Going Farther Together: The Impact of Social Capital on Sustained Participation in Open Source
Technical TrackIndustry Program
Sustained participation by contributors in open-source software is critical to the survival of open-source projects and can provide career advancement benefits to individual contributors. However, not all contributors reap the benefits of open-source participation fully, with prior work showing that women are particularly underrepresented and at higher risk of disengagement. While many barriers to participation in open-source have been documented in the literature, relatively little is known about how the social networks that open-source contributors form impact their chances of long-term engagement. In this paper we report on a mixed-methods empirical study of the role of social capital (i.e., the resources people can gain from their social connections) for sustained participation by women and men in open-source GitHub projects. After combining survival analysis on a large, longitudinal data set with insights derived from a user survey, we confirm that while social capital is beneficial for prolonged engagement for both genders, women are at disadvantage in teams lacking diversity in expertise.