Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Since the origins of the free-software movement, open source projects have fostered an environment for innovative ideas that has transformed much of our understanding of technology in everyday life. In our quest to learn more about the structures of large-scale contemporary open source engagements, we examine three open source networks as part of an ongoing field study (Van Maanen, 2011). We explore the innovation networks described by Lyytinen, Yoo, & Boland (2016) and resolve whether any of the open source innovative networks that we have been studying can be classified as Project, Clan, Federated, or Anarchic networks. We examine two collaborative open source projects (SPDX and OpenMAMA) housed at the Linux Foundation, and determine that they correspond to the Federated and Project innovation networks respectively. Further, we determined that the Linux Foundation itself, as an organization that houses numerous open source projects, did not fit any of the four types of networks. We therefore propose and authenticate a fifth type of network that we characterize as a Tapestry innovation network, which can illuminate the Linux Foundation’s complexity of horizontal “weft threads” of participating organizations with the vertical, less visible “warp threads” of responsibilities and endeavors. Our study reveals important implications for research and practice by challenging the accepted view of open source projects, which still largely regards engagement around loosely structured groups of volunteers working on publicly available software. It also reveals that foundations are playing increasingly strategic roles in creating and stabilizing open source projects.