Benevolent Dictator for Life

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"Benevolent Dictator for Life" (BDFL) is the informal, slightly tongue-in-cheek title given to a respected individual in the open source development community who sets general directions and makes final calls in certain situations within the scope of a given project. The title is a play on the concept of a benevolent dictator and a president for life.

A BDFL is the person who effectively holds dictator-like powers over that project, yet is trusted by other users/developers not to abuse this power. The term is used humorously, because the "subjects" of the project leader contribute voluntarily, and the end-product may be used by everyone. A dictator in this context has power only over the process, and that only for as long as the trust remains. Examples include Linus Torvalds for the Linux kernel, Guido van Rossum for the Python programming language, Larry Wall for the Perl programming language, and Matz for the Ruby programming language. Of course, a project coordinator cannot really be anything like a dictator in the sense that one ultimately cannot enforce a decision, since a project fork is always possible. Most open source projects do not have a BDFL.

SABDFL stands for Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life.

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Benevolent Dictator for Life

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