Herding Cats: Release Management in an Open Collaboration Ecosystem

Next week we will present our work on Release Engineering in the GNOME ecosystem at OSS conference in Gothenburg. This is joint work driven by Germán Poo-Caamaño, in collaboration with Leif Singer and Daniel M. German about release engineering, a growing field of interest within software engineering. We found the GNOME ecosystem particularly interesting to investigate, since such an open source ecosystem has different power structures than a software product within a company. Yet, we hope that our findings are relevant for software ecosystems in general, where the end-product is a combination of software products and services from different ecosystem actors. Especially ecosystems that are not dominated by one particular coordinator or platform owner could benefit from our findings on how GNOME release engineers interact with developers.

Title: Herding Cats – A Case Study of Release Management in an Open Collaboration Ecosystem

Abstract: 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 high level communication and coordination activities in one of them, and triangulated our results by interviewing developers. We found 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.

Reference: Poo-Caamaño, G.; Singer, L.; Knauss, E. & German, D. M.: Herding Cats: A Case Study of Release Management in an Open Collaboration Ecosystem. In: Proceedings of 12th International Conference on Open Source Systems (OSS 2016), 2016

Pre-print: PSKG2016.pdf

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