science, 2009

“This book tells at least two stories of Internet success. One describes how open source software development has emerged as a new commons for sharing new technologies and knowledge about how it works, and what to do to contribute. The other describes the rich new database of knowledge that can be explored, analyzed, and queried using globally shared repositories that collectively describe the world of complex software development that no one company or nation controls or effectively exploits. This book is a great resource for both students and scholars of open source software development, open knowledge cmmons, and open global data repositories.”
–Walt Scacchi, Institute for Software Research, University of California, Irvine

“At last — a rigorous, empirical assessment of how open-source software commons actually arise, grow and generate value! Charles Schweik and Robert English go beyond hacker folklore to document how a major sector of modern economic production — internet-based software collaboration — actually works. Thorough and authoritative, Internet Success will be a beacon for scholars and practitioners for years to come.”
–David Bollier, commons scholar, activist; author of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own

“Anyone interested in innovation and the digital economy should read Internet Success. The open source software movement is forging new connections between communities and organizations, and understanding it provides deep insights into human motivation, leadership and governance, and the dynamics of entrepreneurial success. This book and the online resources that accompany it are a model of openness: readers are given all the resources they need to replicate and extend Charles Schweik and Robert English’s exemplary and comprehensive research on open source projects.”
–M. Lynne Markus, The John W. Poduska, Sr. Professor of Information and Process Management, Bentley University

“This is a fascinating and well written book which presents important research findings for the OSS community, but also offers significant insight for other fields with regard to collaborative activities across the Internet.”
— International Journal of Information Management