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The Success of Open Source Paperback – November 30, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674018583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674018587
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #879,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

We can blindly continue to develop, reward, protect, and organize around knowledge assets on the comfortable assumption that their traditional property rights remain inviolate. Or we can listen to Steven Weber and begin to make our peace with the uncomfortable fact that the very foundations of our familiar "knowledge as property" world have irrevocably shifted. (Alan Kantrow, Chief Knowledge Officer, Monitor Group)

Ever since the invention of agriculture, human beings have had only three social-engineering tools for organizing any large-scale division of labor: markets (and the carrots of material benefits they offer), hierarchies (and the sticks of punishment they impose), and charisma (and the promises of rapture they offer). Now there is the possibility of a fourth mode of effective social organization--one that we perhaps see in embryo in the creation and maintenance of open-source software. My Berkeley colleague Steven Weber's book is a brilliant exploration of this fascinating topic. (J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, University of California at Berkeley)

Steven Weber has produced a significant, insightful book that is both smart and important. The most impressive achievement of this volume is that Weber has spent the time to learn and think about the technological, sociological, business, and legal perspectives related to open source. The Success of Open Source is timely and more thought provoking than almost anything I've come across in the past several years. It deserves careful reading by a wide audience. (Jonathan Aronson, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California)

In the world of open-source software, true believers can be a fervent bunch. Linux, for example, may act as a credo as well as an operating system. But there is much substance beyond zealotry, says Steven Weber, the author of The Success of Open Source...An open-source operating system offers its source code up to be played with, extended, debugged, and otherwise tweaked in an orgy of user collaboration. The author traces the roots of that ethos and process in the early years of computers...He also analyzes the interface between open source and the worlds of business and law, as well as wider issues in the clash between hierarchical structures and networks, a subject with relevance beyond the software industry to the war on terrorism. (Nina C. Ayoub Chronicle of Higher Education 2004-04-16)

A valuable new account of the [open-source software] movement. (Edward Rothstein New York Times 2004-05-08)

Weber's ideas are timely and informative for anyone who wants to explain or advocate Open Source...The Success of Open Source...gives a readable, thought-provoking, and occasionally funny account of what Open Source is and means, making it an extremely valuable resource for those who want to engage and discuss these issues on an intellectual level. (Joshua Daniel Franklin Slashdot 2004-05-17)

Weber sees the central issues raised by [open source software] as property, motivation, organisation and governance. He uses a study of the open source movement to illuminate the motivation of programmers and the way [open source software] projects are co-ordinated and governed, and to ask if there are lessons in it for society...Weber's work brings to mind an earlier book, The Machine that Changed the World, a study of how Toyota's production system transformed the way cars are made everywhere. That book made two simple points: that the Toyota 'system' was a car, and that it was not uniquely Japanese. Steve Weber's book can be--and is--similarly summarised: 'Open source is not a piece of software, and it is not unique to a group of hackers.' And it has the potential to change the world. (John Naughton The Observer 2004-06-06)

While much in Weber's account will be familiar to anyone concerned with this debate, his book should make this extraordinary phenomenon understandable to a much wider audience...[The Success of Open Source] deserve[s] the careful attention of a wide audience, including, especially, governments. (Lawrence Lessig London Review of Books 2005-08-18)

Weber’s book deserves the glowing response it has received within and outwith the computing community, and provides a careful, thought-provoking study of an important phenomenon of the twentieth century. For these reasons alone it is worth reading. And while it will of course appeal to those interested or participating in the Open Source movement, for the information professional, in particular, it offers helpful insight into the advantages and limits of sustainable models of cooperative effort that do not depend on remuneration or hierarchy. This is particularly pertinent as libraries increasingly make available metadata they have created about digital or physical assets, and as they are involved in the management of digital assets...[I]nformation professionals are increasingly called on to administer, arbitrate, and communicate about digital rights. Many of those they interact with in this capacity, especially in an academic setting, will have been influenced by the Open Source movement or have parallel attitudes to collaborative work – this book may assist them to develop a more nuanced articulation of opinion and a greater understanding of the issues. (R. John Robertson Library Review 2006-01-01)

Review

We can blindly continue to develop, reward, protect, and organize around knowledge assets on the comfortable assumption that their traditional property rights remain inviolate. Or we can listen to Steven Weber and begin to make our peace with the uncomfortable fact that the very foundations of our familiar "knowledge as property" world have irrevocably shifted. (Alan Kantrow, Chief Knowledge Officer, Monitor Group) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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He talked computers like a hacker.
Kenneth B. Johnston
Weber's sketch of the Open Source developer is very believable and resonates with many individual developers I have known.
Roy Massie
It is the book I wish I had written.
Megan Squire

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Roy Massie on July 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a commercial software developer/manager who has often wondered about the broader motivations and implications of the Open Source movement, which is permeating many large patches of my industry. I found this book incredibly helpful in giving me the background I needed to understand the various Open Source products and articles I encounter day to day. Although my background is technical, this book generally is not. Although some technical information is unavoidable, Weber does a great job of maintaining his position as a professional political scientist and an informed layman on software technology. It may seem strange for a political scientist to approach this subject, but it turns out to be very beneficial because of the skill he has in analyzing organizations, their cultural, governmental, economic and societal impact. This isn't really a political science book; it is deeply about Open Source. But, Weber did manage to get me a little more interested in political science too.

Weber is a terrific writer. This is one of the best-organized, concisely written and cleanly reasoned books I have ever read. That said, this is not light reading; you will need to put your thinking cap on and think big thoughts with the author pretty frequently. This is exactly what I was looking for. There's plenty of shallow analysis out there concerning Open Source. What Weber provides is the cross-discipline perspective of a professional scholar who has studied Open Source carefully. I believe this book will prove useful to future historians when they want to understand the roots of Open Source, which, as Weber presents, could be very profound to our global economy and culture over decades to come.

The first chapter cleanly outlines the goals and big questions of the book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. F Salomon on July 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
By far it's the best study in open source I have read. Starting from social, political, and economical views, Steven Weber dissects the Open Source movement from a non-developer perspective. He goes beyond describing not only the origins and organization of the movement but also describing business models and roles that companies have been adopting to support and work with open source software.

"The Success of Open Source" is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand what is open source and its relevance for today's society.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Megan Squire on May 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. It is the book I wish I had written. You can sometimes tell it's written by someone who is not really a software development "native", but the economics and the Big Picture collaboration/cooperation stuff is spot on (and that's the whole point of this book, so...). I put little sticky notes on some of the pages because they were so pleasant to re-read. I had the sense that I was experiencing little epiphanies - perhaps these were just as the author intended. Get this book if you want a high-level, Big Picture coverage of the impact of open source and an overview of the relevant historical developments. -megan
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G. Ritchie on July 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm a commercial software developer, and found the author's history of the UNIX culture and the story of its evolution into what we now call Open Source to be fascinating. That alone made it a good read for me. Add in the thought provoking analysis of the "whys" (the real point of this book), and it's a killer combo.

Warning: the book is *full* of sentences like "Pluralism at many different levels is being enabled by communications technologies and by experimentation with property; together, these are reducing the marginal cost of adding voices toward an asymptote of zero." Despite that, I've been able to read it at the pace of a thriller, not a textbook.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth B. Johnston on December 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I sat down intending to write Steven Weber a fan letter. (I decided to say it to you all instead.) I loved this book. I have 11 other books on open source, I wanted to learn everything I could because it's such a fascinating phenomenon. I thought I might even write about it. Never mind. Nothing I could write could touch this brilliant work. I had to work to read it. His range of subject matter was incredible. He talked computers like a hacker. He talked licenses like a lawyer. He talked economics like a business man. He talked business models like an entrepeneur or Venture capital investor. He told the history of open source like he was one of the voices of the movement. This book tells the whole story. In fields or industries I didn't know well, I had to google some stuff to grasp the entire meaning.He doesn't baby you. But, I loved that. I learned so much, I'm still bubbling with excitement. The book took two or three times longer to read than normal. But, I didn't want it to end. I've read over a hundred books this year. I've written some myself. Until today, I've never written a review. This book showed me how a book should be written. If you are seriously interested in the extraordinary story of open source, buy this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ahmet Dogramaci on February 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book out of curiosity, but it turned out to be an eye opener. The author analyses the topic from social science perspective and did a great job of doing that. He puts the success of open source on an analytical framework and tries to extrapolate its meaning beyond computer programming. I loved reading it and highly reccomend it.
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