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Open Source Software Projects

 
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Has anyone had the chance to work on an open source software project? If so, what role did you play in it (ie. where you in charge of maintaining the main branch, releasing the software every-so-often, or just as a programmer) and what were your thoughts about it in general.
Also, do you think open source projects are commercially viable?
 
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I've worked on several open source projects in various capacities, but not on any of the "big names". It has worked very well, in general, although a few have died due to too much "democracy" and bickering.
For a good analysis of open source software and commercial viability you really need to read Eric Raymond's "Magic Cauldron" article - it's available from many places on the web - any decent search engine will find it easily.
 
landon manning
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I have read that one. I've also looked at the other essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" (also by E. Raymond). In fact, those articles are what caused me to post in the first place.
Could you expand on the "too much democracy and bickering"?
I have several reasons for asking:
1. I have a game that I developed last year that:
a. I would (eventually) like to "trial run" the open source project idea
b. I want to port the project to Java
c. I want to add several features (networking, AI)
2. The company I'm working for has a product that may benefit from being open source and I'm doing research on open source projects.
 
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FYI, Eric has a book called the Catherdal and the Bazaar, which contained the artcile by that name, the Magic Cauldron, and a couple other chapters. The third major section is called "Homesteading the Noosphere," which talk's a bit about the mechanics of open source projects. All articles can be found on his website, at http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/
I'm actually going to be taking my master's thesis open source shortly, and would love to hear any tips or suggestions.

--Mark
hershey@vaultus.com
 
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Originally posted by landon manning:
Has anyone had the chance to work on an open source software project? If so, what role did you play in it (ie. where you in charge of maintaining the main branch, releasing the software every-so-often, or just as a programmer) and what were your thoughts about it in general.
Also, do you think open source projects are commercially viable?


I've worked on a number of Open Source projects, and I have to say it's the most fun and educational stuff I've ever done.
In my day job as a Software Engineer, we use quite a large number of Open Source applications in every aspect of the business. Most of our servers run Linux, we use CVS for version control, SourceForge for project management, and many OSS libraries in our own projects.
One of the most successful for us is Berkeley DB -- to use it commercially, we pay somewhere over $100,000 (I don't buy the stuff, so I don't know the real numbers), but that was a non-issue, because as most of our developers are into Open Source in one way or another, we knew the software well, and knew it was rock-solid and did what we needed. The fact that it was Open Source is really what made it a candidate in the first place -- we had a chance to play with it for years, so when we finally had to choose a DB to use, it was obviously Berkeley.
Now, the software my company writes is not Open Source, nor do I try to talk them into it. I'm not a business person, and if they let me write code, I let them write business plans. However, the APIs, SDKs, sample clients, etc. _are_ Open. These are not big revenue generators, sure, but having worked with Open Source for a long time, the most frustrating part (and the thing that turns developers against you) is not having an Open API. Users (read: geeks) want to integrate your product into everything (especially emacs), so let them do it. It's great word of mouth, and it lets the geeks play with your code, and lets your developers throw a little something back to the community.
On a side note: I'm going to start a thread specifically on Open Source and XP (if I can't find one), so please come and post there if you have any insights.
 
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