[IAEP] Funding - and governance

Benj. Mako Hill mako at atdot.cc
Thu Jun 5 20:49:28 CEST 2008

Sorry for responding so late. There were some mailing list configuration
issues that prevented me from getting the original thread when it was

<quote who="Greg Dekoenigsberg" date="Wed, May 28, 2008 at 02:48:30PM -0400">
> Mako draws some wrong conclusions, I think, in this draft.
> It is not the paid-ness of full-time engineers that causes problems.  It 
> is the tendency to form a cabal which causes problems.  This tendency can 
> be mitigated, if you have the right people and processes in place.

Unintuitively perhaps, it's sometimes *is* actually the paidness of
labor that causes problems. It's a phenomena sometimes called "crowding
out" and measured by organizational studies folks in whole series of
voluntary organizations.  In my essay, I refer to a study of Norwegian
sports organizations run by volunteers that were introducing paid labor.
The result in many cases was a decrease in volunteerism well out of
proportion to the increase in paid labor. The paid labor crowded out the
volunteers. It doesn't always happen. But it often does.

Obviously, you can have a mix of paid and volunteer labor (as Fedora,
Ubuntu, and Wikimedia and other organizations have done with different
degrees and types of success) but we have to be very careful, strategic,
and responsive. I credit Debian and SPI's stubbornness with not paying
developers with it's ability to continue to attract many more
contributors than other distributions with many orders of magnitude more

It is often a good idea to have visible lines between the volunteer
roles and responsibilities and the non-volunteer roles. Better yet, one
might introduce paid labor to do things that your volunteers can't or
won't do or recognize will be better done through paid labor. Paying
people isn't bad and it's often necessary -- but it's important to
understand the effects and the strategy involved.


Benjamin Mako Hill
mako at atdot.cc

Creativity can be a social contribution, but only in so far
as society is free to use the results. --GNU Manifesto
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