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Unusual Open Source

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the business-action-penguin-folk dept.

262

Dumitru Erhan writes "The Economist has a special report on open-source. It analyzes the way open-source projects succeed and finds that a rigid, business-like organizational structure is of vital importance to the quality of the final product. It cites Firefox, MySQL and (more recently) Wikipedia as examples of projects that do not simply allow anarchy to rein in, but which have 'real checks and balances, and real leadership taking place'. There is also a discussion of open-source methods being applied to non-software projects." From the article: "Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality. This lesson was brought home to Wikipedia last December, after a former American newspaper editor lambasted it for an entry about himself that had been written by a prankster. His denunciations spoke for many, who question how something built by the wisdom of crowds can become anything other than mob rule."

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Y HALO (-1, Troll)

ahpaway (898375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945203)

GNAA WASDASD

Re:Y HALO (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945471)


I like Windows XP Home Edition.

It is the most powerful operating-system for Pee Cees. It looks not as gay as Mac OS X by Steve B10 Jobs and has 1,0000,0000 times more softwares that the Linus-operating-system.

Plus, it comes with every Pee Cee for free. People who have grown acusstomt to paying RatHat 699 $$$ or more can hardly beleive this when I consult them with my proffesional Internet- and Network-Service-Center-Bureau.

Wehn I have a new customer, I take him to the back-room to show him the "alternative" to XP Home, which is Suse Linux 9.0.
I have set-up an old Pentium 133Hz and a small monochrome monitor to show teh customer what Linux looks and feels like.

I have it set-up so it runs a fullscreen-Flash-splash-screen on the KDE3.3beta-desktop. It takes 13 min until the mouse cursor responds.

The customer will them make a sound like: "BAH!"

Then I tell them: "See, this is how it is if we let the communists make software."
Then we have a good laugh, wich is psycologicallish valuable for the customer-relatively.

I always tell them:
"Windows XP Home Edition is all you can do to embiggen the producationality of your human resourcers and empower to leverage the outcome-bottomlime of your stickholder ... plus even more!"

My customers usually are like: "OMG!"

You should really try it one day; it has a very nice light-reddish color theme to hit your tastes.

Thank you!

Sounds like... (5, Insightful)

Needanewnick (672293) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945234)

From the summary:
His denunciations spoke for many, who question how something built by the wisdom of crowds can become anything other than mob rule


Isn't that how people get elected?

Oh, I see what he means now.

Re:Sounds like... (3, Interesting)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945304)

It actually makes no sense given that there's no single entity responding to the mob. They act as individuals on individual pages.

Mob rule might be the case if they're deciding on a single issue. But if you can't get a mob to even decide what issue they're deciding upon, then it's just a whole lot of people doing things.

Re:Sounds like... (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945425)

It actually makes no sense given that there's no single entity responding to the mob. They act as individuals on individual pages. Mob rule might be the case if they're deciding on a single issue. But if you can't get a mob to even decide what issue they're deciding upon, then it's just a whole lot of people doing things.

Ah, but charismatic leaders can guide mobs and once they have enough of them in line, they can direct the mob against those who don't fall into step or question things. I believe Adolf Hitler

[!Error 53 - Godwin Invoked - Thread terminated]

Re:Sounds like... (2, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945711)

Sadly, as much as I like wikipedia and applaud its efforts, it does devolve into mob rule sometimes. Try to write an article on a more intuitive topic, like art or spirituality, and see how easy it is to express the more esoteric aspects of the pursuit. People end up demanding facts and figures for something that can only be explained in terms of human experience.

Re:Sounds like... (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945391)

From the summary:
His denunciations spoke for many, who question how something built by the wisdom of crowds can become anything other than mob rule
Isn't that how people get elected?

No.

The way people in the american political system get elected, is the parties pick candidates to be picked apart by vultures, then one rigs the election system so they win in pivotal states with large numbers of "electors" who then are supposed to vote for so and so from their districts. In backwards countries, where vile dictators for life, parties labeled as terrorists, political strongmen and their machines all practice it works pretty much the same, but only american leaders are allowed to be critical of how the other countries process works.

Mob rule would mean people actually pick their candidates themselves and throw all their votes behind them and the one who actually gets the most votes wins.

Clearly we can't have that, so strong organizations, such as political parties are necessary to ensure we get what we deserve.

i believe in education -- i'll teach you all a lesson

Re:Sounds like... (2, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945436)

Ever read about the writing of the U.S. Constitution? Those guys argued and agonized about how they were going to set up a true democracy that wasn't just mob rule. The didn't exactly do a perfect job, but they did suprisingly well.

My big gripe with Wikipedia is that it just takes it for granted that everybody wants to work together to create an optimal result. I'm not just talking about pranksters and vandals. I'm talking about people who aren't really interested in collaboration — they have a certain notion of what Wikipedia should be, and they're not interested in anything that contradicts that.

In any social system, somebody has to have the last word. In a hierachy, it's the folks on top. In a true democracy, it's something resembling a consensus. In mob rule, it's whoever's the biggest bully. Wikipedia seems to combine the worst aspects of all three!

Re:Sounds like... (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 8 years ago | (#14946006)

Wikipedia is inverse Communism. Communism looks great in theory, and horrible in practice. Wikipedia looks horrible in theory, but in practice, it does work.

In Soviet Russia, Wikipedia edits You.

In Wikipedia, In Soviet Russia [wikipedia.org] is editable.

Re:Sounds like... (2, Insightful)

I Like Pudding (323363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945912)

Isn't that how people get elected?

Yes.

Follow up (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945238)

Sometime in the late 1990s Forbes wrote a similiar article about GNU. You can imagine their conclusions.

Re:Follow up (5, Insightful)

dusik (239139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945268)

Many people still don't take the GNU project seriously. People often find it easier to keep their eyes shut than to have to change their beliefs in light of what they see.

I've shown people incredible stuff on my (Linux) PC, but often when they find out it doesn't run on Windows they continue to pretend it doesn't exist.

Re:Follow up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945655)

Most likely, this is because they have some pre-conceived notion in their head that Linux is...

I am still trying to figure out what they think Linux is. One person said that she believed that Windows was a "standard" -- I guess she thought that using Linux meant not adhering to standards...

Re:Follow up (1)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945786)

Standards are a difficult thing to understand....

An arbitrary organization can make up arbitrary rules and call them 'standards'.

A huge number of people can agree upon something, without the arbitrary organization giving it creedence, and it is called a 'de-facto standard'.

Different people are impressed by different types of standards. Not surprisingly, most people adhere to the de-facto standards (which is pretty much the definition) and don't realize it. They don't care- they only want stuff to work.

'Standards' in computing only impress those who are impressed by things like 'standards'.

Re:Follow up (1)

DarkClown (7673) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945274)

you could probably reprint that forbes articles and get the gist of this one - am I the only one whose eyes glazed over and thought 'open source explained for executives 101, take 3,000,000' at about 4 paragraphs in?

The Economist... only 20 years behind the times (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945322)

Good advertisement for your mag mates.

You see, one thing economists (and many, many others) get wrong time and time again, is self organisation... They just don't get it for some reason. The "bazaar" encourages, promotes lots of projects, lots of errors, lots of iterations, lots of dead projects and we get emergent behaviour out of that environment. These are projects which are strong, robust and evolutionary in that they will fill all of the niches in which they are needed. These projects are ... pulled ... in that there is a need for them... Traditional software is ... pushed ... in that there's a need for profit.

 

Re:The Economist... only 20 years behind the times (4, Insightful)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945770)

You see, one thing economists (and many, many others) get wrong time and time again, is self organisation...

And the amazing thing is that, if you say businesses should be regulated, they're very likely to yell, "NO! The market must be FREE! The market has WISDOM!" Then they go back to saying open source is socialism...

Cognitive dissonance ain't just for psychologists and Republicans anymore.

Yes, but also following best practices (2, Informative)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945834)

Yes, well said. However, it's worth pointing out that lots of free software is developed with good practices. Probably more free software developers use version control systems and bug ticketing than proprietary development processes. It's well established I think, that Free Software code is more conscientiously checked and validated before being submitted and committed to the mainline code base. Moreover, we have free tools available for all sorts of things, like code testing, vulnerability discovery, etc., along with lots of documentation and discussion about how that is useful, and how to actually use it.

Re:The Economist... only 20 years behind the times (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945856)

You see, one thing economists (and many, many others) get wrong time and time again, is self organisation... They just don't get it for some reason.

Actually I think economists have too much faith in self organisation, particularly by markets. For example by insisting that markets can solve environmental problems without intervention.

Re:The Economist... only 20 years behind the times (1)

JulesLt (909417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945981)

Actually the 'bazaar' you outline isn't that different from the free market economics many right-wing economists espouse - that there will be many 'errors' and 'dead projects', and iterations - and that market demand (pull) will weed out the failures.

In fact, these same economists make the same 'push' vs 'pull' comparison between free markets and planned economies - Socialist, Communist or just countries with large state sectors. What little business economics I did do also suggests that most economists think that if you're in the business of 'pushing' products that customers don't want, then you haven't got a long term business - so again I don't think there's a disagreement.

Of course, you might be right on the point of self-organisation - they don't get that - the article in the Economist is suggesting that successful FOSS is where projects follow a traditional structure, but I'm not sure what they're defining as successful.

Which brings me neatly onto . . I'd dispute whether these FOSS will ever truly fill all the niches in which it's needed - it's largely been successful where there is
(a) a large overlap between users and programmers - i.e. the multitude of web tools - 'many hands make light work'.
(b) a company using a free product to gain market entry to sell other services, willing to fund full-time development.

Where it's evidently been less successful is where there's a large gap between users and programmers. There is less 'pull' on the programmers to satisfy the users. The users have less understanding how to contribute feedback. Of course you could maybe interpret that as saying there is no need, for instance, for a FOSS equivalent of Apple's iWork. (Don't say Scribus! That's mistaking toolset for package - Pages, for instance, is pretty limited as a DTP tool, but aims to make it difficult for people to create bad looking documents by sticking them on rails).

I also thought that the 'bazaar' and 'cathedral' comparison also applied within FOSS - that certain personality led projects were just as much cathedrals as any closed-source company.

Leadership (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945239)

Wikipedia is what it is today because of the large amount of people who care about it enough to fix vandalism. Not necessarily because of a centralized leadership.

Open source is successful because of the large number of people who have an interst in its success. Centralizing leadership might be helpful in some way, but I don't see it as the most important thing.

Re:Leadership (0, Flamebait)

peterfa (941523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945423)

I vandalize Wikipedia.

Re:Leadership (1)

Jodiamonds (226053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945470)

It is likely that real leadership is necessary to achieve a certain level of success, but hardly sufficient (and it's subjective what is most important, of course). Smaller projects automatically have leadership simply by having few enough cooks adding to the broth.

Re:Leadership (2, Insightful)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945520)

Open source is successful because of the large number of people who have an interst in its success. Centralizing leadership might be helpful in some way, but I don't see it as the most important thing.

Well personally I would say having a large number of people with invested interest in a project's success leads to good leadership and visa versa, the two aren't exclusive.

Somewhere there is always money, just look at the recent articles about Mozilla making a mint off Firefox, Redhat's contribution to Linux, or how the money put behind Ubuntu pushed it to the top of the distribution list.

Successful open source project's don't last long unless they are picked up by business interest or sponsorship.

Re:Leadership (5, Funny)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945526)

Funny, I thought Wikipedia is what it is today because of the frighteningly large number of people willing to explain Super Mario Bros. continuity or the mechanics of Klingon spaceships.

Re:Leadership (3, Interesting)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945556)

Define vandalism.

In Wikipedia the most active editor wins. Whether they're right or wrong.

I've heard a couple of horror stories of the admins at wikipedia forcing agendas too (things like refusing very minor edits because they mention things they disagree with, and even blocking page names for things that they disagree with)*

It's an interesting variation on the blog, but I wouldn't call it 'successful' in any way. Slashdot fanboys like it, that's all.

* And the person who told me this is trustworthy, and definately an expert in their field having 20+ years experience. The eventually managed to get some edits in but only after appealing to other admins who removed the page blocks - 6 months later.

Re:Leadership (1)

tarquin_fim_bim (649994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945645)

Surely the person with the most time on their hands, and determination to covey a specific message wins.

Re:Leadership (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945698)

The article's analogy between WP and OSS isn't a very good one. For one thing, the goal of a programmer is typically to write the code correctly, so that it doesn't have to be rewritten over and over again; in WP, no matter how good an article gets, edits will keep on happening. That's because there's a fairly clear criterion for whether code needs to be messed with (did somebody discover a bug?), but no clear criterion for whether a WP article needs to be messed with. Knowledgeable, highly qualified people on WP tend to work on an article until they're happy with it, and then stop. After that, the people who edit it day after day are different people -- people who have an agenda to push, but aren't experts.

Another difference between WP and software is that with software, you write however many lines of code you need to write to get the program to do what it's supposed to do, and after that, you'd prefer not to increase the number of lines. In WP, people seem to have a feeling that growth is always good. Now that there's an article on essentially every major topic that you'd expect to find in a print encyclopedia, all that's left is to write new articles on topics that are inherently unencyclopedic: vanity articles, articles about your high school, articles about your friend who used to have a band in high school,... WP recently had a front-page article about shoe polish [wikipedia.org] , which was actually a pretty well written article, but for example articles like this one [wikipedia.org] and this one [wikipedia.org] are the kind that are currently being discussed seriously for featured article status.

Another difference between software and WP is that programmers don't spend a lot of time checking their CVS logs to see if someone they've never met has inserted a dangling pointer bug in their code. A huge amount of WP editors' time these days is spent just watching over their pet articles and trying to keep entropy from having its way. I worked on WP for years, and did thousands of edits, but I've given up now. The project hit its maximum level of quality a year or two ago, and the trend now is for it to get worse not better. It's also not fun anymore.

Well of course (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945241)

Of course projects with strict organisation do well. It isn't very easy to finish making something when you have developers leaving without notice for extended periods of time. Nor does it work to have 1/3 of the development staff having no clue as to what they're supposed to be doing at the time.

Lack of imagination (1)

dusik (239139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945247)

>> "His denunciations spoke for many, who question how something built by the wisdom of crowds can become anything other than mob rule."

Perhaps they will just have to wait and see...

Lack of imagination is not a convincing argument. I'd actually like to hear a convincing argument as to what, precisely, invariably prevents such a success.

Check out Groklaw (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945251)

PJ over at Groklaw http://www.groklaw.net/ [groklaw.net] has this story.

The reporter interviewed her. She has his questions and her answers. He obviouly ignored what she told him and printed a story full of factual innacuracies.

This is bad, bad reporting. Do I still trust the Economist? Not much.

Give them FEMA ! (1)

tizan (925212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945686)

Should we give FEMA to be run by the staff of the Economist then ? They seem qualified enough !

Re:Check out Groklaw (4, Interesting)

tabdelgawad (590061) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945854)

I don't understand Groklaw's beef. She (PJ) was asked two questions. Her first answer was one of the main points of the article: hierarchy is an integral part of successful open source development. Her second answer was a dodge: "You think Wikipedia is bad? The MSM is worse!". As for the factual inaccuracies, what exactly were they? The fact that the author didn't get the "groklaw-approved" exact wording right for telling us SCO is suing IBM, DaimlerChrysler and Autozone? Give me a break.

Perhaps I'm biased against Groklaw. Sometimes I can't take the world-weary, sighing, 'know all the answers', 'the rest of the world is idiotic' tone of the postings there. I'm sure I'll be punished accordingly by groklaw fans with mod points, but what use is good Karma if you can't cash it in once in a while? :)

PJ overreacts - again (2, Interesting)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945871)

I read the article. It isn't near as bad as the denizens of Groklaw make it out to be. It isn't an "attack on open source" as some there claimed - more of an analysis. Jeez, The Economist even makes the point that some companies are are copying the methods of the open source community.

PJ and her followers do not take even mild criticism of open source well at all.

Re:PJ overreacts - again (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945954)

That's always been my problem with Groklaw. I find the articles educational when you take the bias with a grain of salt, but the comments are just too . . . autistic? They often seem to be in their own little world, and they don't take kindly to any viewpoints that diverge from their own. The slashdot hive mind has nothing on groklaw's.

That said, they are a terrific resource. Just avoid the comments sections.

Re:PJ overreacts - again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945994)

" I find the articles educational when you take the bias with a grain of salt, but the comments are just too . . . autistic? "

I had a tin-foil hat theory, that when the standard of the comments suddenly went down on Groklaw, as it did, that SCOG had provided a home for the bewildered with internet access that was confined solely to GL. The effect of this was that people with plenty of time and very little smarts could post there all day. I was probably wrong.

Re:PJ overreacts - again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945958)

"PJ and her followers do not take even mild criticism of open source well at all."

When you are as perfect as PJ you do not have to take criticism at all.
    Why she was telling us just the other week that she is very like Linus (whom she considers a god), and more recently, after praising "Bound by Law" a Comic book style description of copyright law, she went on to explain that the idea behind it "nuanced juxtapositions of text with graphics" was hers.
I expect her any day now to point out that the wheel was her invention, and she was robbed of her rightful recognition by people who merely improved it....by making it round.

I know I should not read her nonsense if it annoys me, but now that Darl is keeping quiet who else is there to get riled at?

The kernel? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945253)

Regardless of the resier4 and other fiascos, does the kernel not serve as an example of a sound organizational structure? Linus is kinda relevant to Linux, I contend.

Summary gets anarchism wrong (5, Interesting)

HooliganIntellectual (856868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945265)

"It cites Firefox, MySQL and (more recently) Wikipedia as examples of projects that do not simply allow anarchy to rein in..."

As an anarchist geek, let me point out that this is a wrong use of the word "anarchy." Anarchism is a political philosophy that is FOR organization. Many people have described Wikipedia as an example of "anarchism in action" and they aren't misusing the word instead of using "chaos." The free software/open source (FOSS) movement is another example of anarchism in action and includes many actual anarchists working on various projects.

Find out more about anarchism at http://www.infoshop.org/ [infoshop.org] (where half of the visitors are using Firefox and other open source browsers)

Re:Summary gets rein in wrong (1)

Sabaki (531686) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945428)

As a word geek, let me point out that the original author apparently confused the word "reign" with the phrase "rein in". But at least it was kind of spelled right...

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (1)

danaan (728990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945444)

"As an anarchist geek, let me point out that this is a wrong use of the word "anarchy."" It might be incorrect if they used the Capital "A" Anarchy, but a dictionary definition of "anarchy" includes: "a state of disorder due to absense or nonrecognition of authority" which seems to work just fine.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945504)

The trouble with dictionaries these days is they've completely abdicated their responsibility and gone to a role of simply reflecting usage. So when a word is often misused, the misuse winds up being legitimised by the dictionary entries. Thus, they've really made themselves irrelevant, for the most part.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (4, Insightful)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945560)

That's because language and therefore definitions reflect usage. Dictionaries are hardly "irrelevant" just because they contain common definitions you have some anal disagreement with society over.

Lets see what wiktionary has to say (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945716)

anarchy 1. absence of hierarchy, power and authority 2. absence of any form of political authority or government 3. political disorder and confusion 4. absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose 5. without rules or laws (syn: anomie, anomy) 6. self-government

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (2, Funny)

weierstrass (669421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945776)

This is because dictionaries are no longer written by experts but by internet anarchists.

It's a plot by the chinese communist party to make americans stupid.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (2, Interesting)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945789)

The trouble with dictionaries these days is they've completely abdicated their responsibility and gone to a role of simply reflecting usage. So when a word is often misused, the misuse winds up being legitimised by the dictionary entries.

What "responsibility"? What "misuse"? A word cannot be "often misused" - if it's often used a certain way, then that is how it is used, and it is the fact of the usage that legitimises its inclusion in dictionaries, not the other way round!

As the poet wrote:
licuit semperque licebit
signatum praesente nota producere nomen
. . .
multa renascentur quae iam cecidere cadentque
quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula si volet usus
quem penes arbitrium est et ius et norma loquendi
...in other words, language changes, language is supposed to change, and the only "authority" that controls it and determines what is right and what is wrong is popular usage.

I can't believe that people today, in this age of progress and enlightenment, more than two thousand years after Horace wrote the words above (and he certainly wasn't the first person to make this observation), are still trying to pretend that there is some kind of objective right or wrong to language that can be fixed in stone and preserved for ever.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945983)

There are educated writers and uneducated writers, good writers and bad writers. If 9 out of 10 slashdotters write "it's" when they should write "its," that doesn't mean the distinction has suddenly become irrelevant. If Hemingway and Faulkner and Fitzgerald had all started writing "it's" for the possessive, then it would have been time to change.

Certain fields also have their own specialized technical terminology. Anarchism is a specialized term used by historians, political scientists, etc. They need the term to have a definite meaning so that they can express their ideas with precision. A machinist can't use "taps" and "threads" interchangeably. As a physicist, I don't care if most people don't understand the distinction between voltage and current -- that doesn't mean they've become synonyms.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (3, Informative)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945546)

From Wikipedia:

"Anarchism as a political philosophy, is the belief that rulers, governments, and hierarchal social relationships are unnecessary and should be abolished, although there are differing interpretations of what this means."

Sounds like another one of those -isms that people have adopted and modified from its true original meaning to make themselves feel different, like Satanism. Anarchy means chaos and lack of organization. Oxford says "a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority."

"ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: via medieval Latin from Greek anarkhia, from anarkhos, from an- 'without' + arkhos 'chief, ruler.'"

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (0)

dominion (3153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945581)

Sounds like another one of those -isms that people have adopted and modified from its true original meaning to make themselves feel different, like Satanism.

Except that anarchism, as a philosophy, has a serious theoretical basis in the works of Kropotkin, Bakunin, Proudhon, etc, which date back centuries.

Sorry, your Oxford dictionary is the definition that has been modified from its true original meaning.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (4, Informative)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945719)

Except that anarchism, as a philosophy, has a serious theoretical basis in the works of Kropotkin, Bakunin, Proudhon, etc, which date back centuries.

Sorry, your Oxford dictionary is the definition that has been modified from its true original meaning.


Sorry, but you don't seem to know what you're talking about.

Kropotkin was born in 1842, Bakunin in 1814, and Proudhon in 1809, right? Well, the OED provides citations for "anarchy" in the sense of "lawlessness" dating back to 1539, and for "anarchy" in the sense of "moral or intellectual disorder" dating back to 1656.

If we assume that words have such a thing as a "true original meaning", then I would be inclined to say that the way the word was used in 1539 (and is still most commonly used today) is more likely to be the "true original meaning" than the way the word was used by a handful of philosphers in the 1850s. Unless you're about to propose that they invented the time machine as well?

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (2, Interesting)

tobiasly (524456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945553)

Someone seriously needs to fix that site's FAQ. I honestly tried to figure out what "anarchism" means but instead left with a splitting headache.

If I were trying to make a FAQ as unreadable as possible, here are some techniques I would use:

  • Make the text as tiny as possible.
  • Make the onhover event for each paragraph set its text to be bold and bright blue. This has the added bonus of making all other text on the page jump around constantly.
  • Make each FAQ entry about a dozen paragraphs long, and filled with alternating italic and bold text and plenty of cross-references thrown in for good measure.

Seriously, the entire page screams "go away". Was this website developed via anarchy?

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (1)

try_anything (880404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945628)

As a geek of some kind or another, let me point out that the coining of the word "anarchism" did not invalidate the existing usage of "anarchy" any more than the coining of "libertarianism" changed the meaning of "liberty."

God I hate English (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945740)

As a geek of some kind or another, let me point out that the coining of the word "anarchism" did not invalidate the existing usage of "anarchy" any more than the coining of "libertarianism" changed the meaning of "liberty."
You just brought back nightmares of my college history class and some past discussion on Slashdot. Try explaining to someone that the United States liberals and conservatives are both another form of iberals despite their vastly different policies.

Re:Summary gets anarchism wrong (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945925)

Just to amplify on the parent's post, "-arch" is a Greek root meaning "ruler." So anarchy doesn't mean lack of organization, it means lack of rulers. Another way of putting it is that anarchists are against all forms of coercion, and they consider the state and private property to be coercive institutions. (If you only agree about the state, not property, then you're a libertarian.)

Shock! (1)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945270)

Why is it a surprise that a business should be run any differently just because they are focused on open source, or open source centric?

Of course you have to stick to a rigid business-like organizational structure.

Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (3, Interesting)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945283)

The BSDs have more rigid professionalism than the typical Linux project. I don't know why this is, but there is a focus on correctness over features.

Yet again, the PR-excellence of the Linux crowd wins. Even though, for instance, Yahoo!, a company that hosts a huge number of sites (and stores), uses FreeBSD.

That's OK with me -- it is a secret weapon.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (1)

sloanster (213766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945363)

Sounds like the same old sour grapes from the bsd diehards...

Sure, I love bsd as much as the next guy, but seriously - the bsds have more rigid professionalism? more emphasis on correctness over features? Given the amount of improvement in the linux kernel over the past 10 years, compared to that of the bsds, that seems a curious statement.

BTW I'll see your yahoo, and raise you a google and an amazon.com.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (2, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945457)

Well, it's an oversimplification.

OpenBSD definitely shows an emphasis on correctness over features.

FreeBSD and NetBSD have different goals.

That said, all three of them are wonderful projects. It's the licensing, not the professionalism or code quality or any other technical concern, that keeps them from being competitive with linux for mindshare.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (3, Insightful)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945590)

Sure, I love bsd as much as the next guy, but seriously - the bsds have more rigid professionalism? more emphasis on correctness over features? Given the amount of improvement in the linux kernel over the past 10 years, compared to that of the bsds, that seems a curious statement.

I guess by improvement in the Linux kernel, you mean broken 2.6 development or bleeding edge hacks that break things. Yes, the BSDs have a much more professional approach. They actually try to retain stability instead of hacking in the latest gee-whiz device driver or VM scheme that breaks things.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (1)

imemyself (757318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945743)

broken 2.6 development

I've not really had any problems on CentOS 4 or SuSE 9.2 thru 10. In contrast, I think they've worked much better than the 2.4 based stuff I've used in the past.

hacking in the latest gee-whiz device driver

Why is having support for more hardware a bad thing? I can't see how having more devices that are atleast partially supported can hurt.

VM scheme that breaks thing

I assume you're talking about Xen here? If so, what has it broken? I've not heard of people having any huge issues with it, but then I haven't paid real close attention. I use VMware irregardless because I run things other than *nix in a lot of the VMs.

Honestly, I think calling a lack of progress "retaining stability" might be sort of ignoring the point. I think it's certainly possible to progress a lot without hurting stability, and even possibly making the system more stable. If you want to keep using a 2.2 kernel because you feel people are progressing too quickly, nobody's stopping you.

I don't have any major problems with the BSD's(well, atleast with FreeBSD, I've not tried OpenBSD and only used NetBSD briefly on one occasion). The several versions FreeBSD has seemed to work alright for me, but it has never made me think, "wow! This is so much better than Linux! I need to move all my *nix boxes over to this ASAP!" If anything, it might have seemed like a little bit of a step backwards, though I will admit that much of that could be because I'm more familiar with Linux that I am with the BSD's.
Sorry if I sound rude, or arrogant/sarcastic. I didn't really mean to be, I just would have to disagree with you. And would probably agree with the person who posted the original reply, that you can have a strong, successful OSS project without a company behind it.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945933)

I assume you're talking about Xen here?
Haha, no, he's not.

Sorry if I sound rude, or arrogant/sarcastic.
You just sound clueless.

PS. As for Xen and BSD, check http://www.netbsd.org/Ports/xen/ [netbsd.org]

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (3, Interesting)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945367)

GPL wins. A professor may not bother that people close his code, but companies do, so lots of developers never see the BSD kernels, nor work with it. And the word doesn't spread, so people don't consider it.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945707)

Funny, RMS praised Theo de Raadt not so long about about Theo's stance on "Freedom" and his use of BSDL.

GPL is just a virus..

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945868)

GPL wins. A professor may not bother that people close his code, but companies do, so lots of developers never see the BSD kernels, nor work with it. And the word doesn't spread, so people don't consider it.

There is nothing to stop you from modifying BSD code and releasing the lot under the GPL.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (2, Insightful)

Arandir (19206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945948)

It has nothing to do with the GPL. While a few developers (like Alan) are going to refuse to work on non-GPL code, there are an equal number (like Theo) who won't. The details of the licensing is irrelevant to the system's popularity.

There are a couple of things that makes Linux more popular. One is timing, as Linux arrived at a crucial moment (the advent of the cheap 32bit CPU) while BSD was stuck in court with a monopolist. More importantly, Linux is just a piece of the whole. Hackers love to put stuff together, and so the DIY nature of Linux was far more appealing to them than something that was already fully integrated and stable. Finally, Linus had a relatively low threshold for accepting code. If you managed to get his attention, and the code didn't have an obvious stench, you had a pretty good chance of getting it included. Other projects (including GNU, btw) had a much higher threshold for code acceptance.

In short, Linux become more popular because it showed up a the right time and had more of a community atomosphere. If it were all about the GPL, then why doesn't Hurd have even more developers working on it than Linux?

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (1)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945627)

One of the main points this article makes is that successfulopen source has strict organisation, strong leadership and company backing.

As a sister poster already pointed out, the BSD license is truly Free in that it gives anyone the right to piss in your face and make a $million off your code. Business's don't want that, they want to get a guaranteed return on anything they contribute. It's all about give a little and take a lot.

Re:Yet Again, the BSDs get Snubbed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945738)

can you explain the relationship NetBSD and Wasabi Systems, inc. -- there seems to be some company backing there, and I am pretty sure FreeBSD has a fair bit of company backing from what I have seen on the cvs-src mailling list.

Please, get a clue :)

What?!?!?!? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945295)

Does this mean that my YAMP3P(Yet Another MP3 Player, clever eh? Although I would have preferred it to be recursive like GNU) project isn't going to r0xx0r the world? Say it ain't so. Tell me that I don't have to organize a company like NullSoft and list specifications and the have clear deadlines and objectives for developers. Tell me that me and the rabble will kick MP3 ass.

Re:What?!?!?!? (1)

dusik (239139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945314)

  • You don't have to organise a company like NullSoft and list specifications and then have clear deadlines and objectives for developers.*
  • You and the rabble will kick MP3 ass.*


*Your actual mileage may vary.

Fr1st stop (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945325)

counte3rpArt,

The bazaar (2, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945327)

It's strange that the findings turn out this way, because to judge by Eric S. Raymond's presentation of the open source idea in his influential The Cathedral and the Bazaar [amazon.com] one gets the idea that hierarchies and control are bad and that anarchy is the most fruitful situation. Certainly the most well-known example of open-source, Mozilla, only got tied up for years due to its exclusivist design system.

Truism (3, Insightful)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945339)

So, if you define sucess as having a big reachable community, the sucessfull projects will have someone able to tell you the name of every developer. If you define sucess as being used by corporations, the sucessfull projects look like corporation projects.

Now, we could get the first page with some more truisms, or we could forget about generalising this idea of "sucess" to an area where there is simply no metric to be used.

What never made sense to me (4, Interesting)

K-Man (4117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945345)

If the guy was so offended, why didn't he just edit the Wikipedia entry to fix the mistakes?

Re:What never made sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945516)

Because it is not his responsibility. Why should he have to? Should he have to scour the web looking for other things written about him and fix that as well? What about the many many sites that copy Wiki verbatim? Is he supposed to sit and wait for those sites to copy the corrected info? What if they don't, then what?

I don't understand your attitude; just because he is permitted to change it himself, why does that make it all better? Does he now have to put a watch on it and go review it every time a change is made? And if somebody keeps "correcting" it back, do you just throw one of those "this topic is considered controversial" tags on the top and walk away happy even if it is wrong?

Re:What never made sense to me (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945623)

Well, not everybody has your reading or typing skills! The poor guy is a *newspaper editor*, for God's sake!

It's just a matter of naming. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945350)

This is just something they write, so that they can feel good about themselves, but still support Open Source.

This is entirely a matter of what clothes people wear, what syllables are chosen for words, with nothing substantial behind it.

Open Source is still what Open Source has always been, with all it's variety, with all of it's jumble.

Wikipedia is not open source (2)

keesh (202812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945358)

Wikipedia is not, in the traditional style, open source. With open source projects, there is still a central leader or small team of developers vetting contributions. With Wikipedia there are no such checks, with content being controlled by those who edit and revert fastest and those who can sneak malicious contributions into obscure places. There is also no-one handling the overall quality of any individual entry, thus the horrible prevalent writing style.

Liking Wikipedia to Linux is a huge error. The quality issue is extremely relevant.

Re:Wikipedia is not open source (1)

aprilsound (412645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945411)

They might have been refering to Mediawiki [mediawiki.org] , the wiki engine that drives Wikipedia, and a lot of other wikis as it is free as in beer and as in speech.

Re:Wikipedia is not open source (2, Insightful)

thewiltog (906494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945477)

In theory I agree...but my limited experience as a Wikipedia editor suggests that this isn't true. There may be no one overall guiding hand - with 1,000,000+ articles in English alone how could there be? - but I suspect a lot of areas have one or more guardians who watch closely over their areas of expertise.

ANd now the vandals sign up as vigilantes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945362)

I used to write a lot for wikipedia. If somebody didn't like what I wrote, they would edit it, and they'd either offer an alternative writeup or they'd start a discussion on the talk page where they'd state what they thought was wrong with the article. Either of these tactics let me refine my text into something that person would find more fitting for wikipedia, and usually this process worked great because honestly I'm not a great author.

Now I've stopped, because the vigilantes who claim to be working to fight vandalism invariably just revert any changes they disagree with or dislike without making any useful criticism or alternative input whatsoever (typically, "thank you for experimenting with wikipedia, your changes have been reverted, next time use the sandbox for your tests").

The people who used to vandalize, now they just sign up as anti-vandalism vigilantes, and delete the efforts of others. It's too annoying to deal with when I've got a life already.

I predict that soon there will be a brisk business in selling wikipedia monitoring and modification - if you're a crooked politician, you pay off a wiki vigilante to make sure your entry stays slanted towards whatever you want to portray.

Wikipedia, I wish you all the best, and all the success in the world. But your swarms of vigilantes may bring you down just as fast as the vandals they were created to combat.

Many eyes help (3, Insightful)

Handyman (97520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945376)

His denunciations spoke for many, who question how something built by the wisdom of crowds can become anything other than mob rule.


It's obvious that an entry created and commented on by many disinterested people is less biased than an entry created and commented on by few. Traditional encylopedias fall in the latter category, Wikipedia falls in the former. But people are not always disinterested, and that's where the problems lie. So the real problem is: are all the participants disinterested? With traditional encylopedias, the chances are that most writers are semi-disinterested observers, as they are ordered to write about subjects, they don't select them themselves. With Wikipedia, people self-select themselves, which means they cannot be disinterested, by definition. And that's the reason that some kind of community control is required for projects like this.

Re:Many eyes help (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945704)

You are confusing "disinterested" for "uninterested". If a judge hears a case, being only concerned with rendering justice, then she is disinterested. On the other hand, if she wants the proceedings to end so that she can make her 3 o'clock appointment, then she is uninterested.

In other news... (1)

RoffleTheWaffle (916980) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945439)

Independing programmers and Open Source advocates discover that organization leads to increased productivity. Shouldn't this have been a gigantic no-brainer from the start? That organizing a software project - or ANY project as others seem to have suddenly discovered - might make it work out better in the end?

Re:In other news... (1)

try_anything (880404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945728)

There are different ways of organizing a project. Some are better than others, and some are worse than nothing. The article suffers from a lack of specifics, and everyone will read it differently. By "rigid control structures," geeks are going to read, "The project leaders can vet and veto contributions," while business types will infer, "Contributors must get project leaders' permission before working on enhancements, and those who don't follow orders get locked out of the project."

Business types may also take the hundred thousands abandoned projects on SourceForge as a bad showing by open source. Geeks will understand that many of those failed projects were learning projects (guilty!), keep-busy projects by temporarily unemployed geeks, projects naively started by beginners, and projects abandoned when the prime developer went to college and discovered girls.

May be a Good Thing (3, Insightful)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945454)

a rigid, business-like organizational structure is of vital importance to the quality of the final product.

'real checks and balances, and real leadership taking place'

"Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality.

Any task envisioning an end product could be said to require the characteristics mentioned above. What may be of more importance is that the venerable 'Economist'(although I believe its always been seen as left leaning) is making an effort to wrap its mind around Open Source and in doing so allowing its readers to follow suit.

Over the last year plus I've noticed more articles that tend to view Open Source projects as akin to 'hardnosed' business methods. I think they represent the establishment coming to a positive consensus about Open Source methods and projects.

I noticed a turn in the way the general business community reported and interacted with Open Source from about the time IBM ran the ads picturing Linux as a small, blonde haired, blue eyed wonderkid.

The old boy network isn't about to let Open Source join the club but they're certainly ready to let it in the service entrance.

Re:May be a Good Thing (2, Funny)

try_anything (880404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945752)

Over the last year plus I've noticed more articles that tend to view Open Source projects as akin to 'hardnosed' business methods. I think they represent the establishment coming to a positive consensus about Open Source methods and projects.

That makes a certain amount of sense. Calling Open Source formal, heirarchical, and controlled could be a business-world way of establishing friendly relations by handing out generic compliments, like telling your new co-worker, "That's a nice shirt," or, "You have such a charming wife."

Depends on the quality of the mob. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945489)

Depends on the quality of the mob.

only businesses make for success? (2, Insightful)

sparkane (145547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945491)

"For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality and it is still working out better ways to handle intellectual property."

Then later, "With software, for instance, the code is written chiefly not by volunteers, but by employees sponsored for their efforts by companies that think they will in some way benefit from the project."

Jesus. There must be a host of FOSS projects which were highly successful, but never involved with a company or corporate sponsorship.

Does the Linux kernel itself fall under that category? At least for most of its history? And in fact is it the same thing to say that some "volunteers" are paid to do their work, and that therefore this is an indication of FOSS having to adopt "cathedral" management styles in order for its projects to succeed?

What about all the FOSS network tools, Snort, Nmap, and the like? Were those all sponsored by corporate interests?

Is it anything more than a red herring to say that FOSS software-production leaders actually must be able to manage?

How is this news? (3, Insightful)

Zphbeeblbrox (816582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945499)

Any Project whether it's open source or commercial needs this to succeed. Open source is more than a development model. It's a software licensing model. As a result it's also a software as service model. The main difference between commercial and open source is the openness of the code and tendency to the service side rather than shrinkwrapped.

Ask Slashdot: (3, Interesting)

Errandboy of Doom (917941) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945500)

Are there good open source projects that buck this trend, that disprove the thesis of this article?

This is the crowd that would know.

Or in the alternative, is "strong central leadership" so inherent to all human endeavors that the thesis is a meaningless tautology?

What else would you expect from the economist? (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945540)

The economist frequently mistakes responsibillity for discipline and constraint for authoratarian policing. Every project needs constraints. If I were to sit down and write a song without constraining by some mood and some form of theory it would sound like shit and no one would listen to it. Open source provides the right constraints in order to have an end product that's not a phillip glass or john cage composition. The fact is, corporate environments OVER police. Corporate policing gave us brittany spears and matchbox20.

Anarchy (5, Interesting)

LeapingQuince (873872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945552)

It is unfortunate that the term anarchy has a dual meaning - the most common being "disorder". A more historical meaning is that of "without authority", which seems to be what open source is all about - nobody telling anybody else what to do.

Open source projects are the model of anarchist principles - people getting together, contributing when they want to, and promoting the common good. Even Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] knows that.

Ironically, Wikipedia does confuse the definition (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945771)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchy
I don't know why they do it but aparently what people refer to anarchy is really anomie and perhaps the disambiguation page is mearly mentioning that fact. Perhaps someone should edit it and change the sentence so that it reflects this.

comparative improvement (2)

bitspotter (455598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945618)

Mob rule has it's problems, but I'll take it over plutocratic aristocracy any day of the week.

Spot On (1)

hollisbrown (320527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945717)

From TFA:
"The first is how innovative it can remain in the long run. Indeed, open source might already have reached a self-limiting state, says Steven Weber, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of "The Success of Open Source" (Harvard University Press, 2004). "Linux is good at doing what other things already have done, but more cheaply--but can it do anything new? Wikipedia is an assembly of already-known knowledge," he says."

This guy makes a great point. BSD, for example, came up with many of the features that are found in Linux. And wikipedia? An encyclopedia that simply compiles already-known knowledge? Give me a break!

Innovation has clearly reached its limit in open source.

Spot On-Brother, can you spare some innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945923)

"Innovation has clearly reached its limit in open source."

Now you know how OSS is going to make it's money.

Open Graphics Project (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945747)

I don't know if this is quite far enough removed from open source software, but the Open Graphics Project is applying OSS ideas to all sorts of things. It would seem to apply well to HDL for chips, but they've also released their PCB schematics under a GPL license.

UNLIKE PHP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14945760)

The scourge of OSS.

Look up "rein in"... (1)

BarnabyWilde (948425) | more than 8 years ago | (#14945861)

...it doesn't mean what you think.

mod s0p (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14946005)

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