The map and the signpost



No disrespect to Microsoft employee Brad Abrams who makes a lot of good noises according to this article in Internetnews, but he makes the oft-repeated mistake (amplified by the reporting journalist) that open source style guru Eric Raymond's famous essay, "The Cathedral & the Bazaar" makes a simple distinction between proprietary software development (cathedrals) and open source development (bazaars).

During a morning keynote, Abrams declared that Microsoft is not the cathedral and that open source isn't really a bazaar when it comes to AJAX, a claim that undermines one of the core underpinnings of the open source movement...Among open source's many core tenants the book highlighted is that proprietary vendors such as Microsoft are closed, monolithic structures – the cathedral -- while open source operates in bazaar fashion where things are all done out in the open and with the community.

Those who have actually read Mr Raymond's essay (and I would tend to think that this includes only a minority of people who refer to it in conference keynotes) know that the distinction being drawn is actually between different project governance models and that they may apply to software development in any context: proprietary will tend towards cathedral-style development, but there are plenty of open source projects that follow the model too. It's neither a core underpinning, nor a core tenant.

The brilliance of Raymond's essay is, at least in part, that it uses a metaphor for the title which lets everyone feel they've understood it before they've read it. One might question Mr Raymond's views on politics, race, religion, firearms, sexuality and software package management, but he certainly understands a thing or two about marketing.


ps. the views expressed here are not necessarily those of my employer

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