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Cathedral and the Bazaar, The

AuthorEric S. Raymond Entered2000-12-28 00:10:13 by bcrowell
Editedit data record FreedomCopylefted, but with restrictions on modification and/or sale (disclaimer)
SubjectQ.A - Mathematics. Computer science (Computer Science)
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A pragmatists perspective of an Ideology.
by cyent on 2000-12-29 03:14:01, review #68
better than 99%
better than 80%

The Cathedral and the Bazaar is justly famous for explaining mechanisms behind the success of Open Source software.

Its primary viewpoint is in laying bare the "inner clockwork" that makes the Open Source development model so successful.

Its primary weakness is that of any analytic and objective analysis.

There is an implicit assumption that only the objectively observable clockwork drives the process and thus discounts the role of spirit and ideology.

Thus if you believe humanity can be explained by reductively in terms of cells, molecules and atoms, you will find this work satisfying.

I have lived in some of the vast spiritual and ideological upheavals that have trampled over most of the world in the 20th century, leaving pragmatic and materialistic USA in relative peace...

Thus I find Raymond's assessment of the role of the ideology behind Free Software a little shallow.

Yet in this very shallowness lies its huge popular success.

How can the pragmatic and materialistic USA, the main producer and consumer of software, be made comfortable with a methodology flowing out of an essentially radical ideology?

By rubbing off the sharp edges, renaming "Free Software" to a less emotionally loaded "Open Source".

By explicating the methodologies and mechanisms behind the success in the hope that one can take the mechanisms on board without swallowing the ideologies.

By merging it with American right wing individualistic traditions.

This Raymond does remarkably well. Whether you have more radical thoughts or are staunchly capitalistic, Raymond has done his job very well. Read it. Read it now. You need to read his triptych to understand what is going on.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Explains the mechanisms that make Open Source such a good software development model.

Homesteading the Noosphere

Is his analysis of the property and ownership customs of the open-source culture.

The Magic Cauldron

Is an excellent review of economic sense of Open Source.

Conclusion of the Reviewer

In conclusion it is well worth the read. Yes, you can, as many Open Source proponents do, take on the mechanisms but not the ideology.

However, be aware that beyond the mechanisms, discounted, discarded and undescribed by Raymond, lie also a vast sea of extremely potent ideologies.

You can argue long whether the ideologies are communistic (as many have accused), libertarian, or simply religious (eg. Larry Wall's Artistic License). Whatever your opinion is, the zeal of Free Software supporters does not permit a simply pragmatic explanation such as Raymond's.

Look to the (global, not USA) history of the 20th century and wonder...

What in the long run will have the most impact. The mechanisms, or the ideologies?

As far as I'm concern the copyleft on this if even more left than two options imposed on me. See <a href="">for details of the "No problem Bugroff" license.</a>

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interesting and influential, but flawed
by Ben Crowell (crowell09 at (change 09 to current year)) on 2001-12-19 20:09:07, review #148
better than 80%
better than 80%
This collection of papers, including the one referred to in the title, has been extremely influential in open-source software circles. Raymond is a snappy writer, and his pragmatic, reasonable approach is a welcome antidote to the kind of shrill fanaticism you hear from a lot of the GNU zealots.

One problem I have with Raymond's line of argument is that he is arguing for a particular style of development (bazaar rather than cathedral), but his evidence tends to depend on comparing different economic models of development. For instance, he compares EMACS favorably with the hordes of closed-source editors that have come and gone over the years, but to support his case for the bazaar style, he needs to compare an open-source cathedral program with an open-source bazaar program. The appropriate comparison would be, say, LaTeX versus Star Office.

The other bone I choked on was that Raymond seemed to focus entirely on the software used by Unix hackers, especially the software that runs the internet and the world-wide web. He is silent about the kind of desktop software that most computer users need and care about, which leaves me wondering what he thinks about the desktop. Is it irrelevant? Does he think open source is a success on the desktop? A failure? A success that was turned into a failure by the Microsoft monopoly? We don't know, because he never tells us. His Hacking the Noosphere article refers to applications software as the next thing that might happen in open source, which makes it a little out of date and leaves us hanging.

Information wants to be free, so make some free information.

This review has been revised. Earlier versions (viewing not yet implemented): -1
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The contents of this web page, except the parts contributed by members of The Assayer, are copyright (c) 2000 by Benjamin Crowell, and are copyleft licensed under the Open Publication License 1.0, without options A or B.