Quick Review of Nadia Eghbal's "Working In Public"

Working In Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software is a detailed look at the Open Source movement. The author has years of experience at GitHub, the most popular platform for Open Source Software development. This leads to a bit of cheerleading for GitHub. That may make the earlier parts a bit “Rah Rah” for some.

Otherwise, her treatment is detailed, follows current economic and social thinking in its analysis and conclusions. It is well worth reading for the careful analysis and its clarity. On the other hand, it never strays from the current narrative of the Computer Science “Industrial Complex.”

Eghbal is careful to frequently refer to “dependencies”, “infrastructure”, and “entropy.” These are careful but limited references to the deeper issue of the “Systems Effects” of uncoordinatted software evolution. Seemingly unrelated changes often have ramifications that trigger mandatory adaptations in existing software. Open Source projects are often quite capricious with changes that have serious and, potentially, expensive implications for their users.

Eghbal can fob this off as entropy. She can forgive such disrespect on the basis of “innovation.” Her book is about the heroic innovators, their communities, and the economic and social problems of the Open Source “contributors.” Not about its ultimate impact on the IT landscape. The flip side continues to beg for a book of equally thoughtful treatment of the impact on Open Source Software to its users.

By @COBOLworx Team in
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