According to social networking researchers, the old saying “birds of a feather flock together” applies even in the vast realm of cyberspace. This is the topic of the recently published research findings of Dr. Cuihua Shen, an assistant professor at University of Texas Dallas. Her findings have been reported in a recent issue of the First Monday publication.
Shen examined the community dynamics of users from SourceForge, a massive internet open source community. Shen conducted social network analyses on these users to determine the social motivations within the communities and the shaping of collaborations within these communities. Peter Monge, another researcher in the area of social network analysis who published “Who Connects with Whom? A Social Network Analysis of an Online Open Source Software Community,” discovered that users within Web communities determine which other users to interact with online. According to Monge, the choices of these users can reveal the motivations underlying the creation of these social networks.
For the most part, Web developers who are considered to be accomplished and successful tend to form elitist groups with other equally qualified and accomplished Web developers in the open source software community. Unfortunately, less accomplished and successful Web developers have greater difficulty forming circles with more accomplished developers, so less accomplished developers tend to collaborate with individuals of equal or lesser skill. In some cases, less successful Web developers might have difficulty forming collaborative relationships with any other peers due to the disparity between the successful and less successful developers.
Open source software is software that allows users to study, manipulate, and re-distribute the software without legal penalty. This particular manner of developing software encourages the formation of social networks within the Web development community. When developers collaborate on projects, a social network is formed within the open source software community. Shen and other researchers have used social network analysis to examine development of these creative ties and discover the dynamics underlying many social network interactions. Shen hopes that her recent research in the field will open the door for further studies about the creation of social networks and the formation of collaborative ties among users in the internet community.