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What characterize documents that bridge boundaries compared to documents that do not? An exploratory study of documentation in FLOSS teams

By Carsten Østerlund and Kevin Crowston

Abstract

Organizations bring together people with various access to and understanding of the work at hand. Despite their different stocks of background knowledge, most of them engage in documentation, whether as writers or readers. This paper explores how documents serve such diverse users by building a framework articulating the characteristics of documents supporting collaborators with asymmetric access to knowledge versus people with symmetric knowledge. Drawing on document-centric approaches we hypothesize that documents supporting asymmetric groups are likely to be more prescriptive and explicate their own use compared to documents supporting symmetric groups. Through exploratory analysis of two kinds of documents, used across three FLOSS projects, we find that documents supporting collaborators with asymmetric knowledge do appear to explicate their own use in more detail. They do so by prescribing their own 1) purpose, 2) context of use, 3) content and form in greater detail than documents used by core community members with symmetric access to project knowledge. 1

Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.193.7555
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