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The Success of Open Source (done with it now) - Journal of Omnifarious

Jan. 23rd, 2006

09:24 am - The Success of Open Source (done with it now)

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I finished the book I talked about before, "The Success of Open Source", and I'm slightly less enthused with the book than I was before, though I still think it is an excellent book.

It's partly that the book is out-of-date. The author talks about companies that are now largely commercial failures. The author also talks about companies that are now commercial successes, but misses some important points.

But the main problem is that the author doesn't subject his analysis of companies and business models to the same rigor he exercises in his analysis of Open Source as an economic and political phenomena. So, parts of the book read like gushing inventories of all the stuff going on in the Open Source world, with too little critical analysis applied.

I don't expect the author to have been prescient, but a little more careful thought in that section would be in order.

Towards the end of the book, when he talks about the application of some of the fundamental ideas that make Open Source work to other endeavours, the author gets a bit better, though it takes him a bit to do so.

In the end he lays out some properties that he thinks all fields that are amenable to using an Open Source style political and economic model. He thinks the model that we traditionally think of when we think of property is just one way to do things, and demonstrably not the only way. He gives excellent justification for thinking this way earlier in the book, but doesn't repeat the justification at the end.

I would like to see the author revisit this topic and redo the last few chapters of the book. Of all the stuff I've read about why Open Source seems to work, this book comes the closest to giving a rational explanation without appeals to morality or unjustified and bizarre assertions about people's motives and actions.

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