Does superposition influence the success of FLOSS projects? Examining open source software development by organizations and individuals

Poonacha K. Medappa*, Shirish C. Srivastava

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Collaboration through open superposition describes the dominant work orchestration mechanism observed in Free (Libre) and Open Source Software (FLOSS), wherein the software development occurs by the sequential layering of individual tasks. This work orchestration mechanism is different from the traditional idea of software development, where the focus is towards co-work and concurrent development facilitated by a modular software design architecture. Our study theorizes and examines the motivational mechanisms that operate within superposed work structures to influence the success of FLOSS projects. We also unearth the contextual conditions that may limit the influence of the superposed nature of work on FLOSS project success. Furthermore, given the increasing usage of FLOSS by organizations, we investigate the specificities brought to these motivational mechanisms when FLOSS projects are owned by organizations. The results from our analysis of over 6500 FLOSS projects hosted on GitHub support a nonlinear relationship between the degree of superposition and the success of the FLOSS project. Moreover, we find that the type of ownership moderates this nonlinear relationship such that (1) organizational ownership mitigates the influence of the degree of superposition on the success of the project, and (2) under organizational ownership, the optimal degree of superposition (the point at which the success of the project is at a maximum) is lower than for individual-owned projects. This research advances our understanding of work structures, motivation, and organizational participation in FLOSS environments by describing the influence of task structures on the success of projects. The study also provides FLOSS practitioners with valuable insights for modeling project task structures to facilitate their success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764
Number of pages786
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes



  • open source software
  • collaboration
  • virtual teams
  • motivation
  • task structure
  • IS development

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