The Cathedral and the Bazaar

An interesting essay written by Eric S. Raymond. It's available at his website along with other things that he writes.

The development style of Linus Torvalds is examined and eight guidelines are extracted:

  1. Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer's personal itch.
  2. Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
  3. "Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow." (Fred Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month, Ch.11)
  4. If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.
  5. When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor.
  6. Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.
  7. Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.
  8. Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.

The style is contrasted to the "Cathedral" development style, where a small expert team of programmers are delegated to developing a complicated program.

Eric also coins something he calls "Linus's Law", which is just a rewrite of guideline #8. It says: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow".

Small review:
I like the essay because the benefits of the Bazaar-style development are described by Eric in such a way that it could convince professional software developers to adapt it.
Too often the norm in the world of open-source enthusiasts and Linux is to draw a clear line between proprietary, enterprise software development and "the great lustrous gardens" of open-source software.
It is refreshing to read something that doesn't praise a program for simply "being open-source", but rather brings up its benefits and is open to discussing when the style should be applied.
In summary, the essay never implies "everything should be open source", rather, it enthusiastically points out how the sharing of your work changes the way that software is made.