It takes a village

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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2007-06-30 11:13:19

I was reading the Wired article on Hans Reiser (developer of the ReiserFS file system, currently pending trial for allegedly murdering his wife), and a quote from the article jumped out at me...

"Programs are in some sense our children," Reiser tells me. He explains that programs can be discriminated against just like people. That's why he wanted to raise his file system in the open source community, where people and programs are encouraged to interact free of corporate barriers to communication.

I agree with that a lot. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to raise a program. Sometimes that community can be provided within a corporation itself, if the corporate community is large and diverse enough. This is true in some places, but is false more often than not.

However, this applies to the open source community as well - only a tiny fraction of open source programs (the "superstar children") attract the attention of the community and benefit. The rest are neglected and never really develop to their full potential. The ones that survive are usually the fittest in terms of usefulness and usability, but not always. It's certainly better than the corporate world though, where the specific people involved and politics have as much to do with the success of new ideas as actual usefulness.

I wonder how much of the politics is a result of long convoluted histories between individuals - these tend to develop (and fester) in corporate environments, since you're forced to work with people. In the open source community, there is no such restriction, so people can avoid building up a painful history that screws everybody over. Having a company large enough and giving the employees freedom to move around would solve this problem. It seems to have worked for Google at the developer level, but I'm sure a similar problem exists higher up in the corporate structure, where it's an even smaller group of people who are even more forced to work with each other. Hmm.

This post seems to have diverged quite a bit from my original topic... but something interesting to think about nonetheless.

Posted by GregT at 2007-06-30 19:11:53
Random file-system aside: I have it on good authority that the original NTFS was designed by two smart dudes (dude1, dude2) on a sail-boat. They knew roughly what they wanted to do, but spent two weeks isolated at sea working through the original specification.
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Posted by stak at 2007-06-30 22:43:42
That's pretty cool. You should add that to the Wikipedia articles :)
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Posted by varun at 2007-07-01 23:07:06
I'd heard that too! I've checked it on Snopes a couple of times, without success (it keeps editing NTFS to natives) :(

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