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1. The bazaar1 is blind. The cathedral is deaf. Only together can they hear and see. Projects need people with a vision, who can see further, for the project to not degrade into a formless lump. These editors or “benevolent dictators” need help and input: they still can not see far enough, because giants block their view. Help is however difficult to get, for there is an antagonism between the cathedral and the bazaar, between the unique one and the herd. The FOSS herd – the uninformed sum total of the desires of the occupants of the bazaar – wants to turn everything into formless mass consumer products with every imaginable bell and whistle. It is short-sighted, and can only do things based on the “worse is better” fallacy.
2. The bazaar has no standards. It does not like cathedrals with high standards. Authors who do not straightforwardly approve bad patches and extensions, and ask contributors to improve them, find that the contributors disappear or threaten with a fork. Even when the contributions are approved, the contributors disappear into the bazaar, and expect the cathedral to maintain the code. This lack of standards is epidemic in the wikisphere, and the average wiki is a good indicator of what authentic bazaarian software development would produce.
3. The bazaar can be destroyed by the weakest of storms. A cathedral can stand for centuries. A partial solution the previous problem is provided by dynamically loadable program modules. But the herd does not want to do the bit of extra work for properly modularised code; it wants quick and dirty hacks, that do the job now, without regard for future maintainability. When the source code is available, it is too easy to just hack it, instead of taking a more manageable and rigorous approach.
4. The bazaar is powerful. It can topple the cathedral. The herd has the power realise its short-sighted goals, to sideline those who do not go with the herd. But how will it navigate the endless sprawl of the bazaar without such landmarks as cathedrals in the midst? Where will it run, when it starts to rain? Being blind, such thoughts do not cross the minds of these occupants of the bazaar when engaged in the destruction of cathedrals.
5. The bazaar is uncritical. It likes all cathedrals with neon signs. The herd has no taste: for it, every feature is for the better. It's a sad state of affairs when essential core software is created and adopted in the following fashion:
Developer: “I just created this essential piece of software according to a tunnel vision, the worse-is-better fallacy, and several misjudgements.”
The herd, in chorus: “Oooh! Shiny! Let's adopt it!”
And once the herd is content, the ad hoc hack never gets fixed. GNU/Linux is a clusterfuck of such decisions.
6. The bazaar underestimates effort. Cathedrals are hard to build. “You have the binary, you can crack it.” Does that sound familiar? No? How about? “It's free software, you can fix or implement what you want.” These two statements are fundamentally the same: they expect that you have the time and skill to modify the software to your needs. That it is easier when the source is out in the open – and it doesn't even have to be “free” or “open source” – is just a detail. Nevertheless, the uncritical free software and open source advocates often resort to this argument when their software is found flawed. It is true, the herd of the bazaar indeed has the power to modify software to its liking – to the shoddy least common denominator product that herd desires are for. It is even possible for the unique one to set up a shop within the bazaar, providing minor improvements to a few of the bazaar's shoddy products. But to build a cathedral providing treatments to all the ills of the bazaar – that demands more effort than the herd can appreciate. There is no practical choice but to use the shoddy products of the bazaar. In the present state of affairs, for those not of the herd, the only choice – the only practical freedom – in free software, is the choice not to use it.
7. The bazaar knows no courtesy. Yet it expects cathedrals to do its bidding. The middlemen known as “distributions” have effective control over the software that people install. Authors can not hope to compete with the juggernaut distributions' easily installable packages, the only practical2 method for them to distribute their software being laboursome source packages that users must hunt down from the Web. These distributions that the herd runs, have no regard for the author: they do whatever they please, and often represent the work in a bad light. They modify the software significantly, and still claim it to be the original. They provide old buggy versions and even out-dated development snapshots for years without prominent version qualifiers, and expect the author to deal with the users having problems with the bugs and incompatibilities in these versions.
8. The bazaar has no and many languages. For cathedrals, it has none. The FOSS herd is impossible to work with. It does not merely lack basic communication skills: often it appears to lack the whole notion of communication. There's no broad-based discussion of big changes in core software, affecting almost every program, user, and developer. Small elites with their own languages write their code and specifications in their neon light cathedrals, and the herd uncritically adopts the results, without regard and discussion of other alternatives, opinions, desires, and tastes. The herd never tries to find a solution that everyone could live with. It does not even consult authors when corrupting their work, and in doing so also engages in fraud and deception: it does not even bother to communicate how it has modified the work.
9. The bazaar has an idée fixe. All cathedrals must serve it. Exchange of thoughts is great, but it is not easy for authors to even communicate their desires to the herd, let alone get any decent feedback. Sometimes it has to be forced, as people only tend to do things differently under constraints. But when one dares to oppose these counterfeit rackets, to try to preserve an oasis in the midst of the filthy bazaar, they commence what can be best described as a medieval witch-hunt: “You're not true to the spirit of open source! Burn!”. The FOSS herd has a religion: it is fundamentalist in what software licenses it considers acceptable. The FOSS ideology overruns all concerns, and even choice can be given up in exchange for world domination by software that the herd considers “free”. Authors in particular may ask nothing of the herd. If they dare to take the last available measure, and change the license, the fundamentalists cry that the software is not “free” and still refuse to distribute the author's version of the software, even when they still can modify it, provided that they stop lying. Therefore, the source code being out in the open works great only as long as one goes with the herd, or only deals with reasonably cooperative people. But once the herd finds the work and does not agree with the author, guided by its ideology, it just takes the work, and supplants it through its powerful distributions, without trying to resolve the larger issues.
10. We are the bazaar. You will isolate into a cathedral. There's little point in writing “free software” in this kind of environment, where the rest of the codebase keeps rotting to the core, and where you can't get your work as you intended it easily available in an up-to-date manner; where the herd simply uses you as a workhorse for its own forks. The benefits of the code being out in the open are not worth the trouble this causes when you don't go with the herd, and include every single patch it throws at you. You might just as well write closed source software to get rid of the trouble, and still get the proper credit for your work.
1 I do not claim to be using these terms exactly in the sense of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. I have not even bothered reading the essay, but from what I know, my bazaar is likely to be an extreme – but real – version, whereas my cathedral may be a milder version. You might compare the cathedral with the ivory tower.
2 Yes, I am aware of autopackage. It seems a poor, hacky approach compared to the package systems of some distributions – that also could be improved – and, most importantly, does not provide an easy single-command-fetch-and-install distribution mechanism. I may be communicating some related ideas in the future.