2013-04-28
Linux and fetchmail both went public with strong, attractive basic designs. Many people thinking about the bazaar model as I have presented it have correctly considered this critical, then jumped from that to the conclusion that a high degree of design intuition and cleverness in the project leader is indispensable.

But Linus got his design from Unix. I got mine initially from the ancestral popclient (though it would later change a great deal, much more proportionately speaking than has Linux). So does the leader/coordinator for a bazaar-style effort really have to have exceptional design talent, or can he get by through leveraging the design talent of others?

I think it is not critical that the coordinator be able to originate designs of exceptional brilliance, but it is absolutely critical that the coordinator be able to recognize good design ideas from others.

Both the Linux and fetchmail projects show evidence of this. Linus, while not (as previously discussed) a spectacularly original designer, has displayed a powerful knack for recognizing good design and integrating it into the Linux kernel.

from "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" -- Eric Raymond

This is pretty reminiscent of the now cliche "skills of Steve Jobs", who I generally consider to be a great product manager (arguably of epic proportions, though I am no fan of his personality traits). Also, considering Richard Stallman's shortcomings as the "project manager" of the GNU project in developing the HURD kernel [1], I guess this kind of willingness and enthusiasm for incorporating others' designs is a key attribute of successful project/product managers.

[1] "Stallman's growing stature as a software programmer, however, was balanced by his struggles as a project manager." -- "Free as in Freedom" Chapter 9