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Academic Criticism of ESR's The Cathedral & The Bazaar 187

Gorgonzola sent us the linkage to First Monday's critique of [ESR]'s The Cathedral and The Bazaar. C&B is criticized academically, cited as being an oversimplified view of OSS, as well as a distortion of reality. Well-written critique, and one that should provoke discussion.
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Academic Criticism of ESR's The Cathedral & The Bazaar

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  • All I seem to get from this article is a long-winded diatrabe trying to say that ESR is a commie-pinko bastard.

    This article is more of a rant than any kind of constructive criticism.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I often think that the Cathedral and the Bizarre was not particularly well thought out. There's a few main reasons that I say that the main one being the fact that there almost always needs to be some 'cathedral' like organisation for open source projects to work, all the successfull projects (e.g. Linux) have a hierarchical approach with Linus as the leader then people under him (e.g. Alan Cox) then people submit patches to them. This is not strictly Cathedral and nowhere near bazarre. It is however more cathedral then bazarre as there is a high element of organisation towards the top of the tree.

    Open source projects that don't go by this approach and go on the 'everyone is equal' bazaare approach often means the project gets absolutely nowhere and instead consists of endless discussions and absolutely no coding.

    Some of ESR's early advocacy made Netscape believe that open source would be the panacea which would solve all their problems, if they were told to think about it before releasing a product we may have been much further along in their progress.

    However Mozilla is now on track despite the early setbacks and their mistakes will hopefully guide other companies along the open source route. I'd like someone at Mozilla (or the departed JWZ) to write in depth paper about the mistakes made by Mozilla and how they're finally getting on track and set to release a decent product.

    If you don't believe me download a few nightly builds (read the release notes before complaining as they're still pre-alpha).
  • I thought Bezroukov's article was fairly well written... and was probably mostly *correct* at that. But the one thing that rather bugged me was the number of times that he attempted to diminish Raymond's arguments by casting the aspersion that they were Marxist (and therefore wrong).

    This is bothersome on many levels. For one, I am a real Marxist academic. Real Marxists are not the straw puppets warned about at the Heritage Institute or the _Skeptical Inquirer_. We are not touchy-feely-and-yet-totalitarian as the outline seems to run in Bezroukov's mind. So obviously I don't care fore 'Marxist' used as an aspersion (especially without understanding what it means).

    On the other hand, Raymond's writing just aren't Marxist in tone or content. I suppose that, yes, they are a little left-wing in bent. And they do have a couple themes that are also talked about by Marxists (in different ways). But overall, it just ain't Marxism. That doesn't in itself make it either more or less interesting... but one should read them as what they are. I have no idea how Raymond thinks of himself politically or intellectually, but I *do* know what his writings say.

    After you put aside the common red-scare cannard of Bezroukov, the bits about understanding a rather longstanding scientific cooperative process are well taken... and definitely help to round out some of the simplification in Raymond.
  • Microsoft talked tough to competitors, but generally backed down when their bluff was called. That, folks, is what is known as ordinary business practices.

    That is called bully tactics at best, and if its ordinary business, then business should be ashamed of itself. And even if it is common, it doesn't mean that the industry shouldn't fight against unethical and/or illegal practices when they happen.

    For example, Microsoft threatened to withold Windows 95 from IBM. IBM didn't budge from their position. Microsoft backed down.

    IBM is one of the few companies that is big enough and powerful enough that they can play hardball with Microsoft. IBM also has a track record of playing dirty (although they seem to have significantly cleaned up their act in the past few years), which they also have spent significant time in court with the government over.

    In any case, Microsoft may have eventually backed down, but they did manage to stick IBM with more expensive licensing than some of the other competitors were paying, and they also delayed giving IBM access to Windows 95 long enough that it was a competitive disadvantage for IBM.

  • "Plays well to the choir" can be translated as meaning: "Sounds good to the already convinced."

    Stuffed shirt theoreticians who get off on sounding all mighty and powerful when giving speeches to their followers have existed for centuries.

    It doesn't mean a damn thing on Main Street.

  • RMS is for Free Software defined by the GPL.
    He (and many others) should get credit for all the GNU utilities that come with a Linux distribution.

    RMS view of OS is not the same as ESR view. I don't see RMS as trying to take credit for Open Source, but he wants people to acknowledge the GNU utilities that are out there.

    Just try to use Linux w/o GNU.

    Steven Rostedt
  • The article clearly seems like a piece written by a group of writers, set out to attack open source using every conceivable twist of words and phrases.

    I would classify this as a PR release meant for journalists. It has tons of material which could be rephrased to fit whatever agenda the journalist has in mind. Ideal material for a journalist who gets a second paycheck from MS. No MS sources, just a "scientific" criticism of open source.

    Is it a coincidence that this was timed to coincide with Microsoft's attack at Linux on their website? The timing should push a review of this piece into the same article which will cover Microsoft's attack at Linux in tomorrow's newspapers.

    If I was planning MS's propaganda campaign against Open Source, free software, and Linux, I would distribute a piece just like this for the consumption of the public and journalists.

    Seems like a classic piece, directly from a spook lab.

  • I'm not talking internet companies. I'm talking software packages. "e-Bay" does not sell their software.

    If you have a dream for a piece of software and you want to try to get rich, go for it.

    I do, actually. I just don't think that selling it is the way to get rich

    Can you name anyone who has gotten rich selling software in the last ten years? (If you say "Andresson", I'll have to point out that Netscape gave away their browser pretty much for free, even in the beginning.)
  • Well, that happens in closed source too. I know because I'm the idiot who usually ends up fixi-- hey, wait a minute. Nasty AC, you tricked me. Anyway, I know because I'm the guy who usually ends up fixing it.

  • Something important to note about this article is that it quotes numerous third party sources saying things against Linux and open source, without questioning the truthfulness of those statements.

    E.g. ("It will be a cold day at the equator before L. Torvalds sets aside his ego for the sake of someone else's better ideas.")."

    Anyone who has followed the development of Linux knows that one of the greatest talents of Linus Torvalds has been his ability to accept his own mistakes. He has been known to scrap his own code in favor of better code by others on several occasions. He is the leader of the movement precisely because he doesn't allow his ego to control decisions on Linux.

    These types of unqualified comments are a tool used by authors of propaganda. It is not tolerated by scientists, who are very adamant about sticking to facts.

    Whether you are a scientist or a lawyer, you know that third party quotes are a very bad way to prove your point.

    However, every writer of propaganda knows that journalists don't have the time to check all their facts because of pressing deadlines. So these types of lies easily creap into published articles. This is true especially in the case of daily newspapers. And these are the primary source of information, or intelligence some like to say, for the voting, stock buying, software buying masses.

  • What follows is the microeconomics perspective of the Microsoft situation. You may not agree on the appropriate interpretations of the definitions and theorems, but you can't argue against the definitions or theorems themselves: they are stated (and, in the case of theorems, proved) in every textbook.

    A company has monopoly power in a market if it is able to sell goods at more than the marginal cost of production. Microsoft in recent quarters has achieved about 50% profit margin. They take in 1.5 dollars of revenue for every dollar of expenses. This margin is way above what any company in the software market or any other market can make. Therefore, according to the economists' definition, Microsoft has monopoly power in the OS market.

    There is a theorem in microeconomics that states that in a competitive market, long term economic profit is zero. Note that economic profit is different from the accounting profit that companies put on their quarterly reports. I am not saying that in a competitive market companies have no profits! Economic profit is defined as accounting profit minus opportunity cost (the cost you incur by not using your resources to exploit other opportunities). The theorem simply says that, in the long term, competitive companies do not make any additional profit above and beyond what they could make doing anything else.

    It seems obvious to me that a company like MS, expecting 50% profit margins for as many years ahead as the eye can see, is making serious economic profit, that is above and beyond what they could make in any other line of work. MS's enormous long term economic profit indicates that their market cannot be competitive.

    Monopolies are not outlawed in the US just because they're immoral. A major motivation for the Sherman act was that monopoly power can seriously drain the nation of beneficial, and vital, economic activity. Whenever you have a company like MS with monopoly power, you have deadweight loss--the company's product (e.g. a copy of Windows) costs far less to produce than it is priced, so consequently a lot of people who would pay more than cost of production for a copy of Windows are unable to get one. This loss of mutually beneficial trade hurts both the consumer (who would rather have his Windows) and MS (who would gladly sell something for more than cost of production, if only it didn't have to lower prices to everyone else!). In extreme cases (e.g. the industrial trusts of the late 1800s), the deadweight loss from monopoly power can drain away a significant chunk of the national economy. Restoring a competitive market can add a whole lot of beneficial trades that bolster the national economy, as well as the aggregate well-being of both the consumers and the producers who participate in said trades.

    So that, my friends, is the academic economist's perspective. Make of it what you will.

  • ... grep the internet looking for remarks made by famous people against OSS, insert a few comments, and mould it into a stick with which to beat ESR, and OSS.

    The author slags Linus for being a dictator, and claims Linux is not demorcratic. But the author also slags OSSs need for strong leadership.
    Personally I think giving the masses a vote on whether driver X implements feature Y in a sensible way is just plain stupid - Democracy does not work everywhere.

    More useful would be solutions to the problems which most /.ers know about.

    • How do you keep s/n ratio up on a dev. list?
    • How do you keep a core team together?
    • How do we avoid yet more pointless bitching?

    Don't get me wrong I don't think OSS is a silver bullet either, but we need to be a little more constructive in our criticism of it.

    <joke> I think we need ESR to vigourously defend himself, and maybe some choice words from Bruce wouldn't go amiss too ... </joke>

  • One thing that the author of this work should remember is that ESR is a PROGRAMMER. And that gives one a different perspective from a writer. I don't see that the article invalidates TC&TB, but simply explains it. Bezroukov tries to make a case for the OSS movement to be modeled using the existing system in the Scientific community. Personally I think that they both come from Celtic societies concept that your worth in the community is based upon what you contribute to the community. What is even more interesting about Celtic society is that the knowledge worker class (the Druids/Bards/Brehon/Senachies/etc) were the most highly regarded. In fact, a Druid's "eric" (no pun intended, this is the actual word they use) or "honour price" is greater than that of a Kings. A Druid could walk into the field between two armies and stop them cold in their tracks if he/she felt there was sufficient reason to. And, yes, there were both male and female Druids.

    Again, being a practicing Druid, and Celtic Reconstructionist, I see the OSS movement in terms of what I know, just like Bezroukov does. Doesn't make either of us, or ESR wrong, just different.


    Silver Fox Grove, ADF []

  • that a lot of people assume that the Cathedral model of development is essentially the same as that of the commercial world, and the Bazaar is that of free software. They forget, or don't notice, that the essay's primary example of Cathedral development is the Emacs core, which is most definitely an example of free software!

    It seems that this 'academic' critique makes the same oversight, which makes me a bit less willing to accept its arguments.
  • Very well-done piece. I think both the author and ESR missed something, though.

    The Internet is a new media. It would be worth studying the emergence of other media types - radio, newspapers, even speech in general - and their characteristics. This I think would give a better picture, and provide a better foundation for an analysis. The author has the right idea, comparing to what used to be the academic scientific community (although I fear Capitalism, Panacaea For Making Something Good, has almost completely ruined the "hot" areas in the same way Linux advocates see Microsoft ruining software).

    For instance, even though I'm not a social scientist, several things leap out at this higher abstraction level, from human-nature oriented things - what was the big deal with cable? Movies? No, be honest, it was really soft porn - such as sex and advertising being the first big two utilizers of a new medium; to what I see as the major cause of OSS - the new medium needs stuff done. There's a vacuum, and the medium itself allows anyone to fill it, so they do.

    This strikes me as a temporary situation though, at least partially; what happens when, five or ten years from now, you can no longer just tweak and "make" your kernel? Or the gnome/kde infrastructure is so big that newbies cannot just jump on and start coding? (In that last case, you'll start seeing more informal similarities with the academic scientific model). Will OSS really matter that much anymore?

    Here's a more interesting angle into that question: what happens when computers become "invisible"? Electricity and telephones are already invisible - they're so ubiquitous that you don't notice them. Computers will be a utility and a many-to-many medium. Hm, on second thought, maybe this is just assuming the general purpose PC will go away ....

    Those are just possibilities though. What do you think?

  • This guy really seems to make a lot of erroneous assumptions about the Open Source community. I only read C&B once but I don't remember ESR saying that OSS projects are magically easy. I don't remember him saying that OSS projects never fail.

    Did he say the Microsoft needs to be destroyed? It seems to me that most OSS people agree that Microsoft's software and business practices suck, but care little about M$ beyond that. Yeah they'd love to see Gates get a good spanking, but I certainly don't think they really care what happens to M$. These may be my erroneous assumptions, but one thing I'm sure of is that this guy is overestimating the relevance of Microsoft in the past, present, and future of OSS. It's a common goal, not a common enemy that drives this community.

    Almost every paragraph that I read seemed to be off key with my view of OSS and the community surrounding it. Or maybe it's just my view that's skewed...

  • I think the point should be made that coexistance between Open and Closed is perfectly possible. In fact, it gives some rather interesting pricing information. If 2 compilers are priced at $5K each, then it might be harder to distinguish the features as compared to a free one where you know that if you wait some time N, features might become available. It then acts as a natural queuing system, separating people according to their time perference. It also has the benefit of being a quality bar in that any commercial product must be at the minimum be better than the "free" and thus force the company to keep on their toes and pour some of those profits back into development (ie discourage rent-seeking behaviour).

    The point about Microsoft is rather interesting. If its role is to "act" as a convenient target due to its "innovative" business practices, if MS wasn't around would OpenSource be more conflict-driven and less cohesive or even not feasible? Much like the Blitz in WW2, if everyone is suffering in equal misery, then there are less complaints about ownership/sharing of kudos as the focus is on the external "threat". I would see this as a future problem as more projects become commercialised and money becomes a influencing factor rather than idealism or passion.

    The only area which might be a little lacking is the comment about technical support. If ESR's Magic Cauldron thesis is correct in that maintenance becomes the primary cost function in software as a service rather than manufactured good, then it makes sense to pay for the value of support/hand-holding (or risk reduction) and OpenSource then becomes the advertising sheet (if 50% of peers use it then it must be worthwhile). In any complex problem especially software systems, if you don't understand it, you can't support it and any competitor would have a significant time penalty. I think some studies on the true cost of IT would be rather illuminating.

    The other point about scientists having capped financial rewards (ie low salary compared with equivalent industry experience) is that it is a trade-off between what you enjoy (research). It seems to me that you get paid for doing things you don't like and pay out (or salary sacrifice) for fun things. Would it be fair to say that OpenSource is to some people a hobby for relaxation? If so, then it is understandable why people prefer the GPL as it is probably offensive to see others benefit disproporationately from an act of generosity.

    So in a world of Open/Closed, it opens up a whole new set of rules that should be interesting to watch. Personally I see it like a snowstorm, you require the chaotic elements to initially form (small = more likely to be creative), but then you need the balanced framework to grow (formal documentation, etc). Together, they make rich and varied beautiful structures.

  • It's funny... when I first read ESR's essays on open source, I was immediately and viscerally won over by what I then perceived as the inherent rightness of his descriptions of open source development. This is how it things should be.

    However, reading Bezroukov's article, I'm struck just as strongly -- that this is how things really are. I don't mean that I necessarily believe that open source is doomed to "fail", (whatever failure means) but until and unless we recognize the limitations of a development model -- or a governmental model or anything else for that matter -- we will not be able to make good choices for ourselves or for our industry. What's the old saw "those who refuse to study history are doomed to repeat it?" By declaring that open source is NEW NEW NEW we try to take it out of context and fail to make use of our opportunities to learn how to strengthen it.


  • The example I read said something about a bad famine causing a population to not grow as tall during that generation - but that subsequent generations also didn't get as tall as before the famine, but were heading that way.

    Could it also be that regular old natural selection is at work here? People who "wasted" scarce resources growing "needlessly" tall died out, while those who had a predisposition to shortness survived.

    Cook the gene pool under said conditions and cool. The population is now shorter, obstensibly due to malnutrition.

    But wait a bit longer, and see that new generations are getting taller now that the selective pressure is removed.

    Phenomena explained, using only standard evolutionary/genetic theory, and by Occam's Razor is a better explaination.

    Now I am not saying that this methylation thingy is wrong. But it is not necessary to explain the phenomena you cited.

    BTW, I am not a biologist, by I am a chemist, and I have done a little work studying methylation of DNA, specifically as a way to treat cancer.

  • First, off I really enjoyed this article and I think that he makes some really good points about problems in Free/Open Source Software. In particular, I think that he has some good points about the problems projects have as they grow. I have seen a lot of symptoms he mentions in the growing pains that Debian has been going through.

    I think, though, that he has picked the wrong target for this article. He makes a lot of good points, but I don't really think that he is refuting ESR in most of them.

    I think that his "Catherdral and Bazaar Postulates" are exaggerated. I did not get the impression that ESR believes in these postulates, either from CATB or his later writings. There are probably some people who would agree with these postulates, but I get the impression that ESR is more pragmatic.

    He says:

    All open source projects are the same and employ the so-called "bazaar model". This model is inherently good compared to methods developed by commercial software developers. All alternative models (considered to be one and called the "Cathedral model") are infidel and doomed. Nothing can compete in quality with open source.

    I don't think that ESR thinks the Bazaar is for everything and every project, and I don't think that it is implied in CATB. There are plenty of Free Software projects that are closer to the Cathedral than the Bazaar, and there is nothing wrong with that. Each project should use whatever form works for its participants and best meets the goals of the project. The point of CATB is that you should examine your development model and see if opening it up might help the project.

    Microsoft need to be destroyed.

    More like software needs to not suck. We need more competition in software so that the software gets better, and Open Source Software is one way to help get it. Microsoft isn't going to disappear, but maybe they'll be forced to make more reliable products.

    The open source movement consist of ideal cooperative people. Conflicts are few and can be resolved within a community.

    I don't think ESR is that idealistic, or that Open source Software depends on that kind of idealism. Flame wars happen. Big deal. Sometimes they may distract people from getting real work done, but often the real flamers are just wannabes, so their lost time does not really slow progress. Conflicts are fine, and the right kind of conflicts help make the software better.

    Anyway, it was a good article, but I don't think that it was really refuting CATB.

  • Thankfully I am among the stupid and uninitiated who have used thier Microsoft product CD's for frizbee's. My Linux box hasn't crashed yet and that is more than I can say about Windows based computer I've owned. Talk all the trash you want, experience tells a different story.
  • This is as it should be for work dealing with Open Source. Put it out, get feedback, fix it, repeat.

    It's October 6th. Where's W2K? Over the horizon again, eh?
  • Some minor discrepancy which catched my eye. The author first states that

    (A) Authoritarian methods will kill any given open source project more effectively than anything else.

    and later (B)

    Open source may sound democratic, but it isn't. Leaders of the best known open source development efforts often explicitely stated that they function as dictators

    It seems impossible that booth of these statements are true. Did the author miss something here?

    These statements back each other up. The first one says that dictatorships will kill an OS project, the second one says that the best known OS projects have dictators, ergo, OS will fail (not my personally opinion, but that of the original author). There is no contradiction in either of these statements.
  • "What I find is an excellent example of why academia, and academic criticism, has so little respect outside its own little pond."

    Without entirely repeating myself from an earlier thread, or seeming to defend academia, I feel compelled to point out that this isn't a paper in the academic tradition.

    => Doesn't ground itself in an existing body of theory.

    => Doesn't refer to other, refereed academic or scientific works.

    => Doesn't attempt to support, refute, or extend an existing body of theory through additional evidence and logical argument.

    => Doesn't attempt to create a new body of theory from first principles and support it with experimental evidence.

    => No footnotes, citations, or other references.

    => No layout of arguments or evidence from cited references.

    So - an interesting polemic, yes. An academic work, no.

  • by Foogle ( 35117 )
    I like to see some decent critism of Linux/OSS based stuff. It's certainly not FUD of any type, and hopefully no one will start flaming :)


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Yep. The author was distinguishing Communism as practiced ("vulgar Marxism") from actual Marxism as described by Marx.

    Given this, one should consider the phrase "vulgar Raymondism", which implies a similar corruption of ESR-style OSS.

    Or, in other words, the author seems to be saying that OSS in practice is different from what ESR describes. The author then goes on to explain what he thinks the differences are.

  • by Kitsune Sushi ( 87987 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @05:50AM (#1629773)

    ESR has often complained about being flamed rather than being given constructive criticism (e.g., the Bruce Perens/ESR dispute), so I simply have to wonder.. Exactly how will he react to criticism like this, which is much more academic in nature?

    Of course, the reason why this comes to mind is because of a post in a previous discussion (I believe regarding ESR's answers to the questions posed by Slashdot) that suggested that flaming ESR was pointless because it would engender an attitude in him along the lines of "no, you don't understand. I'm right, you're wrong, so get out of my way".

  • ESR has posted his responce [] to Nikolai Bezroukov's criticism. [] ESR states that he "welcomes such criticism" but that Nikolai "adds almost nothing useful to the debate."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think that the author made a very good point about Microsoft. While I don't know how much ESR really called for the "destruction" of Microsoft (was he referring to total destruction, or "IBM" destruction-- lose a *lot* of market share to the better alternatives, but still keep a profitable business?).

    The thing is, I see the Linux community calling constantly for the downfall of Microsoft. I hear them rallying behind the DoJ, claiming that we need to destroy the Microsoft monopoly. Yet, if the number of people on Slashdot is any indication, there are enough people using Linux, *BSD, and other operating systems to show that Microsoft *can't* have a monopoly. It's self-contradictory.

    That doesn't mean I like Microsoft. I think the products are shoddy and the FUD is distasteful.

    But I guess Microsoft is a sort of unifying force to a lot of people. Ironic, then, that the very people that Microsoft unites are attempting to destroy it.

    Give MS time. It will eventually hang itself, and fade into the background. It will become a geek-accepted company ("They don't make the best products, but *at least* they don't have a monopoly, like [insert new evil empire here]"). It will be a good place to invest money. It will do some interesting research, come up with some interesting stuff from time to time, but really just be another software company-- kinda like IBM is with hardware now.
  • in a way analagous to opening the window to a smoky room. The breeze may be cold and a bit unpleasant, but the air is fresh and clarity is improved.

    It's continually facinating to me that so many stories and interpretations come from a single set of words. Where you seem to have read:
    Open source is like Communism.

    Communism failed.
    Therefore, open source is doomed to failure.

    my understanding of the same article was markedly different:
    - Open source is very closely related to the scientific/academic communities.

    - It suffers from many of the same maladies and shares many of the same strengths.
    - In communistic USSR, the scientific community was damaged by ....
    - In capitalistic US, the scientific community is damaged by ...
    - Open Source is a powerful movement, but it is
    still young. Careful analysis of it's real strengths and weaknesses are necessary to fulfill and keep it's power.

    Ahhh. Slashdot. Where you can read 10,000 unique news stories every day. :)

  • by Matts ( 1628 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:48AM (#1629777) Homepage
    Well here's my take after reading the whole thing...

    This doesn't seem to be a critique of CatB at all - more squarely aimed at the open source concept in general.

    However... It's just a nice collection of articles, writings and statements we've seen and argued about before. I've seen nothing new here. What I do see is a lot of stuff from a few individuals who've had a bad experience with OSS - or even who've pointed out weaknesses in the model (and yet often pointed out solutions - a fact this article doesn't cover). We've all seen the writings of Ritchie and Zawinski on this subject - often well thought out, sometimes flawed.

    There's a bit in there about development models - how patches to Linux get rejected and waste developer time causing bad feeling. But someone should go and read Linus' statements on the ISDN stuff from the kernel dev list - they are very clear as to why sometimes good patches get rejected. That's just the nature of the beast. However it doesn't amount to wasted time. Those patches don't vanish in a poof of smoke - they could be integrated better (or written better - whatever is applicable) later. Even on commercial projects you don't always get your code included just because you spent a 3 months writing it (voice of experience here...).

    Yes, it's a good article covering a lot of pitfalls of open source development. Yes, it's a horribly flawed article. No, open source isn't a panacea - that doesn't exist (unless you're in s/w marketing).

    Move along - nothing to see here. :)

    (really need to change this .sig)

    perl -e 'print scalar reverse q(\)-: ,hacker Perl another Just)'
  • Well written (except for a missing close bold tag anyway *g*) and fairly good at summarizing the various criticisms of open source. Unfortunately I don't see too much new thought, just an organization of some good points that have been made before.

    I also don't agree with a lot of these points. For example, he makes a point of the dictatorial nature of many a group's management. There is a bit of a difference between authoritarian management and the normal usage of the word "dictatorship", in that this is dictatorship by consent. Leaders are delegated dictatorial powers by their group in the interests of efficiency. No guns are being pointed at developers heads. Dissenters can always fork their own version of the software should the power be actually abused. The dictators aren't rewarded disproportionately and often work a lot harder than most contributors.

    He repeatedly refers to ESR's papers as "marxist." While they may be biased, it would be rather surprising to find marxist bias in the writings of an avowed libertarian-capitalist. I think this is clear evidence he wasn't able to completely parse what ESR was really saying. Or maybe ESR is a closet communist after all?

    I think he's also a bit overly concerned with distro fragmentation. It *does* lead to irritating problems, but nearly always problems with solutions, and usually fairly simple ones. There is no doubt it can be done better, and I expect Linux will evolve to do so if the problems created become serious enough. The real concern here is that the response will likely be for the market leader to become the de facto standard. It might be better if the most functional and efficient distro layout triumphed. But, good enough often wins over better, and open source is not a solution to *that* problem.

    As to open source not being a magic bullet, I think nearly everyone agrees, it's almost a straw man. Worth pointing it out one more time since some don't get it, but not exactly surprising.

    The academic parallel is a worthwhile subject of study. Stephen Adler's Open-Source/Open-Science conference recently is clearly an indication that others have also noticed the similarity. But don't be too quick to conclude which side will learn more from the other. It's likely both can benefit.
  • I do not think the article dismisses CatB as socialistic rhetoric. The main point I got out of it was that CatB describes Open Source as a new phenomenon, whereas it really is another form of scientific community.

    I thought the article was well-written and accurate. One especially valid point is that the failures of open source do not get any attention. For every Apache there are probably dozens of aborted projects that never worked out. This is not necessarily a problem, because the people that worked on the failures learned something and had fun coding. But it does give us a skewed view of how effective the open source methodology is (because the successes are far more visible than the failures). In the commercial world, the "failures" usually end up being released at some point, so we see the whole gamut of results. -YoJ

  • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:52AM (#1629780) Homepage Journal
    The fundamental problem with the whole "Open Source is communism" argument is this.

    If you create a widget and give it away, you lose the widget.

    If you create a program and give it away, you don't lose the software.

    This is difference fundamentally effects the economics of software.

    Now people like to talk about "lost sales" as a sort of loss similar to giving away a physical object, but in reality this is rarely the case. If you look at the success of "Linux" vs. the success of "Minix", it is pretty clear that the "lost sales" experienced by Linus in giving away his product for free were minimal. Had he attempted to sell it, it would have failed. Given the noteriety he has gained, I do not doubt that from a purely self-interested standpoint, he was better off in the long run giving it away. I suspect this is true for a lot of Open Source authors.
  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:52AM (#1629781)
    This is an interesting polemic, well-written and thought provoking for the OS community. However, I would have to respectfully disagree with the statement that it is an "academic" (that is, of or from the academy) criticism.

    Reason: no footnoted arguments from, or references to, any academic literature from the last 200 years or so in the areas of economics, political economy, business (evil MBA stuff), or software engineering. No reference (that is, detailed references with footnotes) to current or past theory in these areas. No cited quotations from academic journals. And finally, no obtuse, buzzword-driven jargon ;-).

    Now, opinions may differ on the value of academic research and publishing, particularly in areas such as economics and business. However, there is a fairly well-established framework for presenting an idea to one's peers for scrutiny in an academic sense, and this essay doesn't follow that framework.

    Personally, I think it would be helpful if both ESR's CatB argument and some counter-arguments _were_ written up in this format and hashed out in , say, the Journal of Political Economy. YMMV may vary on that thought, of course. But this essay isn't that.

  • by Col. Panic ( 90528 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:53AM (#1629782) Homepage Journal
    This paper is FUD at its worst. Bezroukov first numbs the reader with several statements that rely on links for support rather than explaining the points made in those links: e.g. "(see Jamie Zawinski's letter)"

    Bezroukov's point is often unclear, which may be why he just throws in quotes from others. He even contradicts himself about the payback for OSS developers:

    "Who will be rewarded financially for the enormous open source effort? Burnout of OSS leaders like Linus Torvalds is all too common to ignore."

    followed later by:

    "In both science and programming,those involved aren't in it for the money. Most of the OSS developers are doing it to chase a dream, not to build up their bank balances."

    More pap:

    "A casual trip through cyberspace will turn up evidence of hostility, selfishness, and simple nonsense."

    Welcome to the world of free speech - this is why we have moderators.

    "Linux isn't secure and it isn't stable," my informant writes, ... "its [sic] a moving target that never really gets out of beta."

    WHAT???? Linux is much more like a constantly improving work toward the goals recognized by the majority of its developers. No, wait - it's
    exaclty like that. ;-)

    "Although people are physically separated, they all are working toward a common and important goal. That fuels the Linux movement."

    Yes, it does. If Bezroukov understands this, why spend so much time crying about the "problems" of the open source movement? Why try to shoot down Linus with the anticipation of burnout or authoritarian rule? Oh, yeah - it's FUD.
  • by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:58AM (#1629784) Homepage Journal
    I started reading firstmonday's article, and when I reached the section entitled "Cathedral and Bazaar" Postulates, I noticed numerous factual errors right off the bat. Among the so-called Postulates that Nikolai states he found in Eric's paper are:

    Open source is a completely new progressive phenomenon (bright future of mankind) with no analogs in history.

    I find nothing within CatB that suggests this. As a matter of fact, I found the following which would seem to refute it:

    Not all of these are things I first learned in the Linux world, but we'll see how the Linux world gives them particular point.
    Strike one

    All open source projects are the same and employ the so-called "bazaar model"

    CatB definitely does not say this. Here's a quote:

    It's fairly clear that one cannot code from the ground up in bazaar style ``''. One can test, debug and improve in bazaar style, but it would be very hard to originate a project in bazaar mode.
    That is, no open-source project ever starts out being developed in bazaar style. In fact, just about every project starts out as the work of a single individual. Eric recognized this, but this Nikolai person somehow misinterpreted the paper.

    Strike two

    Microsoft needs to be destroyed.

    I searched CatB for the term Microsoft. Not once is it mentioned that Microsoft needs to be destroyed.

    Strike three

    I couldn't read any further. If his entire paper is based on the fact that he somehow attributes these "postulates" to Eric's paper, then his entire paper is based on flawed assumptions.

    Either this character really dislikes ESR (why did he say Eric had a "vulgar Marxist" interpretation of the phenomenon?), or he's simply attacking a famous person to whip up some publicity of his own (very likely).

    99 little bugs in the code, 99 bugs in the code,
    fix one bug, compile it again...

  • This Hurd-related Web page [] recently posted, as an epigraph, the following 1991 Torvalds quote:
    Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers?

    Are you without a nice project and just dying to cut your teeth on an OS you can try to modify for your needs?

    Are you finding it frustrating when everything works on minix? No more all-nighters to get a nifty program working?

    Then this post might be just for you :-)

    Linux spent most of its history as a hobby/academic project. I suspect that two years ago, if you told a Linux hacker that the business press (i.e., the suits) would refer to Linux as seriously competing against Microsoft, the hacker would want to know what you'd been smoking.

    The GNU project has always been part of RMS's campaign against proprietary software in general, not against any particular software vendor.

  • Although nominally a critique of CatB, the author quickly strays into much speculative and anecdotal critisism of Open Source itself, with Linux as a favorite subject. Strange that the article managed to quote just about everybody but Joe down at the pub, while not quoting CatB at all.

    "Um, someone I know who wants to remain anonymous says Linux is insecure and unstable." Excuse me, but what are Jesse Berst's and Fred Moody's qualifications to address software development models and economics?

    I had heard that First Monday's articles were 'peer reviewed'. In its published state, this would not have survived any peer review I'm familiar with.

  • by mvw ( 2916 )
    Since when is OpenBSD a split from FreeBSD???

    OpenBSD is indeed based on NetBSD and not FreeBSD.

    Regarding the word "split" - it is a bit more dramatic than it is. Yes, there are different people at the helm and there is a different source tree, but there is still exchange of ideas and fixes.

    IMHO OpenBSD is a fairly typical result of a natural evolution process. OpenBSD gives priority to security, NetBSD wants to be very portable and FreeBSD has tried to make best use of the x86 platform. Specialization leads to new species.

    However all three (like those birds from Galapagos) are able to exchange genes .. er patches.

    And ESR a "vulgar Marxist?"

    The new article is right that ESR's essay had a few shortcomings, one of them the downplay of the FSF. On the other hand, like you mention, its sloppiness with facts (if the BSD stuff is that messed, how messed are the Linux facts?) is a bit annoying. I hope the author reviews it.

  • Out of all the blowhards on /., you probably bore me the most.

    Have fun refuting that. Excuse me while I got sit in a corner.

  • mr, sushi likes to play Devil's Advocate, usually when there isn't any room for contentious argument. He probably got to a regional final on the debating team and thinks it is his duty to argue for no apparent reason. That's ok, though. There will be people to smack him down when needed.
  • well... surprisingly, i find linux to be designed as if custom-tailored to most of my wishes.

    and i believe quite a few slashdoteers would agree with me on that...

    there's a good reason for it actually. (this slogan is used in referance to perl, but is more than suitable here):

    "if you think linux is strange, it's because it was designed by people like you, for people like you" (or something similar)
  • While a lot of people at Slashdot do use non-MS OS the legal definition of a Monopoly is that a company controls 30% of their market.

    As for IBM, they create alo of great stuff. They really changed a lot about themselves, not everything just a lot.
  • The article looks like it wants to associate opensource development with communism.
    let's assume for a while this is true. in such case, "normal" commercial development would be tyranny. consider this example:

    (Programmer) Listen... i'm tired of working on product X. it no longer interests me like it did before. is there anything you can do?
    (Boss) well, there's a vacancy at Y. other than that, nothing.
    (Programmer) but i don't want to do Y! Z is what i'm really enthusiastic about...
    (Boss) sorry. we just don't do Z.

    do you think the programmer would be happier? more enthusastic to contribute?
    these are definately prime factors in productivity, as any good manager knows. now, let's examine the "communist" example:

    (Programmer) X technology doesn't interest me anymore. i think i have contributed quite a lot, and i should move on now. hey, Z sounds like a great thing! i'd love to do Z... i have this neat idea for a Z-Widget which turns doorknobs...
    (Programmer dreaming up ideas for the next 2 hours :) )

    well, you get the point. coding is quite a bit of an artwork. did you ever see a company forcing an artist to draw picture-this/picture-that?
  • The folks at Marimba have done pretty well.
  • Nope.
    Read the document carefully. It actually points out that comparisons of OSS to Communism are flawed.
    Is open source ideology "utopian balderdash" like communism? Bob Metcalfe - who expressed this sentiment most clearly - is dead wrong. Bryan Pfaffenberger described the errors in Mercalfe's reasoning in this way: ...
    I don't think the article was needlessly negative. I think it was needfully negative to balance a lot of hype out there. Then people can make up their own minds, unlike in communism.

    Cheers, Justin.

  • What a pity, if that's all you got from it.

    Oh well.
  • From Kitsune Sushi:

    "It seems odd that he would refer to GNU/Linux as a derivative of Unix"

    There are lots of different ways to be derivative,
    only some of them involving a common codebase.

    IMNSHO, any system that reimpliments the same
    (user and programming) interfaces counts
    as derivative.

    So, maybe not if we are talking to lawyers,
    but I think the rest of us can be more honest.

  • I agree ... as I read through the paper, I kept thinking, "And the author's original point, the point that hasn't been made by ESR and other experienced open-source programmers, is ... what?"
  • The introduction of this critique opens with:

    "[Open Source] programming is like sex, one mistake and you have to support it for the rest of your life."
    M. Sinz, CBM Inc.

    Huh? I don't have time to read long winded articles on issues that I personally feel are already decisive, and this opening quote put me off reading further immediately. If you are programming Open Source software, chances are you're programming under GPL or perhaps BSD licenses, which specifically state no warranty. Maybe I should have read further to properly understand why this quote was valid and important enough to open a critique with, but frankly it didn't give me much faith in what might follow. Call me lazy, but I just feel no need to hear critique on something I feel is already a proven hard fact.

    el bobo
  • Indeed, ESR is a Programmer?

    Why, then, oh why, do so many people act like he's a Visionary?

    This rather substantial article cuts through a lot of the amateur pop-economist stuff ESR tries to pull off whenever he can.

    Let's just admit that the Cathederal/Bazzaar paradigm plays well to the choir, but that there's a whole world out there.
  • It's a shame that this piece has to have the flaws it does: namely some rather bizarre appeals to authority (Jesse Berst) and red-baiting.

    The reason it's a shame is this:

    I got really sick of the bumper crop of "papers" that sprang up in the wake of CatB, all written by people long on verbiage and enthusiasm, but short on falsifiable premises. All of them were passively accepted as "good" on these pages and duly posted, making me long for a checkbox in the preferences to disable display of "enthusiastic but amateur pseudoscholars" items.

    I waver from week to week on how I feel about ESR's body of work. I'm happy that CatB inspired the Netscape folk to give Mozilla a shot. I'm pleased that someone is trying to describe the open source development model sytematically. On the other hand, there's a certain middle-American craving for respectability that comes out in the style and execution.

    That aside, the author of this piece seems, by the time he reaches his conclusion, to have read ESR the wrong way. Where CatB and friends tend to cleave to descriptives (with ESR's HOWTO on the subject of project management offering the prescriptives), this author seems to take the whole thing as a manual that needs to be confronted because it has suspicious ideological flavor.

    His conclusion, in part, reads:

    However, little seems to have been learned from the overall history of programming and software development. Ignoring the lessons of history may make open source an interesting footnote in the overall history of computing a century from now.

    That's an interesting idea, I suppose, except that "open source" development existed prior to ESR calling it such. The development model springs from the personalities of the community that practices it. Steven Levy's Hackers provides a nice psychological history of just where this comes from. It is not something anyone dreamed up to storm the gates of Microsoft, because it predates Microsoft. Reading Hackers, once more, Bill Gates inspired the ire of early home computer hobbyists precisely because of his resistance to sharing the source to his BASIC. In some ways, Gates and company are the radical new development model on the scene if we want to talk history.

    Following from that, once you strip open source development of some "meaning" outside "the way enthusiasts have been behaving toward the software they write for the last thirty years", it's hard to argue that it can "fail" and become a footnote to anything because it's not a directed ideological or theoretical movement, except in the heads of some of its advocates. The burden of proof lies on the newcomers: people who would proprietize the process. Open source programming developed "naturally," before Richard Stallman (who has applied a certain ideological bent to the process, and who doesn't show up in Levy's book until the very last chapter.) It certainly developed before ESR decided to identify it on his own terms, label it, and make it more palatable to business. It didn't develop as a reaction to big business, but was already in place culturally when big business came to computing. It developed, in some ways, before there was anything we would recognize as "computing."

    Linux has already "succeeded", and it succeeded the moment Linus felt happy that he had some sort of working Unix on his home machine. It succeeded wildly when the rest of us agreed that it was indeed a reasonably working Unix and that we'd like it on our computers, too.

    "Open source" on the whole has already succeeded, too. The author may wish it away because it makes him see commies under the bed, but it's a model that existed prior to attempts to prove or disprove it in papers. It's an expression of a community's personality and can fail about as much as any element of a popular culture can. Which is to say that while it may mutate in form from time to time (its latest variation being better organization and application of project management tools) it will probably always be around as long as there are hobbyist programmers. The fact that it has given us usable tools makes it a "success" by any standard that's true to the form itself.
    Michael Hall

  • The closest this article gets to criticising any of Eric Raymond's studies of Open Source is saying that the gift culture analogy is simplistic - a point which most people would probably accept.

    The points at the top of the article do represent a "vulgar" (the author seems fond of that word) view of open source which is quite common on /., but I think its underestimating ESR to attribute this view to him. Noone says the Bazaar model is universal (indeed RMS is very cathedral person). Very few people seriously think we can destroy MS and I personally don't even very much want to. There is no way anyone thinks the gift economy can be universal, and you only need to look at the interactions of ESR, RMS and Bruce Perens to see a lack of "ideal cooperative people".

    The author goes on to tout a model of the open source community as a scientific one, which is quite a good analogy I think, but in no way contradicts the CatB view. The author seems to have a chip on his shoulder about "vulgar Marxism", something I suspect ESR would disown. However, if "vulgar Marxism" is a belief that labour creates value, then frankly count me in (actually all socialists, including Benjamin Tucker, believe(d) this, it predates Marx by quite a long way).

    Finally, the author goes on to endlessly list every kind of problem ever seen in an OSS project. Surely this is only criticism if you were some kind of loony optimist to begin with. None of the problems listed applies only to open source.

    The whole thing seems to be an attempt to create a straw-man argument of the CatB thesis and throw mud at it.
  • "It depends what you consider rich."

    How about "I own my own jet". Until that happens you can't call yourself rich.
  • In the commercial world I see Open Source from a totally different perspective.

    Rather than writing everything from scratch, I can make new, obscure, hardware work by modifying an existing OS; and I get a robust OS working on my obscure hardware in the least amount of time.

    Rather than being helpless to a vendor's technical support; I can fix problems myself or ask a community of knowledgeable people. When my customers call with a problem, no need to play the blame game (i.e. "it's the other software you're running -- go ask their tech support). Instead, I can find the solution!

    Open Source is a fundamental change. It is a new paradigm. It's software as a service, not software as a product.

    Bezroukov chastises Raymond for seeing OSS from Raymond's perspective, then turns around to claim that the right way to view open source is from an academic perspective.

    What does the world look like from an ivory tower? Bezroukov knows!

  • You shouldn't be surprised to hear ESR's writings compared to Marxism by scholars. He's analyzing the world in a similar way as Marx did: he's looking at groups of people and what their economic interests are, and he assumes that economic interests (in a general sense) are primary, and he's looking at the dynamics of the relationships between these groups or classes.

    The difference between Marxists, capitalist-libertarians, and Randroids isn't in the way they analyze the world; they only disagree about which class of people should triumph.

    Look at "Atlas Shrugged". It's very close in structure to many socialist realist fantasies: the class that does all the work rebels against oppression by the shiftless rulers. Rand just split the population in a different way, moving all the common folk into the "shiftless ruler" camp and having the technologists rebel.

    In fact, the writings of a lot of pro-capitalist folk these days is just inverse Marxism: like Marx, they assume that human beings are fundamentally economic creatures and act out of economic motives, and that the ideas people hold are closely linked to their class interests. The only difference is about who should win.

  • There we go. That is a good point! Whenever someone describes the Free Software Movement as communist, email him/her and tell them that so is science, that will shut him up enough to make him think.

    The is a great critism. I, myself, have often wondered about the cases where the OSS development model doesn' work. The reasons are usually often and ignored, until now.

    Also, I really hate the whole Press thing OSS supporters have need doing. "Fight for the dream, not the competition." Say it. Remember it. Eat it.


  • OK, I might be totally off-target. But here is my 0.02$ on the "OSS community is just scientific community revisited" idea.

    In scientific circle, peer review process is meant to validate your result. If your hypothese can't be proven wrong, they are assumed right (or vice-versa). Ultimately, the scientist is looking for understanding and truth. I might be totally wrong, but that's the way I understand the scientific process.

    Peer review in OSS is not about trying to be proven right/wrong. It's about recycling your code, serve your business interest (think RH or Cygnus) or improve the quality of your work. You're building tool, not understanding (well, you end up with better understanding of the problem being solved, but it's not the point).

    Honestly, I have not read the whole article (his "CatB Postulate" was enough for me). The author might have adress my concern. Feel free to correct me.
  • After reading the conclusion of this text, I feel that the author has a valid message. It also seems to me that he has chosen CatB as the hook from which to hang his message.
    It's a good hook, well lit and right at eye-level for a lot of people.
    Unfortunately, he has chosen a way that we have seen a lot of authors go down recently -- slam the Linux community and watch what comes out. Constructively written, this could have been very informative, and I urge the author to try to formulate his thoughts in this manner.
    Donate food with your index finger!
  • Ever read 1984? Or Animal Farm? In each of these books (basically cautionary tales against totalitarianism) the ruling class trots out the spectre of a common enemy to unite the masses. In 1984 it's (the probably nonexistent) Goldstein; in Animal Farm it's first Farmer Jones, then Snowball. Let's face it, people seem to have more of a reaction toward "we have to defeat this common enemy" than "we have to work toward this common good."

    Around here, the common enemy is Microsoft, which is trotted out as the cause behind all software evil (just for kicks, do a Google search for the phrase more evil than Satan himself [] and see what the first entry is). There's a problem with that, though, even if it's true (which I don't personally believe, though I will say that they have done a few uncharitable things, in much the same way a wolverine occasionally gets mildly ticked off). If Microsoft is gone as the enemy, what then? If they ever decide to embrace open source (I agree, this isn't likely to happen, and a recent company-wide memo from Bill Neukom tends to bear that out), and do it wholeheartedly for the right reasons, do you continue to hate them because Bill Gates still has more money than all but about 50 countries? Do you turn on someone else, someone from the community perhaps who isn't living up to perceived standards of OS correctness? Do you have to have hate as your motivating force? We have words for people like that, and they're not very nice words.

    I really wish we could all agree on working toward the goal of World Domination Through Software That Doesn't Suck rather than Mow Down Microsoft (and I agree with the previous post, eventually MS will fall by the wayside just like every other empire). I think we, and the world, would be better in the long run.
  • "[Open Source] programming is like sex, one mistake and you have to support it for the rest of your life."

    M. Sinz, CBM Inc.

    Was Sinz really referring specifically to Open Source? Or did the author of this paper just add the part in brackets to "support" his thesis?

    Part of my job involves maintaining closed source code that has some parts going back almost 16 years, and believe me: I am supporting some very old mistakes (some of them were even made by me ;-) and I will never be able to get rid of them. I fail to see any relationship between this phenomenon and the open-vs-closed issue.

  • "Calling for the downfall of Microsoft" is just showing the attitude - my observation concludes that the attitude seems to be "anti-corporate-greed" and "pro-consumer". In this perspective /. is an excellent customer-right news site.

    We bash AOL when it is not opening up its messaging protocol. The whole recording industry for SDMI. CircuitCity for DIVX. Sun for not opening up Java. SCO for FUD.

    We report new cool toys like Aibo, Visor, Rio...

    Calling Microsoft a primary driving force of OpenSource is simply too narrow minded.
    Empowering the consumer is the ultimate goal.
  • The writer spends most of the article debunking claims that ESR never made, and the tone is too personal - It doesn't sound anything like a proper critique.

    One of the few valid points he raises, though, is the one about Microsoft's importance to open source culture...

  • I think the biggest lesson we have learned from Mozilla is that it is very hard to write a large Applications from scratch with the OSS model. Most of the big OSS projects that exist now (Linux, The Gimp, GNOME) start with a few dedicated souls churning out 90% of the code, until there is a useable foundation for others to build on. For instance, the reason there is no free word processor yet is people have written little pieces of them, but not a real, useable, 50% featured application. Once that happens, the community will add its little patches.

    OSS projects grow with little patches, but they can't start out that way.
  • "forking is a kind of plagiarism"
    I've never seen process creation described like that before! :)
  • More like software needs to not suck.

    That's very constructive criticism, there. Thank you for getting to the heart of the matter.


    It was supposed to be a reference to ESR's quote that he wants to "live in a world where software doesn't suck."

    Sorry if the reference was too oblique.

  • by mattc ( 12417 )
    Since when is OpenBSD a split from FreeBSD??? And ESR a "vulgar Marxist?" LOL This guy needs to get his facts straight..
  • The author argues against the "newness" of the Open Source phenomenon,
    Open source is a completely new progressive phenomenon (bright future of mankind) with no analogs in history. Partially true as open source is an Internet-based phenomenon. But it is mostly untrue, because the OSS community is more like a regular scientific community than some OSS apologists would like to acknowledge.
    He says the only thing new about Open Source is that it is an Internet-based phenomenon, and not fundementally new because it is based on the scientific community. I think this is very wrong.
    (1) The internet allows collaboration on an entirely new scale, an exponential increase over previous methods. This is a case where an extreme increase in quantity is truly a jump in quality.
    (2) Collaboration in software devlopment is very different from collaboration in science. I would say that scienctific collaboration involves a lot of subtraction, meaning that much work in science turns out later to be wrong or merely besides the point. The ultimate contributions of the individual scientist are usually small. How many published articles sit in the college library unread? Efforts in software development produce a much higher yield, each contributed line of code is more likely to end up in the finished product (I think, maybe someone else has some info on that). Thus collaborative software grows much quicker than collaborative science. Furthermore, some scientific advances requires little collaboration. It is interesting to note that Albert Einstein once said that an ideal job for a theoretical physicist would be that of isloated Lighthouse Keeper, because it left plenty of time for private thought.
  • Indeed, ESR is a Programmer?


    Why, then, oh why, do so many people act like he's a Visionary?

    Why can't he be both? If you're a journalist or a writer, you can be an visionary. If you're a politician you can be a visionary. Why can't a programmer? Granted, visionaries usually have "Vision" in their area of expertise. Since you seem to think people act like ESR is a visionary, and what he is being visionary in is his own field of expertise, I don't think there is a conflict.

    This rather substantial article cuts through a lot of the amateur pop-economist stuff ESR tries to pull off whenever he can.

    I have not read the article myself, but comments from others seem to indicate that it consists largely of opinions of others and not much on raw facts. If this is true, and appears to be based on a quick check of the number of quoted passages in the article, then I wouldn't call it "rather substatial." You're use of the term "pop-economist stuff" indicates a predisposition on your part against ESR and support of anything that critiques him, reguardless of it's merrit.

    Let's just admit that the Cathederal/Bazzaar paradigm plays well to the choir, but that there's a whole world out there.

    Well, isn't that what a visionary does? Playing well to the choir, giving them a "Vision" of how things can end up if they agree with the Vision? You're confusing me now. First you imply that ESR is not a Visionary for programmers, then you say he plays well to the choir. Which is it? If ESR's vision is so wrong, why does it play to the choir so nicely?

  • Just because Microsoft is commercial and closed does not mean that they do not offer viable solutions. A lot of companies are like this, and provide viable closed-source solutions. That is not the point.

    Because Microsoft is a monopoly (whether you believe in antitrust legislation or not, MS is a monopoly), they can thrive by not offering viable solutions. Frankly, they can and do ram garbage down our throats and make money. This is an abuse of capitalism, it is damage to the software and online industries, and that is the problem.

    Microsoft is currently the company exploiting this problem; it usurped the throne from IBM. If Microsoft folded and nothing else changed, another company would likely take Microsoft's place as monopolistic vendor of garbage you must buy anyhow. Indeed, Larry Ellison of Oracle considers himself heir apparent.

    Often, people will confuse Microsoft's current position with the company itself; it is certainly easy to equate the two. IMHO, a true open-sourcer wants to see Microsoft forced to play fair, not necessarily eliminated. Then again, it is unclear whether Microsoft can survive in such a competitive environment, forcing it to play fair may destroy it. That is not the aim, however.

    It is not enough for Linux to work very well. The utility of a piece of software is directly related to the size of the community that it allows you to connect with. That is, mindshare is key. Linux would be relatively useless if it only had fifty users.

    Linux is anti-Microsoft in one very important way: Microsoft is at competitive war with Linux. Microsoft perceives (rightly so) Linux to be a threat to Windows mindshare, and are taking action to destroy the power of Linux to take mindshare away from Windows. They are attempting destroy the mindshare because they currently do not see a way to destroy the actual code (hard to do in the OSS world).

    Linux and Microsoft are competing for the same scarce resource: would-be users and developers. Thus, Microsoft and Linux are at war.

  • i found many of the insights of the article on point. methinks there may have been an agenda behind it. but i'd worry if i hadn't noticed an agenda. i tremble to speculate that it was high-class fud: some of the info was unattributed accusations of Linux being unstable and buggy and no different than IBM's mainframe strategy. sounded exactly like a M$ fudpiece i read last summer.

    one pertinent observation needs to be made. the author said that democrasy is the first thing that gets sacrificed for speed. then he made the claim that Linux needs speed to compete with Microsoft. I think that is not true in the least.

    If Microsoft was continually putting new technology and innovation into things like Office, and Windows, that might be true. But what have we seen Microsoft do lately? The changes of Office97 over Office95 and maybe (we'll see) Office2k are not essential to the functionality of word processing, spreadsheets and databases. Instead, they're the 90s equivalent of sheet-metal and tail fins: The planned obsolescence of the 50s Detroit/General Motors reborn in the 90s in Redmond, WA.

    Open source efforts do not need to track sheet-metal changes and anti-competitive incompatibility versions. Open Source projects need only develop the best possible editor, compiler, etc. and improve upon it incrementally.
  • I started to read the article...and, as I'm at work, have only gotten a few pages in. What I find is an excellent example of why academia, and academic criticism, has so little respect outside its own little pond.

    Among the reasons I say this are his beginning with a false quote...with, of course, no link, *nor* does he offer a bibliography. I first heard that quote (one mistake...) in the early 80s, at *least*, and it was about *commercial*, closed-source code. It makes literally no sense in the open source arena (vide the ping-of-death affair).

    He procedes to follow this with continual misquotes, rephrased quotes, and allegations with no evidenciary support.

    In addition to all the above faults, he clearly does not even understand either ESR, the profession of programming, nor politics. As someone who *is* a socialist, *and* who has known Eric for something like 20 years, the continual references to him as being a "vulgar Marxist" are both amusing and horrifying.

    Amusing, in terms of ESR, because as most folks know, he is what is currently referred to in the US as an active 'libertarian', and extremely anti-socialist. I, on the other hand, find the open source movement much more along the lines of 'real' socialism (as opposed to what the right-wing owned media would like y'all to belive), but that it has nothing to do with any form of Marxism, allegedly vulgar or otherwise.

    Horrified, as this ejournal seems to be associated with the U of IL (please correct me if I'm wrong), and that it claims, on its home page, to be peer-reviewed. This says *very* little for the reviewing peers who allowed this article, with such flagrant misstatements, unsubstantiated claims, misspelled quotes ("Experiences is what..."), mostly with incomplete attributions, to be published under their byline.

    As soon as I find the time, somewhere in the coming week, I intend to respond to this article in full, and submit that as a letter to the journal...and, as I doubt the auther did, intend to copy both ESR and the author, as well slashdot, if y'all want something that long.


  • Uh, this guy wasn't moderated up, his posts default to 2, as can be clearly seen in his User Info [].

    plese don't complain about a system you don't understand
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • All I seem to get from this article is a long-winded diatrabe trying to say that ESR is a commie-pinko bastard.

    that's beacuse you're a moron.

    if you had half a brain, you would see that it's saying that he's *not* a commie-pinko bastard. but since you don't...
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • The quote kinda loses it's original meaning when misquoted as "Linux doesn't scale".

    The "Linux doesn't scale" argument and many of the other examples he presents about personality problems aren't really problems in the open source model itself- they are inherent problems with people working together. In fact, it is a testimony for the robustness of the model that it works as well as it does IN SPITE of these problems.

    When such personality problems hit a closed project you usually don't get to hear about it. You can often tell by the result, though...

  • The difference is that most browsers were produced by corporations while Linux was (produced by individuals.

    Fifteen years ago, it used to be different, but today the chance of an individual without corporate backing writing a program that sells enough to make him rich (or even get him enough money to quit his day job) is virtually nil. The only chance to really make it is to sell your ability.

    Being free does not guarantee success, however, I don't think that there is much chance of someone without large corporate backing to be successful without giving away their product.
  • I would have to agree completely with the point of not being able to tell how many closed source projects die. While we can see (although probably wouldn't notice) products that are released and flounder, we have no way of seeing projects that are killed before being released.

    The point about when OSS projects die, the code and/or ideas can live on is a good one. If an OSS project dies, then any good code and/or ideas can be recycled in another OSS project.

    Another point I'd like to add is that OSS projects seem to die for reasons other than being beat by a commercial product. They tend to die by either being replaced by another OSS project, or because for one reason or another the developers lose interest in continuing the project. Most closed source projects die because they are either killed by a competing product, the company thinks that they will be killed by a competing product or something similar. There are some important differences.

  • GNU/Linux is implemented to mostly follow standard SYS V AT&T Unix API's/system calls
    GNU/Linux has (almost) no AT&T code.
    GNU/Linux builds on the works of other coders.
    Based on these (what will be called facts for the sake of this posting) you refer to GNU/Linux as a CLONE.

    4.4 BSD is implemented to mostly follow standard SYS V AT&T Unix API's/system calls
    4.4 BSD lite has (almost) NO AT&T code.
    4.4 BSD builds on works of other coders
    (These are facts)
    Therefore, using your own criteria, BSD is ALSO a CLONE. There is *NO LEGAL TRACE* of AT&T Unix left in present day BSD.

    based on: asp?String=derive.from*1%2B0&ACT=SELECT

    Do you dispute this statement:

    Gnu/Linux is/was formed by a process of derivation from existing AT&T Sys V system and userland programming specifications.

    How about this one:

    GNU/Linux was/is DERIVED from APIs created for use in AT&T SYS V Unix.

    What about the shorter:
    GNU/Linux is derived from AT&T Sys V Unix

    'Reality' in this case is where you decide to draw up your definitions. Its the OLD debate of is Unix a philosophy, (pipes, small tools linking together to make bigger tools), a set of API's (if you conform, you are Unix), a set of source code (if its not THAT code, its not Unix), or the registered trademark of AT&T/Novell/SCO/Open source group. Mr. Richie was attempting to get past the LEGAL "Unix is a registered trademark" issues by calling things that function overall like a Unix(tm) system "Unix Derived". Smacks of the newer debate of is 'Linux' a kernel, the kernel + 'userland', or a SPECIFIC distribution.

    The older question that applies here is:
    "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, and when you eviscerate it - looks like a duck, is it a duck?"
    And, being that GNU/Linux has most of the features/attributes one 'expects to find on a Unix(tm) platform' *AND* can't be called Unix(tm) (because Unix(tm) is a registered trademark), not to mention the SOURCE of the API format, the SOURCE of the talent that writes GNU/Linux, and the reason Linus started this was to have a Unix of his own, calling GNU/Linux a derivative of Unix(tm) is a correct statement. There are too many links to a Unix(tm) past to deny the word derived.

    I'm happy for that you Mr/Ms Sushi, that the world is so black and white, so clear cut, that the only reason GNU/Linux is not derived from Unix is something as simple as sourcecode.
  • One minor correction... the last three paragraphs should not be italicized. I must have missed a closing tag. Sorry for any confusion this might cause...

  • by Matts ( 1628 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:02AM (#1629867) Homepage
    When I learned science at school, which feels like a long time ago (but in reality isn't), we learned that if the premise upon which you're trying to prove something is wrong then the proof itself must also be wrong.

    The premise of this discussion seems to be the points at the top of the article - none of which I see exactly touted in CatB (although I'm sure ESR leans towards some of the points). The article makes out ESR to be an open source fundamentalist. I think he's anything but a fundamentalist - ESR by his many discussions in the past can be shown very clearly to be a pragmatist.

    Nowhere in CatB does ESR state that the Bazaar model is a silver bullet (IIRC it very carefully states that it is _not_ a silver bullet). Nowhere does it state that open source is an ideal community without disagreement (IIRC it states that disagreements are out in the open and so you'd better be right on your point or smarter people will show you to be wrong).

    I think criticism of CatB is important. I don't think open source is a silver bullet. But I think the premise of this article is wrong.

    Now I'm going to go read the rest of it :)


    perl -e 'print scalar reverse q(\)-: ,hacker Perl another Just)'
  • by drox ( 18559 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:05AM (#1629869)
    So much in this article was negative, and I sensed a political agenda in it. Particularly repeated comparisons (of Open Source) to Communism and Socialism, apparently to inspire faulty logic like the following:

    Open source is like Communism.
    Communism failed.
    Therefore, open source is doomed to failure.

    The conclusion does not neccesarily follow from the arguments... even if we accept that both arguments are true (not everyone will).

    There was also a comparison to Lysenkoism. Now Lysenkoism is a politicized (Stalinist, to be precise) version of Lamarckism, which proposed that acquired characteristics could be inherited by subsequent generations. It was wrong. It doesn't work, as thousands of starving Siberians could attest. It doesn't work for living things. Genetics simply doesn't work that way. But DNA code is fundamentally different from binary code. Acquired characteristics can be "inherited" by later, improved versions of binary code. Using the loaded word "Lysenkoism" in describing open source is misleading at best, and deliberately misleading at worst.

    As I stated above, I detect a political agenda.
  • I am not distracted by grammar and spelling errors in my own writing. ;-)

    Also, I am quite willing to draw a distinction between an impromptu Slashdot posting and an academic paper when it comes to matters of spelling and grammar. I do not think my comments were unfair or hypocritical.
  • You make a very interesting assumption. You assume that I believe in a non-benevolent monopoly in a true free-enterprise system.

    I don't believe there is a true free-enterprise system. Unfortunately, there is, and always will be a certain level of government regulation. I don't like it, personally, but I begrudgingly accept that a certain amount of anti-trust regulation is necessary to insure a mostly-free-enterprise system.

    While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, if you don't believe in the existance of non-benevolent monopolies in the real world then I would certainly accuse you of either looking at the world through rose colored glasses or being ignorant of history.

    It takes two to tango. Nobody *ever* had to agree to Microsoft's restrictive licensing terms. Compaq, Dell, etc. all *agreed* to the license. Why? Because they felt Microsoft was worth going with, even if it meant sacrificing the offer of another (perhaps superior) operating system.

    You assume that Microsoft didn't use any coercive tactics to ensure that nobody dared to not accept their licensing terms. In reality they did both. They offered a carrot, but threatened with a stick. They offered fairly reasonable and non-restrictive licensing in the early days, but gradually tightened things down as they achieved market lock-in. Once they had solidified their market share look at the history of their practices against such competitors as DR-DOS, Novell-DOS and OS/2.

    Market share does *not* a monopoly make. The only time that a monopoly can truly exist is when the company is the only one *allowed by law* to offer the services.

    That definition of a monopoly is far more restrictive than is realistic. In fact then there have been very few monopolies ever in existance in the U.S. The anti-trust laws were enacted to combat abuses from first the railroad robber-barrons and then the abuses of monopolists like the Rockefellers (Standard Oil). None of these businesses had a government sanctioned exclusive monopoly, and yet all exercised monopoly powers to the point where the government felt a need to act against them. In short I completely disagree. Market share can certainly make a monopoly.

    AT&T had a monopoly. So did NSI, until their special status was taken away.

    Those are examples of a specific type of monopoly, not necessarily of the only type of monopoly.

    If Microsoft had a market-share monopoly at any given time, it's because enough people agreed to their terms, indicating that people thoutght the product was good enough. If the products were *shit*, companies would have begun offering other options-- gee, Microsoft now sells shit, and Dell, Compaq, etc. are all offering Linux.

    The only reason that companies like Dell and Compaq feel they can offer Linux is because Microsoft is under intense governmental scrutiny. There is no way they would dare to defy Microsoft otherwise, no matter how good a competing product was.

    I agree that having a monopoly isn't a bad thing,

    since (in a truly open arena), the company has to be giving the majority of people what they want, lest they lost their market share. If the company doesn't give people what they want, another company will offer something that people would rather use. You can't get away with giving people shit and making them pay through the nose for it-- they'll find something cheaper, better, or both.

    That view assumes that companies can't or won't use unfair and/or illegal practices to protect their market share.

    The idea that Microsoft used its power to destroy its competition is not so much invalid, but irrelevant.

    Its incredibly relevant given the way they used such power. It is one thing to build a better product, advertise better, offer better pricing or better distribution to win. It is totally another to use exclusive contracts, intimidation tactics and other questionable methods.

    All companies are based on the idea of making money, and you have to beat your competition to make money.

    This is so drastically oversimplified it is silly. You don't have to beat all of your competitors 100% of the time to make money. The company I work for is tremendously profitable (we are the 2nd or 3rd largest in most segments of our industry), yet we control only about 7% of our market. The largest company is only slightly larger than us. The top ten companies in our business control only about 1/2 of the market. The other 1/2 of the market is split amongst dozens of smaller players. While we are seeing consolidation in our business, nobody expects the number of players to be reduced below ten to fifteen anytime in the forseeable future.

    Many other markets are alive, profitable and have at least three or four competitors with well less than 50% market share each. In most cases not only would it be virtually impossible for any of them to 'destroy' their competitors, it would probably upset the market if it did. Competition is a good thing, not only for consumers, but also for the company by keeping them from getting complacent.

    What was Microsoft supposed to do? Ignore common business sense and *not* try to beat the competition? Jesus Christ, that's against the entire fucking idea of capitalism!

    That isn't what I've been asking for. I don't think anyone other than the most far left people would say that is what they wanted.

    What I do want is for Microsoft to play fairly. Frankly, they haven't needed to cheat for a long time, yet they still seem driven to be dishonest. Other companies manage to be successful and profitable while still staying within the bounds of the law and the rules of fair play. Why should we let Microsoft get by easily?

    Microsoft isn't the only company that is using or has used the same unfair and/or illegal tactics. Most of what they do are things they learned either from IBM or the japanese electronics companies. Even in market tactics, Microsoft is a follower rather than a leader. But also IBM and the japanese electronic companies have run afoul of the DoJ, so the fact that Microsoft is being pursued is nothing unique to them.

    That's not to say I think Linux is anti-capitalist, though-- it's simply a better product. The developers don't work "for free". Linux developers are given a cleaner, more reliable operating system in return for their efforts.
    This is the price they pay. The fact that the rest of the world gets the results at a minimal cost is just the way it pans out. I think, in fact, that Linux is the *ultimate* example of capitalism in more ways than one.

    On this point I agree with you. Although the fact that the only thing making major inroads against Microsoft is Linux, which is a free product is evidence that there is some anti-competitive pressure in the marketplace.

    So go on and complain that Microsoft has a monopoly. I'll continue to believe that Microsoft will die because Linux is a better product, not because of the DoJ. And *that*, my friend, is a powerful indicator of just how good Linux is.

    Well, on this point I honestly hope you are correct, because I doubt the DoJ will be able to get enough corrective action done against Microsoft to right the decades of wrongs they have committed.

    Unfortunately, I am afraid that it may take both governmental action against Microsoft and the community building a better product to ensure long term freedom of choice for consumers and a healthy, competitive market.

    I am not one that really believes that Microsoft should just be utterly destroyed (although occasionally it is a tempting thought), but I do want to see a market where no company controls more than about 40% or so of the market. I don't even necessarily want to see Linux control 90% of the market. I think Linux needs competition (such as from the *BSDs) to stay a dynamic, growing environment.

  • Not wanting to get shirty about this, but I have read Marx, and it wasn't in a textbook version, or in high school, or in America. I studied the nineteenth century political economists at Oxford, ta very much. I was talking about the parallels and differences between CatB and Marx's economic theory -- to claim that the libertarian Eric Raymond might endorse Marx's political views on such matters as property rights would be obviously laughable.

    If you look above, I note that CatB was clearly informed by a reading of Marx's critique of capitalism, so I agree that there are parallels. But there are more important differences; specifically, Raymond believes that OSS offers a solution to the problem of accumulation and concentration, which Marx considered to be an intrinsic, immutable feature of the capitalist mode of production. Therefore, Raymond does not accept historical materialism. Therefore, he is not a Marxist.

    And that answers AC's question, too.

  • Matt, your reasoning and your reading comprehension are sloppy. First, you mistakenly assume that the paper is discussing CatB and ESR and nothing else. The author is seeking to describe the entire movement, not just ESR, and quotes dozens of people. You seem to think that it is a premise of the paper that ESR is a fundamentalist, and that if he is a pragmatist, the entire paper falls.

    The paper refutes many points that ESR has made quite effectively, but it is a refutation of specific writings by ESR, not of ESR as a person. So ESR's beliefs that don't appear in the papers don't matter that much (after all, surely ESR has changed his opinion on some matters since he wrote CatB).

    Then, you admit that you haven't read the article! (This is fairly obvious).

    But that isn't nearly as lame as the fact that at least three moderators wasted their bonus points on you.

  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @09:17AM (#1629891) Homepage

    You say you sensed a political agenda. I'm shocked.. ESR's writings are, of course, highly political. If you refuse to look at the political meaning of anything, the consequence is that others will find it easier to rule you.

    You object to the fact that the paper discusses the relationship of Open Source to socialism and communism. How could such a paper avoid this? After all, if it's going to respond to the critics, it has to take this on (or haven't you noticed how many people have called us a bunch of commies).

    Your reading comprehension is also poor, since you attribute a meaning to the paper that does not exist. The paper does not contain the major premise of your syllogism (Open source is like communism), in fact, it refutes it.

    You don't seem to understand the point of the reference to Lysenkoism. He's basically talking about political correctness: certain things cannot be criticized. You erroneously think that he's taking about the particular scientific beliefs Lysenko had. Rather, he's talking about the fact that scientists with the wrong beliefs were run out of science, just like many slashdotters who point out that Linux is not perfect are also attacked.

  • ... that articles attacking spelling and grammar errors by others are almost full of errors (see above)?

    You write: I don't think one can dismiss ESR's ideas merely because they will never become reality ....

    Excuse me: in his series of papers (CatB, the Noosphere paper, etc), ESR was claiming that he was describing reality. That's what the paper was discussing! Does Open Source actually work the way ESR says it does?

    The paper makes a good case that Open Source works a lot more like academic science than like the Potlatch. It would be nice if the paper were better organized, true.

  • Oh, come on. The paper is a better refutation of Noosphere than it is of CatB. Eric says Open Source is like the Potlatch (a gift economy). The paper shows that it is more like the scientific community, that this is a much better model.

  • Excuse my language, but it's true.

    Even Microsoft's PR dept would have the decent to get their quotes right. You have at least one misatributed, and added words to at least two others _which changed their meanings_. This is from reading only four of the quotes, two (the fourth one I didn't recognize).

    Specifically: the addition of the word "computer" to Feynmann's quote, the addition of "[Open Source]" to the "programming is like sex" quote (hint: _all_ programming is like that), and was quoting either Ambrose Bierce or Mark Twain, I forget.

    If you wish to be taken at all seriously, checking the references is a must.

    The rest of the paper displays an equivelent slipshod approach to argument that the quotes do to citations.
  • I've always thought that ESR's bazaar metaphor was somewhat imperfect, especially as applied to the Linux kernel. Sure, anybody can submit work and try to participate, but there's a man with a plan running the project. Frankly, that's the way it should be. Good software requires design, and it's difficult to achieve good design by committee. Open source works for large projects, but only if the "coordinator" has a strong vision and adheres to it. Contributors can't challenge the core model of the project, if the project is to flourish.

    The article's description of ESR's thesis as "[a] socialist interpretation of software development" really interested me. I've never associated ESR with anything socialist - he's never bothered to disguise his anarcho-capitalist views in his writings. "Having a better/different way" != Marxism. Certainly ESR's view of open source is rosy, but I don't think he ever described a Workers Paradise.


  • There was also a comparison to Lysenkoism. Now Lysenkoism is a politicized (Stalinist, to be precise) version of Lamarckism, which proposed that acquired characteristics could be inherited by subsequent generations. It was wrong. It doesn't work, as thousands of starving Siberians could attest. It doesn't work for living things. Genetics simply doesn't work that way. But DNA code is fundamentally different from binary code. Acquired characteristics can be "inherited" by later, improved versions of binary code. Using the loaded word "Lysenkoism" in describing open source is misleading at best, and deliberately misleading at worst.

    Offtopic, I know, but I'd like to say that they're not so sure that Lamarckism was completely wrong. There is some evidence that a organism might pass on a few things related to the environment that organism lived in. I think it involved something with methylation of genes and the like - that a gene can become methylated during life, and the methylation state is passed on to offspring, where it can influence how much the gene expresses itself (in other words, suggesting that genes aren't digital - on or off - but analog)

    The example I read said something about a bad famine causing a population to not grow as tall during that generation - but that subsequent generations also didn't get as tall as before the famine, but were heading that way.
  • Yet, if the number of people on Slashdot

    Which is what, 80,000 or so? Hardly conclusive proof of anything more than that there is a vocal minority of Linux and *BSD users in the world.

    is any indication, there are enough people using Linux, *BSD, and other operating systems to show that Microsoft *can't* have a monopoly. It's self-contradictory.

    There are maybe 7-12 million Linux and/or *BSD users according to estimates. There are also the Mac users, the few OS/2 holdouts other *nix variants and the other odd assorted people out there. This is not proof that Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly.

    You do not have to have 100% of a market to be a monopoly, this is a misunderstanding caused by the AT&T breakup. Even AT&T didn't have a 100% share of local phone service, only long distance service. In non-government sanctioned and regulated monopolies you can have less than 100% of a market and still be a monopoly.

    Microsoft controls approximately 90% of the desktop computer operating system market, and about 93% of the office productivity software markets according to what I've read. It seems obvious that this is sufficient market share to allow them to have monopoly powers in those markets.

    Their market share in the NOS and server software markets are significantly smaller, and they probably don't (yet) have a monopoly there. This is the main area where Linux and the *BSDs are challenging Microsoft so far, and Microsoft also faces stiffer competition from other *nixes, Novell, etc in that market.

    The problem is that they are attempting to leverage their desktop monopoly power to build a monopoly in the server and NOS markets just as they used their monopoly power in the desktop OS market to build a monopoly in office productivity software.

    Merely having a monopoly isn't really the worst thing, it is using that power to run roughshod over competitors in other markets that is really bad.

  • From Dennis Ritchie..

    Linux seems to be the among the healthiest of the direct Unix derivatives...

    It seems odd that he would refer to GNU/Linux as a derivative of Unix (I would assume from the context that he is referring to the entire system), since it is clearly not. If it was, it wouldn't be any different from the 80 or so flavors of Unix already out there.. What makes it so different is that most of it was built from practically the ground up (for example, the compiler, gcc). Which rock has Dennis been hiding under lately? Or is he just full of ego these days..?

    Not meant to incite (for all you DR fans out there.. ;), but to me this comment seems a little odd.. Otherwise a nice gesture, however.

  • So much in this article was negative, and I sensed a political agenda in it. Particularly repeated comparisons (of Open Source) to Communism and Socialism, apparently to inspire faulty logic like the following: Open source is like Communism. Communism failed. Therefore, open source is doomed to failure.

    I think the author made a clear point about OSS resembling scientific communities rather than Communist/Marxist communities. His main point seemed to be that OSS resembled scientific communities and suffers from the same problems.

  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:26AM (#1629921)
    I don't think this essay is an example of particularly cogent criticism. It consists largely of a series of quotes that appear to lend credence to a series of opinions about the nature of "Open Source," but it is well thought out and lucid. I know it is declasse to bring it up, but I found the the spelling and punctuation errors a serious distraction.

    All of that said, however, I think we (meaning the human race) need to do a great deal more thinking then discussing how we organize our labor for personal and community gain. As an example of that phenomenon I enjoyed the essay a great deal.

    I, too, think that much of the current thought on free software and open source is somewhat utopian and idealisitc, but I think that is a good thing. Reality will always modify theory, but to change reality requires ideas that lie beyond attainability. I don't think one can dismiss ESR's ideas merely because they will never become reality -- they have and will continue to change the limits of reality, even if they are never fully attainable.

    My own personal belief (and, I will admit, slightly utopian hope) is that the economic need for commerical software has ceased to exist. Instead I think programmers will work as professionals (like lawyers and doctors), paid for their knoweldge and skill. Because production and distribution of software can now be done at nearly zero cost, there is no longer any need for companies to produce shrink-wrapped software.

    Given that, I think the work started by RMS, and considerably furthered by Linus, Alan, et. al., will continue -- programmers writing code they want to write and then giving it away. That fits the "scientific research" view of the author of the essay discussed here.

    I do, however, also think that companies will begin to use and need such software. As they do so, they will have specific needs that are not addressed by that "research software." These companies will pay programmers (as professionals, not employees) to produce those programs. We professionals will insist that such programs be open source/free software -- contributed back to the professional community.

    I use surgery as an example. When a doctor (perhaps employed in a univeristy hospital) develops a new surgical technique, he or she does not keep it a secret and then package and sell it to other doctors (Triple Bypass 98?), instead it is published in a medical journal and taught to other doctors. The discovering doctor becomes more valuable, gains prestige, brings contributions to his or her hospital, etc. No economic disaster is portends. Quite the reverse.

    Please note that I believe this applies to software only, (or to technique only). The analogy does not extend to drugs or medical devices because these DO have considerable manufacturing costs -- they are not zero cost distributable.

    I'm very glad to see discussion such as this essay, and I hope to see more of it.
  • The dismissal of CatB as being 'oversimplified' without taking into account that ESR is still writing new essays (such as the NooSphere article) which expand on the ideas presented in CatB. Its pretty obvious that CatB was intended just as a beginning, not as an end unto itself. CatB is also not frozen in stone, as ESR has occasionally revised and expanded it.

    Perhaps most troubling is dismissal of CatB as being socialist rhetoric. Since ESR is, if anything obviously much more predisposed towards capitolism than much of the rest of the free/open software world, this seems tome come from way out in right field.

  • Eric's site links to items that may be seen as critical of his writings and OSS in general.

    In fact, his site links to an essay [] describing OSS project size vs "effective size" especially with respect to debugging.

    There is a difference between critique and flame. Instead of just taking potshots at OSS, a good essay identifies pitfalls and then goes on to offer some ways that such problems can be mitigated.

    Others have covered much of what the First Monday author says already, but it is good to read it all in one place.

    The Reuse Rocket []: More than 5000 links to open source software apps, libraries, books, FAQs to boost your development.

  • by teraflop user ( 58792 ) on Friday October 08, 1999 @06:33AM (#1629925)
    Lots of good points:
    • With respect to the gift economy, I absolutely agree. The gift economy is largely an anarcho-romantic notion popularised by Kim Stanley Robinson. The scientific model (peer-review, building on the work of others) is and always has been a more accurate model.

      One perceived difference is that many OSS developers do it for the love of coding. This misses the point that many scientists work for exactly the same reason. I could double my salary if I left science, and have spent more than one year working with no income at all, living off savings, just to stay in the field.

    • With respect to Microsoft, again the author is spot on. I am reminded of the end first Batman movie, in which the Joker tells Batman 'You made me', to which Batman replies 'You made me first'. Microsoft finds itself responding to a Linux threat, but it may well be Microsoft's contempt for its customers which has put Linux where it is.
    • The criticism of Linux' security may well be fair, but at the same time can be compared against the record of NT, Office and Internet explorer, which are hardly better. Having said that, I don't think there is any doubt that some of the commercial unices are far more secure than either Linux or NT. Security hasn't been a 'sexy issue' until recently.
    • On project management and development dictatorships: It does seem to make a difference when the dictator is an individual (Linus), rather than an organisation (TrollTech, Sun), so the 'cult of personality' call is fair. Having said that, I still think Cathedral is an important and interesting piece of work. Most importantly, it came first. Later works have the benefit of referring to it and of consulting a much wider range of OSS projects. Even though some of ESR's ideas may be wide of the mark, his conribution in starting the discussion and laying a framework of ideas must not be undervalued.
  • I think we both have a point. The point I was trying to raise was that the author is trying to make CatB invalid based on a number of bulleted points (and then sets out to elaborate on those points). But the points themselves were in fact not existant in the Cathedral and the Bazaar - so how could the whole article be correct.

    Anyway - I'm nearly through it now so I'll post a follow up.

    perl -e 'print scalar reverse q(\)-: ,hacker Perl another Just)'

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".