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Open source is more businesslike than you think

Open source is heavily corporate in the way that it actually gets done, rather than the way we mythologize how it gets done. As Wired's Chris Anderson says, success rides on leadership.

Amid an interesting analysis of how open-source communities work, Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson says something that many neophyte open-source observers will find odd, but which is nonetheless absolutely true:

Many people mistakenly think that open-source projects are emergent, self-organized, and democratic. The truth is just the opposite: most are run by a benevolent dictator or two.

What makes successful open-source projects is leadership, plain and simple. One or two people articulate a vision, start building towards it, and bring others on board with specific tasks and permissions. The best projects are the ones with the best leaders.

It's a convenient fiction that open source is a bottom-up phenomenon, but it's still a fiction. I suppose that it's bottom-up in some ways; for example, free software distribution enables developers within companies to bypass their chief information officers, and get productive or deploy software faster. But in terms of development, open source is very corporate in how it works.

This may be why open-source software is increasingly a commercial force: it really isn't very hard to translate community open-source development into commercial open-source sales. So long as you don't buy too heavily into the myths perpetrated about the former, driving the latter is easy--or at least easier.


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