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

“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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