While attending the Open Source conference, I picked up the classic gem, The Cathedral & the Bazaar. I know, I know, it’s one of those things that should be required reading and a 30% discount from Powell’s finally caught my attention. While transiting around Portland, sitting in the airport and then on the way home, I plowed my way through the first half of it.
First, let me say that there’s some great stuff in here. It’s definitely worth the read. Secondly, it got me thinking.
Here’s the thought: a fully open-source wiki web application with both a “stable” and beta branch, patched daily by its users.
No, I’m not talking about project that implements a wiki like WikiMedia, I’m talking about web application (call it a site, if you like) that has open, editable source code just within reach. Users could edit the front-end and submit patches through a wiki interface after testing them in preview mode. Each day, submissions would be considered by a collection of leaders (either elected or a benign monarchy) and published to the beta.site.com half of the application. Publish early, publish often.
Technically its entirely feasible, but what’s the use? Well, take for example the 250 outstanding bugs on the current eBay site. Yep, there are 250 bugs out there that we know about and undoubtedly 4x that number of usability issues which don’t count as bugs. What if we opened up that bug list and let the community hack away at them?
If the idea strikes you as absolute lunacy, consider other notable achievements of open source movements, Linux and Firefox. Thousands of coders working separately were able to build a rock solid operating system and web browser, so why not an internet app? Isn’t it — after all — just an app, running across http?