nettime on Tue, 21 Apr 1998 07:31:07 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Eric S. Raymond: "Homesteading the Noosphere"

  Homesteading the Noosphere
  by Eric S. Raymond
  April 1998

  After observing a contradiction betweeen the `official' ideology
  defined by open-source licenses and the actual behavior of hackers, we
  examine the actual customs which regulate the ownership and control of
  open-source software.  We discover that they imply an underlying the-
  ory of property rights homologous to the Lockean theory of land
  tenure.  We relate that to an analysis of the hacker culture as a
  `gift culture' in which participants compete for prestige by giving
  time, energy, and creativity away.  We then examine the implications
  of this analysis for conflict resolution in the culture, and develop
  some prescriptive implications.

  Table of Contents

  1. An Introductory Contradiction
  2. The Varieties of Hacker Ideology
  3. Promiscuous Theory, Puritan Practice
  4. Ownership and Open Source
  5. Locke and Land Title
  6. The Hacker Culture as Gift Economy
  7. The Joy of Hacking
  8. The Many Faces of Reputation
  9. Ownership Rights and Reputation Incentives
  10. The Problem of Ego
  11. The Value of Egoless Behavior
  12. Global implications of the reputation-game model
  13. Noospheric Property and the Ethology of Territory
  14. Causes of Conflict
  15. Project Structures and Ownership
  16. Conflict and Conflict Resolution
  17. Conclusion: From Custom to Customary Law
  18. Questions for Further Research
  19. Bibliography, Notes, and Acknowledgements
  20. Version history

 1. An Introductory Contradiction

  Anyone who watches the busy, tremendously productive world of Internet
  open-source software for a while is bound to notice an interesting
  contradiction between what open-source hackers say they believe and
  the way they actually behave -- between the official ideology of the
  open-source culture and its actual practice.

  Cultures are adaptive machines.  The open-source culture is a response
  to an identifiable set of drives and pressures.  As usual, the
  culture's adaptation to its circumstances manifests both as conscious
  ideology and as implicit, unconscious or semi-conscious knowledge.
  And, as is not uncommon, the unconscious adaptations are partly at
  odds with the conscious ideology.

  In this paper, we will dig around the roots of that contradiction, and
  use it to discover those drives and pressures.  We will deduce some
  interesting things about the hacker culture and its customs.  We will
  conclude by suggesting ways in which the culture's implicit knowledge
  can be leveraged better.

  Labels in square brackets refer to the bibliography/endnotes.

  2. The Varieties of Hacker Ideology

  The ideology of the Internet open-source culture (what hackers say
  they believe) is a fairly complex topic in itself.  All members agree
  that open source (that is, software which is freely redistributable
  and can readily be evolved and modified to fit changing needs) is a
  good thing and worthy of significant and collective effort.  This
  agreement effectively defines membership in the culture.  However, the
  reasons individuals and various subcultures give for this belief vary

  One degree of variation is zealotry; whether open source development
  is regarded merely as a convenient means to an end (good tools and fun
  toys and an interesting game to play) or as an end in itself.

  A person of great zeal might say ``Free software is my life!  I exist
  to create useful, beautiful programs and information resources, and
  then give them away.''  A person of moderate zeal might say ``Open
  source is a good thing which I am willing to spend significant time
  helping happen''.  A person of little zeal might say ``Yes, open
  source is OK sometimes.  I play with it and respect people who build

  Another degree of variation is in hostility to commercial software
  and/or the companies percieved to dominate the commercial software

  A very anticommercial person might say ``Commercial software is theft
  and hoarding.  I write free software to end this evil.''  A moderately
  anticommercial person might say ``Commercial software in general is OK
  because programmers deserve to get paid, but companies that coast on
  shoddy products and throw their weight around are evil.''  An un-
  anticommercial person might say ``Commercial software is OK, I just
  use and/or write open-source software because I like it better''.

  All nine of the attitudes implied by the cross-product of the above
  categories are represented in the open-source culture.  The reason it
  is worthwhile to point out the distinctions is because they imply
  different agendas, and different adaptive and cooperative behaviors.

  Historically, the most visible and best-organized part of the hacker
  culture has been both very zealous and very anticommercial.  The Free
  Software Foundation founded by Richard M. Stallman (RMS) supported a
  great deal of open-source development from the early 1980s on,
  including tools like Emacs and GCC which are still basic to the
  Internet open-source world, and seem likely to remain so for the
  forseeable future.

  For many years the FSF was the single most important focus of open-
  source hacking, producing a huge number of tools still critical to the
  culture.  The FSF was also long the only sponsor of open source with
  an institutional identity visible to outside observers of the hacker
  culture.  They effectively defined the term `free software',
  deliberately giving it a confrontational weight (which the newer label
  `open source <>' just as deliberately

  Thus, perceptions of the hacker culture from both within and outside
  it tended to identify the culture with the FSF's zealous attitude and
  anticommercial aims.  The FSF's vigorous and explicit drive to ``Stamp
  Out Software Hoarding!'' became the closest thing to a hacker
  ideology, and RMS the closest thing to a leader of the hacker culture.

  The FSF's license terms, the ``General Public Licence'' (GPL),
  expresses the FSF's zealous and anticommercial attitudes.  It is very
  widely used in the open-source world.  North Carolina's Sunsite is the
  largest and most popular Linux software archive in the Linux world.
  In July 1997 about half the Sunsite software packages with explicit
  license terms used GPL.

  But the FSF was never the only game in town.  There was always a
  quieter, less confrontational and more market-friendly strain in the
  hacker culture.  The pragmatists were loyal not so much to an ideology
  as to a group of engineering traditions founded on early open-source
  efforts which predated the FSF.  These traditions included, most
  importantly, the intertwined technical cultures of Unix and the pre-
  commercial Internet.

  The typical pragmatist attitude is only moderately anticommercial, and
  its major grievance against the corporate world is not `hoarding' per
  se.  Rather it is that world's perverse refusal to adopt superior
  approaches incorporating Unix and open standards and open-source
  software.  If the pragmatist hates anything, it is less likely to be
  `hoarders' in general than the current King Log of the software
  establishment; formerly IBM, now Microsoft.

  To pragmatists, the GPL is important as a tool rather than an end in
  itself.  Its main value is not as a weapon against `hoarding', but as
  a tool for encouraging software sharing and the growth of bazaar-mode
  <> development
  communities.  The pragmatist values having good tools and toys more
  than he dislikes commercialism, and may use high-quality commercial
  software without ideological discomfort.  At the same time, his open-
  source experience has taught him standards of technical quality that
  very little closed software can meet.

  For many years, the pragmatist point of view expressed itself within
  the hacker culture mainly as a stubborn current of refusal to
  completely buy into the GPL in particular or the FSF's agenda in
  general.  Through the 1980s and early 1990s, this attitude tended to
  be associated with fans of Berkeley Unix, users of the BSD license,
  and the early efforts to build open-source Unixes from the BSD source
  base.  These efforts, however, failed to build bazaar communities of
  significant size, and became seriously fragmented and ineffective.

  Not until the Linux explosion of early 1993-1994 did pragmatism find a
  real power base.  Although Linus Torvalds never made a point of
  opposing RMS, he set an example by looking benignly on the growth of a
  commercial Linux industry, by publicly endorsing the use of high-
  quality commercial software for specific tasks, and by gently deriding
  the more purist and fanatical elements in the culture.

  A side effect of the rapid growth of Linux was the induction of a
  large number of new hackers for which Linux was their primary loyalty
  and the FSF's agenda primarily of historical interest.  Though the
  newer wave of Linux hackers might describe the system as ``the choice
  of a GNU generation'', most tended to emulate Torvalds more than

  Increasingly it was the anticommercial purists who found themselves in
  a minority.  How much things had changed would not become apparent
  until the Netscape announcement in February 1998 that it would
  distribute Navigator 5.0 in source.  This excited more interest in
  `free software' within the corporate world. The subsequent call to the
  hacker culture to exploit this unprecedented opportunity and to re-
  label its product from `free software' to `open source' was met with a
  level of instant approval that surprised everybody involved.

  In a reinforcing development, the pragmatist part of the culture was
  itself becoming polycentric by the mid-1990s.  Other semi-independent
  communities with their own self-consciousness and charismatic leaders
  began to bud from the Unix/Internet root stock.  Of these, the most
  important after Linux was the Perl culture under Larry Wall.  Smaller,
  but still significant, were the traditions building up around John
  Osterhout's Tcl and Guido Van Rossum's Python languages.  All three of
  these communities expressed their ideological independence by devising
  their own, non-GPL licensing schemes.

  3. Promiscuous Theory, Puritan Practice

  Through all these changes, nevertheless, there remained a broad
  consensus theory of what `free software' or `open source' is.  The
  clearest expression of this common theory can be found in the various
  open-source licenses, all of which have crucial common elements.

  In 1997 these common elements were distilled into the Debian Free
  Software Guidelines, which became the Open Source Definition
  <>.  Under the guidelines defined by the OSD,
  an open-source license must protect an unconditional right of any
  party to modify (and redistribute modified versions of) open-source

  Thus, the implicit theory of the OSD (and OSD-conformant licenses such
  as the GPL, the BSD license, and Perl's Artistic License) is that
  anyone can hack anything.  Nothing prevents half a dozen different
  people from taking any given open-source product (such as, say the
  Free Software Foundations's gcc C compiler), duplicating the sources,
  running off with them in different evolutionary directions, but all
  claiming to be the product.

  In practice, however, such `forking' almost never happens.  Splits in
  major projects have been rare, and always accompanied by re-labeling
  and a large volume of public self-justification.  It is clear that, in
  such cases as the GNU Emacs/XEmacs split, or the gcc/egcs split, or
  the various fissionings of the BSD splinter groups, that the splitters
  felt they were going against a fairly powerful community norm.

  In fact (and in contradiction to the anyone-can-hack-anything
  consensus theory) the open-source culture has an elaborate but largely
  unadmitted set of ownership customs. These customs regulate who can
  modify software, the circumstances under which it can be modified, and
  (especially) who has the right to redistribute modified versions back
  to the community.

  The taboos of a culture throw its norms into sharp relief.  Therefore,
  it will be useful later on if we summarize some important ones here.

  +o   There is strong social pressure against forking projects.  It does
     not happen except under plea of dire necessity, with much public
     self-justification, and with a renaming.

  +o   Distributing changes to a project without the cooperation of the
     moderators is frowned upon, except in special cases like
     essentially trivial porting fixes.

  +o  Removing a person's name from a project history, credits or
     maintainer list is absolutely not done without the person's
     explicit consent.

  In the remainder of this paper, we shall examine these taboos and
  ownership customs in detail.  We shall inquire not only into how they
  function but what they reveal about the underlying social dynamics and
  incentive structures of the open-source community.

  4.  Ownership and Open Source

  What does `ownership' mean when property is infinitely reduplicable,
  highly malleable, and the surrounding culture has neither coercive
  power relationships nor material scarcity economics?

  Actually, in the case of the open-source culture this is an easy
  question to answer.  The owner(s) of a software project are those who
  have the exclusive right, recognized by the community at large, to re-
  distribute modified versions.

  (In discussing `ownership' in this section I will use the singular, as
  though all projects are owned by some one person.  It should be
  understood, however, that projects may be owned by groups.  We shall
  examine the internal dynamics of such groups later in this paper.)

  According to the standard open-source licenses, all parties are equals
  in the evolutionary game.  But in practice there is a very well-
  recognized distinction between `official' patches, approved and
  integrated into the evolving software by the publicly recognized
  maintainers, and `rogue' patches by third parties.  Rogue patches are
  unusual, and generally not trusted ``[RP]''.

  That public redistribution is the fundamental issue is easy to
  establish.  Custom encourages people to patch software for personal
  use when necessary. Custom is indifferent to people who redistribute
  modified versions within a closed user or development group.  It is
  only when modifications are posted to the open-source community in
  general, to compete with the original, that ownership becomes an

  There are, in general, three ways to acquire ownership of an open-
  source project.  One, the most obvious, is to found the project.  When
  a project has has only one maintainer since its inception and the
  maintainer is still active, custom does not even permit a question as
  to who owns the project.

  The second way is to have ownership of the project handed to you by
  the previous owner (this is sometimes known as `passing the baton').
  It is well understood in the community that project owners have a duty
  to pass projects to competent successors when they are no longer
  willing or able to invest needed time in development or maintainance

  It is significant that in the case of major projects, such transfers
  of control are generally announced with some fanfare.  While it is
  unheard of for the open-source community at large to actually
  interfere in the owner's choice of succession, customary practice
  clearly incorporates a premise that public legitimacy is important.

  For minor projects, it is generally sufficient for a change history
  included with the project distribution to note the change of
  ownership.  The clear presumption is that if the former owner has not
  in fact voluntarily transferred control, he or she may reassert
  control with community backing by objecting publicly within a
  reasonable period of time.

  The third way to acquire ownership of a project is to observe that it
  needs work and the owner has disappeared or lost interest.  If you
  want to do this, it is your responsibility to make the effort to find
  the owner.  If you don't succeed, then you may announce in a relevant
  place (such as a Usenet newsgroup dedicated to the application area)
  that the project appears to be orphaned, and that you are considering
  taking responsibility for it.

  Custom demands that you allow some time to pass before following up
  with an announcement that you have declared yourself the new owner.
  In this interval, if someone else announces that they have been
  actually working on the project, their claim trumps yours.  It is
  considered good form to give public notice of your intentions more
  than once.  More points for good form if you announce in many relevant
  forums (related newsgroups, mailing lists); and still more if you show
  patience in waiting for replies.  In general, the more visible effort
  you make to allow the previous owner or other claimants to respond,
  the better your claim if no response is forthcoming.

  If you have gone through this process in sight of the project's user
  community, and there are no objections, then you may claim ownership
  of the orphaned project and so note in its history file.  This,
  however, is less secure than being passed the baton, and you cannot
  expect to be considered fully legitimate until you have made
  substantial improvements in the sight of the user community.

  I have observed these customs in action for twenty years, going back
  to the pre-FSF ancient history of open-source software.  They have
  several very interesting features.  One of the most interesting is
  that most hackers have followed them without being fully aware of
  doing so.  Indeed, the above may be the first conscious and reasonably
  complete summary ever to have been written down.

  Another is that, for unconscious customs, they have been followed with
  remarkable (even astonishing) consistency.  I have observed the
  evolution of literally hundreds of open-source projects, and I can
  still count the number of significant violations I have observed or
  heard about on my fingers.

  Yet a third interesting feature is that as these customs have evolved
  over time, they have done so in a consistent direction.  That
  direction has been to encourage more public accountability, more
  public notice, and more care about preserving the credits and change
  histories of projects in ways which (among other things) establish the
  legitimacy of the present owners.

  These features suggest that the customs are not accidental, but are
  products of some kind of implicit agenda or generative pattern in the
  open-source culture that is utterly fundamental to the way it

  An early respondent pointed out that contrasting the Internet hacker
  culture with the ``warez d00dz'' cracker culture (one centered around
  game-cracking and pirate bulletin-board systems) illuminates the
  generative patterns of both rather well.  We'll return to the d00dz
  for contrast later in the paper.

  5. Locke and Land Title

  To understand this generative pattern, it helps to notice a historical
  analogy for these customs that is far outside the domain of hackers'
  usual concerns.  As students of legal history and political philosophy
  may recognize, the theory of property they imply is virtually
  identical to the Anglo-American common-law theory of land tenure!

  In this theory, there are three ways to acquire ownership of land.

  On a frontier, where land exists that has never had an owner, one can
  acquire ownership by homesteading, mixing one's labor with the unowned
  land, fencing it, and defending one's title.

  The usual means of transfer in settled areas is transfer of title,
  that is receiving the deed from the previous owner.  In this theory,
  the concept of `chain of title' is important.  The ideal proof of
  ownership is a chain of deeds and transfers extending back to when the
  land was originally homesteaded.

  Finally, the common-law theory recognizes that land title may be lost
  or abandoned (for example, if the owner dies without heirs, or the
  records needed to establish chain of title to vacant land are gone).
  A piece of land that has become derelict in this way may be claimed by
  adverse possession -- one moves in, improves it, and defends title as
  if homesteading.

  This theory, like hacker customs, evolved organically in a context
  where central authority was weak or nonexistent.  It developed over a
  period of a thousand years from Norse and Germanic tribal law.
  Because it was systematized and rationalized in the early modern era
  by the English political philosopher John Locke, it is sometimes
  referred to as the `Lockean' theory of property.

  Logically similar theories have tended to evolve wherever property has
  high economic or survival value and no single authority is powerful
  enough to force central allocation of scarce goods.  This is true even
  in the hunter-gatherer cultures that are sometimes romantically
  thought to have no concept of `property'.  For example, in the
  traditions of the !Kung San bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, there is
  no ownership of hunting grounds.  But there is ownership of water-
  holes and springs under a theory recognizably akin to Locke's.

  The !Kung San example is instructive, because it shows that Lockean
  property customs arise only where the expected return from the
  resource exceeds the expected cost of defending it.  Hunting grounds
  are not property because the return from hunting is highly
  unpredictable and variable, and (although highly prized) not a
  necessity for day-to-day survival.  Waterholes, on the other hand, are
  vital to survival and small enough to defend.

  The `noosphere' of this paper's title is the territory of ideas, the
  space of all possible thoughts ``[N]''.  What we see implied in hacker
  ownership customs is a Lockean theory of property rights in one subset
  of the noosphere, the space of all programs.  Hence `homesteading the
  noosphere', which is what every founder of a new open-source project

  To avoid confusion, it is important to note that the noosphere is not
  the same as the totality of virtual locations in electronic media that
  is sometimes (to the disgust of most hackers) called `cyberspace'.
  Property there is regulated by completely different rules that are
  closer to those of the material substratum -- essentially, he who owns
  the media and machines on which a part of `cyberspace' is hosted owns
  that piece of cyberspace as a result.

  The Lockean structure suggests strongly that open-source hackers
  observe the customs they do in order to defend some kind of expected
  return from their effort.  The return must be more significant than
  the effort of homesteading projects, the cost of maintaining version
  histories that document `chain of title', and the time cost of doing
  public notifications and a waiting period before taking adverse
  possession of an orphaned project.

  Furthermore, the `yield' from open source must be something more than
  simply the use of the software, something else that would be
  compromised or diluted by forking.  If use were the only issue, there
  would be no taboo against forking, and open-source ownership would not
  resemble land tenure at all.  In fact, this alternate world (where use
  is the only yield) is the one implied by existing open-source

  We can eliminate some candidate kinds of yield right away.  Because
  you can't coerce effectively over a network connection, seeking power
  is right out.  Likewise, the open-source culture doesn't have anything
  much resembling money or an internal scarcity economy, so hackers
  cannot be pursuing anything very closely analogous to material wealth.

  There is one way that open-source activity can help people become
  wealthier, however -- a way that provides a valuable clue to what
  actually motivates it.  Occasionally, the reputation one gains in the
  hacker culture can spill over into the real world in economically
  significant ways.  It can get you a better job offer, or a consulting
  contract, or a book deal.

  This kind of side effect, however, is at best rare and marginal for
  most hackers; far too much so to make it convincing as a sole
  explanation, even if we ignore the repeated protestations by hackers
  that they're doing what they do not for money but out of idealism or

  However, the way such economic side-effects are mediated is worth
  examination.  Below we'll see that an understanding of the dynamics of
  reputation within the open-source culture itself has considerable
  explanatory power.

  6. The Hacker Culture as Gift Economy

  To understand the role of reputation in the open-source culture, it is
  helpful to move from history further into anthropology and economics,
  and examine the difference between exchange cultures and gift

  Human beings have an innate drive to compete for social status; it's
  wired in by our evolutionary history.  For the 90% of that history
  that ran before the invention of agriculture, our ancestors lived in
  small nomadic hunting-gathering bands.  High-status individuals got
  the healthiest mates and access to the best food.  This drive for
  status expresses itself in different ways, depending largely on the
  degree of scarcity of survival goods.

  Most ways humans have of organizing are adaptations to scarcity and
  want.  Each way carries with it different ways of gaining social

  The simplest way is the command hierarchy.  In command hierarchies,
  allocation of scarce goods is done by one central authority and backed
  up by force.  Command hierarchies scale very poorly ``[Mal]''; they
  become increasingly brutal and inefficient as they get larger.  For
  this reason, command hierarchies above the size of an extended family
  are almost always parasites on a larger economy of a different type.
  In command hierarchies, social status is primarily determined by
  access to coercive power.

  Our society is predominently an exchange economy.  This is a
  sophisticated adaptation to scarcity that, unlike the command model,
  scales quite well.  Allocation of scarce goods is done in a
  decentralized way through trade and voluntary cooperation (and in
  fact, the dominating effect of competitive desire is to produce
  cooperative behavior).  In an exchange economy, social status is
  primarily determined by having control of things (not necessarily
  material things) to use or trade.

  Most people have implicit mental models for both of the above, and how
  they interact with each other.  Government, the military, and
  organized crime (for example) are command hierarchies parasitic on the
  broader exchange economy we call `the free market'.  There's a third
  model, however, that is radically different from either and not
  generally recognized except by anthropologists; the gift culture.

  Gift cultures are adaptations not to scarcity but to abundance.  They
  arise in populations that do not have significant material-scarcity
  problems with survival goods.  We can observe gift cultures in action
  among aboriginal cultures living in ecozones with mild climates and
  abundant food.  We can also observe them in certain strata of our own
  society, especially in show business and among the very wealthy.

  Abundance makes command relationships difficult to sustain and
  exchange relationships an almost pointless game.  In gift cultures,
  social status is determined not by what you control but by what you
  give away.

  Thus the Kwakiutl chieftain's potlach party.  Thus the multi-
  millionaire's elaborate and usually public acts of philanthropy.  And
  thus the hacker's long hours of effort to produce high-quality open

  For examined in this way, it is quite clear that the society of open-
  source hackers is in fact a gift culture.  Within it, there is no
  serious shortage of the `survival necessities' -- disk space, network
  bandwidth, computating power.  Software is freely shared.  This
  abundance creates a situation in which the only available measure of
  competitive success is reputation among one's peers.

  This observation is not in itself entirely sufficient to explain the
  observed features of hacker culture, however.  The cracker d00dz have
  a gift culture which thrives in the same (electronic) media as that of
  the hackers, but their behavior is very different.  The group
  mentality in their culture is much stronger and more exclusive than
  among hackers.  They hoard secrets rather than sharing them; one is
  much more likely to find cracker groups distributing sourceless
  executables that crack software than tips that give away how they did

  What this shows, in case it wasn't obvious, is that there is more than
  one way to run a gift culture.  History and values matter.  I have
  summarized the history of the hacker culture elsewhere in ``[HH]'';
  the ways in which it shaped present behavior are not mysterious.
  Hackers have defined their culture by set of choices about the form
  which their competition will take.  It is that form which we will
  examine in the remainder of this paper.

  7. The Joy of Hacking

  In making this `reputation game' analysis, by the way, I do not mean
  to devalue or ignore the pure artistic satisfaction of designing
  beautiful software and making it work.  We all experience this kind of
  satisfaction and thrive on it.  People for whom it is not a
  significant motivation never become hackers in the first place, just
  as people who don't love music never become composers.

  So perhaps we should consider another model of hacker behavior in
  which the pure joy of craftsmanship is the primary motivation.  This
  `craftsmanship' model would have to explain hacker custom as a way of
  maximizing both the opportunities for craftsmanship and the quality of
  the results.  Does this conflict with or suggest different results
  than the `reputation game' model?

  Not really.  In examining the `craftsmanship' model, we come back to
  the same problems that constrain hackerdom to operate like a gift
  culture.  How can one maximize quality if there is no metric for
  quality?  If scarcity economics doesn't operate, what metrics are
  available besides peer evaluation?  It appears that any craftsmanship
  culture ultimately has to structure itself through a reputation game
  -- and, in fact, we can observe exactly this dynamic in many
  historical craftsmanship cultures from the medieval guilds onwards.

  In one important respect, the `craftsmanship' model is weaker than the
  `gift culture' model; by itself, it doesn't help explain the
  contradiction we began this paper with.

  Finally, the `craftmanship' motivation itself may not be
  psychologically as far removed from the reputation game as we might
  like to assume.  Imagine your beautiful program locked up in a drawer
  and never used again.  Now imagine it being used effectively and with
  pleasure by many people.  Which dream gives you satisfaction?

  Nevertheless, we'll keep an eye on the craftsmanship model.  It is
  intuitively appealing to many hackers, and explains some aspects of
  individual behavior well enough.

  After I published the first version of this paper, an anonymous
  respondent commented: ``You may not work to get reputation, but the
  reputation is a real payment with consequences if you do the job
  well.''  This is a subtle and important point.   The reputation
  incentives continue to operate whether or not a craftsman is aware of
  them; thus, ultimately, whether or not a hacker understands his own
  behavior as part of the reputation game, his behavior will be shaped
  by that game.

  8. The Many Faces of Reputation

  There are reasons general to every gift culture why peer repute
  (prestige) is worth playing for:

  First and most obviously, good reputation among one's peers is a
  primary reward.  We're wired to experience it that way for
  evolutionary reasons touched on earlier.  (Many people learn to
  redirect their drive for prestige into various sublimations that have
  no obvious connection to a visible peer group, such as ``honor'',
  ``ethical integrity'', ``piety'' etc.; this does not change the
  underlying mechanism.)

  Secondly, prestige is a good way (and in a pure gift economy, the only
  way) to attract attention and cooperation from others.  If one is well
  known for generosity, intelligence, fair dealing, leadership ability,
  or other good qualities, it becomes much easier to persuade other
  people that they will gain by association with you.

  Thirdly, if your gift economy is in contact with or intertwined with
  an exchange economy or a command hierarchy, your reputation may spill
  over and earn you higher status there.

  Beyond these general reasons, the peculiar conditions of the hacker
  culture make prestige even more valuable than it would be in a `real
  world' gift culture.

  The main `peculiar condition' is that the artifacts one gives away
  (or, interpreted another way, are the visible sign of one's gift of
  energy and time) are very complex.  Their value is nowhere near as
  obvious as that of material gifts or exchange-economy money.  It is
  much harder to objectively distinguish a fine gift from a poor one.
  Accordingly, the success of a giver's bid for status is delicately
  dependent on the critical judgement of peers.

  Another peculiarity is the relative purity of the open-source culture.
  Most gift cultures are compromised -- either by exchange-economy
  relationships such as trade in luxury goods, or by command-economy
  relationships such as family or clan groupings.  No significant
  analogues of these exist in the open-source culture; thus, ways of
  gaining status other than by peer repute are virtually absent.

  9. Ownership Rights and Reputation Incentives

  We are now in a position to pull together the previous analyses into a
  coherent account of hacker ownership customes.  We understand the
  yield from homesteading the noosphere now; it is peer repute in the
  gift culture of hackers, with all the secondary gains and side-effects
  that implies.

  From this understanding, we can analyze the Lockean property customs
  of hackerdom as a means of maximizing reputation incentives; of
  ensuring that peer credit goes where it where it is due and does not
  go where it is not due.

  The three taboos we observed above make perfect sense under this
  analysis.  One's reputation can suffer unfairly if someone else
  misappropriates or mangles one's work; these taboos (and related
  customs) attempt to prevent this from happening.

  +o  Forking projects is bad because it exposes pre-fork contributors to
     a reputation risk they can only control by being active in both
     child projects simultaneously after the fork.  (This would
     generally be too confusing or difficult to be practical.)

  +o  Distributing rogue patches (or, much worse, rogue binaries) exposes
     the owners to an unfair reputation risk.  Even if the official code
     is perfect, the owners will catch flak from bugs in the patches
     (but see ``[RP]'').

  +o  Surreptitiously filing someone's name off a project is, in cultural
     context, one of the ultimate crimes.  It steals the victim's gift
     to be presented as the thief's own.

  All three of these taboo behaviors inflict global harm on the open-
  source community as well as local harm on the victim(s).  Implicitly
  they damage the entire community by decreasing each potential
  contributor's perceived likelihood that gift/productive behavior will
  be rewarded.

  It's important to note that there are alternate candidate explanations
  for two of these three taboos.

  First, hackers often explain their antipathy to forking projects by
  bemoaning the wasteful duplication of work it would imply as the child
  products evolved in more-or-less parallel into the future. They may
  also observe that forking tends to split the co-developer community,
  leaving both child projects with fewer brains to work with than the

  A respondent has pointed out that it is unusual for more than one
  offspring of a fork to survive with significant `market share' into
  the long term.  This strengthens the incentives for all parties to
  cooperate and avoid forking, because it's hard to know in advance who
  will be on the losing side and see a lot of their work either
  disappear entirely or languish in obscurity.

  Dislike of rogue patches is often explained by observing that they can
  complicate bug-tracking enormously, and inflict work on maintainers
  who have quite enough to do catching their own mistakes.

  There is considerable truth to these explanations, and they certainly
  do their bit to reinforce the Lockean logic of ownership.  But while
  intellectually attractive, they fail to explain why so much emotion
  and territoriality gets displayed on the infrequent occasions that the
  taboos get bent or broken -- not just by the injured parties, but by
  bystanders and observers who often react quite harshly.  Cold-blooded
  concerns about duplication of work and maintainance hassles simply do
  not sufficiently explain the observed behavior.

  Then, too, there is the third taboo.  It's hard to see how anything
  but the reputation-game analysis can explain this.  The fact that this
  taboo is seldom analyzed much more deeply than ``It wouldn't be fair''
  is revealing in its own way, as we shall see in the next section.

  10. The Problem of Ego

  At the beginning of the paper I mentioned that the unconscious
  adaptive knowledge of a culture is often at odds with its conscious
  ideology.  We've seen one major example of this already in the fact
  that Lockean ownership customs have been widely followed despite the
  fact that they violate the stated intent of the standard licenses.

  I have observed another interesting example of this phenomenon when
  discussing the reputation-game analysis with hackers.  This is that
  many hackers resisted the analysis and showed a strong reluctance to
  admit that their behavior was motivated by a desire for peer repute
  or, as I incautiously labeled it at the time, `ego satisfaction'.

  This illustrates an interesting point about the hacker culture.  It
  consciously distrusts and despises egotism and ego-based motivations.
  So much so, in fact, that the culture's `big men' and tribal elders
  are required to talk softly and humorously deprecate themselves at
  every turn in order to maintain their status.  How this attitude
  meshes with an incentive structure that apparently runs almost
  entirely on ego cries out for explanation.

  A large part of it, certainly, stems from the generally negative
  Europo-American attitude towards `ego'.  The cultural matrix of most
  hackers teaches them that desiring ego satisfaction is a bad (or at
  least immature) motivation; that ego is at best an eccentricity
  tolerable only in prima-donnas and often an actual sign of mental
  pathology.  Only sublimated and disguised forms like ``peer repute'',
  ``self-esteem'', ``professionalism'' or ``pride of accomplishment''
  are generally acceptable.

  I could write an entire other essay on the unhealthy roots of this
  part of our cultural inheritance, and the astonishing amount of self-
  deceptive harm we do by believing (against all the evidence of
  psychology and behavior) that we ever have truly `selfless' motives.
  Perhaps I would, if Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Ayn Rand had not
  already done an entirely competent job (whatever their other failings)
  of deconstructing `altruism' into unacknowledged kinds of self-

  But I am not doing moral philosophy or psychology here, so I will
  simply observe one minor kind of harm done by the belief that ego is
  evil, which is this: it has made it emotionally difficult for many
  hackers to consciously understand the social dynamics of their own

  But we are not quite done with this line of investigation.  The
  surrounding culture's taboo against visibly ego-driven behavior is so
  much intensified in the hacker (sub)culture that one must suspect it
  of having some sort of special adaptive function for hackers.
  Certainly there is no such taboo among many other gift cultures, such
  as the peer cultures of theater people or the very wealthy!

  11. The Value of Egoless Behavior

  Having established that prestige is central to the hacker culture's
  reward mechanisms, we now need to understand why it has seemed so
  important that this fact remain semi-covert and largely unadmitted.

  The contrast with warez d00dz is instructive.  In that culture,
  status-seeking behavior is overt and even blatant.  These crackers
  seek acclaim for releasing "zero-day warez" (cracked software
  redistributed on the day of the original uncracked version's release)
  but are closemouthed about how they do it. These magicians don't like
  to give away their tricks.  And, as a result, the knowledge base of
  the cracker culture as a whole increases only slowly.

  In the hacker community, by contrast, one's work is one's statement.
  There's a strong ethos that quality should (indeed must) be left to
  speak for itself.  The best brag is code that that ``just works'', and
  that any competent programmer can see is good stuff.  Thus, the hacker
  culture's knowledge base increases rapidly.

  A taboo against ego-driven posturing therefore increases productivity.
  But that's a second-order effect; what is being directly protected
  here is the quality of the information in the community's peer-
  evaluation system.  That is, boasting or self-importance is suppressed
  because it behaves like noise tending to corrupt the vital signals
  from experiments in creative and cooperative behavior.

  The hacker culture's medium of gifting is intangible, its
  communications channels are poor at expressing emotional nuance, and
  face-to-face contact among its members is the exception rather than
  the rule.  This gives it a lower tolerance of noise than most other
  gift cultures, and goes a long way to explain the example in public
  humility required of its tribal elders.

  Talking softly is also functional if one aspires to be a maintainer of
  a successful project; one must convince the community that one has
  good judgement, because most of the maintainer's job is going to be
  judging other people's code.  Who would be inclined to contribute work
  to someone who clearly can't judge the quality of their own code?
  Potential contributors want project leaders with enough humility and
  class be able to to say, when objectively appropriate, ``Yes, that
  does work better than my version, I'll use it''.

  Yet another reason for egoless surface behavior is that in the open
  source world, you seldom want to give the impression that a project is
  `done'.  This might lead a potential contributor not to feel needed.
  The way to maximize your leverage is to be humble about the state of
  the program. If one does one's bragging through the code, and then
  says ``Well shucks, it doesn't do x, y, and z, so it can't be that
  good'', patches for x, y, and z will often swiftly follow.

  Finally, I have personally observed that the self-deprecating behavior
  of some leading hackers reflects a real (and not unjustified) fear of
  becoming the object of a personality cult.  Linus Torvalds and Larry
  Wall both provide clear and numerous examples of such avoidance
  behavior.  Once on a dinner expedition with Larry Wall I joked
  ``You're the alpha hacker here -- you get to pick the restaurant''.
  He flinched audibly.  And rightly so; failing to separate their shared
  values from their leaders has ruined a good many communities, a
  pattern of which he and Linus cannot fail to be fully aware.  On the
  other hand, most hackers would love to have Larry's problem, if they
  could but bring themselves to admit it.

  12. Global implications of the reputation-game model

  The reputation-game analysis has some more implications that may not
  be immediately obvious.  Many of these derive from the fact that one
  gains more prestige from founding a successful project than from
  cooperating in an existing one.  One also gains more from projects
  which are strikingly innovative, as opposed to being `me, too'
  incremental improvements on software that already exists.  On the
  other hand, software that nobody but the author understands or has a
  need for is a non-starter in the reputation game.  Finally, it's much
  harder to compete with an already successful project than it is to
  fill an empty niche.

  Thus, there's an optimum distance from one's neighbors (the most
  similar competing projects).  Too close and one's product will be a
  ``me, too!'' of limited value, a poor gift.  Too far away, and nobody
  will be able to use, understand, or perceive the relevance of one's
  effort (again, a poor gift).  This create a pattern of homesteading in
  the noosphere that rather resembles that of settlers spreading into a
  physical frontier -- not random, but like a diffusion-limited fractal
  wave. Projects tend to get started to fill functional gaps near the

  Some very successful projects become `category killers'; nobody wants
  to homestead anywhere near them because competing against the
  established base for the attention of hackers would be too hard.
  People who might otherwise found their own distinct efforts end up,
  instead, adding extensions for these big, successful projects.  The
  classic `category killer' example is GNU Emacs; its variants fill the
  ecological niche for a fully-programmable editor so completely that
  nobody has even attempted a truly different design since the early
  1980s.  Instead, people write Emacs modes.

  Globally, these two tendencies (gap-filling and category-killers) have
  driven a broadly predictable trend in projects starts over time.  In
  the 1970s most of the open source that existed was toys and demos.  In
  the 1980s the push was in development and Internet tools.  In the
  1990s the action shifted to operating systems.  In each case, a new
  and more difficult level of problems was attacked when the
  possibilities of the previous one had been nearly exhausted.

  This trend has interesting implications for the near future.  In early
  1998, Linux looks very much like a category-killer for the niche `free
  operating systems' -- people who might otherwise write competing OSs
  are now writing Linux device drivers and extensions instead.  And most
  of the lower-level tools the culture ever imagined having as open-
  source already exist.  What's left?

  Applications.  As the year 2000 approaches, it seems safe to predict
  that open-source development effort will increasingly shift towards
  the last virgin territory -- programs for non-techies.  A clear early
  indicator is the development of GIMP, the Photoshop-like image
  workshop that is open source's first major application with the kind
  of end-user-friendly GUI interface considered de rigeur in commercial
  applications for the last decade.  Another is the amount of buzz
  surrounding application-toolkit projects like KDE and GNOME.

  Finally, the repution-game analysis explains the oft-cited dictum that
  you do not become a hacker by calling yourself a hacker -- you becomes
  a hacker when other hackers call you a hacker.  A `hacker', considered
  in this light, is somebody who has shown (by contributing gifts) that
  he or she both has technical ability and understands how the
  reputation game works.  This judgement is mostly one of awareness and
  acculturation, and can only be delivered by those already well inside
  the culture.

  13. Noospheric Property and the Ethology of Territory

  To understand the consequences of property customs, it will help us to
  look at them from yet another angle; that of animal ethology,
  specifically the ethology of territory.

  Property is an abstraction of animal territoriality, which evolved as
  a way of reducing intra-species violence.  By marking his bounds, and
  respecting the bounds of others, a wolf diminishes his chances of
  being in a fight which could weaken or kill him and make him less
  reproductively successful.

  Similarly, the function of property in human societies is to prevent
  inter-human conflict by setting bounds that clearly separate peaceful
  behavior from aggression.  It is sometimes fashionable to describe
  human property as an arbitrary social convention, but this is dead
  wrong.  Anybody who has ever owned a dog who barked when strangers
  came near its owner's property has experienced the essential
  continuity between animal territoriality and human property.  Our
  domesticated cousins of the wolf are instinctively smarter about this
  than a good many human political theorists.

  Claiming property (like marking territory) is a performative act, a
  way of declaring what boundaries will be defended.  Community support
  of property claims is a way to minimize friction and maximize
  cooperative behavior.  These things remain true even when the
  ``property claim'' is much more abstract than a fence or a dog's bark,
  even when it's just the statement of the project maintainer's name in
  a README file.  It's still an abstraction of territoriality, and (like
  other forms of property) our instinct-founded models of property are
  territorial ones evolved to assist conflict resolution.

  This ethological analysis at first seem very abstract and difficult to
  relate to actual hacker behavior.  But it has some important
  consequences. One is in explaining the popularity of World Wide Web
  sites, and especially why open-source projects with websites seem so
  much more `real' and substantial than those without them.
  Considered objectively, this seems hard to explain.  Compared to the
  effort involved in originating and maintaining even a small program, a
  web page is easy, so it's hard to consider a web page evidence of
  substance or unusual effort.

  Nor are the functional characteristics of the Web itself sufficient
  explanation.  The communication functions of a web page can be as well
  or better served by a combination of an FTP site, a mailing list, and
  Usenet postings.  In fact it's quite unusual for a project's routine
  communications to be done over the Web rather than via a mailing list
  or newsgroup.  Why, then, the popularity of Web sites as project

  The metaphor implicit in the term `home page' provides an important
  clue.  While founding an open-source project is a territorial claim in
  the noosphere (and customarily recognized as such) it is not a
  terribly compelling one on the psychological level.  Software, after
  all, has no natural location and is instantly reduplicable.  It's
  assimilable to our instinctive notions of `territory' and `property',
  but only after some effort.

  A project home page concretizes an abstract homesteading in the space
  of possible programs by expressing it as `home' territory in the more
  spatially-organized realm of the World Wide Web.  Descending from the
  noosphere to `cyberspace' doesn't get us all the way to the real world
  of fences and barking dogs yet, but it does hook the abstract property
  claim more securely to our instinctive wiring about territory.  And
  this is why projects with web pages seem more `real'.

  This ethological analysis also encourages us to look more closely at
  mechanisms for handling conflict in the open-source culture. It leads
  us to expect that, in addition to maximizing reputation incentives,
  ownership customs should also have a role in preventing and resolving

  14. Causes of Conflict

  In conflicts over open-source software we can identify four major

  +o  what is the Right Thing, technically speaking?

  +o  who gets to make binding decisions about a project?

  +o  who gets credit or blame for what?

  +o  how to reduce duplication of effort and prevent rogue versions from
     complicating bug tracking?

  If we take a second look at the first cause, however, it tends to
  vanish.  For any such question, either there is an objective way to
  decide it accepted by all parties or there isn't.  If there is, game
  over and everybody wins.  If there isn't, it reduces to ``who

  Accordingly, the three problems a conflict-resolution theory has to
  resolve about a project are (A) where the buck stops on design
  decisions, (B) how to decide which contributors are credited and how,
  and (C) how to keep a project group and product from fissioning into
  multiple branches.

  The role of ownership customs in resolving issues (A) and (C) is
  clear.  Custom affirms that the owners of the project make the binding
  decisions.  We have previously observed that custom also exerts heavy
  pressure against dilution of ownership by forking.

  It's instructive to notice that these customs make sense even if one
  forgets the reputation game and examines them from within a pure
  `craftmanship' model of the hacker culture.  In this view these
  customs have less to do with the dilution of reputation incentives
  than with protecting a craftsman's right to execute his vision in his
  chosen way.

  The craftsmanship model is not, however, sufficient to explain hacker
  customs about issue (B), who gets credit for what (because a pure
  craftsman, one unconcerned with the reputation game, would have no
  motive to care).  To analyze these, we need to take the Lockean theory
  one step further and examine conflicts and the operation of property
  rights within projects as well as between them.

  15. Project Structures and Ownership

  The trivial case is that in which the project has a single
  owner/maintainer.  In that case there is no possible conflict.  The
  owner makes all decisions and collects all credit and blame.  The only
  possible conflicts are over succession issues -- who gets to be the
  new owner if the old one disappears or loses interest.  The community
  also has an interest, under issue (C), in preventing forking.  These
  interests are expressed by a cultural norm that an owner/maintainer
  should publicly hand title to someone if he or she can no longer
  maintain the project.

  The simplest non-trivial case is when a project has multiple co-
  maintainers working under a single `benevolent dictator' who owns the
  project.  Custom favors this mode for group projects; it has been
  shown to work on projects as large as the Linux kernel or Emacs, and
  solves the ``who decides'' problem in a way that is not obviously
  worse than any of the alternatives.

  Typically, a benevolent-dictator organization evolves from an owner-
  maintainer organization as the founder attracts contributors.  Even if
  the owner stays dictator, it introduces a new level of possible
  disputes over who gets credited for what parts of the project.

  In this situation, custom places an obligation on the owner/dictator
  to credit contributors fairly (through, for example, appropriate
  mentions in README or history files).  In terms of the Lockean
  property model, this means that by contributing to a project you earn
  part of its reputation return (positive or negative).

  Pursuing this logic, we see that a `benevolent dictator' does not in
  fact own his entire project unqualifiedly.  Though he has the right to
  make binding decisions, he in effect trades away shares of the total
  reputation return in exchange for others' work.  The analogy with
  sharecropping on a farm is almost irresistable, except that a
  contributor's name stays in the credits and continues to `earn' to
  some degree even after that contributor is no longer active.

  As benevolent-dictator projects add more participants, they tend to
  develop two tiers of contributors; ordinary contributors and co-
  developers.  A typical path to becoming a co-developer is taking
  responsibility for a major subsystem of the project.  Another is to
  take the role of `lord high fixer', characterizing and fixing many
  bugs.  In this way or others, co-developers are the contributors who
  make a substantial and continuing investment of time in the project.

  The subsystem-owner role is particularly important for our analysis
  and deserves further examination.  Hackers like to say that `authority
  follows responsibility'. A co-developer who accepts maintainance
  responsibility for a given subsystem generally gets to control both
  the implementation of that subsystem and its interfaces with the rest
  of the project, subject only to correction by the project leader
  (acting as architect). We observe that this rule effectively creates
  enclosed properties on the Lockean model within a project, and has
  exactly the same conflict-prevention role as other property

  By custom, the `dictator' or project leader in a project with co-
  developers is expected to consult with those co-developers on key
  decisions.  This is especially so if the decision concerns a subsystem
  which a co-developer `owns' (that is, has invested time in and taken
  responsibility for).  A wise leader, recognizing the function of the
  project's internal property boundaries, will not lightly interfere
  with or reverse decisions made by subsystem owners.

  Some very large projects discard the `benevolent dictator' model
  entirely. One way to do this is turn the co-developers into a voting
  committee (as with Apache).  Another is rotating dictatorship, in
  which control is occasionally passed from one member to another within
  a circle of senior co-developers (the Perl developers organize
  themselves this way).

  Such complicated arrangements are widely considered unstable and
  difficult.  Clearly this perceived difficulty is largely a function of
  the known hazards of design-by-committee, and of committees
  themselves; these are problems the hacker culture consciously
  understands.  However, I think some of the visceral discomfort hackers
  feel about committee or rotating-chair organizations is because
  they're hard to fit into the unconscious Lockean model hackers use for
  reasoning about the simpler cases.  It's problematic, in these complex
  organizations, to do an accounting of either ownership in the sense of
  control or ownership of reputation returns.  It's hard to see where
  the internal boundaries are, and thus hard to avoid conflict unless
  the group enjoys an exceptionally high level of harmony and trust.

  16. Conflict and Conflict Resolution

  We've seen that within projects, an increasing complexity of roles is
  expressed by a distribution of design authority and partial property
  rights.  While this is an efficient way to distribute incentives, it
  also dilutes the authority of the project leader -- most importantly,
  it dilutes the leader's authority to squash potential conflicts.

  While technical arguments over design might seem the most obvious risk
  for internecine conflict, they are seldom a serious cause of strife.
  These are usually relatively easily resolved by the territorial rule
  that authority follows responsibility.

  Another way of resolving conflicts is by seniority -- if two
  contributors or groups of contributors have a dispute, and the dispute
  cannot be resolved objectively, and neither owns the territory of the
  dispute, the side that has put the most work into the project as a
  whole (that is, the side with the most property rights in the whole
  project) wins.

  These rules generally suffice to resolve most project disputes.  When
  they do not, fiat of the project leader usually suffices.  Disputes
  that survive both these filters are rare.

  Conflicts do not as a rule become serious unless these two criteria
  ("authority follows responsibility" and "seniority wins") point in
  different directions, and the authority of the project leader is weak
  or absent.  The most obvious case in which this may occur is a
  succession dispute following the disappearance of the project lead.  I
  have been in one fight of this kind.  It was ugly, painful,
  protracted, only resolved when all parties became exhausted enough to
  hand control to an outside person, and I devoutly hope I am never
  anywhere near anything of the kind again.

  Ultimately, all of these conflict-resolution mechanisms rest on the
  wider hacker community's willingness to enforce them.  The only
  available enforcement mechanisms are flaming and shunning -- public
  condemnation of those who break custom, and refusal to cooperate with
  them after they have done so.

  17. Conclusion: From Custom to Customary Law

  We have examined the customs which regulate the ownership and control
  of open-source software.  We have seen how they imply an underlying
  theory of property rights homologous to the Lockean theory of land
  tenure.  We have related that to an analysis of the hacker culture as
  a `gift culture' in which participants compete for prestige by giving
  time, energy, and creativity away.  We have examined the implications
  of this analysis for conflict resolution in the culture.

  The next logical question to ask is "Why does this matter?"  Hackers
  developed these customs without conscious analysis and (up to now)
  have followed them without conscious analysis.  It's not immediately
  clear that conscious analysis has gained us anything practical --
  unless, perhaps, we can move from description to prescription and
  deduce ways to improve the functioning of these customs.

  We have found a close logical analogy for hacker customs in the theory
  of land tenure under the Anglo-American common-law tradition.
  Historically ``[Miller]'', the European tribal cultures that invented
  this tradition improved their dispute-resolution systems by moving
  from a system of unarticulated, semi-conscious custom to a body of
  explicit customary law memorized by tribal wisemen -- and eventually
  written down.

  Perhaps, as our population rises and acculturation of all new members
  becomes more difficult, it is time for the hacker culture to do
  something analogous -- to develop written codes of good practice for
  resolving the various sorts of disputes that can arise in connection
  with open-source projects, and a tradition of arbitration in which
  senior members of the community may be asked to mediate disputes.

  The analysis in this paper suggests the outlines of what such a code
  might look like, making explicit that which was previously implicit.
  No such codes could be imposed from above; they would have to be
  voluntarily adopted by the founders or owners of individual projects.
  Nor could they be completely rigid, as the pressures on the culture
  are likely to change over time.  Finally, for enforcement of such
  codes to work, they would have to reflect a broad consensus of the
  hacker tribe.

  I have begun work on such a code, tentatively titled the "Malvern
  Protocol" after the little town where I live.  If the general analysis
  in this paper becomes sufficiently widely accepted, I will make the
  Malvern Protocol publicly available as a model code for dispute
  resolution.  Parties interested in critiquing and developing this
  code, or just offering feedback on whether they think it's a good idea
  or not, are invited to contact me by email <>.

  18. Questions for Further Research

  How does the community inform and instruct its members as to its
  customs?  Are the customs self-evident or self-organising at a semi-
  conscious level, or are they taught by example?  (The latter seems
  unlikely, as we'd see many more violations of custom by newbies than
  we do, if it were so; on the other hand, if these customs were self-
  evident warez d00dz would follow them too.)

  The culture's (and my own) understanding of large projects that don't
  follow a benevolent-dictator model is weak.  Most such projects fail.
  A few become spectacularly successful and important (Perl, Apache,
  KDE).  Nobody really understands where the difference lies.  (There's
  a vague sense abroad that each such project is sui generis and stands
  or falls on the group dynamic of its particular members, but is this
  true or are there replicable strategies a group can follow?)

  As a matter of observable fact, people who found successful projects
  gather more prestige than people who do arguably equal amounts of work
  debugging and assisting with successful projects.  Is this a rational
  valuation of comparative effort, or is it a second-order effect of the
  unconscious territorial model we have adduced here?

  19. Bibliography, Notes, and Acknowledgements

  [Miller] Miller, William Ian; Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law,
  and Society in Saga Iceland; University of Chicago Press 1990, ISBN
  0-226-52680-1.  A fascinating study of Icelandic folkmoot law, which
  both illuminates the ancestry of the Lockean theory of property and
  describes the later stages of a historical process by which custom
  passed into customary law and thence to written law.

  [Mal] Malaclypse the Younger; Principia Discordia, or How I Found
  Goddess and What I Did To Her When I Found Her; Loompanics, ISBN
  1-55950-040-9.  Amidst much enlightening silliness, the `SNAFU
  principle' provides a rather trenchant analysis of why command
  hierarchies don't scale well.

  [BCT] J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, and J. Tooby (Eds.); The adapted mind:
  Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. New York:
  Oxford University Press 1992.  An excellent introduction to
  evolutionary psychology.  Some of the papers bear directly on the
  three cultural types I discuss (command/exchange/gift), suggesting
  that these patterns are wired in fairly deep.

  [HH] I have summarized the history of hackerdom at
  <>.  The book that
  will explain it really well remains to be written, probably not by me.

  [N] The term `noosphere' is an obscure term of art in philosophy
  derived from the Greek `nous' meaning `mind', `spirit', or `breath'.
  It is pronounced KNOW-uh-sfeer (two o-sounds, one long and stressed,
  one short and unstressed tending towards schwa). If one is being
  excruciatingly correct about one's orthography, it is properly spelled
  with a diaresis over one `o' -- just don't ask me which one.

  [RP] There are some subtleties about rogue patches.  One can divide
  them into `friendly' and `unfriendly' types.  A `friendly' patch is
  designed to be merged back into the project's main-line sources under
  the maintainer's control (whether or not that merge actually happens);
  an `unfriendly' one is intended to yank the project in a direction the
  maintainer doesn't approve.  Some projects (notably the Linux kernel
  itself) are pretty relaxed about friendly patches and even encourage
  independent distribution of them as part of their beta-test phase.  An
  unfriendly patch, on the other hand, represents a decision to compete
  with the original and is a serious matter.  Maintaining a whole raft
  of unfriendly patches tends to lead to forking.

  I am indebted to Michael Funk <> for
  pointing out how instructive a contrast with hackers the `warez d00dz'
  are.  Richard Lanphier <> reminded me of the importance
  of the fundamental hacker belief that the code should speak for
  itself.  Eric Kidd <> highlighted the role of
  valuing humility in preventing cults of personality.

  20. Version history

  10 April 1997: Version 1.2 published on the Web.

  12 April 1998: Version 1.3.  Typo fixes and responses to first round
  of public comments.  First four items in bibliography.  An anonymously
  contributed observation about reputation incentives operating even
  when the craftsman is unaware of them.  Added instructive contrasts
  with warez d00dz, material on the `software should speak for itself'
  premise, and observations on avoiding personality cults.  As a result
  of all these changes, the section on `The Problem of Ego' grew and

  16 April 1998: Version 1.7.  New section on `Global implications'
  discusses historical tends in the colonization of the noosphere, and
  examines the `category-killer' phenomenon.  Added another research
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