[techbooks] REVIEW: "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", Eric S. Raymond
- 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
%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
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Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! But
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not know all these things? - Job 12:2,3
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade