Brooks’ Law in a Free Software context

Wednesday 7th May 2014, 6:30 pm.

Speaker: Dr. Paul James Adams, KDAB

Venue: Room 4.31, University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB.

Joint meeting with the Open Source Specialst Group

Refreshments and networking from 6:00 pm.

This event is free of charge and open to all. No registration required - just turn up.


Proponents of the Free Software paradigm have argued that some of the most established software engineering principles do not fully apply when considered in an open, distributed approach found in Free Software development. The objective of this talk is to empirically examine the Brooks’ Law in a Free Software context. The principle is separated out into its two primary premises.

The first is based on a developer’s ability to become productive when joining a new team; the second premise relates to the quality of coordination as the team grows. Three large projects are studied for this purpose: KDE, Plone and Evince. Based on empirical evidence, the talk provides two main contributions: based on the first premise of Brooks’ Law, it claims that coordination costs increase only in a very specific phase for Free Software projects. After that, these costs become quasi-constant.

Secondly, it shows that a ramp up period exists in Free Software projects, and this period marks the divide between projects that are successful at engaging new contributors from others that only benefit from occasional new contributors.

About the speaker


Paul Adams is a software engineer, specialising in Free Software community management. He currently works as a Director for KDAB; the world’s largest consultancy dedicated to Qt, the Free Software cross-platform application framework. Paulgraduated in 2004 as a Software Engineer, from the University of Durham, UK. His subsequent doctorate was conducted between 2004 and 2009 from the University of Lincoln. Paul was awarded Chartered IT Professional status, in 2008 and is a full professional member of the British Computer Society, IEEE as well as of KDE e.V. and the Fellowship of the FSFE. He is a Fellow of the OpenForum Academy.

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