Code Ownership in Open-Source Software

Matthieu Foucault, Jean-Rémy Falleri, Xavier Blanc


Ownership metrics measure how the workload of software modules is shared among their developers. They have been shown to be accurate indicators of software quality.


Since ownership metrics studies were done only on industrial software projects, we replicated such a study on Java free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) projects. Our goal was to generalize an ``ownership law'' that stated that minor developers should be avoided.


We explored the relationship between ownership metrics and fault-proneness on seven FLOSS projects, using publicly available corpora to retrieve the fault-related information.


In our corpus, the relationship between ownership metrics and module faults is weak. At best, less than half of projects exhibit a significant correlation, and at worst, no projects at all. Moreover, fault-proneness seems to be much more influenced by module size than by ownership.


The results of ownership studies done on closed-source projects do not generalize to FLOSS projects. To understand the reasons for that, we performed an in-depth analysis and found that the lack of correlation between ownership metrics and module faults is due to the distributions of contributions among developers and the presence of ``heroes'' in FLOSS projects.

More information incoming...


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