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An empirical examination of newcomer contribution costs in established OSS communities: a knowledge-based perspective

Mohammad AlMarzouq (Kuwait University, Shedadiya, Kuwait)
Varun Grover (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)
Jason Thatcher (Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Rich Klein (University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 5 April 2023

Issue publication date: 21 May 2024




To remain sustainable, open source software (OSS) projects must attract new members—or newcomers—who make contributions. In this paper, the authors develop a set of hypotheses based on the knowledge barriers framework that examines how OSS communities can encourage contributions from newcomers.


Employing longitudinal data from the source code repositories of 232 OSS projects over a two-year period, the authors employ a Poisson-based mixed model to test how community characteristics, such as the main drivers of knowledge-based costs, relate to newcomers' contributions.


The results indicate that community characteristics, such as programming language choice, documentation effort and code structure instability, are the main drivers of knowledge-based contribution costs. The findings also suggest that managing these costs can result in more inclusive OSS communities, as evidenced by the number of contributing newcomers; the authors highlight the importance of maintaining documentation efforts for OSS communities.


This paper assumes that motivational factors are a necessary but insufficient condition for newcomer participation in OSS projects and that the cost to participation should be considered. Using the knowledge barriers framework, this paper identifies the main knowledge-based costs that hinder newcomer participation. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first empirical study that does not limit data collection to a single hosting platform (e.g., SourceForge), which improves the generalizability of the findings.



AlMarzouq, M., Grover, V., Thatcher, J. and Klein, R. (2024), "An empirical examination of newcomer contribution costs in established OSS communities: a knowledge-based perspective", Internet Research, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 665-689.



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