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Thu, 01 Dec 2005
Open source cookie design attempt, what they missed - 17:44
Gladwell is a great author and often writes interesting and entertaining articles as I have noted in the past on occasion, however coming from an open source geek perspective there are obvious points missed here that show how the open source methodology could have been better applied. For example the quote "Linus Torvald, the Norwegian hacker" shows two problems, Linus' surname has an s, and Linus originates from Finland. The guy who ran this multi methodology project, Steve Gundrum, got off on the right foot, talking with Mitch Kapor as to the viability of applying the open source methodology to this new problem space, however I would suggest the team established did not operate in the manner teams on successful open source projects tend to.
They established a team for the open source group by inviting 15 well known specialists in the related food industry to be involved and make suggestions that would be implemented by Gundrum's company. Asking these people to design the cookie in effect. During the project, when some arguments or difficulties arose there was no dispute arbitration mechanism or established way to make a final decision. Also no one was actually elected as a benevolent dictator, without one or both of those mechanisms I am not surprised the project suffered and many people involved came out of it not particularly happy with the results.
Using the Linux kernel as an example again I think a few things they missed are, lack of benevolent leader, a dispute arbitration mechanism based on something akin to show me the code, ie coming up with ideas or suggestions is not sufficient, it needs to be implemented, tested and proven to work in a satisfactory manner, also some specific specialising in areas may have helped, especially with such a large team. Looking at the goals of the project and dividing up components such that people who may better work on those aspects could have more control over them. However I think one of the biggest failings was the scratch an itch component of free software or passion for it. This project though possibly interesting to those involved was unlikely to inspire passion from them. A combination of technical ability and the passion for the project really does provide a lot of the groundwork for success in the open source world. Even those people paid full time to work on open source are generally still passionate about their work (Linus, Tridge, Rusty, Anton, etc).
The article does mention some of Joel Spolsky's (of Joel on Software) reservations about open source development, and admittedly they could be relevant, however they could also be disputed. The argument about lack of innovation and simply following the herd would be disputed I suggest by looking at the innovation happening in given problem spaces in open source. Some of the desktop software such as amaRok, f-spot or the gstreamer based Fluendo (admittedly this is a company, however it is open source development with Flumotion) are all doing things way ahead of and more interesting than other entries in that problem space worldwide. Sure there are problems that do not mix well with open source development, but a simple argument being made that there is no innovation in the open source would I think is quite narrow minded.
Looking at how close the open source cookie was in second place I suspect that with a better understanding of the methodology and applying it with a group of people that fit well to that mechanism would have somewhat improved results.
Laptop feet go bye bye - 17:36
The laptop rattles a bit when I type now unless I have my palms resting next to the touchpad while typing, which is a slightly inefficient typing position and possibly damaging long term. I noticed the missing feet as one of them fell off, however somehow I lost it as I flicked it away before realising what I had just flicked away.