On The Cathedral and the Bazaar

I think the paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond (who has a weblog) is a bit disappointing. I started to read it some months ago, during compiles at work, and got stuck on the last chapter, but now I have finished it.

The paper lists no less than 19 rules or principles that aren’t specific to the “Linux development model”, but rather generic and from vastly different contexts. Some are applicable, if not only in open-source projects so at least in very few projects outside the open-source world – such as “Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.”

Others are very specific, such as “When writing gateway software of any kind, take pains to disturb the data stream as little as possible – and never throw away information unless the recipient forces you to!” What I hoped for was a set of rules and principles that were mined from the nature of open-source projects, covering social aspects and explaining the open-source as an ecosystem. Some of them could be transformed into such rules and principles:

  • When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor.
  • Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.
  • Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.
  • Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.
  • If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.
  • The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better.
  • Provided the development coordinator has a communications medium at least as good as the Internet, and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads are inevitably better than one.

There is much overlap here and I feel that there’s more to say about open-source as an ecosystem. There’s no doubt that this paper has played a significant role in the formation of the open-source world, in the process of it starting to become aware of itself, but I still am disappointed. I will probably get back to this. Got to go.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on October 24, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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