A mixed-methods analysis of micro-collaborative coding practices in OpenStack


Technical collaboration between multiple contributors is a natural phenomenon in distributed open source software development projects. Macro-collaboration, where each code commit is attributed to a single collaborator, has been extensively studied in the research literature. This is much less the case for so-called micro-collaboration practices, in which multiple authors contribute to the same commit. To support such practices, GitLab and GitHub started supporting social coding mechanisms such as the “Co-Authored-By:” trailers in commit messages, which, in turn, enable to empirically study such micro-collaboration. In order to understand the mechanisms, benefits and limitations of micro-collaboration, this article provides an exemplar case study of collaboration practices in the OpenStack ecosystem. Following a mixed-method research approach we provide qualitative evidence through a thematic and content analysis of semi-structured interviews with 16 OpenStack contributors. We contrast their perception with quantitative evidence gained by statistical analysis of the git commit histories (∼1M commits) and Gerrit code review histories (∼631K change sets and ∼2M patch sets) of 1,804 OpenStack project repositories over a 9-year period. Our findings provide novel empirical insights to practitioners to promote micro-collaborative coding practices, and to academics to conduct further research towards understanding and automating the micro-collaboration process.

Empirical Software Engineering (Springer Nature)
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