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Volume 18 / Issue 19

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DOI:   10.3217/jucs-018-19-2625


Division of Effort, Productivity, Quality, and Relationships in FLOSS Virtual Teams: Evidence from the FreeBSD Project

George M. Giaglis (Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece)

Diomidis Spinellis (Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece)

Abstract: Research in virtual teams and distributed work argues that the lack of collocation places an overhead on the performance potential of large, globally distributed teams. In this paper, we revisit this tenet through a case study of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) development to demonstrate how globally dispersed FLOSS communities manage to overcome the problem of geographic separation of their members. Our results show that successful FLOSS teams demonstrate a truly global distribution of members, who perform different types of work so as to achieve consistent round-the-clock development, without any apparent ill effects on team productivity and the quality of the resulting outcomes. Cooperation between team members is abundant, especially at more complex work items, and does not seem to be affected by distance; only mentoring relationships appear in some cases to be easier to cultivate between individuals living closer together. These findings challenge the conventional wisdom of research in distributed work, in cases where virtual teams consist of highly skilled and motivated individuals, who leverage the power of communication technologies to overcome problems associated with physical distance.

Keywords: FLOSS, FreeBSD, distributed work, open source development, virtual teams

Categories: D.2.9, K.4.3, K.6.1, K.6.3