Effect of external events on newcomer participation in open source online communities

Raktim Mitra, Aditya Johri, Oded Nov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Newcomer participation is a strong determinant of the success of online communities, particularly of open source software (OSS) development communities. Most research on newcomer participation in online communities to date has focused on internal socialization mechanisms that shape participation. No study we are aware of has looked at the role of factors external to a community itself in determining participation levels. In this study, we investigate the effect of company announcements made by OSS steward firms, events which are external to a community, on participation in newcomer communities associated with the OSS. We studied user activity in two communities, a Java newcomer forum and a MySQL newcomer forum, around two announcements that affected each community. We found evidence that company announcements had a substantial effect and participation either increased or decreased. Through analysis of secondary sources we conjecture that announcements indirectly shape participation by influencing newcomer motivation. Announcements perceived as hostile to open source values have a significant negative effect on participation, whereas announcements that were perceived as friendly either significantly increase participation or have no significant effect. Our study shows it is important to understand external factors to identify reasons for decline or growth of participation in online communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFirst Monday
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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