Research Looks at How Open Source Software Gets Written

Sep 20, 2006

Computer software systems are now among the most complex, expensive artifacts ever created by humans, and some of the most sophisticated are being built by teams of volunteers as "open source" projects, where any programmer can read the code and suggest changes.

A group of UC Davis researchers has just received a three-year, $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how open source software such as the Apache Web server is built.

Unlike a cathedral or an airliner, there is no "blueprint" for a piece of open source software that shows all the parts in relation to each other, said Premkumar Devanbu, a professor of computer science at UC Davis and a principal investigator on the grant. Typically, a small group of programmers looks after the core elements of the system, and the rest is broken up into modules that are attacked by a floating group of volunteers who report flaws and suggest modifications.

Open source defies conventional wisdom about collaborative projects. For example, most office workers know that the slowest member of the team sets the pace for everybody else. But in open source projects, work moves at the speed of the fastest member of the team, and adding more hands speeds things up rather than slowing them down, Devanbu said.

The researchers will focus on the Apache Web server, the PostgreSQL database and the Python scripting language. They will collect information from the message boards, bug reports and e-mail discussions to understand how design teams organize themselves and interact.

Devanbu and colleagues think that the way teams are organized will be reflected in the resulting software. At the same time, the structure of the software will itself have an effect on how teams of programmers are put together. For example, software that is broken into large chunks of code might need a different approach than a structure of smaller chunks.

The UC Davis team includes Devanbu; Vladimir Filkov, assistant professor of computer science; Raissa D'Souza, assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering; Anand Swaminathan, professor in the Graduate School of Management; and Greta Hsu, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Management.

Source: UC Davis

Explore further: Windows Insiders can try out Project Spartan browser

Related Stories

Internet of things should be developable for all

Mar 30, 2015

Within the next five to ten years, around 100 billion different devices will be online. A large part of the communication takes place solely between machines, and to ensure that they can communicate, the ...

Does your password pass muster?

Mar 25, 2015

"Create a password" is a prompt familiar to anyone who's tried to buy a book from Amazon or register for a Google account. Equally familiar is that red / yellow / green bar that rates the new password's strength. ...

Build your own Siri: An open-source digital assistant

Mar 11, 2015

An open-source computing system you command with your voice like Apple's Siri is designed to spark a new generation of "intelligent personal assistants" for wearables and other devices. It could also lead to much-needed advancements ...

Finger-mounted reading device for the blind

Mar 10, 2015

Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory have built a prototype of a finger-mounted device with a built-in camera that converts written text into audio for visually impaired users. The device provides feedback—either ...

Recommended for you

App to test synaesthesia

25 minutes ago

Four in hundred people have a special mix up of their senses, called synaesthesia. A new app from Radboud University contains four playful tests for synaesthesia. Should you happen to have synaesthesia, you ...

Windows Insiders can try out Project Spartan browser

Mar 31, 2015

Microsoft has opened up the (literal) windows, called in creatives, and has been engineering a next-generation browser. Project Spartan is to reflect the general mood of fresh air at Redmond. Although "Project ...

New taxi app challenges Uber in S.Korea

Mar 31, 2015

South Korea's top mobile messenger operator launched a new web-based cab-hailing service Tuesday to compete with California-based Uber, whose service has been subjected to crackdowns from state regulators.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.