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Analysis of the interdependent co-evolution of product structures and community structures using dependency modelling techniques


Within the engineering design literature, dependency modelling techniques have been used to model the structure and evolution of products. While a product's structure has significant implications on the product's quality and the complexity of product development process, recent studies within organisational science suggest that an organisation's structure also has a direct impact on the product structures. This interdependence is particularly important in open-source products developed by communities because there is no community structure imposed at the beginning of the process. Both the product structure and the community structure undergo dynamic co-evolution. Understanding this co-evolution is crucial as open-source development processes are being extended beyond software products to hardware products. To understand the interdependence between product and community structures, empirically testable hypotheses, based on the theory of socio-technical coordination, are formulated in this paper. A dynamic network-based approach is proposed where products are modelled as networks of interfacing modules and communities are modelled as networks of collaborating participants. The proposed approach for testing the hypotheses involves (a) modelling the evolution of networks across consecutive versions and (b) measuring the overlap between anticipated and actual communities. The approach is presented for Drupal, which is an open-source software product. Drupal is chosen due to the availability of product and community data for different versions. Based on the analysis, it is concluded that product structures significantly influence the community structures. However, the impact of community structures on the product structures is weak. While the results are specific to the case study, the approach is general enough to be utilised for other open-source software and hardware products. The approach can also be used to model the evolution of loosely coupled informal communities within traditional organisations.

Keywords: dependency modelling, product structure, organisational structure, complex networks, evolution, open source


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