Method diffusion in large open-source projects

Voluntary adoption of development methods in Debian

Martin F. Krafft <>

DebConf8, Mar Del Plata, Argentina 10 Aug 2008

Research question

What are the factors which lead Debian developers to adopt new methods and more efficient workflows?


The Debian Project

"one of the largest software systems in the world, probably the largest" [Amor-Iglesias et al., 2005]

The typical Debian developer

These are from experience/discussions/speculation:

Decisions often appear unreasonable from a management perspective

Problems with current workflows

Developers are doing what the computer could be doing more efficiently

Why we are still doing it the old way

What can be done?


What are factors?

What's (in) a framework?

Problems with existing frameworks

I have tried [Rogers, 2003], [Wejnert, 2002], [Frambach and Schillewaert, 2002], [Gallivan, 2001], [Chau & Tam, 1997], [Saga & Zmud, 1994], [Fichman, 1992], [Davis, 1986], [Kwon & Zmud, 1987], [Tornatzky & Klein, 1982], and a few others…

Common issues:

Need for a new framework

It seems I need a specific framework for diffusion in


One does not discard a framework by looking at it, one discards a model when a better one has taken its place [Kuhn, 1970]

Thus, a bottom-up approach.


Research approach

Two (or three) phases of research:

  1. Delphi approach to identify factors
  2. Application and verification of the framework
  3. (optional) Community survey

Phase 1: Basics of the Delphi approach

The Delphi method: a structured group communication with the aim to reach consensus (or establish the degree of disagreement) [Dalkey et al., 1967].

Phase 1: rounds of the Delphi study

  1. brainstorming, creation of factors
  2. selection of pertinent factors
  3. merging of factors
  4. development of a terminology of factors

Phase 2: application and verification

I have collected a large number of other classes I could study.

Phase 3: (optional) community survey


Survey strategy:



What are the factors influencing your adoption / rejection decisions?

Thank you …


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