Alan Cox emailed me this morning to note a presentation he gave way back in 2000 called "Dear Mr Brooks, or: Software engineering in the free software world." It's no surprise to me that my recent blog post (on the topic of optimally sized development teams) was better articulated by Alan many years ago.
What was surprising is just how prescient Alan's talk was. And how informative. For anyone who has ever wondered how open-source software development works compared to proprietary-software development, this is an absolute must read. Alan is one of the most influential developers of the Linux kernel, and his experience shows through.
Among many other interesting points, I really liked Alan's discussion of how project momentum begins and how marketing is important but different in open source:
When you release a free software project, you do things in a different order. Firstly, you get some code. Hopefully, it just about works. And you document it as "Needs fixing, needs this, needs that."
But most free software code, to get other people involved in the project, it has to work. It doesn't matter if it's hard to compile. It doesn't matter if it only works on one machine in five. And it doesn't matter if it eats the data file every so often. So long as sometimes, the right results happen, people will start to pick up the project and use it. They start to use it, and then they have to fix it. … Read more