Darryl Dash posted something titled “Unfortunate but perhaps apt metaphor” which quotes Christianity Today article where Rick Warren compares the Purpose Driven paradigm to Windows:

“Personal computers have brand names. But inside every pc is an Intel chip and an operating system, Windows,” Warren says. “The Purpose Driven paradigm is the Intel chip for the 21st-century church and the Windows system of the 21st-century church.”

Darryl quips, “I know what he’s saying, but I hope the Purpose Driven Life doesn’t crash as often.”

Now, if you read the article, it’s mainly about combatting poverty — on this issue I’m still not sure what to think of Rick Warren’s grand purpose-driven plan for poverty, but in a far more general way I’d say anyone who’s got a good idea for addressing poverty and is ready to put in the effort, I say “You just have at it.” (This of course excludes those who may try to “correct” the situation by simply telling them to have more faith.) I didn’t really read through the whole article, as that’s not the thrust of this post.

So given that caveat, I have to say that my buttons have just been pushed, and I’m going to jab back. PDL is 21st century? No way, it’s late 20th. It’s pinacle-of-modernism stuff, not 21st century postmodern reality. The sad thing is that Darryl is probably quite right — the comparison is probably apt and unfortunate… in it’s own uninformed way.

AMD Logo First off, computers don’t all have Intel chips. Maybe it started out as simply rooting for the underdog, but almost all of my x86 chips have been made by AMD, not Intel. While Intel pursued a near-monopoly and participated in an “unofficial” duopoly with Microsoft known informally as “Wintel”, AMD has actually outperformed Intel and offered increased performance at a far better bang:buck ratio. Of course, there are other chip makers as well — Motorola and VIA (formerly Cyrix), to name two. (We don’t want the MacHeads to feel left out here.) Quietly in the background of this ill-informed statement assuming Intel is everything because they’re the biggest, the household name, I can faintly hear the *gulp* of the traditional party line being swallowed.

The Cathedral & the Bazaar (paperback) Next, please allow me to introduce you to The Cathedral and the Bazzar, a highly-recommended look at two models of software development. (The book is a compilation of the essay of the same title plus Homesteading the Noosphere and The Magic Cauldron) To give you a quick picture what it’s all about, I quote the author’s introduction:

Linux is subversive. Who would have thought even five years ago (1991) that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet?

Certainly not I. By the time Linux swam onto my radar screen in early 1993, I had already been involved in Unix and open-source development for ten years. I was one of the first GNU contributors in the mid-1980s. I had released a good deal of open-source software onto the net, developing or co-developing several programs (nethack, Emacs’s VC and GUD modes, xlife, and others) that are still in wide use today. I thought I knew how it was done.

Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew. I had been preaching the Unix gospel of small tools, rapid prototyping and evolutionary programming for years. But I also believed there was a certain critical complexity above which a more centralized, a priori approach was required. I believed that the most important software (operating systems and really large tools like the Emacs programming editor) needed to be built like cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation, with no beta to be released before its time.

Linus Torvalds’s style of development—release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity—came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here—rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux archive sites, who’d take submissions from anyone) out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.

The fact that this bazaar style seemed to work, and work well, came as a distinct shock. As I learned my way around, I worked hard not just at individual projects, but also at trying to understand why the Linux world not only didn’t fly apart in confusion but seemed to go from strength to strength at a speed barely imaginable to cathedral-builders.

By mid-1996 I thought I was beginning to understand. Chance handed me a perfect way to test my theory, in the form of an open-source project that I could consciously try to run in the bazaar style. So I did—and it was a significant success.

This is the story of that project. I’ll use it to propose some aphorisms about effective open-source development. Not all of these are things I first learned in the Linux world, but we’ll see how the Linux world gives them particular point. If I’m correct, they’ll help you understand exactly what it is that makes the Linux community such a fountain of good software—and, perhaps, they will help you become more productive yourself.

Now, you see my buttons are firmly pressed here… of course (and here the MacHeads will agree) Windows™ is not the only operating system out there (and some of us would argue that Microsoft makes an oxymoron of the phrase, “operating system”), and it’s certainly not the best one available.

Windows was developed in the classic “cathedral” style of software development. Central command-and-control, everyone working under direction from above, toeing the party line; this is a modern clockwork-attempting model that prizes achievement, hoards innovation for resale, and prizes the cash received in return. On the other hand, GNU/Linux was developed in the newer “bazaar” style of development… a more open, more collaborative environment that values sharing freely and peer recognition. You should have seen it coming a mile away that I’d compare the modern/institutional church with the cathedral and the emerging church with the bazaar. I know where I want to be regarding my choices in computer chips, software, and modes of church… and they all have some common threads about them.

So in a nutshell, if Rick Warren himself wishes to compare the whole PDL-program with an outmoded (modern) command/control greed-inspired system comprised of second-rate technology presenting a glossed-over veneer of stolen ideas built upon a shoddy insecure foundation…. well, who am I to argue? Whether or not the comparison is apt (and if I were to say it a bit less harshly, it probably is), I think ol’ Rick chose a very unfortunate comparison to draw… Darryl is certainly correct on that point.

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