Interview with Eric S. Raymond

Eric S. Raymond is author of one of the definitive books of the open source world “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. In this interview Mr. Raymond talks about a number of the projects he is involved in.

Tux people: Eric S. Raymond

Every field of knowledge has writing that defines the field. In the open source field one of the key essays is “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” by Eric Steven Raymond, or ESR as he is often known. In the essay Eric S. Raymond compares and contrasts the cathedral as a highly structured, highly organized approach of creating software against the faster adapting less structured bazaar like approach used in open source.

A book containing “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” [1] as well as some of Eric Raymond’s other essays have been published by O’Reilly Media with the ISBN: 0596001088. In addition, Eric Raymond has put a version of the “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” on his personal website.

Other books Mr. Raymond has been involved in include “The New Hacker’s Dictionary”[2], “The Art of Unix Programming”[3] among others [4].

Newer ESR projects include developing software to allow Linux boxes to talk to Global Positioning Satellite system receivers.

Eric S. Raymond wearing a Tux and showing one of his other interests, firearms.

CM: What inspired you to write “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”?

ESR: That paper had many sources, ranging from my college cultural-anthropology courses to evolutionary biology to Austrian economics. But the inspiration was simply my astonishment when I first booted up Linux in late 1993. It was too good for the conventional theory of software engineering to explain.

CM: You have advocated the label “Open Source” over “Free Software” why?

ESR: Because the term “free software” frightens and confuses people who wear suits. Those people have money and decision-making power that we need, so not confusing and frightening them is smart.

CM: Could you briefly tell us about your role in helping to convince Netscape to release the source code for their web browser (which now forms the basis for Mozilla)?

ESR: I didn’t know about my role at the time the decision was being made. The CEO of the company, Jim Barksdale, cited my paper as an inspiration at the press conference announcing it.

CM: How did you become a member of the Freespire Linux “Community Leadership Board”?

ESR: Kevin Carmony asked me to join after learning some of my concerns about Linux not getting desktop traction because the multimedia support is so poor.

CM: What else would you like readers of Free Software Magazine to know about you?

ESR: They can visit the programming project I’m putting most of my time into at

CM: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.


[1] Raymond, Eric S. “The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary”, O’Reilly and Associates:2001

[2] Raymond, Eric S. “The New Hacker’s Dictionary” MIT Press:1993

[3] Raymond, Eric S. “The Art of UNIX Programming” Addison-Wesley Professional:2003

[4] Debra Cameron, James Elliott, Marc Loy, Eric S. Raymond, Bill Rosenblatt “Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition” O’Reilly:2004


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.