Herding a Deluge of Good Samaritans: How GitHub Projects Respond to Increased Attention


Collaborative crowdsourcing is a well-established model of work,especially in the case of open source software development. Thestructure and operation of these virtual and loosely-knit teams dif-fer from traditional organizations. As such, little is known about how their behavior may change in response to an increase in external attention. To understand these dynamics, we analyze millions of actions of thousands of contributors in over 1100 open source software projects that topped the GitHub Trending Projects page and thus experienced a large increase in attention, in comparison to a control group of projects identified through propensity score matching. In carrying out our research, we use the lens of organizational change, which considers the challenges teams face during rapid growth and how they adapt their work routines, organizational structure, and management style. We show that trending results in an explosive growth in the effective team size. However, most newcomers make only shallow and transient contributions. In response, the original team transitions towards administrative roles, responding to requests and reviewing work done by newcomers. Projects evolve towards a more distributed coordination model withnewcomers becoming more central, albeit in limited ways. Additionally, teams become more modular with subgroups specializing in different aspects of the project. We discuss broader implicationsfor collaborative crowdsourcing teams that face attention shocks.

Proc. of The Web Conference (WWW) 2020