Eric Raymond's tips for effective open source advocacy

By Rick Moen, |  Development

If anyone is qualified to tell us how to effectively lobby for the wider adoption of open-source software, it's Eric S. Raymond. After being propelled -- much to his surprise -- to sudden global prominence in 1998 through his involvement in inspiring and launching the Mozilla Project, Raymond found himself the de facto spokesman for an entire movement, observed that he was fairly good about it, and so set about explaining how and why. He briefed a large audience at the recent LinuxWorld Conference & Expo on these happenings, and on how the rest of us might do likewise, in a talk entitled "Meme Hacking for Fun and Profit."

Eric's first step was to figure out why the 1998 effort suddenly worked, making business interested in our community's software model, after nearly two decades of entirely futile attempts. It wasn't easy.

In May of 1997, Eric published an essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" (CatB), explaining his theories of how free software (the only term for it, then) gets created, and why the process creates such good software so quickly, based on his experience managing a piece of utility software called Fetchmail (see Resources). This socio-technical analysis, while written to be accessible to a nontechnical audience, succeeded only in generating acclaim among propeller-beanie Linux users -- preaching to the choir. Eric remained better known as Guy Steele's successor in editing the MIT Jargon File, one of the cornerstones of "hackish" (computer programmer) culture, and as mastermind of the shadowy, tongue-in-cheek (or so They would have us think) Eric Conspiracy -- until January 23, 1998.

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