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More on LinuxToday LazyWeb and RSS: Given Enough Eyeballs, Are Features Shallow Too?

Jan 09, 2003, 02:30 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Clay Shirky)

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"A persistent criticism of open source software is that it is more about copying existing features than creating new ones. While this criticism is overblown, the literature of open source is clearer on debugging than on design. This note concerns an attempt to apply debugging techniques to feature requests and concludes by describing Ben Hammersley's attempt to create such a system, implemented as an RSS feed.

"A key observation in Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar is: 'Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.' Raymond suggests that Brook's Law--'Adding more programmers to a late software project makes it later'--doesn't apply here, because debugging is less collaborative than most other software development. He quotes Linus on the nature of debugging: 'Somebody finds the problem, and somebody else understands it. And I'll go on record as saying that finding it is the bigger challenge.'

"Finding a bug doesn't mean simply pointing out broken behavior, though. Finding a bug means both locating it and describing it clearly. The difference between 'It doesn't work' and 'Whenever I resize the login window, the Submit button disappears' is the difference between useless mail and useful feedback. Both the description and the fix are vital, and the description precedes the fix..."

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