Anarchy and open source.

Submitted by naught101 on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:27

Richard Monson-Haefel's "Open Source Is Anarchy, Not Chaos" on is an interesting article, but it misses some major points, and gets one completely wrong:

Richard is quite right about open source being anarchistic, but is way off in his description of how.

Let's start with:
"All open source projects have a leader who is frequently, but not always, the founder of the project. This is well aligned with anarchy as defined above;"
Leadership is almost directly antonymic of anarchism. Leadership, while it often, in western thought at least, implies good judgement, and all that, also means power. In the way he describe it, with the "leader" having complete control over who commits, what goes in, and what stays out of the project, Richard is describing a tyranny, not an anarchy. This part of the system is completely unanarchistic, albeit only because of security issues.

The real part of open source, is the power of the community. Richard touched on that a bit, but missed the core part: the community actually has the power over the codebase, because if they don't like what's happening with the project, they can simply fork it, and start a new project, with an already complete codebase to work from. This basically means that the code follows the community, and not the other way around, as in proprietary software. This is the way it should be: the user should define the tool, not the other way around.

That's where the anarchism lies in open source, in the community, and definitely not in the leadership...

it's not a bad article, anyway. For another good article, in a similar vein, check out:

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