Research Paper: Why Do Episodic Volunteers Stay in FLOSS Communities?

Proposed structural model of retention among episodic contributors

Abstract: Successful Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) projects incorporate both habitual and infrequent, or episodic, contributors. Using the concept of episodic volunteering (EV) from the general volunteering literature, we derive a model consisting of five key constructs that we hypothesize affect episodic volunteers’ retention in FLOSS communities. To evaluate the model we conducted a survey with over 100 FLOSS episodic volunteers. We observe that three of our model constructs (social norms, satisfaction and community commitment) are all positively associated with volunteers’ intention to remain, while the two other constructs (psychological sense of community and contributor benefit motivations) are not. Furthermore, exploratory clustering on unobserved heterogeneity suggests that there are four distinct categories of volunteers: satisfied, classic, social and obligated. Based on our findings, we offer suggestions for projects to incorporate and manage episodic volunteers, so as to better leverage this type of contributors and potentially improve projects’ sustainability.

Keywords: Community management, Episodic volunteering, Open source software, Volunteer management

Reference: Barcomb, Ann, Klaas-Jan Stol, Dirk Riehle, and Brian Fitzgerald (2019). “Why Do Episodic Volunteers Stay in FLOSS Communities?” In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering. Montréal, Canada: IEEE/ACM, pp. 948–959. doi: 10.1109/ICSE.2019.00100.

A preprint of the paper is available here as a PDF file.

Exploratory clustering on unobserved heterogeneity