The Role of the Analyst
in Open Source Software

As an analyst you may
find yourself, at the request of your chief employer, participating in an open
source community. One widely known open source community is that surrounding
the Linux kernel. This is a large, mostly virtual community of developers who
all have different levels or types of participation and who all have different
reasons for being involved. Other well- known open source projects include
Mozilla Firefox, Android, Apache projects, and many more. Even NASA, the U.S.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has a lively open source
community (see

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One reason your company
may ask you to participate in an open source community is curi- osity about
what the software benefits to the organization might be. This may be a result
of a sort of bandwagon effect, for when it becomes known that competitors are
already participating, your organization may want to get involved. With
competitors actively participating in an open community, an organization may
calculate that it is something that should at least be investigated seriously,
not dismissed summarily. Another reason your company might ask you to
participate as a developer in an open community is to achieve what researchers
have labeled “shared design.” Shared design means that while you are
participating in the open source community, you are at the same time employed
by an organization that wants to leverage your participation in the open source
community to incorporate open source software designs into proprietary
products, pro- cesses, knowledge, and IT artifacts that it is developing and
that it hopes to eventually sell as a product that is differentiated from what
the open source community has produced. Through a process of shared design the
IT artifact is imbued with both community and organizational struc- tures,
knowledge, and practices.


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