Herding Cats: A Case Study of Release Management in an Open Collaboration Ecosystem
Paper in proceedings, 2016
Release management in large-scale software development projects requires significant communication and coordination. It is particularly challenging in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) ecosystems, in which hundreds of loosely connected developers and their projects need to be coordinated to release software to a schedule. To better understand this process and its challenges, we analyzed over two and half years of communication in the GNOME ecosystem and studied developers' interactions. We cataloged communication channels, categorized communication and coordination activities in one of them, and triangulated our results by interviewing key developers. We find that a release schedule, influence instead of direct control, and diversity are factors that impact positively the release process in the GNOME ecosystem. Our results can help organizations build better large-scale teams and show that research focused on individual projects might miss important parts of the picture.