Delphi Method

In the cathedral-builder view of programming, bugs and development problems are tricky, insidious, deep phenomena. It takes months of scrutiny by a dedicated few to develop confidence that you’ve winkled them all out. Thus the long release intervals, and the inevitable disappointment when long-awaited releases are not perfect. In the bazaar view, on the other hand, you assume that bugs are generally shallow phenomena — or, at least, that they turn shallow pretty quickly when exposed to a thousand eager co-developers pounding on every single new release. Accordingly you release often in order to get more corrections, and as a beneficial side effect you have less to lose if an occasional botch gets out the door. And that’s it. That’s enough.

Sociologists years ago discovered that the averaged opinion of a mass of equally expert (or equally ignorant) observers is quite a bit more reliable a predictor than the opinion of a single randomly-chosen one of the observers. They called this the Delphi effect. It appears that what Linus has shown is that this applies even to debugging an operating system — that the Delphi effect can tame development complexity even at the complexity level of an OS kernel.

Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

More on the Delphi Method: evRowe and Wright, Expert opinions in Forecasting: the Role of the Delphi Technique [PDF]

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