Commons-based peer-production (CBPP), as exemplified by community-based open source software (OSS) development, has been posited by Yochai Benkler as an alternative to hierarchies and markets for organizing the production of information goods. This study seeks to conceptualize viable CBPP through an Activity Theoretic analysis of 524 peer-reviewed OSS research artifacts. The analysis reveals the reliance of peer-production communities on complex systems of interrelated tools, rules, and roles as mediating components enabling communities to (i) exploit the two theorized advantages of CBPP (resource allocation and information processing) and (ii) overcome the two theorized challenges associated with this mode of production (motivation and organization). The study clarifies and extends extant understanding of CBPP in several significant ways, and concludes that in order for CBPP to be viable, participants must operate in a sustainable fashion that both enhances the commons and leaves the community intact.