Influence of Roles in Decision-Making during OSS Development – A Study of Python

by   Pankajeshwara Nand Sharma, et al.

Governance has been highlighted as a key factor in the success of an Open Source Software (OSS) project. It is generally seen that in a mixed meritocracy and autocracy governance model, the decision-making (DM) responsibility regarding what features are included in the OSS is shared among members from select roles; prominently the project leader. However, less examination has been made whether members from these roles are also prominent in DM discussions and how decisions are made, to show they play an integral role in the success of the project. We believe that to establish their influence, it is necessary to examine not only discussions of proposals in which the project leader makes the decisions, but also those where others make the decisions. Therefore, in this study, we examine the prominence of members performing different roles in: (i) making decisions, (ii) performing certain social roles in DM discussions (e.g., discussion starters), (iii) contributing to the OSS development social network through DM discussions, and (iv) how decisions are made under both scenarios. We examine these aspects in the evolution of the well-known Python project. We carried out a data-driven longitudinal study of their email communication spanning 20 years, comprising about 1.5 million emails. These emails contain decisions for 466 Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs) that document the language's evolution. Our findings make the influence of different roles transparent to future (new) members, other stakeholders, and more broadly, to the OSS research community.


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