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Product details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (11 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596001088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596001087
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

It may be foolish to consider Eric Raymond's recent collection of essays,The Cathedral and the Bazaar, the most important computer programming thinking to follow the Internet revolution. And yet it would be more unfortunate to overlook the implications and long-term benefits of Raymond's fastidious description of Open Source software development considering the growing dependence businesses and economies have on emerging computer technologies.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar takes its title from an essay of the same name which Raymond read at the 1997 Linux Congress and that was previously available only online. The essay documents Raymond's acquisition, re-creation and numerous revisions of an email utility known as fetchmail. Raymond engagingly narrates the fetchmail development process while at the same time elaborating upon the on- going bazaar development method he employs with the assistance of numerous volunteer programmers who participate in the writing and debugging of the code. The essay smartly spares the reader from the technical morass that could easily detract from the text's goal of demonstrating the efficacy of the Open Source, or bazaar, method in creating robust, usable software.

Once Raymond has established the components and players necessary for an optimally running Open Source model, he sets out to counter the conventional wisdom of private, closed source software development. Like superbly written code, the author's arguments systematically anticipate their rebuttals. For those programmers who "worry that the transition to open source will abolish or devalue their jobs", Raymond adeptly and factually counters that "most developer's salaries don't depend on software sale value." Raymond's uncanny ability to convince is as unrestrained as his capacity for extrapolating upon the promise of Open Source development.

In addition to outlining the Open Source methodology and its benefits, Raymond also sets out to salvage the hacker moniker from the nefarious connotations typically associated with it in his essay "A Brief History of Hackerdom" (not surprisingly he is also the compiler of The New Hacker's Dictionary). Recasting "hackerdom" in a more positive light may be a heroic undertaking in itself, but considering the Herculean efforts and perfectionist motivations of Raymond and his fellow Open Source developers, that light is going to shine bright. - -Ryan Kuykendall, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


I recommend this book to anyone who wants to keep up with the rapidly changing technological world. -- Rose Lynn User Group, PC Alamode March 2002

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
This statement above is the fundamental premise for open source software development. Basically, open communications work better than closed, limited ones. So why is this book worth reading? Essentially, because it explains why people are willing to volunteer their time and talents to improve open source code. That characteristic of the open source movement will be the main puzzlement to nondevelopers. But beyond that, this book also provides the basis of an important paradigm for accelerating and improving knolwedge development generally that will be its more lasting and important contribution.
Mr. Raymond is a very good thinker from an economic, sociologial, and anthropological level, and applies these perspectives well in the essays in this book.
Because he assumes you may not know about the development of the open source movement, his essay, A Brief History of Hackerdom, fills in the gaps. By the way, he defines a hacker as a capable software developer who loves his or her work rather than someone who breaks into other peoples' computer systems.
The centerpiece of the book is the essay with the book's title. This essay describes his own experiences in developing an open source e-mail utility, draws lessons from that experience, and compares it to the development of Linux (the primary open source operating system). I knew the Linux story well (if you don't, you should, and this essay will be valuable to you), so I was primarily drawn to the discussion of the author's own experiences. Clearly, the appeal of open software is a chance to work in depth on something that has compelling interest to the free source developer, receive help in getting a better result, get to use the improved software oneself, and recognition for the effort from highly talented people you respect.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 July 2000
Format: Hardcover
In this thoughtful & considered essay, ESR states the case that open-source software is beneficial to all concerned.
It is not an open-source rant, nor does it start from the proposition that MS is inherently evil, or any similar drivel that one increasingly seem to hear these days.
Instead, he states the case for open source in a reasoned & intelligent way, and while I may disagree with some of his assumptions, on balance I agree with his argument.
In addition, I showed it to some of my non-techie friends, who not only understood it - but agreed with much of it.
It's the book to read if you want to understand Open Source, Linux or any of the other things we seem to hear so much about these days & that are (alledgedly) going to change the face of IT/business etc. etc.
I have to say, though, I didn't enjoy it as much as "In The Beginning Was The Command Line". But that's my personal bias.
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This was the first book that wrote down the open source credo, and that presented sound arguments for an open source business model. The book presents the case that in software the main costs are development and debugging and as any author knows (either in general or a software author) you never get it right first time. So the biggest cost is never releasing because you are worried it is not perfect. By taking an open source approach you let the community do the debugging and finish the development. They can customise it as they want and the community provides the support. So the costs shift and development improves. This book gives examples of the real impact of open source, including the rapid growth of Linux and the dominance of Apache. It shows how closed source business can go open source to prevent their competitors monopolising a sector (Netscape open sourcing Mozilla).

These are great examples but I was left wondering if the model still held up. Originally this was a set of regularly updated web essays, but since the 2001 edition they have been set in stone and so I wanted to know if the rules still hold. For example what has been the impact of Google on open source and how does Google fit into the open source model? Social networking such as MySpace and Facebook is another case in point.

For me it is also not as easy to read as I had hoped. The style lets it down and it is obvious it is written by an insider and needed some better editing to give it more impact and less "geekiness". I am a geek myself but there are limits to how geeky readers want you to be as an author.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ClubPit on 14 May 2001
Format: Hardcover
Having endured continual references to this book from the rabid contributors to the geek site slashdot , i decided to try and see what all the fuss was about. I'll confess that i came into this book with a very negative view of Open Source , its followers seem almost religous in their belief that it is the one and only path to follow.

I was pleasently suprised to see that the author has a much more balanced view than his followers. Not only does he put across the most reasoned argument for moving across to open source , but he also knows that there is a time and a place for open source. Some projects should be open source from the outset , some should start out closed and then move to open source when the time is right and some should even remain closed for their lifetime.

Now if only the open source crowd could actually read and understand this then their movement might actually work.

Highly recommended.
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