New research released in MarchÂ shows that OpenSim development is becoming increasingly led byÂ entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and large corporations.
While entrepreneurs remain important in the development of OpenSim, hobbyists are becoming more essential, said report authorsÂ Robin Teigland andÂ Zeynep Yetis of theÂ Stockholm School of Economics andÂ Paul M. Di Gangi ofÂ Loyola University in Maryland.
“This analysis reveals a clear dominance of entrepreneurs both in quantity and quality ofÂ code development, indicating the importance of this stakeholder groupâ€™s resource contributionÂ to the community,” the paper said. “Hobbyists were relatively less active; however, over time they represented aÂ larger portion of the commits to the OpenSimulator project growing from 10 Â to 30 percent of theÂ top 20 committers during the two time periods.”
The new report analyses the importance of various contributors to OpenSim between August 2007 to October 2011. A previous study, released in January of this year, analysed the contributions of OpenSim developers from 2007 to 2009, and coveredÂ entrepreneurs, hobbyists, employees of large corporations, academics, and other groups. The study found that each group contributes something different to OpenSim.
Large corporations became important to “provide access to key infrastructural resources, for example, processing, storage,” according to the researchers, while hobbyists were important for “developing a holistic view of what work isÂ being performed in the community.”
“Our initial findings related to the first period suggest that while entrepreneursÂ bring more energy, passion, and ideas, the large firm employees may bring more complexÂ project and risk management skills as well as resources whileÂ hobbyists, whom we found in several instances of the more central people to be retirees orÂ holding management positions in firms, may bring skills related to dialogue and conflictÂ management,” the researchers said.
An analysis of the relative frequency of words used by the members of the different groups in their communications on forums and discussions list offered researchers an insight into the major concerns for each group. They concluded thatÂ entrepreneursÂ have remained stable in their interest in the development and monetary applications of OpenSim, using words like “currency,” “application development,” and “revision” most frequently.
“Large firm employees continue to maintain interest in the technicalÂ infrastructure and application of virtual worlds in specific areas,Â e.g., network, packets,Â sciencesim, scisim, etc.,” the researchers found, “while SMEs [small and medium enterprises] focused almost exclusively on application development.”
“The non-profits have shifted towards understanding the more technical aspects ofÂ OpenSimulator while the public sector stakeholders are focused on the use and application ofÂ virtual worlds,” according to the researchers. “The hobbyists also seemed to have shiftedÂ slightly with more interest in software use — for example, documentation, wiki, install, display, backup,Â et cetera.”
Unlike in the first two years, where academics were focussed on the development of the underlying platform, academics are now focussed on the research of virtual worlds and the applications they have to their university environment.
The researchers also looked at the underlying structure of the virtual community.
They discovered that “academics and hobbyistsÂ have taken a progressively more central role within the community serving as connectorsÂ between several entrepreneurs and large firms.”
Meanwhile, a change in trends of individuals active in virtual communities suggests that “the virtual world community may beÂ entering a maturity phase where the foundation issues for developing and maintaining a virtualÂ world have been resolved and the new members areÂ focused on application and use.”
The researchers discovered that over the period of four years there was a high member turnover rate — which they believe suggests that a healthy turnover rate may be essential to keeping the virtual communities afloat, providing new ideas andÂ skill setsÂ to the community.