Walt Scacchi of the University of California, Irvine, and his colleagues are conducting formal studies of the informal world of open-source software development, in which a distributed community of developers produces software source code that is freely available to share, study, modify and redistribute. Theyre finding that, in many ways, open-source development can be faster, better and cheaper than the "textbook" software engineering often used in corporate settings.
In a series of reports posted online (see http://www.isr.uci.edu), Scacchi is documenting how open-source development breaks many of the software engineering rules formulated during 30 years of academic research. Far from finding that open-source development is just software engineering poorly done, Scacchi and colleagues show that it represents a new approach based on community building and other socio-technical mechanisms that might benefit traditional software engineering.
"Free and open-source software development is faster, better and cheaper in building a community and at reinforcing and institutionalizing a culture for how to develop software," said Scacchi, a senior research scientist at UC Irvines Institute for Software Research who has taught software engineering for two decades. "Were not ready to assert that open-source development is the be-all end-all for software engineering practice, but theres something going on in open-source development that is different from what we see in the textbooks."
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