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The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1565927247
ISBN-10: 1565927249
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It may be foolish to consider Eric Raymond's recent collection of essays, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, the most important computer programming thinking to follow the Internet revolution. But it would be more unfortunate to overlook the implications and long-term benefits of his fastidious description of open-source software development considering the growing dependence businesses and economies have on emerging computer technologies.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar takes its title from an essay Raymond read at the 1997 Linux Kongress. The essay documents Raymond's acquisition, re-creation, and numerous revisions of an e-mail utility known as fetchmail. Raymond engagingly narrates the fetchmail development process while elaborating on the ongoing bazaar development method he uses with the help of volunteer programmers. The essay smartly spares the reader from the technical morass that could easily detract from the text's goal of demonstrating the efficacy of the open-source, or bazaar, method in creating robust, usable software.

Once Raymond has established the components and players necessary for an optimally running open-source model, he sets out to counter the conventional wisdom of private, closed-source software development. Like superbly written code, the author's arguments systematically anticipate their rebuttals. For programmers who "worry that the transition to open source will abolish or devalue their jobs," Raymond adeptly and factually counters that "most developer's salaries don't depend on software sale value." Raymond's uncanny ability to convince is as unrestrained as his capacity for extrapolating upon the promise of open-source development.

In addition to outlining the open-source methodology and its benefits, Raymond also sets out to salvage the hacker moniker from the nefarious connotations typically associated with it in his essay, "A Brief History of Hackerdom" (not surprisingly, he is also the compiler of The New Hacker's Dictionary). Recasting hackerdom in a more positive light may be a heroic undertaking in itself, but considering the Herculean efforts and perfectionist motivations of Raymond and his fellow open-source developers, that light will shine brightly. --Ryan Kuykendall

About the Author

Eric Raymond is an Open Source evangelist and author of the highly influential paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar".


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 279 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (October 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565927249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565927247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This statement above is the fundamental premise for open source software development. Basically, open communications work better than closed, limited ones. So why is this book worth reading? Essentially, because it explains why people are willing to volunteer their time and talents to improve open source code. That characteristic of the open source movement will be the main puzzlement to nondevelopers. But beyond that, this book also provides the basis of an important paradigm for accelerating and improving knolwedge development generally that will be its more lasting and important contribution.
Mr. Raymond is a very good thinker from an economic, sociologial, and anthropological level, and applies these perspectives well in the essays in this book.
Because he assumes you may not know about the development of the open source movement, his essay, A Brief History of Hackerdom, fills in the gaps. By the way, he defines a hacker as a capable software developer who loves his or her work rather than someone who breaks into other peoples' computer systems.
The centerpiece of the book is the essay with the book's title. This essay describes his own experiences in developing an open source e-mail utility, draws lessons from that experience, and compares it to the development of Linux (the primary open source operating system). I knew the Linux story well (if you don't, you should, and this essay will be valuable to you), so I was primarily drawn to the discussion of the author's own experiences.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a linux newbie, and I found this book to be revealing and intriguing, but often murky as well.
I like the way the author gets down to business in regard to what computing is all about: program languages talking to hardware. He explains how hackers (as opposed to crackers) have been playing with computers before there were PCs or Macs. Having worked as a PC\LAN technician for the past eight years, I found Raymond's hacker viewpoint to be a unifying thread through the current maze of operating systems, networking and hardware. Because his explanations aren't vendor-specific, I don't have to spend days poring over manuals and web pages - just hours.
Additionally, Raymond's explanation of the open source movement and its relation to the information tech industry cuts through the fog of white papers and propaganda from Microsoft, Novell, Cisco, etc. For example, I didn't realize that 60% of the internet servers actually run on Apache software.
The only drawback to this book is that Raymond himself can be foggy. His writing style can lapse into long collections of words like:
"Most people have an intuitive model of cooperative behavior that goes much like this. It's not actually a good diagnosis of the economic problems of open-source, which are free-rider (underprovision) rather than congested-public-good (overuse). Nevertheless, it is the analogy I hear behind most off-the-cuff objections."
What the hell does that mean, Eric? Surely, clarity is a virtue to be cultivated in both programming AND documentation. It's worth noting that Mr. Raymond is the most obscure when discussing business and financial implications of the open source movement.
Still, the book has helped me a lot, which is why it rates four stars.
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Format: Hardcover
The cult-like status of this book and its Web antecedents in the Linux community isn't surprising. But even for those of us who aren't staunch open-source partisans, it's a surprisingly well-argued (if a bit scattered) and concise collection.
Taken as a whole, the book makes a series of good business cases for when opening the source code to software is appropriate and potentially profitable -- as well as maximally efficient. I was pleased that Raymond acknowledges that open source is _not_ always the best way to go, even while noting that it will probably be more prevalent over time.
Raymond's fervour about open source shows through, particularly late in the book, but it doesn't detract from the largely objective analyses he makes -- so his arguments carry force.
Worth reading for anyone who's a programmer, a hacker, or interested in the politics of the software business. Or anyone else, for that matter.
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Format: Paperback
Eric Raymond is the Margaret Mead of the Open Source movement. His analysis of the gift culture as a model for explaining why hackers write software without recieving direct financial compensation is original, and as far as I know, unique. The economic implications are vast: if programmers write programs as a hobby, and do not stand in need of income for doing so (assume that they have day jobs), with rewards being in the form of status and reputation, then why buy the equivalent of what they're giving away?
Linux is the focus of this branch of the hacker-programming movement, which can also be seen at work in Apache and Java. The nature of the movement - everyone agreeing to play by Open Source rules, a leader (Linus Torvalds) who sets goals but does not exert formal authority, and a market (the Bazaar) where knowledge is dispersed throughout, reminds one of the Austrian Economists, who believed that a system operating as a spontaneous order would show greater productivity than a command economy, because of the exponentially greater amount of brain power in use. Raymond makes much the same point, when he argues that, "With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow."
For Microsoft, this is a deadly threat. Proprietary software and operating systems are expensive, to develop and to buy. If Open Source products are seen as being of like kind and quality, them software becomes a commodity, and branded, proprietary products, and the businesses that sell them, are facing inevitible decline in their core market.
If Raymond's thesis is correct (I believe, as a layman, that it is), then by 2010, Windows may have gone the way of the British Empire - living in memore (digital or otherwise) only.
-LLoyd A. Conway
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