t byfield on Sat, 9 Oct 1999 11:46:55 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> eric s. raymond: the theory and practice of going ballistic

[from <http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/response-to-bezroukov.html>.
 this is the right reverend eric s. raymond's response to an essay by
 nikolai bezroukov, 'open source software as a special type of academic
 research (critique of vulgar raymondism),' published by first monday
 at <http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue4_10/bezroukov/index.html>.
 whether bezroukov's summation of ESR's theses is accurate, i'll leave
 to others to decide: afaict, ESR is an insufferable blowhard devoted
 to puffing up trivial observations into the eighth, ninth, and tenth
 wonders of the world, and reading his stuff is just painful. but it
 does look like bezroukov called his bluff on his neo-marxistical bab-
 ble about how the "industrial-capitalist mode of software production 
 was doomed to be out competed from the moment capitalism began to cre-
 ate enough of a wealth surplus for many programmers to live in a post-
 scarcity gift culture" &c., &c. ESR's response? "I am...implacably 
 hostile to all forms of Marxism and socialism (which I regard as co-
 equal in evil with Naziism)" [sic '1999/10/08 17:25:42' version]. i'm
 very curious to hear from our presumptively more sophisticated euro-
 pean contingents how we should reconcile the Contradictions that are
 erupting in the open source world, what with gift-givers kvetching
 about being left out of the red hat IPO (ooh--and now VA Linux is
 doing one!), the so-called gift economy being revealed to be a LIB-
 ERTARIAN practice, and the peer-consultation practices of open source
 being traced into ur-ur-history--all the way back to the early days
 of the MIT AI lab! cheers, t]

                       Response to Nikolai Bezroukov
     (I wrote this in response to an article in the October 1999 First
   Over the last eighteen months, dozens of people have written
   thoughtful critiques of The Cathedral and the Bazaar (CatB) and its
   sequels, Homesteading the Noosphere (HtN) and The Magic Cauldron
   (tMC). I welcome such criticism; in many cases (as you can see in the
   change histories attached to these papers) I have incorporated it into
   later versions.
   Nikolai Bezroukov's article in First Monday, unfortunately, adds
   almost nothing useful to the debate. Instead, Mr. Bezroukov has
   constructed a straw man he calls "vulgar Raymondism" which bears so
   little resemblance to the actual content of my writings and talks that
   I have to question whether he has actually studied the work he is
   attacking. If "vulgar Raymondism" existed, I would be its harshest
   I wanted to like this paper. I wanted to learn from it. But I began to
   realize this was unlikely when, three paragraphs in, I tripped over
   the following: "he promoted an overoptimistic and simplistic view of
   open source, as a variant of socialist (or, to be more exact, vulgar
   Marxist) interpretation of software development."
   There are many sins of which I can reasonably be accused, but the
   imputation of "vulgar Marxism" won't stand up to even a casual reading
   of my papers. In CatB, I analogize open-source development to a free
   market in Adam Smith's sense and use the terminology of classical
   (capitalist) economics to describe it. In HtN I advance an argument
   for the biological groundedness of property rights and cite Ayn Rand
   approvingly on the dangers of altruism. And the entire body of tMC
   develops the thesis that open-source development and the
   post-industrial capitalism of the Information Age are natural allies.
   In fact, I find the imputation of Marxism deeply and personally
   offensive as well as untrue. While I have made a point of not
   gratuitously waving my politics around in my papers, it is no secret
   in the open-source world that I am a libertarian, a friend of the free
   market, and implacably hostile to all forms of Marxism and socialism
   (which I regard as coequal in evil with Naziism).
   Mr. Bezroukov then proposes an analogy between open-source development
   and the practices of the scientific community as though it is
   something I have culpably overlooked. Apparently he somehow missed the
   fact that two sections of HtN are largely devoted to exploring this
   connection and suggesting sociopsychological reasons for it.
   Gross and peculiar distortions of my analyses follow. Here are a few
   of Mr. Bezroukov's more obviously false readings of my work:
     Open source is a completely new progressive phenomenon (bright
     future of mankind) with no analogs in history. 
   Somehow Mr. Bezroukov's has missed, or ignored, those sections of CatB
   which explicitly relate the Linux bazaar mode of development back to
   Gerald Weinberg's "egoless programming" and earlier open-source
   communities including the MIT AI lab and Berkeley. He has also failed
   to address those portion of HtN in which I relate open-source
   development to the history of experimental science and engineering, or
   the section of tMC in which I suggest an analogy between current
   developments in open-source world and the preindustrial system of
   aristocratic patronage for the arts.
     All open source projects are the same and employ the so-called
     "bazaar model". 
   In CatB itself, I criticize the Free Software Foundation for not
   applying the bazaar model to its free software/open source projects.
     Microsoft need [sic] to be destroyed. 
   Neither CatB nor any other of my papers ever makes this claim, even by
   implication. I grepped them and reread to check.
   While I have made no secret of my detestation of certain of
   Microsoft's business practices, I have publicly (a) refused to
   cooperate with the D.O.J lawsuit on grounds of free-market principle,
   (b) repeatedly exhorted open-source developers that we need to be for
   software quality, not just against something, and (c) given my talk to
   a mostly friendly audience at Microsoft!
     The open source movement consist of ideal cooperative people. 
   How Mr. Bezroukov reconciles this reading of my work with all the
   material in HtN on conflict resolution is hard for me to understand.
   The "ideal cooperative people" he supposes me to believe in would not
   need conflict-resolution mechanisms because they would have no
   All these howlers take place in the first 10% of the paper. Most of
   the remaining 90%, despite Mr. Bezroukov's billing of it as "Critique
   of Vulgar Raymondism", doesn't address or refute my work at all. It is
   hard to avoid the suspicion that Mr. Bezroukov has glued an artificial
   controversy with me onto the front of his paper in order to attract
   attention to work that would otherwise have little to recommend it. It
   is no credit to the referees of First Monday that they apparently fell
   for this trick.
   I tried hard to draw something of value from this paper, as I have
   from many critiques in the past. But the parts of it that are not
   tendentious nonsense largely repeat observations that other people
   (including Jamie Zawinski, Alan Cox, Andrew Leonard, and myself) have
   made better and sooner. I am irresistibly moved to quote Edgar Allan
   Poe at Mr. Bezroukov. "Your work is both true and original.
   Unfortunately, the parts that are true are not original, and the parts
   that are original are not true."
   Back to Eric's Home Page Up to Site Map $Date: 1999/10/08 17:25:42 $
    Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>

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