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Making Software by Greg Wilson, Andy Oram

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Chapels in the Bazaar of Open Source Software

The previous two studies have looked at commercial software. The past two decades have seen a new style of development termed free or open source software that occurs primarily over the Internet between parties who have never met and who do not (often) share a financial interest. It differs from “traditional” development in a number of ways. Although OSS contributors may be paid by their own employers to work on the projects, the OSS project itself rarely pays contributors directly. Thus, most people can come and go as they please. Since no one company “runs” the project, there is no mandated organizational structure.

Eric Raymond, who emerged as a spokesperson for this movement by writing a series of essays, has posited that this form of development can be characterized as an ad-hoc bazaar in which contributors meander around the code base, talk to others somewhat at random, and work on whatever they please. In contrast, he characterizes a controlled and planned development process in an industrial setting as a cathedral model where workers are directed to work on clearly delineated tasks and everything is planned up front. Of course, the dichotomy involves a bit of hyperbole. Even characterizing open source development and industrial development as two distinct styles is quite a generalization.

We’ve seen that studies of industrial projects tend to follow Conway’s Corollary, but what about open source software? One of the reasons that ...

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