February 9, 2015

“What is Open Source and How Does it Work?”

Chapter 3 Literature Review

HFOSS is not a literature course, but as a member of the FOSS community, there are many texts to grok to help you down the path. Our professor Remy has provided some texts, and many more were contributed by other Professors, hackers, and community members who thought these works were important enough to share with graduating college students about to enter the “real-world.” Here is the first lit review for the semester!

Author: Steve Weber

Title: “What is Open Source and How Does it Work?” – Chapter 3

Location: http://hfoss-ritigm.rhcloud.com/static/books/Weber-SuccessofOpenSource-Chap3.pdf

Publish Date: 2004

The Gist:

This chapter discusses problems in software development and how open source development can help overcome them.

The Good:

  1. Reading about the creation of Linux was super interesting.
  2. It was a very logical and structured intro into Open Source, something which I’ve wanted for a while now.
  3. It wasn’t very technical and someone like me who doesn’t really have a software development background could still follow.

The Bad:

  1. Academic writing is purple. There does not need to be that many words or syllables. How about some brevity?
  2. Nice graphs! They made the information a bit more accessible.
  3. Couldn’t read the footnotes, which, again, usually makes information easier to understand.


  1. The concerns about forking with less-than-positive intentions were interesting but muddy. Where are the lines and how do we establish common law and social rules around this? What are they? Or is there a committee for this somewhere?
  2. Is open source always the solution? I’d like to know more about when it wouldn’t make sense for a project.
  3. I would like to know more about how open source projects are sustained over time and how they have impacted other projects today.

My Review:

This was a suitable intro to the philosophy of Open Source and why we do what we do, which is something I’ve been hoping to read for a while. It was really purple, but still got the job done. I wish it had take a bit more of a solid stance on some issues, as I’m still too much of a newbie to really draw my own conclusions about some of these issues, but I suppose that will come with time.