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The Success of Open Source Hardcover – 7 May 2004

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (7 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674012925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674012929
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.3 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 618,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Should make this extraordinary phenomenon understandable to a much wider audience.' -- London Review of Books, 18 August 2005

About the Author

Steven Weber is Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Format: Paperback
A readable overview of why open source works. The book tackles the questions and doubts that those coming from a traditional closed sourced background typically have (myself included). For example: "Why would someone give away their work for free?"

The book looks at open source culture rather than the programming itself. You don't need to be a programmer to understand or enjoy this, and in fact, open source has implications beyond programming anyway.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark work on the Open Source movement 10 July 2005
By Roy Massie - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a commercial software developer/manager who has often wondered about the broader motivations and implications of the Open Source movement, which is permeating many large patches of my industry. I found this book incredibly helpful in giving me the background I needed to understand the various Open Source products and articles I encounter day to day. Although my background is technical, this book generally is not. Although some technical information is unavoidable, Weber does a great job of maintaining his position as a professional political scientist and an informed layman on software technology. It may seem strange for a political scientist to approach this subject, but it turns out to be very beneficial because of the skill he has in analyzing organizations, their cultural, governmental, economic and societal impact. This isn't really a political science book; it is deeply about Open Source. But, Weber did manage to get me a little more interested in political science too.

Weber is a terrific writer. This is one of the best-organized, concisely written and cleanly reasoned books I have ever read. That said, this is not light reading; you will need to put your thinking cap on and think big thoughts with the author pretty frequently. This is exactly what I was looking for. There's plenty of shallow analysis out there concerning Open Source. What Weber provides is the cross-discipline perspective of a professional scholar who has studied Open Source carefully. I believe this book will prove useful to future historians when they want to understand the roots of Open Source, which, as Weber presents, could be very profound to our global economy and culture over decades to come.

The first chapter cleanly outlines the goals and big questions of the book. It also provides a primer on some of the main themes and terms such as the nature of property, what "free" means, current progress/status of Open Source etc. This brief chapter helps those who are very new to Open Source and sketches the trajectory of the rest of the book; just what you expect from a professional scholar.

Chapters Two through Four are about 30% of the book and chronicle the historic roots of Open Source (primarily the Unix community) through the past few decades of computing. The history comes right up to the present to show how what started as fits and spurts for decades, has now become the wildly successful realization of an unlikely vision; a phenomena in modern technological accomplishments. These chapters help the reader grasp the true vision of Open Source.

Chapter Five gathers hard data from surveys and empirical data from the online transcripts of Open Source projects to dissect the individual motivations of Open Source developers. There is very little guesswork here. Some of the myths about why the developers do what they do are dismantled and replaced with more intelligent information about their intricate motivations. Although I am not an Open Source developer, I have been a software professional for twenty years and worked with hundreds of other developers. Weber's sketch of the Open Source developer is very believable and resonates with many individual developers I have known.

Chapter Six studies the way the Open Source community, especially developers, organize themselves in various communities such as Linux, Apache and others. There are some good insights here for commercial teams to learn from.

Chapter Seven unfolds many legal implications around property rights, business models and specific case studies such as Red Hat, Debian and many others. This is great information and a unique contribution that is hard to find summarized as it is here.

Chapter Eight explores the long term potential for profound impact Open Source may have globally, politically and economically. There is also interesting analysis concerning how hierarchical organizations interface with networked (web) organizations. Finally, some suggestions for other fields of study that may copy the Open Source model are explored.

I do not think you will find a more helpful analysis for the non-technical aspects of Open Source. If I could give this book seven stars, I would.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title; great book 28 Dec. 2007
By Jeff - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Success of Open Source in a not a just wistful paean to Linux as the title would suggest. Rather, it is two books in one.

The first book is one of the very best recapitulations of the open source movement and all of its predecessors. The second book is about how something that just seemingly shouldn't work, works so well, and how those principles behind its working extend to more than just the open source movement.

The author, a university professor, draws liberally from the traditions of historians, economists, sociologists, and psychologists to paint a compelling picture of why the forces behind open source are not going to go away any time soon. Read in best companion with The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which IS a bit of a wistful paean to Linux, it illuminates its subject wonderfully.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly insightful overview of the meaning of Open Source 8 Dec. 2004
By shanshan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I sat down intending to write Steven Weber a fan letter. (I decided to say it to you all instead.) I loved this book. I have 11 other books on open source, I wanted to learn everything I could because it's such a fascinating phenomenon. I thought I might even write about it. Never mind. Nothing I could write could touch this brilliant work. I had to work to read it. His range of subject matter was incredible. He talked computers like a hacker. He talked licenses like a lawyer. He talked economics like a business man. He talked business models like an entrepeneur or Venture capital investor. He told the history of open source like he was one of the voices of the movement. This book tells the whole story. In fields or industries I didn't know well, I had to google some stuff to grasp the entire meaning.He doesn't baby you. But, I loved that. I learned so much, I'm still bubbling with excitement. The book took two or three times longer to read than normal. But, I didn't want it to end. I've read over a hundred books this year. I've written some myself. Until today, I've never written a review. This book showed me how a book should be written. If you are seriously interested in the extraordinary story of open source, buy this book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great definition of what open source is all about 15 Mar. 2013
By Nickymn - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first book that I have read about open source. In my opinion, it provides an easy to read synopsis of how open source collaboration in IT has greatly impacted the knowledge economy.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book I wish I had written 4 May 2004
By Megan Squire - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. It is the book I wish I had written. You can sometimes tell it's written by someone who is not really a software development "native", but the economics and the Big Picture collaboration/cooperation stuff is spot on (and that's the whole point of this book, so...). I put little sticky notes on some of the pages because they were so pleasant to re-read. I had the sense that I was experiencing little epiphanies - perhaps these were just as the author intended. Get this book if you want a high-level, Big Picture coverage of the impact of open source and an overview of the relevant historical developments. -megan
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