Method diffusion in large open-source projects

Voluntary adoption of development methods in Debian

Martin F. Krafft <>

Research Room, FOSDEM 2008, Brussels, Belgium 23 Feb 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'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

Four phases of research:

  1. Collection of factors (grounded theory)
  2. Design of an inital framework and Delphi approach to improve it
  3. Community survey to sort and augment the factor set
  4. Application and verification of the framework

Phase 1: collection of factors


Strauss & Corbin [1998], because of:

Phase 2: framework design

  1. Initial ordering of factors into framework
  2. Delphi study to improve framework and realign factors
    • ~30 experts from different fields, compensated
    • Anonymous or not?
    • Use simple, known tools: mailing lists, wiki, chat

Possible outcome: an existing framework fits

Phase 3: community survey


Survey strategy:

Phase 4: application and verification

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




Progress to date

I have been considering the subject since 2003. The output so far has been mostly non-academic: in addition to numerous discussions and seven interviews, I


Thank you …


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