Authority in Peer Production

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"This paper examines the articulation of authority in peer production projects, focusing on the transformation of the FreeBSD Project's governance structure over fifteen years of development. Catalysed by the growing criticism of the distribution of authority in the project, the adoption of the elective principle for the selection of the FreeBSD administrative team brought about a shift in the conception of leadership from the informal rule of a self-selected group of veteran developers to the democratic authority of an elected group that is revocable and bound to formal rules. Since, FreeBSD has evolved a collectivist governance system, based on a direct-democratic, consensus-oriented process of decision making. Furthermore, in keeping with the normative standard of individual autonomy of action, FreeBSD did not attempt to manage increased scale by supervising developers' work process but rather tried to achieve coordination through the standardisation of the induction process for new developers and of outputs through frequent building. This outcome discredits the notion that supervisory hierarchy is the inevitable consequence of expanding size, showing that the response of an organisation to structural changes depends on the moral values espoused by its members."