[It’s a] fallacy that little or no project management is required in open source, or conversely, that the same management practices used for in-house development will work equally well on an open source project. Management in an open source project isn’t always very visible, but in the successful projects, it’s usually happening behind the scenes in some form or another. A small thought experiment suffices to show why. An open source project consists of a random collection of programmers—already a notoriously independent-minded category—who have most likely never met each other, and who may each have different personal goals in working on the project. The thought experiment is simply to imagine what would happen to such a group without management. Barring miracles, it would collapse or drift apart very quickly. Things won’t simply run themselves, much as we might wish otherwise.
But the management, though it may be quite active, is often informal, subtle, and low-key. The only thing keeping a development group together is their shared belief that they can do more in concert than individually. Thus the goal of management is mostly to ensure that they continue to believe this, by setting standards for communications, by making sure useful developers don’t get marginalized due to personal idiosyncracies, and in general by making the project a place developers want to keep coming back to.
— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software