Socio-Technical Coordination: How Millions of People use Transparency to Collaborate on Millions of Interdependent Projects on GitHub
Professor in the Institute for Software Research in the School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
Date: Friday, February 12, 2016
Talk: 3:00 PM
Location: 6011 Donald Bren Hall
Refreshments: 4:15 PM, to be served in the 5th floor lobby.
Abstract: Collectively creating digital things these days often means hordes of people collaborating in open, transparent environments, loosely organized in ecosystems of interdependent projects. Splitting work across such large collections of people has great potential benefits such as tapping a broader talent pool, enabling better matches between tasks and skills, and reducing schedule bottlenecks. But it also gives rise to very large scale coordination problems while inhibiting many familiar coordination practices, which rely on overarching hierarchies of authority. In this talk, I will develop a socio-technical theory of coordination, and show how colleagues and I empirically validated it in a geographically distributed software development organization. I will show how the theory can be adapted and enriched to help interpret the results our qualitative and quantitative studies of coordination practices in GitHub, an open, transparent work environment in which millions of people collaborate on millions of interdependent projects.
Bio: James Herbsleb is a Professor in the Institute for Software Research in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he serves as Director of the PhD program in Societal Computing. His research interests lie primarily in the intersection of software engineering, computer-supported cooperative work, and socio-technical systems, focusing on such areas as geographically distributed development teams and large-scale open source development. He holds a PhD in psychology, and an MS in computer science. His research has won several Best Paper, Distinguished Paper, and Most Influential Paper awards, as well as the Alan Newell Award for Research Excellence. For no apparent reason, he also holds a Juris Doctor degree and is a member of the Michigan Bar Association. For about two decades, he has worked with assorted colleagues and minions to try to understand the complex and dynamic relationship between human collaboration and the software that the humans are designing and using. On his optimistic days, he feels he has made a bit of progress.