Why Does Code Review Work for Open Source Software Communities?

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Open source software communities have demonstrated that they can produce high quality results. The overall success of peer code review, commonly used in open source projects, has likely contributed strongly to this success. Code review is an emotionally loaded practice, with public exposure of reputation and ample opportunities for conflict. We set off to ask why code review works for open source communities, despite this inherent challenge. We interviewed 21 open source contributors from four communities and participated in meetings of ROS community devoted to implementation of the code review process.
It appears that the hacker ethic is a key reason behind the success of code review in FOSS communities. It is built around the ethic of passion and the ethic of caring. Furthermore, we observed that tasks of code review are performed with strong intrinsic motivation, supported by many non-material extrinsic motivation mechanisms, such as desire to learn, to grow reputation, or to improve one’s positioning on the job market.
In the paper, we describe the study design, analyze the collected data and formulate 20 proposals for how what we know about hacker ethics and human and social aspects of code review, could be exploited to improve the effectiveness of the practice in software projects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2019 IEEE/ACM 41st International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE)
Publication date25 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2019


  • Open Source, Code Review, Motivation


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