Quandaries of Open Source

The open-source software movement has been shaped by the public writing of some of its biggest contributors.  For example, the essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar, written by Eric S. Raymond, is largely attributed with affecting the decision by Netscape to open-source their browser, leading eventually  to the creation of Mozilla Firefox.  Another famous open essay that has had a large impact on the community is Coase’s Penguin, by Yochai Benkler.


In this essay, you will explore a topic relating to a challenge faced by the open-source community and some possible solutions to that issue.  You will write about the different sides of the issue, citing references and making that side’s argument as strongly as possible, and then you will write about your own opinion on the matter, citing as many resources as you need for each piece.  See the potential topics list below.

In addition, I ask that you consider making your essay open to the public by adding it to our course website.  I will not require this—I simply would like to encourage people to do so.  I ask this in the spirit of open essays impacting the community, as described in the opening lines of this document.  This will, of course, count toward your weekly pull request requirement (one time).

The essay should be at least 1500 words.  You may format it how you like, but it should be readable and easy to follow.  If you intend to greatly exceed 1500 words (i.e. 3000+), please discuss with me why you feel the need to do so.

How you will be graded

I will assess you on:

See the rubric below.


Ideally, your references should be freely available online, and you should cite them with simple footnotes, with a References section at the end of the essay.  The References section can be in any reasonable, consistent format you desire, so long as it is clear what form of media the reference takes, and how I may obtain it if I’d like (e.g. a hyperlink).  I understand you may not be able to ensure that all references are freely available online.  


A 5 or 6 essay will accomplish all of the above stated requirements. It will present cogent and exciting insights that go beyond what’s been discussed in class or what is already present in your resources, using novel and relevant references, and display proof of a thoroughly researched topic.


A 4 essay will do the above, but perhaps one of the three areas mentioned above does not come to fruition. It might also lack substantive discussion of what I believe is a vitally important argument.


A 3 or 2 essay misses the mark in more than one area above. It may be very surface-level and/or show a lack of comprehension of the topic. It likely summarizes instead of interprets.


A 1 or 0 is incomplete, entirely based in summary, and fails to accomplish any of the three areas.

Dates and Submissions

I will, as stated in the course expectations sheet, take off points for late work.  Late work will also likely cause your participation in class to be substandard, affecting your Process grade.

Potential Topics


Does some of what you’re reading here seem familiar to you?  I asked multiple faculty members who regularly assign essays to share some of their assignments with me, and adopted this to our course.  Do you have a disagreement with the way something is phrased or assigned?  Please come talk to me.