From the hacker culture to see the self-organization and success of the blockchain open source community

Written by: Li Painting

Original author: Eric Steven Raymond

Source: Chain smell

In the blockchain world, open source more often means that code can be accessed publicly, and open source brings "trust"; at a deeper level, open source refers to a way of software development that wants to bring It is "freedom" and "efficiency."

Open source is not just for us to see the code, it is to let us use the code – and the latter is the real "magic" of open source, or power.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar is an excellent book on open source culture. It is also known as the Declaration of Independence of the Open Source Movement. The book's author, Eric Steven Raymond, is one of the main leaders of the open source movement. He tells us about the hacker culture behind open source thinking and analyzes the success of the market model. The reasons for this and summed up some of the business models of open source development.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

This article is a refinement of the book "Cathedrals and Markets", all of which are derived from the original work. I hope that this content will help us to think about the self-organizing form of the blockchain open source community and how it can be successful.

Remember, the open source community does not complete the code open source, it is a gift culture market that requires enthusiasm, wisdom and effort to achieve.

Eric Stephen Raymond, author of "Cathedrals and Fairs"

First, a brief history of hacker culture

For many years, a group of dynamic proponents of the Internet have been pursuing, realizing and cherishing open source ideas. These people are proud of calling themselves "hackers." The hacker mentioned here is not the name of the computer criminals who are now abused, but the genius inventors, problem solvers and technical experts. A vandal that uses a network to invade other systems should be called a "cracker."

The origin of the hacker culture can be roughly located in 1961. That year, MIT had the first PDP-1 (Program Data Processor No. 1), and the technical model railway club regarded this machine as their favorite. The technological toys, and thus invented a series of programming tools, proverbs and cultural atmosphere that is still faintly identifiable today.

In 1982, Richard Matthew Stallman, the iconic human physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI lab (people in the open source community also liked to call him "rms") began to rebuild the entire C language. The cloning of UNIX and free distribution, this is the well-known GUN operating system. GUN quickly became the focus of hacking activities. In fact, for about a decade or so, the Free Software Foundation, established by Stallman, largely defined the public ideology of hacker culture.

Richard Stallman

In 1991, Linus Benedict Torvalds began developing a free UNIX kernel for the 386 machine. He quickly succeeded and attracted hackers on the Internet who helped Linus together. Developing Linux: A full-featured UNIX, the source code is completely free and can be released again. This time, Linux and the Internet led the hacker culture from the edge of public awareness to today's prominent position, and hacker culture began to reshape the world of business software from its own point of view.

The most important feature of Linux is not technical, but sociological.

Before Linux was developed, everyone thought that if the software was so complex to the operating system, it would have to have a well-coordinated team that was small, tightly interactive, with centralized management and rigorous processes. Just like building a cathedral, it is crafted by the hands of the experts. This is a typical development model, both before and now.

Linux has developed a completely different path from the very beginning, and its development is more like the random work of a large number of volunteers who only work through the Internet. In terms of quality, it doesn't have strict standards, and there isn't a strong organization to manage. It just performs a simple, somewhat childish strategy: weekly release, and gets feedback from hundreds of users in the next few days. Linux has created a selection mechanism similar to Darwin's natural selection. The object of choice is the software modifications made by the developers.

To everyone's surprise, this way works very well. At the end of 1993, Linux was comparable in stability and reliability to many commercial UNIX and supported much more software than commercial UNIX, and some commercial applications began to be considered for porting to Linux.

In the late 1990s, the activity center of the hacker circle was to develop Linux and promote the Internet. After the Internet became mainstream, the hacker culture began to be respected and had a certain political influence. Between 1994 and 1995, it was precisely because of the massive protests by hackers that the Clipper proposal, which tried to place strong encryption algorithms under the control of the US government, ended in vain. In 1996, hackers mobilized a broad alliance, which led to the abolition of the Communication Appropriation Act, which prevented the government from censoring the Internet.

With the victory in the "Communication Eligibility Act", the hacker culture has moved from history to the present.

Second, why does the market model work?

In the Linux community, the quietness and devoutness of not building a cathedral is more like a messy big market, open to almost chaotic, full of different plans and methods, and stable and consistent. An operating system was born.

Why is the Linux world not being torn apart in chaos, but instead becoming more powerful at a speed unimaginable by cathedral builders?

In fact, the market model of open source development really works. Eric Raymond summed up the reasons for the market model to work from Linux and his own popclient open source project:

  • Why is the average quality of original software in the Linux community so high? Because good software works often come from the personal needs of developers. But in the cathedral mode, too many software developers don't need or love the software they are developing. They treat programming as a chores, just for pay.
  • It's more feasible to find some good enough code written by others from the Linux world up to a few T bytes of open source, and sharing code makes code reuse very convenient. A very important feature of a great programmer is "constructive laziness," starting with a partially viable solution is much easier than starting from scratch.
  • If there are enough beta testers and development collaborators, almost all the problems in the software will appear very quickly, and then someone will naturally solve it. This is called the Linux law by the author, and it tells the most crucial difference between the cathedral model and the bazaar model:

In the eyes of the cathedral builders, the bugs are tricky and hard to find, and it takes a few months of careful inspection to get a little confidence to release. The longer the release interval, the more disappointing people are if the version is not perfect.

For the market model, it is completely different. Many users of open source projects are hackers themselves. Because they can get the source code, these hackers can effectively shorten the troubleshooting time. Just give them a little encouragement and they will help you find them. Questions, give suggestions and help improve the code, which is much faster than doing it yourself.

If you want to improve the quality of your code quickly and effectively debug it, it is the most worry-free way to treat users as development partners. The more users, the more effective it is against the complexity of the system.

  • Developers and testers have a mismatched mindset of the program, the programmer looks from the inside out, and the tester looks from the outside to the inside. Open source breaks this dilemma. Since everyone has real source code, it is easy for both parties to develop a shared expression model and communicate effectively. In fact, a bug report that only describes externally visible symptoms, and an analytical bug report that is directly related to the source code, is a far cry from the developer.
  • "Brooks Law" says, "Adding staff to an already extended project will only make the project more extended." It points to the fundamental problem of traditional software development in organizational structure: as the number of developers grows, the complexity of the project And the cost of communication increases by the square of the number of people, but the results of the work will only increase linearly. In open source projects, peripheral developers actually work on decentralized and parallel subtasks, and only in that small core team will there be Brooks overhead.

The above is the main reason why Linux's market model works. This open source development method is Linus's most intelligent and valuable achievement. This approach has enabled thousands of developers scattered around the world to use their spare time, just through the fragile cooperation of the Internet, to create a world-class operating system.

Third, how to achieve the success of the open source community

What are the preconditions for the market model to work?

First of all, it is clear that you can't implement the market model from scratch. From the very beginning of the developer community, you need something that you can run and test. The program doesn't need to be particularly good at this time, but it must at least: 1. Be able to run; 2. Let potential co-developers believe that this software can evolve into a great thing for the foreseeable future.

Second, in order to build a development community, you need to engage people and make them interested in what you do, so the personality traits of the project coordinator or leader are important; in addition, whether the coordinator has excellent original design capabilities may not be decisive. Factors, but whether he can identify other people's excellent ideas must be the most critical.

Next, and perhaps most importantly, the open source community of Linux was successful because it created an efficient "egoboo" market. Egoboo is the abbreviation of "ego boosting", which stands for "personal promotion in the community": Linux hackers are committed to project development in the open source community, not for the economic value of the classic sense, but for self-satisfaction and Hackers pretend to be intangible.

Some people refer to this kind of motive as "altruism", but in fact, "altruism" itself is an external manifestation of the self-satisfaction of the altruist. It is a kind of "self-interest" that is not conscious. Therefore, the operation of the Linux world is like a free market in many aspects, or like an ecosystem composed of many self-interested individuals. Every individual in the system pursues the maximization of its own utility. In the process of its symbiosis, it naturally establishes a An order with self-correcting ability that is more subtle and efficient than any centralized planning.

The egoboo market puts the hacker's self-interested motives as firmly as possible on a difficult mission goal and achieves the goal with the continued cooperation of all.

The hacker culture is the real motivation to create an effective egoboo market and gain the success of the open source community. So in the next section, we discuss the hacker's "gift culture", which presents the face: participants pay time and energy And creativity, a culture of prestige/reputation in competition.

Most human organizational models are designed to accommodate scarcity and scarcity. The simplest organizational model is the command system. Scarce goods are centrally distributed and backed by force. The most common organizational model is the exchange of economic systems. Scarce goods are mainly distributed through trade and resource cooperation. Most people have both mental models and understand how they interact.

However, there is a completely different organizational model that most people don't quite understand and the above two categories: gift culture. Gift culture is not an adaptation to material scarcity. It is ample adaptation to material. Attention, abundance makes the command relationship difficult to maintain, and the exchange relationship becomes meaningless. Therefore, in the gift culture, social status (human competition for social status has a natural internal drive, it is rooted in the human heart through evolution) does not depend on what you control, but what you give.

Why is this gift culture of "giving" embodied in the hacker culture as "acquisition"? The main reason is that the gifts given by hackers are very complicated. Compared with other gifts, their value is difficult to evaluate. It can only subtly depend on the evaluation of their peers. In addition, most gift cultures will have compromises, such as clan alliances, but There is no similar compromise in the open source culture. That is to say, in order to gain status, there is no more way than the reputation of the same.

Therefore, the way in which the social status of the gift culture is obtained and the particularity of the hacker's gift make the hacker pursue the prestige in the peers. Prestige is the most basic kind of incentive for them.

In addition to being an incentive, reputation is also a way to attract attention and cooperation. In the pure gift economy, this may be the only way; in addition, if the gift economy and the exchange economy and the command system are interrelated, then the prestige may be from the former environment. Spread to the latter two environments, so that hackers can get a higher status in another mode.

This is the "prestige" motivation of open source development itself, and the key to the success of the open source community.

Finally, it is simply mentioned that creative products will gain more reputation than incremental improvements to existing software products; it is easier to achieve gaps in the field than competing with mature projects; New projects that contribute to existing projects are more likely to attract attention. As a result, open source projects tend to fill in the functional gaps in the frontier areas (some of which are very successful projects). From a global perspective, “category killers” and “filling in gaps” are the general trends in the development of open source projects.


Fourth, the profit mechanism of open source development

The market model works well in software development, but how can this model survive in a realistic exchange economy? In other words, how does this model make money?

The first thing we need to pay attention to is that computer programs have two different economic values: sales value and use value. The sales value is the value of it as a tradable commodity. The value of use is its economic value as a tool and a productivity multiplier.

For a long time, people tend to assume that software has the value characteristics of bulk goods, that is, that most developers' salaries are paid by software sales value, and software development investment is proportional to software sales value. But in fact, this understanding is wrong. The code that is written for sale is just the tip of the programming iceberg, and most of the work that pays programmers is "maintenance."

In other words, the software industry is largely a service industry, and the value of use is the main driver of software development. In the process of moving from closed source to open source, the only threat is sales value, not really important use value.

If open source development is more efficient and faster than closed source, as discussed in the previous section, we should be able to continue to fund open source development by using only value. In the book, Eric summarizes the five economic models of open source development and believes that there will be more models in the future:

  • The software is free and the service is charged. Also described as sending a razor, selling blades. Open source software will have a strong market effect, and open source software is the market for services. This is what Red Hat and other Linux publishers are doing: what they really sell is not software, but the added value they provide.
  • The software is free and the brand charges. You can open source a software technology, retain its test suite or compatibility standards, and then sell brand certification. If a company's products are certified, it means that their implementation of the technology is compatible with other products that have the brand certification.
  • The software is free and the content is charged. Imagine a service like a stock quote subscription, whose value is neither on the client nor on the server side, but in providing objective and credible information, so you can open source software and sell content subscriptions. When hackers port their clients to the new platform, the market will naturally expand.
  • The current charge is free in the future. The source code of the software is released in the form of a closed license, but the closed terms have an expiration date. The benefit of this model is that it convinced the customer that the product is customizable and always available, because they have source code and the open source community can take over.
  • Dominate the market. Use open source software to establish or maintain the market position of proprietary software. The most common form is open source client software to help sell server-side software.

Although the hacker is still widely rumored by the hacker's hostility to the market, most hackers are happy to work with the business world. It is necessary to talk about the real reason why hackers are dissatisfied with the direct charge type license. This problem is subtle and interesting.

The first reason is related to "equivalence," and most open source developers hope that no one will profit from a privileged position. The second reason is related to "unintentional consequences." If you restrict the use/sales/modification/release of software, it will impose a legal shadow on the release of certain activities, such as open source software. People need to be careful to prevent those. Potential legal risks.

The last and most critical reason is that if a license is designed to capture sales value, it will usually legally make the project impossible to branch. This is what hackers never agree, and this is why Sun's community source license scheme for Java and Jini is widely rejected by the open source community.

No one in the hacker community would like to see the project split into competing lines of development. People don't want to use the power of the branch, but if someone tries to take it away, it must be a very dangerous signal.

These three reasons explain some of the terms of the "open source" definition, which express the consensus of the hacker community and are standard features such as GPL and BSD licenses.


Five, hacker attitude

Hacker culture and hacking bring the open source movement, understanding the hacker spirit, is the key to understanding why the open source model works and how the open source community can succeed. For anyone who wants to work and live in the future, it is meaningful to know some hacker culture.

Another interesting thing is that hacker spirit is not limited to software culture. The nature of hackers is actually independent of the work they are doing. People use hacker attitudes in other things, such as electronics or music, science or art. The attitude of the hacker may mainly include the following points:

  • I think this world is full of fascinating questions waiting for people to solve. To be a hacker, you must have a basic sense of excitement in solving problems, sharpening skills and intellectual challenges.
  • You have to believe that creative mind is a precious and precious resource. The time of thinking of other hackers is so valuable that it is almost your moral obligation to share information, solve problems and give solutions to other hackers. In this way, other hackers You can solve new problems.
  • Believing that boredom and boring are not only bad, but also harmful.
  • Freedom is a good thing. No matter where there is an authoritarian tendency, you must fight against it so that they do not oppress you and other hackers. Abuse authorities rely on censorship and confidentiality. They don't trust voluntary cooperation and information sharing. They only like cooperation under their control. To behave like a hacker, there must be an intuitive resentment about censorship, confidentiality, and the use of force or deception.
  • Attitude cannot replace ability. To be a hacker, you need wisdom, practice, commitment and effort.

In contrast to these points, are you a hacker?

Eric Stephen Raymond dedicated "The Cathedral and the Market" to Robert Anson Heinlein, a great science fiction writer, and quoted Heinlein's words to open the book.

This sentence is said: "To respect ability, to cherish and defend freedom." Let us use this sentence as the end of this article.

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