Benevolent Dictator for Life

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Benevolent Dictator for Life (BDFL) is an informal title, sometimes used humorously, given to an individual in an open source development community, who is usually also the founder or originator of the project.

The term was first coined by Eric Raymond in his book Homesteading the Noosphere, referring to a structure where "a project has multiple co-maintainers working under a single 'benevolent dictator' who owns the project" [1].

According to Raymond, who cites Emacs and Linux as examples of open source projects led by a "benevolent dictator," this dictator is usually the owner or maintainer of the project, and his dictatorship is mainly used to solve the 'who decides' problem in the open source project.

It should be noted that this is an honorary title, meaning in the open source software community, if a "dictator" began to act irresponsibly, the project would most likely be forked in another direction, or the "dictator" would be fired.

Some examples of "benevolent dictators" are Linus Torvalds for the Linux kernel, Guido van Rossum for the Python programming language, Larry Wall for the Perl programming language, and Jimmy Wales for Wikipedia.

References

  1. Homesteading the Noosphere, ch. 15.