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[techbooks] REVIEW: "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", Eric S. Raymond

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKCATBAZ.RVW 20000125 The Cathedral and the Bazaar , Eric S. Raymond, 1999, 1-56592-724-9, U$19.95/C$29.95 %A Eric S. Raymond esr@thyrus.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2000
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      BKCATBAZ.RVW 20000125

      "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", Eric S. Raymond, 1999, 1-56592-724-9,
      %A Eric S. Raymond esr@... esr@...
      %C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
      %D 1999
      %G 1-56592-724-9
      %I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
      %O U$19.95/C$29.95 800-998-9938 fax: 707-829-0104 nuts@...
      %P 268 p.
      %T "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"

      At the top of the front cover, we have a quote from Guy Kawasaki
      telling us that this is "[t]he most important book about technology
      today, with implications that go far beyond programming." I'm not
      entirely sure that I can unreservedly go along with the bit about most
      important, but the far-reaching implications I can agree with

      This is a collection of essays, spanning many years. I tend to cringe
      at essay collections, since all too many of them have problems with
      staying on topic, finding a common audience, and presenting consistent
      readability. A single author tends to make a better job of fulfilling
      those factors, but doesn't always have much to deliver beyond a single
      and fairly unimportant idea again, and again, and again. Eric
      Raymond, however, can be counted upon to say well what he has to say.
      More importantly, he has something to say. These essays follow the
      common thread of the open source movement, but examine it from a
      variety of significant angles.

      An introduction briefly presents the case for considering open source.
      "A Brief History of Hackerdom" gives a historical background to the
      hacker culture, from which the open source movement got its primary
      roots. Ironically, while Raymond demonstrates erudition in his
      presentation of historical and social parallels in other fields, he
      neglects the non-UNIX computer hobbyist communities, such as Apple
      user groups, DECUS, and Fidonet. The eponymous "Cathedral and the
      Bazaar" recounts personal observations of an open source project,
      backed up by social analysis of the success. Drawing from Fred
      Brooks' "The Mythical Man-Month" (cf. BKMYMAMO.RVW), Raymond outlines
      the conditions under which Brooks' Law (throwing staff at a late
      project makes it later) does not apply, and establishes that open
      source is not a utopian dream, but a practical reality. "Homesteading
      the Noosphere" recalls the work Raymond has done with the Jargon File
      and "The New Hacker's Dictionary" (cf. BKNHACKD.RVW) in documenting
      the sociology of hacker culture, and is arguably the most important
      article in the book. One example is the insight that hacker culture
      is characterized by openness while the often confused
      cracker/pirate/phreak "community" is most definitely closed. "The
      Magic Cauldron" examines the viability and sustainability of the open
      source movement, and presents real and logical reasons for its
      survival. Finally, "Revenge of the Hackers" grounds all of this
      discussion very much in the real world with the cases of Linux,
      Netscape, and other open source examples. Not all of them are
      unqualified successes at this point, but they are evidence that open
      source is not just an academic speculation.

      As the dust jacket quote says, though, open source has meaning beyond
      software development. As David Brin pointed out the ironies of
      privacy in "The Transparent Society" (cf. BKTRASOC.RVW), and Jeffrey
      Pfeffer outlined in "The Human Equation" (cf. BKHUMEQU.RVW) the
      contradiction of making your staff work like a well-oiled machine by
      not treating your employees like machines, so Raymond's examples of
      technology development touch on an enormous range of human endeavour
      in work, management, and a variety of social interactions. While the
      projects discussed will have the greatest meaning for those who know
      programming, the lessons to be learned, and the social experiments to
      be explored, have implications for everyone.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKCATBAZ.RVW 20000125

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! But
      I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does
      not know all these things? - Job 12:2,3
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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