Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL)

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pages: 266 words: 79,297

Forge Your Future with Open Source by VM (Vicky) Brasseur

AGPL, anti-pattern, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), call centre, continuous integration, Debian, DevOps, don't repeat yourself, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Guido van Rossum, Internet Archive, Larry Wall, microservices, Perl 6, premature optimization, pull request, Richard Stallman, risk tolerance, Turing machine

The relatively small size and scope allow an atomic commit to be reviewed more easily and thoroughly and is easier to roll back should something go wrong. Both the review and the easy rollback mitigate the risk of fatal bugs slipping into the project. BDFL Short for Benevolent Dictator For Life. BDFLs are rare in FOSS but they do exist. For example, Guido van Rossum was the BDFL of Python and Dries Buytaert is the BDFL of Drupal. A BDFL is typically the founder of the project. They have final say in and can veto all decisions related to the project, but it’s very rare that they use this power. Typically a BDFL will lean on the Benevolent part of the title by seeking consensus and always working toward what’s best for both the project and its community. birds of a feather Also known as BoF or Open Space. A BoF is an informal gathering of people interested in a similar topic.

At the core of nearly every project, you find the leadership. While the project founder often is a part of the leadership, it’s not uncommon that the founder has gone on to other things and left the project in the capable hands of other people. Sometimes a founder takes on the role Benevolent Dictator For Life, or as its more commonly known, BDFL. If the project has a BDFL, then when someone says, “The buck stops here,” the role of “here” is played by the BDFL. This person has final say in and can veto all decisions. Typically, though, all leaders of FOSS projects—BDFL or otherwise—work toward consensus rather than impose their authority (hence the benevolent part of the title). One step removed from the core of the community onion, you’ll find the core contributors. These are typically the most senior or most experienced people in the project.

These processes are not limited to the mechanical “create contribution-review contribution-merge contribution” development steps, though they’re certainly important to perform openly and in the public eye. The processes also include the product management and roadmap of the project. You may be used to guiding the project in whatever direction makes the most sense for you and your purposes, but once you release it and have users, that guiding must shift to what makes the most sense for the community. While a few large project communities are able to get away with having a Benevolent Dictator for Life, even they don’t unilaterally impose their will upon the direction of the project features and instead consider the overall good to the project and the community. Releasing a project implies to the community that you’re open to collaborations of all sorts. They will expect to have input into the direction of the project and the ability to shape that direction through their contributions.


pages: 1,136 words: 73,489

Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software by Nadia Eghbal

Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), bitcoin, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, commoditize, continuous integration, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Heinemeier Hansson, death of newspapers, Debian, disruptive innovation, en.wikipedia.org, Ethereum, Firefox, Guido van Rossum, Hacker Ethic, Induced demand, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, Jean Tirole, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Kubernetes, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Network effects, node package manager, Norbert Wiener, pirate software, pull request, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, Ruby on Rails, side project, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, two-sided market, urban planning, web application, wikimedia commons, Zimmermann PGP

In response to a question about Nvidia’s lack of support for Linux (Nvidia is a manufacturer of graphics processing units, or GPUs), he turned to the camera, gave it the middle finger, and growled, “Nvidia, fuck you!”21 It’s not just Torvalds’s communication skills but also his governance style that helped him gain notoriety. In one of his essays, Raymond called this style “benevolent dictator,”23 which was later adapted by Guido van Rossum, author of the Python programming language, into the better-known phrase “Benevolent Dictator for Life” (BDFL), to describe authors of open source projects who retain control even as the project grows. Although the Linux Foundation reports more than 14,000 contributors to the Linux kernel since 2005,24 Torvalds is still the only person who’s allowed to merge those contributions into the main project.25 Although there is no shortage of memorable hacker personalities, the free and early open source ethos is also defined by a startling lack of interest in its people.

For example, while Sebastian McKenzie, also known as kittens, authored Babel, he is no longer a maintainer of the project.145 Conversely, not all maintainers are necessarily authors, and who is considered a maintainer may change over the life of the project. Some of these transitions occur after the contributor community has reached a certain size. Jacob Kaplan-Moss and Adrian Holovaty, who authored Django, retired as BDFLs (“Benevolent Dictators for Life”) after nine years, with Jacob explaining that “the longer I observe the Django community, the more I realize that our community doesn’t need [us].”146 Maintainer transitions occur even in smaller projects. Urllib3, a Python HTTP library, has announced multiple “lead maintainer” transitions over its ten years of development.147 Its author, Andrey Petrov, explains that “handing over the reins of a project is a natural part of a successful project.”148 If they are not the original author, a maintainer may not have commit or administrative rights, which can lead to exactly the problems one might expect.

(Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1995), 32. 141 “Teams,” Django Software Foundation, accessed March 31, 2020, https://www.djangoproject.com/foundation/teams/. 142 Caddyserver / Caddy, GitHub, accessed March 31, 2020, https://github.com/caddyserver/caddy. 143 Spencer Heath MacCallum, The Art of Community (Menlo Park, CA: Institute for Humane Studies, 1970), 63–67. 144 MacCallum, The Art of Community, 63. 145 “Meet the Team,” Babel, accessed March 31, 2020, https://babeljs.io/team. 146 Jacob Kaplan-Moss, “Retiring as BDFLs,” Jacob Kaplan-Moss (blog), January 13, 2014, https://jacobian.org/2014/jan/13/retiring-as-bdfls/. 147 Urllib3, GitHub, accessed March 13, 2020, https://github.com/urllib3/urllib3/. 148 Andrey Petrov, “How to Hand over an Open Source Project to a New Maintainer,” Medium, February 9, 2018, https://medium.com/@shazow/how-to-hand-over-an-open-source-project-to-a-new-maintainer-db433aaf57e8. 149 Klint Finley, “Giving Open-Source Projects Life after a Developer’s Death,” Wired, November 6, 2017, https://www.wired.com/story/giving-open-source-projects-life-after-a-developers-death/. 150 Alanna Irving, “Funding Open Source: How Webpack Reached $400k+/Year,” Open Collective, October 23, 2017, https://medium.com/open-collective/funding-open-source-how-webpack-reached-400k-year-dfb6d8384e19. 151 Christopher Hiller, Nadia Eghbal, and Mikeal Rogers, “Maintaining a Popular Project and Managing Burnout with Christopher Hiller,” Request for Commits, podcast audio, November 1, 2017, https://changelog.com/rfc/15. 152 Ayrton Sparling (FallingSnow), “I Dont Know What to Say,” Event-stream Issues, GitHub, November 20, 2018, https://github.com/dominictarr/event-stream/issues/116. 153 Dominic Tarr (dominictarr), “Statement on Event-Stream Compromise,” Dominictarr / Readme.md Code, GitHub, November 26, 2018, https://gist.github.com/dominictarr/9fd9c1024c94592bc7268d36b8d83b3a. 154 Felix Geisendörfer, “The Pull Request Hack,” Felix Geisendörfer (blog), March 11, 2013, https://felixge.de/2013/03/11/the-pull-request-hack.html. 155 Na Sun, Patrick Pei-Luen Rau, and Liang Ma, “Understanding Lurkers in Online Communities: A Literature Review,” Computers in Human Behavior, no. 38 (September 2014): 110–117, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214003008. 156 Kraut and Resnick, Building Successful Online Communities, 63. 157 Andrew J.


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Common Knowledge?: An Ethnography of Wikipedia by Dariusz Jemielniak

Andrew Keen, barriers to entry, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), citation needed, collaborative consumption, collaborative editing, conceptual framework, continuous integration, crowdsourcing, Debian, deskilling, digital Maoism, en.wikipedia.org, Filter Bubble, Google Glasses, Guido van Rossum, Hacker Ethic, hive mind, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, job satisfaction, Julian Assange, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Menlo Park, moral hazard, online collectivism, pirate software, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social software, Stewart Brand, The Hackers Conference, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, WikiLeaks, wikimedia commons, zero-sum game

Some very large projects discard the benevolent dictator model entirely. One way to do this is turn the co-developers into a voting committee (as with Apache [Software Foundation]). Another is rotating dictatorship, in which control is occasionally passed from one member to another within a circle of senior co-developers; the Perl developers organize themselves this way. (1999/2004, pp. 101–102) Raymond possibly took the term from the “Benevolent Dictator for Life” nickname arguably given to Guido van Rossum, the creator of the Python programming language (Van Rossum, 2008). In Raymond’s concept, benevolent dictatorship is quite close to what Wales would refer to as a constitutional 1 6 2    L e a d e r s h i p T r a n s f o r m e d monarchy. Yet Wales was probably right to say that the term “benevolent dictatorship” may be obscure outside the hacker and open-source community and even evoke association with the likes of Ho Chi Minh, Josif Broz Tito, or Fidel Castro (interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on “benevolent dictatorship” has been a field of an ongoing edit war on who should be given as an example of a benevolent dictator, and so far no clear consensus has been established).

Retrieved August 21, 2013, from http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sue_Gardner/Narrowing_focus Vaknin, S. (2010, May). The Wikipedia cult [Interview by Daniel Tynan]. Global Politician. Retrieved from http://www.globalpolitician.com/26423-wikipedia-cult -jimmy-wales Van Maanen, J. (1988/2011). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Van Rossum, G. (2008, July 31). Origin of BDFL. All Things Pythonic blog. Retrieved from http://www.artima.com/weblogs/viewpost.jsp?thread=235725 Verberg, N., Wood, E., Desmarais, S., & Senn, C. (2000). Gender differences in survey respondents’ written definitions of date rape. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 9(3), 181–190. Viégas, F. B., Wattenberg, M., Kriss, J., & van Ham, F. (2007). Talk before you type: Coordination in Wikipedia. In HICSS ’07: Proceedings of the 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (p. 78).


Programming Python by Mark Lutz

Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Build a better mousetrap, business process, cloud computing, Firefox, general-purpose programming language, Google Chrome, Guido van Rossum, iterative process, linear programming, loose coupling, MVC pattern, natural language processing, off grid, slashdot, sorting algorithm, web application

Today, the nonprofit Python Software Foundation (PSF) oversees Python conferences and other noncommercial activities. The PSF was preceded by the PSA, a group that was originally formed in response to an early thread on the Python newsgroup that posed the semiserious question: “What would happen if Guido was hit by a bus?” These days, Python creator Guido van Rossum is still the ultimate arbiter of proposed Python changes. He was officially anointed the BDFLBenevolent Dictator for Life—of Python at the first Python conference and still makes final yes and no decisions on language changes (and apart from 3.0’s deliberate incompatibilities, has usually said no: a good thing in the programming languages domain, because Python tends to change slowly and in backward-compatible ways). But Python’s user base helps support the language, work on extensions, fix bugs, and so on.

But Python’s user base helps support the language, work on extensions, fix bugs, and so on. It is a true community project. In fact, Python development is now a completely open process—anyone can inspect the latest source code files or submit patches by visiting a website (see http://www.python.org for details). As an open source package, Python development is really in the hands of a very large cast of developers working in concert around the world—so much so that if the BDFL ever does pass the torch, Python will almost certainly continue to enjoy the kind of support its users have come to expect. Though not without pitfalls of their own, open source projects by nature tend to reflect the needs of their user communities more than either individuals or shareholders. Given Python’s popularity, bus attacks seem less threatening now than they once did. Of course, I can’t speak for Guido.

Here is part of the reply page generated for the “guido” record’s display of Figure 1-18 (use your browser’s “view page source” option to see this for yourself). Note how the < and > characters are translated to HTML escapes with cgi.escape before being inserted into the reply: <tr><th>key<td><input type=text name=key value="guido"> <tr><th>name<td><input type=text name=name value="'GvR'"> <tr><th>age<td><input type=text name=age value="None"> <tr><th>job<td><input type=text name=job value="'BDFL'"> <tr><th>pay<td><input type=text name=pay value="'&lt;shrubbery&gt;'"> As usual, the standard library urllib module package comes in handy for testing our CGI script; the output we get back is raw HTML, but we can parse it with other standard library tools and use it as the basis of a server-side script regression testing system run on any Internet-capable machine. We might even parse the server’s reply fetched this way and display its data in a client-side GUI coded with tkinter; GUIs and web pages are not mutually exclusive techniques.


pages: 394 words: 110,352

The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation by Jono Bacon

barriers to entry, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), collaborative editing, crowdsourcing, Debian, DevOps, do-ocracy, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, game design, Guido van Rossum, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jono Bacon, Kickstarter, Larry Wall, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, openstreetmap, Richard Stallman, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social graph, software as a service, telemarketer, union organizing, VA Linux, web application

What makes the Drupal Association special is that it has no influence over the technical direction of Drupal. The Drupal community uses a do-ocracy model, meaning people work on what they want to work on, instead of being told what to work on. Decisions are usually made through consensus building and based on technical merit, trust, and respect. As the project lead, and with the help of my comaintainers, I help guide the community in strategic directions. As a BDFL (benevolent dictator for life) I can veto certain decisions, or more importantly, I can make decisions when the community gets stuck. This happens, for example, when there are two competing implementations for a particular feature and the community can’t agree on which proposed architecture is better. How have you balanced the community relationship and investment from Acquia? While Acquia may be the largest contributor to Drupal, it is still only one of many.

If you really want to go a different way, then we encourage you to make a derivative distribution or alternative set of packages available using the Ubuntu Package Management framework, so that the community can try out your changes and ideas for itself and contribute to the discussion. When you are unsure, ask for help Nobody knows everything, and nobody is expected to be perfect in the Ubuntu community (except of course the SABDFL [Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life]). Asking questions avoids many problems down the road, and so questions are encouraged. Those who are asked should be responsive and helpful. However, when asking a question, care must be taken to do so in an appropriate forum. Off-topic questions, such as requests for help on a development mailing list, detract from productive discussion. Step down considerately Developers on every project come and go, and Ubuntu is no different.


pages: 496 words: 174,084

Masterminds of Programming: Conversations With the Creators of Major Programming Languages by Federico Biancuzzi, Shane Warden

Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), business intelligence, business process, cellular automata, cloud computing, commoditize, complexity theory, conceptual framework, continuous integration, data acquisition, domain-specific language, Douglas Hofstadter, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, Firefox, follow your passion, Frank Gehry, general-purpose programming language, Guido van Rossum, HyperCard, information retrieval, iterative process, John von Neumann, Larry Wall, linear programming, loose coupling, Mars Rover, millennium bug, NP-complete, Paul Graham, performance metric, Perl 6, QWERTY keyboard, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Ruby on Rails, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, slashdot, software as a service, software patent, sorting algorithm, Steve Jobs, traveling salesman, Turing complete, type inference, Valgrind, Von Neumann architecture, web application

He is currently the College of Engineering chair in Computer Science Professor at Texas A&M University. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, an ACM fellow, and an IEEE fellow. He has received numerous professional awards. Guido van Rossum is the creator of Python, one of the major programming languages on and off the Web. The Python community refers to him as the BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life), a title that could have been taken from a Monty Python skit (but wasn’t). Guido grew up in the Netherlands and worked for a long time at CWI in Amsterdam, where Python was born. He moved to the U.S. in 1995, where he lived in northern Virginia, got married, and had a son. In 2003, the family moved to California, where Guido now works for Google, spending 50% of his time on the Python open source project and the rest of his time using Python for internal Google projects.


pages: 903 words: 235,753

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty by Benjamin H. Bratton

1960s counterculture, 3D printing, 4chan, Ada Lovelace, additive manufacturing, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, call centre, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, Celebration, Florida, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, connected car, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dark matter, David Graeber, deglobalization, dematerialisation, disintermediation, distributed generation, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, Georg Cantor, gig economy, global supply chain, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Guggenheim Bilbao, High speed trading, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, industrial robot, information retrieval, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jacob Appelbaum, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, John Markoff, Joi Ito, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Khan Academy, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, linked data, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Masdar, McMansion, means of production, megacity, megastructure, Menlo Park, Minecraft, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Monroe Doctrine, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, peak oil, peer-to-peer, performance metric, personalized medicine, Peter Eisenman, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Philip Mirowski, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, planetary scale, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, reserve currency, RFID, Robert Bork, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, semantic web, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Slavoj Žižek, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, software studies, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spectrum auction, Startup school, statistical arbitrage, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, Superbowl ad, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, TaskRabbit, the built environment, The Chicago School, the scientific method, Torches of Freedom, transaction costs, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, undersea cable, universal basic income, urban planning, Vernor Vinge, Washington Consensus, web application, Westphalian system, WikiLeaks, working poor, Y Combinator

That is, insurance as killer app of Internet of Things gets interesting if those “things” are not just smart refrigerators but every little bit of every supply chain that must account for itself as a carbon-intensive Earth object. 12.  Another software trend championed by O’Reilly is Open Stack, a set of tools that allows for, as it sounds, an open source Stack architecture (in a delimited sense). It also claims to work without the governance of a Benevolent Dictator for Life (BDFL). Many Users may be surprised to learn that many of the open source software tools they use every day, perhaps without knowing it, such as Linux, Python, Perl, Drupal, and PHP, are not communitarian anarchies but rather—at least in the last instance—formal monarchies. I raise the point not so as to recommend that platform states function as Cloud-based monarchies, but to underscore that the reality of order-giving force and decision making is not a design problem that can avoided by leaving it to the ever-widening dining tables of horizontal relational “consensus.” 13. 


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Peers Inc: How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism by Robin Chase

Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Andy Kessler, banking crisis, barriers to entry, basic income, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), bitcoin, blockchain, Burning Man, business climate, call centre, car-free, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, commoditize, congestion charging, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, decarbonisation, different worldview, do-ocracy, don't be evil, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, Ferguson, Missouri, Firefox, frictionless, Gini coefficient, hive mind, income inequality, index fund, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job satisfaction, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Lyft, means of production, megacity, Minecraft, minimum viable product, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, openstreetmap, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, peer-to-peer model, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, Snapchat, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Future of Employment, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, Turing test, turn-by-turn navigation, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, Zipcar

Bruce Schneier, “Heartbleed,” blog post, April 9, 2014, www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/04/heartbleed.html; Paul Mutton, “Half a Million Widely Trusted Websites Vulnerable to Heartbleed Bug,” Netcraft.com, April 8, 2014, http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2014/04/08/half-a-million-widely-trusted-websites-vulnerable-to-heartbleed-bug.html. 18. “Core Infrastructure Initiative,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_Infrastructure_Initiative. 19. Michael Carney, “GitHub CEO Explains Why the Company Took So Damn Long to Raise Venture Capital,” pando.com, June 20, 2013, http://pando.com/2013/06/20/github-ceo-explains-why-the-company-took-so-damn-long-to-raise-venture-capital. 20. “Benevolent Dictator for Life,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benevolent_dictator_for_life. 21. “Crypto-Currency Market Capitalizations,” http://coinmarketcap.com. 22. “Who Controls the Bitcoin Network?,” Bitcoin website, https://bitcoin.org/en/faq#who-controls-the-bitcoin-network. 23. Bitsmith, “Inside a Chinese Bitcoin Mine,” The Coinsman, August 11, 2014, www.thecoinsman.com/2014/08/bitcoin/inside-chinese-bitcoin-mine. 24. “Government as Impresario: Emergent Public Goods and Public Private Partnerships 2.0,” talk given by Nicholas Gruen as part of a luncheon series at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, January 14, 2014, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/luncheon/2014/01/gruen. 25.


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Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg

A Pattern Language, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Berlin Wall, c2.com, call centre, collaborative editing, conceptual framework, continuous integration, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Santayana, Grace Hopper, Guido van Rossum, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, index card, Internet Archive, inventory management, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Larry Wall, life extension, Loma Prieta earthquake, Menlo Park, Merlin Mann, Mitch Kapor, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Potemkin village, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Ronald Reagan, Ruby on Rails, semantic web, side project, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, software studies, source of truth, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Therac-25, thinkpad, Turing test, VA Linux, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

This sometimes led to confusing proliferations of similar sounding products; but as long as there was a core project that held the allegiance of skilled developers who continued to improve the code, why should that worry anyone? Finally, critics argued, open source methods still hadn’t proved their value in developing products that were usable for people who didn’t live and breathe computer technology. That complaint, because it was largely true, stung the most. And Kapor hoped his new project would answer it. Torvalds, who is known as Benevolent Dictator for Life of the Linux operating system, consistently exudes a calm optimism about the long-term prospects for the movement he symbolizes. “In science,” as he explained in a 2004 interview in Business Week, “the whole system builds on people looking at other people’s results and building on top of them. In witchcraft, somebody had a small secret and guarded it—but never allowed others to really understand it and build on it.

When Kapor began taking the latest builds of Chandler out to demo for friends in the industry—as he finally did, once Chandler 0.5 was finished—it was these extensions, with their almost effortless stitching together of seemingly disparate types of information and services, that wowed. Something very unusual had happened to the Chandler team over time. Not by design but maybe not entirely coincidentally, it had become an open source project largely managed by women. Kapor was still the “benevolent dictator for life,” the title he had half-jokingly accepted on the Chandler mailing list in a tip of the hat to Linus Torvalds’s use of the phrase. But with Katie Parlante and Lisa Dusseault running the engineering groups, Sheila Mooney in charge of product management, and Mimi Yin as the lead designer, Chandler had what was, in the world of software development, an impressive depth of female leadership.


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Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey Into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley by Corey Pein

23andMe, 4chan, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Anne Wojcicki, artificial general intelligence, bank run, barriers to entry, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, Build a better mousetrap, California gold rush, cashless society, colonial rule, computer age, cryptocurrency, data is the new oil, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Extropian, gig economy, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, hacker house, hive mind, illegal immigration, immigration reform, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, mutually assured destruction, obamacare, passive income, patent troll, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer lending, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, platform as a service, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post-work, Ray Kurzweil, regulatory arbitrage, rent control, RFID, Robert Mercer, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Ross Ulbricht, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Scientific racism, self-driving car, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Skype, Snapchat, social software, software as a service, source of truth, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, technoutopianism, telepresence, too big to fail, Travis Kalanick, tulip mania, Uber for X, uber lyft, ubercab, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, X Prize, Y Combinator

Thiel’s Founder’s Fund and the venture capital fund Andreessen-Horowitz were the key players in a $1.1 million seed investment round for Yarvin’s strange startup, called Tlon. The name Tlon referenced a short story by Jorge Luis Borges in which “a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers … directed by an obscure man of genius” built a “brave new world” that forced old cultures and countries into extinction. Yarvin’s title at Tlon was, appropriately enough, “benevolent dictator for life.” His cofounder was a young man named John Burnham who, at age eighteen, accepted $100,000 from Thiel to skip college and go directly into business. Instead of mining asteroids as he originally intended, Burnham wound up working with Yarvin. Tlon had no product when Thiel invested, at least not in the conventional sense. Its efforts were directed at completing a sprawling piece of software called Urbit, which was essentially an attempt to rewrite some of the fundamental code allowing computers to operate and communicate with one another.


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Ruby by example: concepts and code by Kevin C. Baird

Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), David Heinemeier Hansson, Debian, digital map, Donald Knuth, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, fudge factor, general-purpose programming language, Guido van Rossum, Larry Wall, MVC pattern, Paul Graham, Perl 6, premature optimization, union organizing, web application

PHP’s web integration is such an important part of its most frequent use (if not its design) that it is often best compared to other programming languages when combined with their own web integration systems, such Perl and Mason, or Ruby and eRuby or Rails. PHP’s creator Rasmus Lerdorf began work on the project that would eventually become PHP in 1995. You can find out more about it at http://php.net. Python Python is a language very similar to Ruby. Its creator, the “Benevolent Dictator For Life” Guido van Rossum, named it after the British comedy troupe Monty Python when he invented it in the early 1990s. It has strong, dynamic typing very similar to Ruby’s and a similarly clean syntax, which is aided by its use of semantically significant whitespace. In Python, neither functions, blocks of code, nor statements need to have an explicit end-of-line mark (often a semicolon). Ruby’s use of ending markers is also quite minimal, although not to the same degree as Python’s is.


Django Book by Matt Behrens

Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), create, read, update, delete, database schema, distributed revision control, don't repeat yourself, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, full text search, loose coupling, MITM: man-in-the-middle, MVC pattern, revision control, Ruby on Rails, school choice, slashdot, web application

In summer 2005, after having developed this framework to a point where it was efficiently powering most of World Online’s sites, the team, which now included Jacob Kaplan-Moss, decided to release the framework as open source software. They released it in July 2005 and named it Django, after the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Now, several years later, Django is a well-established open source project with tens of thousands of users and contributors spread across the planet. Two of the original World Online developers (the “Benevolent Dictators for Life,” Adrian and Jacob) still provide central guidance for the framework’s growth, but it’s much more of a collaborative team effort. This history is relevant because it helps explain two key things. The first is Django’s “sweet spot.” Because Django was born in a news environment, it offers several features (such as its admin site, covered in Chapter 6) that are particularly well suited for “content” sites – sites like Amazon.com, craigslist.org, and washingtonpost.com that offer dynamic, database-driven information.