Joel West, professor at San Jose State University College of Business, and Siobh?n O'Mahony, professor at UC Davis Graduate School of Management, have produced some insightful research over the years. However, I particularly like a new academic study the two recently released: "The Role of Participation Architecture in Growing Sponsored Open Source Communities." It studies why developers contribute to certain open-source projects and don't contribute to others.
The key? If you want outside participation, you need to deliver more than mere transparency: Developers need to be able to change the direction of the project to make it worthwhile to stick around. (For a quick example of how too much control can stifle a community, take a look at Sun and OpenOffice.)
This is not surprising, but the research is helpful in detailing why this is so, and how firms cope with it. While most open-source projects attract little to no outside developer interest, corporate-sponsored open-source projects start with an implicit handicap by demanding control of the destinies of their projects:
By comparing the participation architectures that resulted from sponsors' design decisions, we identified two types of openness: transparency and accessibility ["Accessibility allows external participants to directly influence the direction of the community to meet their specific wants and needs"].
While transparency offered potential contributors the ability to follow and understand a community's production efforts, accessibility determined the degree to which external contributors could influence that production. In designing a community, sponsors were more likely to offer transparency than they were to offer accessibility to external community members. … Read more