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the politics of open source


There is an interesting discussion going on in Slashdot regarding the politics of open source. It deals with questions like how to manage unwanted submissions, or things that deviate from the "mission" of the project.

I've asked myself similar questions often, in somewhat different contexts (i.e., for personal projects, company projects, etc), and I always come to a similar conclusion: when you open source a project, the genie is out of the bottle, and with it, your ability to maintain tight control over it. Certainly, some level of control can be achieved, as in the Linux Kernel for example. A good example of what happens with open source is Gnutella, which was created (and swiftly killed) within AOL by the Winamp group, but since it was open sourced it didn't die (and indeed, thrived). In all cases, an "antidote" to the project going astray from its 'vision' is to release working code (beta quality or higher), since when the program is already running the discussions over what it should or should not do would be much more specific.

As an alternative, somebody proposed: "Just add a line to the GPL that states that 'contributors who violate my 'vision' will be attacked by electric weasels'. "
Now that's a good idea.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 23 2002 at 12:46 PM

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