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Old 10-08-2013, 12:20 PM   #1
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Open source is brutal: an interview with Google's Chris DiBona

Chris DiBona is the Director of Open Source for Google. He is also one of the great champions of open source, dating back to when he first fell in love with Linux at his university.

At the All Things Open conference this year, Chris will give an update on Google's current open source software activities and a retrospective, of sorts, on the origins and state of Android.

I caught up with him to discuss his favourite Linux distribution, the brutal nature of open source, and his view of Google's responsibilities as an industry leader.

You once called open source “brutal”. What did you mean by that?

Well, I think I was asked why open source works and when you think about how software engineering management works in industry, it shouldn't. Disparate, distributed, non-homogenous teams are extremely difficult to run in a company, but in open source it creates some world-class terrific software. Why is that?

I think that it is because open source projects are able to only work with the productive people and ignore everyone else. That behavior can come across as very harsh or exclusionary, and that's because it is that: brutally harsh and exclusionary of anyone who isn't contributing.

This is why project forking is so important. If a person is rejected from a project for whatever reason, they can fork and take the project in a new direction, and if their ideas and execution is superior to the primary project, that fork becomes the new reality and those people that rejected that developer are now the rejected.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that survival of the fittest as practiced in the open source world is a pretty brutal mechanism, but it works very very well for producing quality software. Boy is it hard on newcomers though...
The entire interview at

Old 10-08-2013, 03:39 PM   #2
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Interesting take, open source as survival of the fittest, although one topic not covered was motivation. A lot of open source is developed or maintained as a labour of love, as opposed to labouring for money. Money isn't a terrible motivator in that most professionals do excellent work for pay, but perhaps people work harder and longer for something they feel passionate about and not just because it is a job. Of course those two things aren't exclusive, but it is possibly another reason why disparate teams in open source work better than their corporate colleagues.


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