Thursday, 25 August 2011

The cathedral and the bazaar

Eric Raymond's classic web-book, on-line and published by O'Reilly Press (Raymond, 1999). He takes a radically alternate stance on the culture and profession of programming which he feels is deeply entangled with the open source movement in software. The dichotomy between commercial and open source affiliations by programmers is in many ways artificial as documented in Steven Levy's "Hackers : heroes of the computer revolution" (Levy, 2001) Raymond considers there are two polar opposites to organise and engage in design work, the Cathedral way and the Bazaar way. Open source is the Bazaar way where design emerges through negotiation and use, a deeply bottom-up approach to design. Closed in-house architecture driven design (e.g. Apple, Oracle, Microsoft) is the Cathedral way, charactertured as top-down.

The book has been influential in terms of capturing an alternate view of software design culture that roughens the polished smoothness of high-road approaches to software engineering like RUP, CMM/CMMI, and other SDLC methodologies. XP, SCRUM and the broad move to agile or improvisational models resonate with the Bazaar way. These modern practitioner generated and practice oriented methods cast software development as a flux of social communicative involvement where design evolves around the programmer's common commitment to act and respond to early, frequent, feedback from others (customers, users, testers, test frameworks, others).

Raymond, E. S. (1999) The Cathedral and the Bazaar, O'Reilly Press.
Levy, S. (2001) Hackers : heroes of the computer revolution, New York, N.Y., Penguin Books.