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Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project [Paperback]

Karl Fogel
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 17 2005 0596007590 978-0596007591 1

The corporate market is now embracing free, "open source" software like never before, as evidenced by the recent success of the technologies underlying LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). Each is the result of a publicly collaborative process among numerous developers who volunteer their time and energy to create better software.

The truth is, however, that the overwhelming majority of free software projects fail. To help you beat the odds, O'Reilly has put together Producing Open Source Software, a guide that recommends tried and true steps to help free software developers work together toward a common goal. Not just for developers who are considering starting their own free software project, this book will also help those who want to participate in the process at any level.

The book tackles this very complex topic by distilling it down into easily understandable parts. Starting with the basics of project management, it details specific tools used in free software projects, including version control, IRC, bug tracking, and Wikis. Author Karl Fogel, known for his work on CVS and Subversion, offers practical advice on how to set up and use a range of tools in combination with open mailing lists and archives. He also provides several chapters on the essentials of recruiting and motivating developers, as well as how to gain much-needed publicity for your project.

While managing a team of enthusiastic developers -- most of whom you've never even met -- can be challenging, it can also be fun. Producing Open Source Software takes this into account, too, as it speaks of the sheer pleasure to be had from working with a motivated team of free software developers.


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About the Author

In 1995, Karl Fogel co-founded Cyclic Software, a company offering commercial CVS support. In 1999 he added support for CVS anonymous read-only repository access, inaugurating a new standard for access to development sources in open source projects. That same year, he wrote "Open Source Development With CVS" (published by Coriolis), now in its third edition via Paraglyph Press.Since early 2000, he has worked for CollabNet, Inc, managing the creation and development of Subversion, a version control system written from scratch by CollabNet and a team of open source volunteers, and meant to replace CVS as the de facto standard among open source projects. He also participates in various other open source projects as a module maintainer, patch contributor, and documentation writer.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
If you're the lead developer or project manager looking to start an open source project this is a book provides a great overview. From understanding the politics involved in open source projects to providing suggestions for technologies you need to succeed, this one does have it covered.

If you're reading from the context of a business person trying to understand different monetization models of open source projects, this may not be the book for you. Licensing and revenue models are covered almost as an after thought though there are a few good facts that can point you in the right direction (e.g. dual licensing schemes).

Overall, a good book regardless of your background if you're looking to understand open source projects and whether you should go forward with one.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for getting off on the right foot... Nov. 8 2005
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Seems like everyone wants to have a open source project these days. But it's not as easy to run a successful project as you might think. In order to get started on the right foot and increase your chance of success, I would recommend reading Karl Fogel's Producing Open Source Software - How To Run A Successful Free Software Project.

Contents: Introduction; Getting Started; Technical Infrastructure; Social and Political Infrastructure; Money; Communications; Packaging, Releasing, and Daily Development; Managing Volunteers; Licenses, Copyrights, and Patents; Free Version Control Systems; Free Bug Trackers; Why Should I Care What Color the Bikeshed Is?; Example Instructions for Reporting Bugs; Index

Fogel definitely has the "cred" to write this book. He's spent five years working on the Subversion open source version control system. While not (yet?) the default open source version control system out there, it's rapidly gaining traction. As a result, you figure that Fogel and company must have done a few things right along the way. He does a very nice job in explaining what makes for a successful open source project in terms of tools, structure, and most importantly, culture. He identifies open source projects that have successfully created a culture that encourages participation without dictatorial control. He even addresses how to deal with people issues like monopolizing discussion boards. Those are items that most techies aren't good at, and having a guide like this is priceless.

At times the book seems to be rather dense, as in a lot of text with little to break it up. I think it's because there's no real use of graphics or code samples to a large degree. I wouldn't expect it in a book like this, either. But still, it's just one of those things that came to mind as I was reading it. If you have the same nagging feeling and can quickly identify it, then it's easy to deal with the problem.

Very valuable information, all condensed into a single volume for easy reference. I'd maintain that anyone looking to start an open source project with hopes of long-term viability would do well to read and digest this book before starting. You'll make fewer false starts and raise your chances of success...
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide for anyone interested in contributing to or running an open source project Nov. 3 2005
By Andrew Stellman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Karl Fogel does a fantastic job of covering everything you need to know about open source projects. It contains everything you need to know about contributing to an open source projects: how to interact with other contributors, working with version control, contributing code, etc. He also provides an excellent guide for running an open source project. The book covers a great deal of ground, giving excellent advice on a wide range of topics: selecting a license; maintaining a mailing list, defect tracking system and version control repository; providing a website; interacting with committers; dealing with technical people; gathering consensus; and understanding important project management concepts. Karl is a veteran of several highly visible and widely used open source projects, and clearly draws on his extensive experiences (both positive and negative). The style is pleasantly conversational, and it's clear that he really knows what he's talking about and is speaking from a position of authority.

(Full Disclosure: I was a technical reviewer for this book, and was thoroughly impressed with it while reviewing it.)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tons of insight and practical advice Jan. 23 2006
By Eric Jain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Didn't expect much useful information. But somehow this guy manages to talk about soft issues such as communication and politics without getting lost in the clouds. The book is more of a field guide than an anthropological study, so instead of speculation about what keeps participants motivated, you'll find practical advice how to keep people motivated and how to deal with specific problems. Should be read not only by people running open source projects, but by anyone who is somehow involved in an open source projects, and perhaps by everyone doing software development, too!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A developer's perspective that works for both developers and managers March 25 2009
By Michael Tiemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Karl Fogel has the right credentials for the subject of producing open source software. His technical background and entrepreneurial experience help provide informed insight about the very real trade-offs that every developer must face in order to write the best code, appeal to the most users/customers, keep a project on track, and build enough credibility and capital to be able to do it again better the next time.

I would rate this book a *must read* for open source project leaders and product/project managers who have a substantial interest in succeeding with open source software. I would rate this book a *good to read* for developers who want to better understand what their project managers and leaders are trying to manage.

One of the best aspects of this book is the fact that it was developed and published by folks who really understand open source software, and who will, when the time is right, issue a revised and updated edition when sufficient constructive feedback/learning experiences have been received. This continuous community relationship is why this book is a *must read* for managers: it is the best of its class, and even if you disagree with some aspect of it, you can hash that out in public and expect your criticism to be dealt with in future editions. If you don't read it, you can't criticize it, and it won't be better for you the next time around.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good insights but dated Nov. 10 2012
By Broadmeadow - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
There is a lot of good experiential knowledge in this book and I'm glad I picked it up. However, some of the more pragmatic aspects of open source projects like the hosts, mailing lists, IM, bug tracking, version control and that sort are dated. The author could restore this book to top flight status if he just took the time to update these elements. It'd take him all of one week, if that.
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