Several years ago I invited subscribers to this email discussion list to complete a Web-based survey as part of  my PhD research. Since the data gathered were anonymous, I donít know who the individual respondents were, which means I am sending this summary of the findings to the list.

I am very grateful to the people who took the time to complete the survey, and provided such interesting perspectives on what factors influenced their satisfaction with a free/libre and open source software project.

The abstract for the thesis is below, outlining the research method and summarising the main findings.


The purpose of this research was to identify factors that affect participantsí satisfaction with their experience of a free/libre open source software (FLOSS) project. The research built on existing models of user satisfaction from the information systems literature, and also incorporated two characteristics of FLOSS projects first identified by Ye, Nakakoji, Yamamoto, and Kishida (2005), product openness and process
openness. The central research question it answered was, What factors influence participant satisfaction with a free/libre and open source application software project?

Richard Stallmanís reasons for setting up the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation arose from his frustration at being forced to be a passive user of software used for a Xerox printer. These suggest that being able to be an active participant in a FLOSS project is one factor that should be examined, and therefore the first sub-question this project answers is, What types of contributions do participants make to
free/libre and open source software projects?

Several studies have shown that the extent of participation in a FLOSS project varies from individual to individual, and this variation leads to the second sub-question, Do the factors that influence satisfaction vary for different types of participation? If so, in what way?

A preliminary conceptual model of factors affecting participant satisfaction was developed, reflecting the key concepts identified in the literature. The main theoretical goal of this research was to test the model using empirical data.

The research used a sequential, mixed methods approach. The first, qualitative stage involved reviewing documents from selected projects and interviewing a purposive sample of FLOSS project participants. The
second, quantitative stage involved an online survey of FLOSS project participants, and the data gathered were used to test the conceptual model.

The results of the first stage showed that participation in FLOSS projects was a more complex construct than previously reported in the literature. Seven distinct categories of activities were identified:

  *   use;
  *   interaction with code;
  *   supporting the community;
  *   outreach;
  *   sponsorship;
  *   management; and
  *   governance.

Four attributes that modified these categories were also identified: organisational focus, role formality, remuneration, and time commitment.

Data from 154 responses to the online survey were used to test the model using stepwise multiple regression, which determined the effect of each of the variables on overall participant satisfaction. Moderated regression analysis was used to test the effects of three potential moderating variables. The results showed that that perceived system complexity had the largest effect, decreasing satisfaciton if respondents perceived that the software was complex, while project openness and perceived developer communication quality accounted for the most variance in satisfaction.

The main theoretical contribution of this research lies in its extension of satisfaction studies to FLOSS communities, showing that communication and openness are more important than in conventional software
projects. Its practical contribution will help people involved in the management and governance of FLOSS projects to identify ways of increasing their participantsí satisfaction, which may in turn encourage them to contribute more.

The final version of the thesis is available in the VUW libraryís research archive at:

Thank you again to everyone who completed the survey. Please let me know if you have any questions about the research project.
Dr. Brenda Chawner
Senior Lecturer
School of Information Management
Victoria University of Wellington
P O Box 600, Wellington  NEW ZEALAND
(04) 463 5780 | fax (04) 463 5446 | Room RH423 | [log in to unmask]