Mark Pearl

I don’t originate from an open source world. The concept of open source software is foreign although it is becoming more and more appealing with time.

After reading the Cathedral and the Bazaar I have a much better idea of the mindset of open source developers. Eric briefly explores a few points of how Linux worked out. He uses Emacs and Linux as the main examples of open source software working. There are a few gems/rules of thumb that he shares with his own open source project “fetchmail” and how these helped the project progress.

This is a two hour read at best, but really classic writing on Open Source Software philosophies. Eric also explores “Mangaement and the Maginot Line” - a few points on why a manager based approach will not outperform a community based approach to developing software.

Rules of thumb

  • Every good work of software starts by scratching a developers personal itch.
  • Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
  • Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow
  • If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.
  • When you lose interest in a program, your last duty of call to it is to hand it off to a competent successor
  • Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging
  • Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.
  • Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.
  • Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the other way round.
  • If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becomming your most valuable resource.
  • The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better.
  • Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.
  • Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.
  • Any tool should be useful in the expected way, but a truly great tool lends itself to uses you never expected.
  • When writing gateway software of any kind, take pains to disturb the data stream as little as possible - and never throw away information unless the recipient forces you to!
  • When your language is nowhere near Turing-complete, syntactic sugar can be your friend.
  • A security system is only as secure as its secret. Beware of pseudo-secrets.
  • To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.
  • Provided the development coordinator has a medium at least as good as the Internet, and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads are inevitably better than one.

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ISBN-13: 978-0596001087

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