Quality and the Reliance on Individuals in Free Software Projects

  • Martin Michlmayr, University of Melbourne
  • Benjamin Mako Hill, Hampshire College


It has been suggested that the superior quality of many Free Software projects in comparison to their proprietary counterparts is in part due to the Free Software community's extensive source code peer-review process. While many argue that software is best developed by individuals or small teams, the process of debugging is highly parallizable. This "one and many" model describes a template employed by many Free Software projects. However, reliance on a single developer or maintainer creates a single point of failure that raises a number of serious quality and reliability concerns -- especially when considered in the context of the volunteer-based nature of most Free Software projects. This paper will investigate the nature of problems raised by this model within the Debian Project and will explore several possible strategies aimed at removing or de-emphasizing the reliance on individual developers.



Michlmayr, M., Hill, B. M. (2003). Quality and the Reliance on Individuals in Free Software Projects. In: Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Open Source Software Engineering. 105–109.