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Unusual Open Source 262

Posted by Zonk
from the business-action-penguin-folk dept.
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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Unusual Open Source

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  • Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Needanewnick (672293) <lucifersam@light ... m ['ved' in gap]> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:05PM (#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... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dr. Evil (3501) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:14PM (#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.

      • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:33PM (#14945425) Homepage Journal
        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... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CarpetShark (865376)
        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.
        • People end up demanding facts and figures for something that can only be explained in terms of human experience.

          Since one of their major goals is objectivity, no wonder. Sounds like you've been trying to fit the square peg into the round hole.
        • Prove it. (Score:3, Funny)

          by Comboman (895500)
          People end up demanding facts and figures for something that can only be explained in terms of human experience.

          How do we know it can only be explained in terms of human experience? Please state some facts to back up your assumption.

    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:28PM (#14945391) Homepage Journal
      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... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816)
      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 cert

    • Isn't that how people get elected?

      Yes.
    • Re:Sounds like... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by trilioth (961958)
      We all contribute to the mob. Why didn't the guy just register and delete it.
    • Isn't this too how the "invisible hand" of Adams is supposed to work? Groups of people making individual contributions and decisions and creating an optimal solution?

      Really, I have come to the opinion that most people are afraid of true freedom, but would rather look for direction from centralized control such as religion, corporations, a religous belief in certain Economic dogma (the free market, the inevibility of communism, capitalism etc.) or the government.

      The article also seems to equate commercial su
  • Sometime in the late 1990s Forbes wrote a similiar article about GNU. You can imagine their conclusions.
    • Re:Follow up (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dusik (239139) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:09PM (#14945268) Homepage
      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.
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:17PM (#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.

       
      • 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.
        • 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!"
          What are you smoking? Companies stopped saying that in the late 80s! Now it is:

          "Please regulate the market (ie. give us tax money) so we can continue to support the economy (and make bucketloads of money) and give jobs to natives (which we will offshore later)."
      • 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,
      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:53PM (#14945856) Homepage Journal
        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.

        • Markets can certainly solve environmental problems, but it doesn't make sense to ask them to do so "without intervention." Even the mythical "free market" invoked by politicians depends on government intervention to enforce laws enabling property ownership and contracts.

          Some economists (and most politicians, businessmen, and lobbyists) like to define "market" in such a way that only their favored conditions qualify as a market, but if you take a fairly bland definition like Wikipedia's (A market is a soc

        • Working markets require an educated public.

          I bet most people have no idea how their health is effected by industrialized runoff created by the products they use every day. The 3M plant here is one of the worst environmental offenders - and yet I bet asthma suffers don't think twice about buying that roll of tape...
      • 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 thi
      • BTW - that possibly sounds like I'm disagreeing with you more than I am. Erm.

        I think you're very right about the Economist (and economists) not understanding self-organisation - the article has a kind of circularity, in that I think part of the definition of 'success' favours a strongly branded project that one that has forked to fill many niches (Linux) or might be very widely used but little known outside techies (Tomcat).
  • Leadership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:06PM (#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 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by baadger (764884)
      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,
    • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:48PM (#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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:52PM (#14945556) Homepage
      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657)
      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
      • 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;


        I would posit that this theoretical programmer hasn't spent a lot of time on real-life projects.... There is no perfect code. Never. Just undiscovered requirements.

      • Re:Leadership (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Frozen Void (831218)
        I see..have you considered that wikipedia software may be improved?
        Add moderation(users vote on article -1 flamebait),article voting(for best version),click stats(view per day,week,month,country,etc).
        Soem other wikis will have these features and rule the wikisphere.
        Wikipedia is in current form is flawed and the policies aren't attractive in any sense.
        I stopped posting after they required registration for new articles,
        deleted what i wrote in other articles(with a snobby excuse).
        I improve wiki pages ocassion
  • Check out Groklaw (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:07PM (#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.
    • Re:Check out Groklaw (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tabdelgawad (590061) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:52PM (#14945854) Homepage
      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? :)
    • 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.

      • 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.
        • That hive mind is called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink [wikipedia.org] Groupthink .On slashdot its not that noticeable because of it expansion and varied views people have(a million at least read this forum daily).Groclaw is smaller and the groupthink is more pervasive.What we have on slashdot is
          a few "groupthinks" linked into one.
          I noticed the longer i stay in a forum,the less i object to its "normality and crowd opinion".
          Strong groupthink is what is dangerous,not a shared attitude or ideology strain that got p
  • "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)
    • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:50PM (#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.'"
    • 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 w
    • 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."
      • 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.
    • 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.)
  • 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.

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

      Then you totally disregard ESR's premise in "The Cathedral And The Bazaar."
  • by putko (753330) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:10PM (#14945283) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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.
      • 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.
      • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:56PM (#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.
        • 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 h
        • 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.

          OK, I love FreeBSD. In fact, I'm typing this on a FreeBSD 6-STABLE machine. Having said that, what crack are you on? FreeBSD tends to be hyper-stable, in that if you build a machine from good sources, it'll be rock-solid for ages. However, the "new" ATA system killed IDE support on a motherboard I'd been using for Linux and

    • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay.gmail@com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:23PM (#14945367) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • 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.

        • Except copyright law, surely?. The BSD license does not release the covered work into the public domain.
          • No, but the BSD license allows you to strengthen the terms under which you license your (un)modified code. That is, you may use it commercially without offering source code, or you may GPL it. We call that "GPL-compatible", and the FSF has whole pages about it, which I can't be bothered to google right now because I'm drunk.
      • 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 to
        • If it were all about the GPL, then why doesn't Hurd have even more developers working on it than Linux?

          Competition. Hurd is making significant progress, considering it only has a few developers. And it is, in a way, competing with Linux for mindshare, if nothing else. But the Hurd will take off once they get it stable, because its licensed under the GPL, meaning all Linux drivers will be legal to port.
    • 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.
    • When I promote software I promote what I like and use, Linux. Maybe BSD need more promoters.

      Also, the BSD devil is not the most customer friendly mascott. That may have something to do with this..
    • I don't know why this is, but there is a focus on correctness over features.

      Look at who was using the systems in 1993. The original people who choose Linux wanted a Solaris desktop but couldn't afford it. The people who started the BSD wanted a Solaris server but couldn't afford it. I'm only half joking here.

      Linus came from the Minix community, they wanted to play with Unix not do work with it. Then they picked up the desktop guys (VA community). The Coherent community joined very quickly. Desktop
  • The bazaar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:18PM (#14945327) Homepage
    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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay.gmail@com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:19PM (#14945339) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by K-Man (4117) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:19PM (#14945345)
    If the guy was so offended, why didn't he just edit the Wikipedia entry to fix the mistakes?

  • by keesh (202812) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:21PM (#14945358) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Many eyes help (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Handyman (97520) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:25PM (#14945376) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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.
      • 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.

        No, disinterested is exactly what I meant. Encyclopedia writers are supposed to be objective, i.e., disinterested w.r.t. the subject at hand. Like judges are supposed to be disinterested w.r.t. the outcome of the cases they handle --

  • 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?
    • 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

  • by Quirk (36086) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:38PM (#14945454) Homepage Journal
    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.

    • 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 s

  • "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 categ
  • How is this news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zphbeeblbrox (816582) <zaphar@gmail.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:44PM (#14945499) Homepage
    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: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Errandboy of Doom (917941) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:44PM (#14945500) Homepage
    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?
    • Hey, thanks! Instead of complaining about the article, let me see what I can come up with as a counter-argument. Good idea! So here's my list of GPL projects that seem to be relatively open to random contributions. This is IMHO, and you're welcome to disagree with what I think of the "openness" of each development community.

      I'm sticking to GPL projects because I don't know about other ones as well. This is not meant to diss the BSD crowd.

      • ALSA [alsa-project.org] everyone welcome to submit a driver for their card. I might
  • Anarchy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LeapingQuince (873872) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:51PM (#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.
  • by bitspotter (455598) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:00PM (#14945618) Journal
    Mob rule has it's problems, but I'll take it over plutocratic aristocracy any day of the week.
  • 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.
  • by pilkul (667659) on Friday March 17, 2006 @08:37PM (#14946019)
    The lines of programming code upon which SCO based its claims had changed owners through acquisitions over time; at some point they were added into Linux.

    This is giving way too much credit to SCO's claims. I don't think it was ever proved that a single line owned by SCO was found in Linux. As I recall they were basing their claims on free lines of BSD which were added to both SCO and Linux.

    And after the furore over the biographical entry last year, Wikipedia changed its rules so that only registered users can edit existing entries

    This is simply wrong. Anonymous users can and always have been able to edit existing articles.

    Well, this article is still pretty decent but I expect better from The Economist.

  • by zogger (617870)
    ...are examples of "mob rule". The only variances are which mob is doing what ruling. Even single named individual autocratic leadership organizations, from a nation to a ..kernel,say, are still examples of "mob rule" as ultimate dictates still need to be carried out by a *willing* mob. So called "democratic" organizations-mob rule. A private corporation? Mob rule. Representative republic? Mob rule.

    About the only thing that isn't, is a project that is totally conceived, implemented and deployed by a single
  • by McLuhanesque (176628) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:14PM (#14946466) Homepage
    As a PhD researcher into the evolution of organizational forms, I find the facile application of open source principles rather distressing - especially when they're used either to reinforce the notion that hierarchies (read: control and power) really are important, or to promote that people should work for free and donate their efforts to the "greater good" (read: more profits for the shareholders and more shite for the workers).

    I have a paper that challenges these notions being published in the upcoming (Summer 2006) edition of Organization Development Journal called, "THE PENGUINIST DISCOURSE: A critical application of open source software project management
    to organization development"

    While I can't make the paper available online just yet, the abstract reads as follows:
    The apparent altruism observed among contributors to Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) initiatives is often envied by managers seeking to inspire and motivate employees. While conventional managerialist authors often encourage the emulation of FLOSS management style, this paper seeks a social-psychological understanding of FLOSS contributors' motivation, and the control dynamics of the projects' organization. Radical changes to the some of the basic assumptions of conventional practices may be required to translate FLOSS approaches to corporate management.
    For those with in-house OD folks, you may want to alert them to the next edition of the journal. (I also do strategy and OD facilitation and interventions on a contract basis; you can track me down via my profile.)
  • From the article:

    "... open-source software--products that are often built by volunteers and cost nothing to use."

    Apparently they haven't read the many Microsoft funded TCO analysis papers ... Don't they know that it is much more expensive to use high quality software one can download for free than it is to use poorly designed software that you pay for? ;-)

  • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:30AM (#14947288)
    I see open source software as a subset of the way science has been going on for centuries - circulated published methods of doing things read by many and contributed to by many.

    Once again we have a group of people amazed by the concept of giving away knowlege for nothing without noticing that we got to where we are today by exactly that process. We need better science education in our schools and universities - if only to stop some bottom rung business graduate who has achieved his position via connected relatives from calling us commies for using firefox.

    Edison for many good reasons is held up as the great example of technological capitalism, and the light bulb as his greatest acheivement. Consider that many of his contemporaries even in remote parts of the world also produced working light bulbs within weeks of the time and totally independant of his efforts - he built his great acheivement on the shared knowlege produced by others and circulated worldwide.

    To sum up, open source is an old idea and Bill's idea of charging money for hobby software is a new one.

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