PhD Alumni

Capra Eugenio

Present position: Temporary researcher

Thesis title:  Software Design Quality and Development Effort: an Empirical Study on the Role of Governance in Open Source Projects
Advisor:  Chiara Francalanci
Research area:  Information Systems, Open Source Software
Thesis abstract:  
Open Source (OS) software is gaining momentum. Online software repositories thrive with new communities of users and developers, the greatest IT and software companies of the planet are investing in OS, and more and more companies are building their business on OS. However, some aspects of OS software still need empirical investigation. Is OS higher quality than proprietary software? Does OS cost less than proprietary software? What are the real advantages of OS? In particular, the relationship among software quality, development effort, and governance practices is a traditional research problem, but the extent to which consolidated results on this relationship remain valid for OS projects is still an open research problem.
An emerging body of literature contrasts the view of open source as an alternative to proprietary software and explains that there exists a continuum between closed and open source projects. This work takes this
perspective and proposes a framework that allows one to position a software project along this continuum according to several dimensions.
This work also hypothesizes that as projects approach the OS end of the continuum, governance becomes less formal. In turn a less formal governance is hypothesized to require higher-quality code as a means to
facilitate coordination among developers by making the structure of the code explicit and observable and, at the same time, facilitate quality by removing the pressure of deadlines from contributors. However, it is also
hypothesized to increase development effort due to a more cumbersome coordination overhead. The verification of research hypotheses is based on empirical data from a sample of 75 major OS projects. We have developed a tool to measure design quality metrics and a model to estimate development effort of software projects, which is supported and validated by a survey on more than 480 OS developers. The “openness” of the projects has been assessed by means of online surveys and personal interviews with project managers. Empirical evidence supports our hypotheses and suggests that software design quality per se does not increase development effort, but represents an important managerial variable to implement the less formal governance approach that characterizes OS projects which, in turn, increases development effort. Finally, based on the information gathered through the interviews, we discuss the potential advantages of OS for both producers and users.