Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote “Parkinson’s Law, and Other Studies in Administration” that was published in October, 1962.
There is an example in the book that refers to a bike shed and an atomic power-plant. According to a posting on the freebsd mailing list,
Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.
Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far.
A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is *here*.
I heard this color of the bikeshed analogy for the first time while watching a Google Video titled, “How Open Source Projects Survive Poisonous People (And You Can Too).” The video contains a lot of good tips for open source projects and for communities in general. Paul posted a nice summary of the points in the video.