Public blockchain communities A study on how governance mechanisms are expressed within blockchain communities
Abstract: Blockchain technology is rapidly growing and can in the near future disrupt industries such as finance, cyber security, and political voting systems. The interest in the phenomenon has increased the past years, and as a result, more research within the field has emerged as a natural outcome. Previous research has to a large extent focused on technical and legal issues facing the technology. In contrast, this study aims to fill the research gap by bringing insight to the field of governance within public blockchain open source software (OSS) communities, whereas the most well-recognized blockchain projects, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are OSS. Therefore, the following research question has been set to direct this study; Which governance mechanisms are expressed within public blockchain communities? By analyzing previous research on governance mechanisms within OSS, a theoretical framework was constructed. The framework was based on well-recognized OSS community literature and consists of six governance mechanisms. The similarities and differences between OSS communities and blockchain OSS communities are identified through the use of the theoretical framework. Moreover, by analyzing forum and blog posts on online communities where contributors communicate regarding development and visions of the researched community and platform. On those communities, by-products from communications has been left as digital traces, which is analyzed by conducting a methodology referred to as trace ethnography. Furthermore, an exploratory approach was included in this study, allowing the researchers to explore beyond the scope of the framework. The framework was used as a foundation for this study, and resulted in findings showing that several governance mechanisms are similar to those in OSS communities, whilst others differed. Five of the mechanisms were found to be similar to those in the framework. However, the sixth mechanism involving leadership differed from OSS communities since the community decide which road to follow. This does not make it autocratic, or democratic, since the contributors have an option to support the version of protocol they believe will prevail. Lastly, initiative-based progress is presented as an extended mechanism, and an implication from this study. This is due to it instigating a flexible and progressive approach towards rapidly developing a collaborative project within blockchain OSS communities.
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