Short works

Books : reviews

Eric S. Raymond.
The New Hacker's Dictionary.
MIT Press. 1991

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 7 November 1998

If you work with computers at all, you need this hilarious and fascinating book, if only to understand what everyone around you is saying. I was surprised to discover how many of the words I already knew and used -- and delighted to discover their etymology. But I was slightly appalled that I hadn't even realised some were slang! (It was a bit like discovering how high my score was on the Nerd test.)

Eric S. Raymond.
The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
O'Reilly. 1999

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 5 June 2001

This is a fascinating and deeply thoughtful account of the Open Source phenomenon, why it works, and where it is going, by one of the "accidental leaders" of the movement. Raymond has written a series of essays over the last decade, examining the culture of open source software, the hacker culture out of which it grew, how that very culture is the thing that sustains it, and showing that it could be the way of the future.

It may seem heretical that the way to develop software is to make the source freely available to anyone and everyone. Raymond eloquently exposes the myths behind that thinking, and shows how and why Open Source can work to everyone's benefit, developer and customer alike. (Everyone who doesn't want utter and total world domination, that is.)

This is described as "a work in progress", and the latest version of the various essays are available at Raymond's site. This book version -- much easier to read in the bath or on the train -- is frozen in 1999, so doesn't have all the latest wrinkles: Y2K hasn't happened yet, for example. Never mind that. There's lots of stuff in here to severely shift your paradigms, if you thought the only way to make money from the software business was to sell bits. Read this, and discover there is another way, a way that's better for programmers and for customers alike.


A Brief History of Hackerdom. 1998
From the early days of the 1960s, up to the the appearance of Linux in the early 1990s
The Cathedral and the Bazaar. 1999
The difference between the closed source "factory" model, and open source "service" model of software production, and why the latter gives better quality software faster, how it side-steps Brookes' Law, and what kinds of software are best produced this way.
Homesteading the Noosphere. 1999
An anthropological look at hackers, an explanation of their behaviour in terms of standard Property Laws, and the discovery of "The Hacker Milieu as Gift Culture"
The Magic Cauldron. 1999
How to make money from open source software
The Revenge of the Hackers. 1998
The success of the Open Source movement in the 1990s, and where it might go from here