Herding cats in a FOSS ecosystem: a tale of communication and coordination for release management




Poo-Caamaño, Germán
Knauss, Eric
Singer, Leif
German, Daniel M.

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Journal of Internet Services and Applications


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 are 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. Through a case study, we cataloged communication channels, determined the main channel from which we categorized high level communication and coordination activities spanning five releases, and triangulated our results by interviewing ten key developers. We found that a release schedule, influence (instead of direct control), and diversity are the main factors that positively impact the release process in the GNOME ecosystem. We report a set of lessons learned that encapsulates our understanding of how the Release Management process function in a FOSS ecosystem, we learned that: (1) ensure that the release team follows the main communication channels used by developers, (2) provide a common place for coordination for an ecosystem, (3) consider including both good technical and social skills in a release team, (4) aim for a diverse release team, (5) based on lack of power, lobbying and consensus based management must be followed, (6) help the release team in the coordination process with a well defined schedule, and (7) release team work is different from regular software work. 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.



release management, software ecosystem, empirical study


Poo-Caamaño, G.; Knauss, E.; Singer, L.; & German, D.M. (2017). Herding cats in a FOSS ecosystem: a tale of communication and coordination for release management. Journal of Internet Services and Applications, 8, article 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13174-017-0063-2