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Thursday, 24 May 2007
This is an age of 'open source' to the point where it appears as the magic that can make things happen through democracy. First: let's consider how a fine ideal is not necessarily in practice where it seems to be. Second: where it is.

An excellent article by Nicholas G. Carr points out the difference between a program built like a cathedral by experts, and a program built by a bazaar. He refers to complex computer software, like Linux but the idea is readily extendible to any form of production or enterprise - such as Wikipedia. But now the limitations:

1. "peer production works best with routine or narrowly defined tasks that can be pursued simultaneously by a big crowd of people. It is not well suited to a job that requires a lot of coordination among the participants".

2. "because it requires so many 'eyeballs', [people doing the work] open source works best when the labor is donated or partially subsidized".

3. "the open source model — when it works effectively — is not as egalitarian or democratic as it is often made out to be. Linux has been successful not just because so many people have been involved, but because the crowd’s work has been filtered through a central authority [Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux] who holds supreme power as a synthesizer and decision maker."

He continues:
"But if peer production is a good way to mine the raw material for innovation, it doesn’t seem well suited to shaping that material into a final product. That’s a task that is still best done in the closed quarters of a cathedral, where a relatively small and formally organized group of talented professionals can collaborate closely in perfecting the fit and finish of a product."

"... The open source model is also unlikely to produce the original ideas that inspire and guide the greatest innovation efforts. That remains the realm of the individual."

The article concludes by stating that you can't be creative by committee.
Source: Nicholas G Carr critiquing The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond.

For the other side of this, read our next comment!

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posted by Dr Ron @ 17:47  
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