My friend Nils Gilman posted a link to my FB page today from Discover Magazine, titled, "Long Live Closed-Source Software!" In the article, Jaron Lanier compares the the techniques and process of science to that of open source software. Lanier's argument is that because of the vast amounts of information that groups provide to an open source product, that often schedules and features get pushed to the wayside, and he feels that closed-source software projects tend to produce better results in the long run, as described here:
The open-source software community is simply too turbulent to focus its tests and maintain its criteria over an extended duration, and that is a prerequisite to evolving highly original things. There is only one iPhone, but there are hundreds of Linux releases. A closed-software team is a human construction that can tie down enough variables so that software becomes just a little more like a hardware chip—and note that chips, the most encapsulated objects made by humans, get better and better following an exponential pattern of improvement known as Moore’s law.
I do agree with some of this article and his statement to a certain extent, but what Lanier fails to discuss are the organizations around Open Source software that help to provide the infrastructure and the needs to actually deliver the software, such as the ASF. Eclipse is another example; although I find that Eclipse tends to be more vendor driven than Apache, which is the best example (IMHO) of a true community organization dedicated to delivering quality OSS.
Moreover, as the software products (and projects) become more popular, the demand for new releases and features increases, as does the requirement for better software (developed at a faster rate) from the open source development teams. That said, the projects that tend to be less popular will fall to the wayside - and that's where Lanier's point is clear - if a product/project isn't being accepted and used by the masses, then of course development won't be as structured or delivered on a timely basis as folks lose interest and developers decide to leave the project.
That's just my 2 cents. Bottom line, an interesting read. Check it out. /LC