Master’s Thesis

This is the page for my master thesis at the University of Oslo. The thesis carries the title:

Managing Firm-Sponsored Open Source Communities

- A Case Study on Novell and The openSUSE Project

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For the impatient: Download the full thesis here (3.8 Mb) Full thesis

A low-quality version (1.2 Mb) is also available Full thesis (compressed)

Since the thesis is about 130 pages, you might want to have a look at the summaries and follow my reading-guide below, so you can easily access the things you are interested in.

Summary

  • I would advise you to start off with reading the short academic abstract first, in this post.
  • I have also written a 5-page executive summary. You can also download it as a pdf. This is more focused on the findings and practical conclusions, and less on the theoretical/academic contributions in the thesis. This is not a detective-novel, so nothing is saved for the end. Recommended!
  • I have also created this page of the thesis in pictures, where I show all the figures in the thesis. Together, they provide a good illustration of the various issues, theories and findings in the thesis.

However, the glory of this thesis is not in its conclusions, but in the detailed descriptions and analysis. I would therefore (obviously) recommend that you have a look at some of the chapters below.

Reading guide

Executive summary

Ch.1 Introduction– The introduction is a presentation and a summary of the entire project, and introduces the motivation for the project and the research questions I have been pursuing. Don’t worry if the theory in this section is confusing, as it will be explained in much more detail later. You should read the introduction first no matter which chapters are interesting for you later.

Ch. 2 Theory — The theory chapter is divided in 3 parts: The first part details research and theories on open source software development and particularly the emerging business models around open source. The second part presents the theory of boundary objects in detail, which is used later to describe the role of Bugzilla, the OpenSUSE Build Service and the Factory code-base in the collaboration between Novell and the openSUSE community. The third theory section details Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic social systems, which is used to distinguish Novell and the openSUSE community, respectively.

Ch 3 Methodology — This chapter describes how I have gathered data , and what kind of information my analysis in this thesis is built upon. I also discuss the reliabilty and validity (the quality and “truth”) in these data.

Ch 4 Empirical-findings — From here on we wander into the world of Novell and the openSUSE project. Based largely on interviews with developers, managers and community members, this chapter presents some of the history of the openSUSE project, the software products, the development process and the openSUSE community.

Ch. 5 Analysis and discussion — This chapter is the most interesting part of the thesis (in my own opinion), and merges the theories outlined in the second chapter with the empirical reality in Novell. This chapter discusses how Novell and the openSUSE community are distinguished from each other, what mechanisms that bind them together in collaboration and includes a discussion of some possible future scenarios the for the openSUSE project.

Ch. 6 Conclusion — This last chapter reviews the research questions and summarizes the answers. I also discuss what we have learned from this study, and how we can take this knowledge further.

20 Responses

  1. […] Master’s Thesis […]

  2. I am quite interested with the thesis paper. In my locality, I am going to give people a brief idea about open source project and their sponsors. I think your thesis is going to help me quite a lot.

  3. looks nice, i’ll read it when i can.

  4. btw what program did you use to write you thesis?

  5. […] A summary of the study, the full thesis, and pictures are available at Jan Fredrik’s Weblog. […]

  6. […] Managing Firm-Sponsored Open Source Communities, Jan Fredrik’s Blog, Jan Fredrik (Blog) […]

  7. […] over from OpenSUSE to SUSE, consider the following newly-published Master’s thesis which studies the relationship between the two. This is the page for my master thesis at the University of Oslo. The thesis carries the title: […]

  8. Very nice thesis! Would you email me the LaTeX header (style) you’ve used? Thank you.

  9. MS Word MB, it’s in the title of the PDF?

  10. JM, ah i can’t believe i missed that, your document looks very professional i looks as if you produced it with latex. Can you please share what tools you used to produce it please.

    Thanks alot

  11. Md. Bahar: I am very happy if this research will help you at all. I think at least you will find the overview of open source business models in the first part of chapter 2 useful to you, in addition to some of the insights in the discussion. Please contact me if you would like to discuss anything!

  12. Jayhawk, MB and JM: These are the tools and formatting styles I have used:

    For writing the thesis I have used MS Word, OpenOffice and Googledocs, but towards the end I had to use MS word when I fused it into one document. The reason for this choice is that my university’s citation software (EndNote) is only compatible with MS Word (would love to see a Linux port on this killer-app in academia). I strongly regret that I never took the time to learn LaTeX and BibTeX, which I would have preferred to use in hindsight (MS word crashed about 3 times a week), and the formatting styles in LaTeX are brilliant.

    Formatting: For headers I used the GillSans font. The normal text is in AGaramond (Adobe Garamond) at 1.3 line-height.

    For the illustrations and models I used Microsoft Visio, which in fact is the best model-software available imho. (On Linux I prefer OpenOffice Impress for building models, but not for technical models like UML, though)

  13. It would be really interesting to have a similar thesis which analysis Ubuntu or maybe even Fedora.

  14. Jan,

    I haven’t finished reading your thesis, but I am enjoying it so far. However, I must comment on a few errors that I have noticed so far:

    (p. 13) Michigan Institute of Technology – that should be Massachusetts, not Michigan.

    (p. 14) “This mechanism is referred to as the “viral clause” of the GPL.” – certainly not by the FSF and Stallman. In fact, they don’t like that term. Another term is “cuckoo’s egg.” But these terms are mostly associated with critics of the GPL license.

    (p. 14) “It was especially the development of the Linux operating system that put open source in the spotlight. As a graduate student at University of Helsinki, Linus Torvalds developed a crude and simple version of a UNIX-like operating system that he named Linux.” – some might say that Linux is an operating system, many would say that it is the “engine” of the operating system. To avoid confusion it would probably be better to just call Linux a kernel and then explain what a kernel is. It’s not really that hard.

    In your glossary you also refer to GNU/Linux as: “[a]n operating system originally authored by Linus Torvalds in 1991 built with GNU software.” This is a somewhat inaccurate way to describe the GNU/Linux system. Stallman had better not see that!

    Also, you say that “Linux is a derivative of the UNIX operating system.” I think it would be more correct to say that Linux is modelled on UNIX rather than being a derivative, which would suggest that it contains UNIX code.

    In the thesis you also have a tendency to use GNU/Linux and Linux in an inconsistent manner. At the beginning you say that you will use Linux to mean GNU/Linux but you then go on to use both terms! This may sound like splitting hairs, but as you yourself acknowledge early on, there is a subtle but important difference between the two terms.

    Finally, a little more proof reading wouldn’t have gone amiss. For instance, you use “manor” instead of manner, “recourses” instead of resources, and so on.

    But as I said, I am enjoying the thesis so far, and such mistakes notwithstanding, I think the ideas expressed here definitely advance the state of knowledge on free and open source software. Good work.

    Ciao.

    P.S. As others have commented in this blog, the formatting in your thesis is amazing. We’ve certainly come a long way from the ugly typewritten thesis (that’s right, I’m old enough to remember what a typewriter is!).

  15. Ironically (then again, maybe not), I came to your thesis through the Boycott Novell site (http://boycottnovell.com/2008/05/30/mono-gnome-and-moonlight/)!

  16. […] take a while to read it, but so far it’s excellent. Thanks for the link. Baron Here’s the link: Masters Thesis Jan Fredriks Weblog I miss spelled Novell […]

  17. […] A summary of the study, the full thesis, and pictures are available at Jan Fredrik’s Weblog […]

  18. hi
    x61hlz95rd7eta8i
    good luck

  19. Hi
    I used your results in the thesis. thanks.

  20. That is the correct blog for anyone who desires to seek out out about this topic. You realize a lot its almost arduous to argue with you (not that I actually would need…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, just nice!

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