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Lotus.com: Open Source Projects Manage Themselves? Dream On

Sep 15, 2000, 04:00 (12 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Charles Connell)

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"Much has been written about the open source method of software development. By far, one of the most tantalizing statements about open source development is these projects manage themselves. Gone are layers of do-nothing managers with bloated bureaucracies and interminable development schedules. In their place is a new paradigm of self-organizing software developers with no overhead and high efficiency."

"The dust jacket for Eric Raymond's open source manifesto The Cathedral and the Bazaar makes this statement clearly. It says: '...the development of the Linux operating system by a loose confederation of thousands of programmers -- without central project management or control -- turns on its head everything we thought we knew about software project management. ... It [open source] suggested a whole new way of doing business, and the possibility of unprecedented shifts in the power structures of the computer industry." This is not just marketing hype on a book cover, Raymond expands the point inside: "... the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches ... out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles." Other open source adherents make similar statements in trumpeting the virtues of open source programming."

"There is one problem with the statement, open source projects manage themselves. It is not true. This article shows open source projects are about as far as you can get from self-organizing. In fact, these projects use strong central control, which is crucial to their success. As evidence, I examine Raymond's fetchmail project (which is the basis of The Cathedral and the Bazaar ) and Linus Torvalds's work with Linux. This article describes a clearer way to understand what happens on successful open source projects and suggests limits on the growth of the open source method."

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