Eric Steven Raymond studies Linux Software in “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”

Eric Steven Raymond’s “Cathedral and the Bazaar” is a conglomeration of the digital practices put into place by Raymond as he studied the effectiveness of the Linux software’s own “bazaar-inspired” style of operation. Taking practices, technologies, and software already in existence and making them better, Raymond’s synopsis of his own success and the success of Linux can be easily applied to a variety of literature involving collective intelligence, proper management of both people and systems, and tips for aspiring businessmen of the 21st century.

After eight pages, Raymond dives into what is arguably the most sociologically astute observation of his piece, “Linus (creator of Linux) was keeping his hacker/users constantly stimulated and rewarded-stimulated by the prospect of having an ego-satisfying piece of the action, rewarded by the sight of constant (even daily) improvement in their work” (8-9). What makes Linus’s model of Linux so powerfully applicable to digital models of business management is his continued engagement and open-forum style involving his users, a group of individuals with vested interest in this computer software. Raymond is quick to note that all of the participants in the study only espouse its efficacy with their inherent passion for the subject matter- a passion without which Linus would have found himself without much input to monitor. Readers of Raymond learn it is far easier to manage those who want to be present at work than an apathetic majority. Users of the software, once “properly cultivated,” as Raymond puts it, “can become co-developers” of future software. His audience can discern a continuity from Raymond’s piece to McGonigal’s “Why I Love Bees” and her theory of Collective Intelligence. Linus invented a “developmental model” of production, one in which “the evolution of the lisp code was fluid and very user-driven” (6-7). Via this platform of shared knowledge and integration, Raymond learned something known and practiced by some of the most successful leaders in business and politics today, “If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource” (12). There is no need for one man (or software) to bewilder himself with the task of inventing every aspect of functioning from one mind or even one small group of minds when there is, readily available, a much larger corpus of minds willing to creatively contribute to the final product of a software or a system. The mention of user-driven solutions drives home Raymond’s main point about Linux operating from the function of a bazaar rather than a cathedral; there is not a one-to-many dynamic present (as is often seen in a church), but rather a many-to-many operating system frequently seen in markets and bazaars.

The structure of Raymond’s essay is laid out in terms of the myriad of lessons he learned from Linux, numbered from Lesson 1, onwards. Some of these include statements of fact, “Altruism is a form of ego-satisfaction for the altruist”, or a recipe for success is born out of many minds rather than one (24, 25). “Really great hacks come from harnessing the attention and brainpower of entire communities” (22). Raymond asserts that the creator of Linux did just that, and in do doing was a pioneer in his craft: “Linux was the first successful effort to use the entire world as its talent pool” (23).

written by Shawna Marie Rodgers

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