Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Activism

10 Years of The Cathedral and The Bazaar

In May 2007, that seminal work by “Eric S. Raymond”: turned ten years old. _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ is a book about the simple notion that in software development _given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow_. Six years after Linux came on to the scene and 14 years after Richard Stallman gave birth to the GNU project, Eric Raymond put an intangible, untested concept in to words and has arguably had a phenomenal impact on software and geek culture.

When I wrote my “95 Theses of Geek Activism”: last year, I put in CatB as a required reading as thesis #12 (the order meant nothing!). It could well have been #1, because it was the book that, for me, transformed the open source model from a touchy-feely philosophy to a practical, viable and achievable ideal for software development.

When Richard Stallman introduced the GNU project, it was a philosophy. You stuck with the GNU model because you believed in truth, liberty, freedom and justice. The BSD and other licenses were less philosophically rigid and have hence been taken advantage of by companies. Apple based their operating system OS X on BSD but were not obligated to share their improvements with the BSD community. They could take, but did not have to share. The GPL aimed at changing that- sharing was a many way street.

Linux brought the truly bazaar-style development in to the (geek) mainstream- where every user was a developer and the code was _released early and released often_. These facets of Linux development were part accidental, part consequences of the GPL and part Linus’ genius. Of course, Raymond was the first to test and formally describe the theories behind the success of Linux and how to apply them to future projects. Raymond tested the bazaar philosophy on his own _fetchmail_ project and the book tracks his success with it.

* *CatB as a Manifesto*: This book changed the geek language. Phrases such as the one above about eyeballs and bugs or the fundamental ideas about how to treat your beta testers are now treated as obvious. Indeed, even Yahoo and Google use the idea of treating their users as insider beta testers for many of their products.
* *CatB and O’Reilly*: _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ was the first book published in print (by O’Reilly) with an open source document license. This allowed the book to be copied and modified as long as the resulting work had the same license- a precursor to “Creative Commons”: licenses.
* *The Open Sourcing of Netscape*: The open sourcing of the Netscape browser and the start of the Mozilla project at the end of the browser wars in the late 90s is largely attributed to this book. At the time, CTO of Netscape, Eric Nahn told Raymond, “On behalf of everyone at Netscape, I want to thank you for helping us get to this point in the first place. Your thinking and writings were fundamental inspirations to our decision.”

Eric Raymond first presented _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ at the “Linux Kongress on May 22nd, 1997”: in Würzburg, Germany. Ten years later, Linux is more powerful than ever, Ubuntu is ready for the desktop (says me) and the bazaar model is alive and thriving.

* Read “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”:
* About the “Netscape decision”:
* Raymond’s ever-growing archive of “notes, comments, rebuttals and more”: on CatB.
* Read Linus Torvalds’ fun, light and frothy autobiography about the heady young days of Linux “Just for Fun”:
* And of course, there is the “The Circus Midget and the Fossilized Dinosaur Turd”: (don’t worry, it’s satire and it has a point)

The Indian Climate Change Tipping Point (update)

For the second year in a row, “the ice stalagmite of immense importance to Hindus- the Shivalinga of Amarnath- has melted”: completely at the beginning of the pilgrimage season.
Shivalinga at Amarnath taken by Mr. Gangadhar Tambe

Scientists say the melting is due to increased temperatures due to climate change and to the heat generated by increasing numbers of pilgrims flocking to the site, located at an altitude of 3,800 metres.

Last year, elements in the _Shri Amarnath Shrine Board_ had “replaced it with a crude fake”: but “did not get away with”: it. “Sepia Mutiny”: has great before and after photographs from last year. Read the rest of this entry »

xkcd: Blogging About My Generation

A brilliant comic from “xkcd”: for a Friday morning:

A Great Cory Doctorow Speech at USC

SciFi writer, activist, “BoingBoing”: editor, EFF evangelist and now US-Canada Fulbright Chair at the University of Southern California recently gave a talk to people at USC that covers many topics ranging from digital freedoms to science fiction that is “truly worth listening to”: [MP3]. Of course, the greatest Cory Doctorow speech of them all is his “talk at Microsoft about why DRM is bad for business, bad for people, bad for artists and bad technology”: (streaming video). The “text of that talk is also available”: online.

Awkward Answers to the Songwriter’s Guild

The “Songwriters Guild”: President Rick Carnes recently wrote to the EFF, seemingly in response to their “Frequently Awkward Questions for for the Entertainment Industry”:

Rick Carnes has a point- and for the most part I agree with him. The trouble is that for the most part, the EFF agrees with him too! It is unfortunate that his frustration is directed at the EFF. If EFF upholds free speech and someone slanders you, do you fault the EFF for allowing slander or do you go after the person who you believe has wronged you? Fred von Lohmann of the EFF has “posted a response”: which touches on the issues at hand without directly answering the questions. While Fred may not want to get in to an internet brawl over semantics, I have no such qualms.

In any case, I am not against a lot of what Rick Carnes has written.

Carnes’ questions are titled (the typo is his): Aways Awkward questions for the EFF

And here are my responses. I do not claim to speak for the EFF- in fact, in some cases, my opinions may not coincide with theirs. I will answer these as though they were addressed to me. Also- *I am not a lawyer*, never claimed to be one and I may not know what I am talking about. But this is what I believe. Read the rest of this entry »

95 Theses: The Aftermath

That past 2 days have been fantastic. After my long and heartfelt article was picked by BoingBoing, I figured that would be as good as it would get. Boy was I wrong.

The article made its way to popular, the Digg home page, the Metafilter home page, Der Spiegel and dozens of other blogs. And now, 33000 readers later, I am stunned. Read the rest of this entry »

95 Theses of Geek Activism

Geek activism has not taken off yet, but it should. With the gamers recognizing the need for a louder voice, EFF gaining momentum and Linux taking on the mainstream on the one hand and recent severe losses in privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property rights on the other, now seems to be the best time to rally around the cause.

Geeks are not known to be political or highly vocal (outside of our own circles)- this must change if we want things to improve. So here is my list of things people of all shapes, sizes and sides of the debate need to know. Some of these are obvious, others may not be meant for you. But hopefully, some of these will inspire you to do the right thing and others will help you frame the next discussion, debate or argument you have on these topics. Read the rest of this entry »