Merits of a Meritocracy in Open Source Software Ecosystems

The Eclipse open source ecosystem has grown from a small internal IBM project to one of the biggest Integrated Development Environments in the market. Open source communities and ecosystems do not follow the standard governance forms typically used in big organizations. A meritocracy is a frequently occurring form of governance on different levels in open ecosystems. In this paper we research how this form of governance influences the health of projects within the Eclipse ecosystem in terms of the amount of commits within each month. We analyzed the hierarchy of Eclipse, how merits are conceptualized within the ecosystem and the effect of the appointments of mentors and project leads on the amount of commits. From our research, we can conclude that this system is not always as fair as it seems; merits are only a benefit in some cases.

Sample of project lead data with commit averages in months

Table 3 provides an example of the analyzed data on the effect of project lead appointments per project. The change column shows if the project was less productive(‘<‘), equally productive(‘=’) and more productive (‘>’) during the assignment of the project lead.

We concluded, that while commit data is of importance when a commiter wants to climb the ladder to the top, it is certainly not the only one. Rather, personality and connections are even more important. The Meritocracy itself is also not as ‘fair’ as it seems. The more to the top you get, the less it is about merits – and more about politics.


Eckhardt, A.E. & Kaats, E.J. (2014) The Merits of a Meritocracy in Open Source Ecosystems. Poceedings of Seminar Software Ecosystems 2013-2014, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Retrieved on 18/04/2014 from