Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Cathedral & The Bazaar - over 15 years later

I recently finished The Cathedral & The Bazaar, a relatively famous collection of essays from Eric S. Raymond.

I think it's pretty interesting reading the book in 2016, about 17 years after it was first published (and probably closer to 20 years after it was first written online).  A few thoughts as I was reading through it.

Open Source vs Closed Source - Do most end customers even care?

Since the book was written, many more open source vendors now exist.  Some that come to mind are Redhat, Suse, Cloudera, and Hortonworks.  Some of these vendors distribute software that is only based on open source.  Other vendors distribute software that is a mixture of open source and closed source software.  The same can be said of several large vendors, such as IBM and Oracle.

I actually wonder if most end customers can even tell what is open source and what is closed source from a vendor without looking into it a bit.  Most may know the Linux kernel itself is open source, but do they know which kernel drivers are open vs closed source?

Ultimately, if it's not 100% clear what is open vs closed, I wonder if most customers even care.  At the end of the day, it's just a software offering from a vendor, the fact it may be "open source" may not matter to most.

Open Source - No Longer about Gift Culture and Reputation?

In the book the "gift culture" of open source and the desire for "reputation" in the open source world are discussed a lot.

However, over the last 15-20 years open source has become pervasive and the technology world has changed enough that IMO there are other reasons people now to open source.

With the emergence of more free code repository sites (most notably Github in recent years, sourceforge in the past), I believe a number of people open source just because they get a free code repository for their needs.  It's much easier than setting one up for yourself.  In addition you get some issue tracking software and documentation/wiki software along with it for free.  The huge number of "scratch" project repos on Github are probably a testament to this.

For many companies that support open source as part of their product offerings, it's simply a part of their business now.  Software engineers do open source as just part of their jobs, not necessarily for reputation or "gift" culture.

For many companies, it's a recruiting tool.  I doubt that many companies with a corporate presence actually "care" about open source more than just an ends to a mean (i.e. hiring people).

How to become a hacker - same languages?

In the Appendix, Raymond speaks of the programming languages that people should learn to be successful "hackers" in the open source world.  The languages he recommends are Python, Java, C/C++, Perl, and Lisp.

I was a little surprised to see Python in that list given this was written in 1999.  I didn't think Python was as popular back then as it apparently was.  I didn't think Python began to take off until some time in the 2000s.

But other than that, I find it interesting that the list is still quite accurate.  These are probably still the right languages to learn.

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