A Business Ecology Perspective on Community-Driven Open Source : The Case of the Free and Open Source Content Management System Joomla

Sammanfattning: This thesis approaches the phenomenon of open source software (OSS) from a managerial and organisational point of view. In a slightly narrower sense, this thesis studies commercialisation aspects around community-driven open source. The term ‘community-driven’ signifies open source projects that are managed, steered, and controlled by communities of volunteers, as opposed to those that are managed, steered, and controlled by single corporate sponsors.By adopting a business ecology perspective, this thesis places emphasis on the larger context within which the commercialisation of OSS is embedded (e.g., global and collaborative production regimes, ideological foundations, market characteristics, and diffuse boundary conditions). Because many business benefits arise as a consequence of the activities taking place in the communities and ecosystems around open source projects, a business ecology perspective may be a useful analytical guide for understanding the opportunities, challenges, and risks that firms face in commercializing OSS.There are two overarching themes guiding this thesis. The first theme concerns the challenges that firms face in commercialising community-driven open source. There is a tendency in the literature on business ecosystems and open source to emphasise the benefits, opportunities, and positive aspects of behaviour, at the expense of the challenges that firms face. However, business ecosystems are not only spaces of opportunity, they may also pose a variety of challenges that firms need to overcome in order to be successful. To help rectify this imbalance in the literature, the first theme particularly focuses on the challenges that firms face in commercialising community-driven open source. The underlying ambition is to facilitate a more balanced and holistic understanding of the collaborative and competitive dynamics in ecosystems around open source projects.The other theme concerns the complex intertwining of community engagement and profit-oriented venturing. As is acknowledged in the literature, the subject of firm-community interaction has become increasingly important because the survival, success, and sustainability of peer production communities has become of strategic relevance to many organisations. However, while many strategic benefits may arise as a consequence of firm-community interaction, there is a lack of research studying how the value-creating logics of firm–community interaction are embedded within the bigger picture in which they occur. Bearing this bigger picture in mind, this thesis explores the intertwining of volunteer community engagement and profit-oriented venturing by focusing on four aspects that are theorised in the literature: reinforcement, complementarity, synergy, and reciprocity.This thesis is designed as a qualitative exploratory single-case study. The empirical case is Joomla, a popular open source content management system. In a nutshell, the Joomla case in this thesis comprises the interactions in the Joomla community and the commercial activities around the Joomla platform (e.g., web development, consulting, marketing, customisation, extensions). In order to achieve greater analytical depth, the business ecology perspective is complemented with ideas and propositions from other theoretical areas, such as stakeholder theory, community governance, organizational identity, motivation theory, pricing, and bundling.The findings show that the common challenges in commercialising community-driven open source revolve around nine distinct factors that roughly cluster into three domains: the ecosystem, the community, and the firm. In short, the domain of the ecosystem comprises the global operating environment, the pace of change, and the cannibalisation of ideas. The domain of the community comprises the platform policy, platform image, and the voluntary nature of the open source project. And finally, the domain of the firm comprises the blurring boundaries between private and professional lives, the difficulty of estimating costs, and firm dependencies. Based on these insights, a framework for analysing community-based value creation in business ecosystems is proposed. This framework integrates collective innovation, community engagement, and value capture into a unified model of value creation in contexts of firm–community interaction.Furthermore, the findings reveal demonstrable effects of reinforcement, complementarity, synergy, and reciprocity in the intertwining of volunteer community engagement and profit-oriented venturing. By showing that this intertwining can be strong in empirical cases where commercial activities are often implicitly assumed to be absent, this thesis provides a more nuanced understanding of firm involvement in the realm of open source.Based on the empirical and analytical insights, a number of further theoretical implications are discussed, such as the role of intersubjective trust in relation to the uncertainties that commercial actors face, an alternative way of classifying community types, the metaphor of superorganisms in the context of open source, issues pertaining to the well-being of community participants, and issues in relation to the transitioning of open source developers from a community-based to an entrepreneurial self-identity when commercialising an open source solution. Furthermore, this thesis builds on six sub-studies that make individual contributions of their own.In a broad sense, this thesis contributes to the literature streams on the commercialisation of OSS, the business value and strategic aspects of open source, the interrelationships between community forms of organising and entrepreneurial activities, and the nascent research on ecology perspectives on peer-production communities. A variety of opportunities for future research are highlighted.

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