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How efficient is open source development?

Mark Shuttleworth, who probably knows more about open source development than most, on the open source development process:

“There is a myth that being open is necessarily more efficient and cheaper, but there are no hordes of people showing up to do the hard stuff,” Shuttleworth says. “Occasionally wonderful, magical things happen — really incredible things do happen, like people show up unexpectedly with brilliant ideas — but it’s still hard and expensive and you still have to be willing to do all the hard and expensive things and do it in an open fashion. And you’re still likely to be accused of being open only when it’s convenient.”

Eric S Raymond’s formulation of Linus’s law proves not to be true. Not so much a law, more a statement of desire, then.

[EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention – this is the first post composed and sent from my iPad :) ]

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  • Eric in London

    I love the idea of open source in theory but I keep wondering where the results are. Unix must be the most successful open source project but it was really funded by a distinctly closed source company and didn’t just spontaneously generate. But after that… where’s the beef, where’s the great innovation that out competes closed systems? Even Android started as a closed source project.

  • Ian Betteridge

    Yeah. I should make clear, really, that I’m not knocking open source (development or products). They’re a brilliant contribution to the overall computing eco-system.

    But every big, successful open source project that I can think of has had a single company doing most (if not all) of the major development work. It’s taken Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth’s millions to push Linux to the point where Ubuntu is, where it’s actually usable by mere mortals rather than computer science graduates.

    And even then, most open source products have been copies, rather than truly innovative (there are exceptions to this, but they’re mostly in the “plumbing” category – stuff for developers, not end-users). Even Ubuntu, which I like a lot, ends up following the norms of existing operating systems rather than trying anything truly innovative. That, I’m sure, is something that Shuttleworth is looking to change.

  • RattyUK

    “Oh, I forgot to mention – this is the first post composed and sent from my iPad”

    But you can’t do that – the iPad isn’t a real computer!

  • Ian Betteridge

    Nope, of course, my mistake :)