By Anthony D'Alessandro
By Catherine Wagley
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
bogotify /boh-go'te-fi:/ /vt./ To make or become bogus. A program that has been changed so many times as to become completely disorganized has become bogotified. If you tighten a nut too hard and strip the threads on the bolt, the bolt has become bogotified and you had better not use it anymore.
The end of "The Jargon File" (which has sold over 50,000 copies in book form as The New Hacker's Dictionary) contains several entries describing hacker politics, religion, appearance, etc. This part of the book might easily have been called "All about Eric." His religion: neopaganism ("brain games for the nervous system. You can fling thunderbolts out of your hypothalamus"). His politics: libertarian ("When you look at hacker culture, we are all John Galt," the egoist-hero in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged). Raymond's personal sci-fi library is 7 feet high and 25 feet long.
IN A SENSE, IT'S ODD THAT ERIC RAYMOND IS pushing for open source, a software development model that makes use of mobs. On the libertarian list of things that suck (and Raymond is the sort of hardcore libertarian who thinks the DOJ has no business meddling with Microsoft), mobs suck even more than proprietary source-code development methodologies. Raymond is the first person to tell you that he hates mobs. Born with cerebral palsy -- which gave him a limp -- he learned a lesson as a child: "Most of the time, when you see a pack of humans forming it means they're going to beat up on someone. Mob behavior is usually hideous."
That's why Raymond was "profoundly shocked" in 1993 when he first came across Linux -- a mob-built Unix clone that boasts over 7 million users. The Linux kernel was written by a Finnish college student, Linus Torvalds, who handed it over to a community of 40,000 independent programmers on the Net to do with it what they would. To Raymond's astonishment, the mob did something good. Up till then, he had been cranking out code with the belief that software projects had to be contained and held to precise objectives. But there was Linux, flying in the face of former IBM project manager Fred Brook's famous proverb, "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." Everything Raymond had learned about software made him believe that â something developed the way Linux was would be a bloated, bug-infested sack of limpware. But that's not what happened. The Linux operating system was more stable, structured and useful than Raymond could have imagined.
Ultimately, this shock led Raymond to write the now famous "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." In that paper, Raymond describes his experiment to replicate Linux's results by writing a new program using Linux's method of development. In a nutshell, he proposes, the open-source development system has three rules: "Release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity." These rules, when combined with a straw-horse program, a tribe of hackers and a benevolent dictator who knows a great hack when he sees one, yield great results, Raymond discovered. "I think Linus Torvalds' cleverest and most consequential hack was not the construction of the Linux kernel itself," Raymond wrote in the paper, "but rather his invention of the Linux development model."
At the Linux Kongress in Atlanta in 1997, Tim O'Reilly, who not only publishes open-source texts but also owns stakes in several open-source-related ventures, heard Raymond read "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and invited him to deliver the paper again at O'Reilly's annual Perl conference. There, some Netscape engineers in the audience heard the paper and began spreading it among their colleagues. By January 1998, Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale was invoking Raymond's name in the press and crediting "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" as a major influence in his decision to give away Communicator's source code. ("A hell of a way to get famous!" says Raymond.)
In February, Netscape flew Raymond to California to help write Communicator's usage license. First, though, he and a bunch of Linux folks convened at the Foresight Institute in Los Altos, a nanotechnology think tank, to strategize. At the time, "open source" was not in use. Raymond was still using hacker deity Richard Stallman's somewhat confusing term "free software." But the term didn't work for what Raymond and his tribe were advocating. "Free" means no-cost, and that's not what Raymond -- or Richard Stallman, for that matter -- means by the term. ("Think free speech, not free beer" is the slogan everyone who understands the term tells everyone who doesn't.) Any term that needs defining every time you use it needs correcting, the brainstormers agreed. At Foresight, on February 2, the group agreed upon the term "open source," and a week later, opensource.org was launched to promote the method and the new term.
Because Raymond works for a culture, not a company, nobody's paying him. He never asks the companies he consults for money. I ask him how he pays the rent. "I keep my wife happy. She's a successful attorney who decided that I'm of more use to the world running around making trouble than I would be chained to a desk." Recently, Raymond has been grumbling in public about his role as a "public advocate for the hacker tribe," however. In late March, he issued an emotional statement in which he invited potential candidates to apply for his torch, warning them that "the tribe you've sweated blood to serve [will] turn on you. They will." And in April, Raymond traded ugly jabs on a developer's e-mail list with fellow Open Source Initiative co-founder Bruce Perens over a disagreement regarding an open-source version of a new Macintosh operating system.