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Tag Archives: Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Open Source Intellectual Expression: Vital Nodality

Watched Revolution OS(2002) on Netflix instant play last night (if you haven’t clued in, the “instant play” feature of Netflix is perhaps the best aspect of the product). The documentary on the development of the Linux/Gnu operating system with heavy interview time given to all the major players has informative parallel to bloggery-based intellectual development. To hear of the sudden profusion of a small piece of intellectual work, let us say the Open Source Definition, (and the surprise of its non-professional author), reminds me of the work I did last summer on Spinoza and Optics (apparently, and ridiculously, making me a foremost expert on the subject in the world, simply because no one else had thought to do it). I tell myself I really should read  The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, by Eric Raymond (whose essay quixotically changed the course of companies), which I have been meaning to for some time. It is not just the philosophical, practical and commercial tensions that fill this story, but, as the film shows, also that remarkable personalities come in contact and are expressed through these very specific means, nodes of transmission and transfer, the opening and closing of possibilities. Written ideas, working protocols, adhered principles, licensing documents, the joy of work all come to structured confluence. I think for those who imagine that there is a future for the intellectual process of shared ideas offered by this medium, there is much to learn from their historical example. I will say that how these people generally feel about writing and working on code is how I feel about working on (or being inspired by) philosophical problems or pursuing and posting research. And it’s always interesting to watch the imposition of “Cathedral” culture and those mental habits upon more or less spontaneous community. Most compelling perhaps is to watch the separation of the “idea” of the revolution from its commercial success -exemplified by how they had to figure out a way to change the word “free”. Not a betrayal, nor a dialectic reversal… an expressive mutation, a revolution in the genuine sense.

When thinking about intellectual gate-keeping, we are reminded of course, of JSTOR – a citadel of guarded labor born from largely not-for-profit institutions.