Puzzled . . @mako makes a clear pitch on "Free software production needs free tools" youtube.com/watch?v=U_nK6nP_RC
And is very clear on and (though says most code comes from solo not collaboration!). Yet not a hint of coop ownership of to keep tools honest & open (GitHub!). Surely tools today become platforms? And platforms require collaboration even if code doesn't? So why doesn't follow automatically, as we talk tools? How does libre not equal coop in FLOSS world?


@mike_hales Because FLOSS world is a meritocracy and not a democracy?

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales

Might be worth remembering that the coiner of the term "meritocracy" meant it as a criticism.

(But I am seeing a lot more cooperative dev teams these days...)

@bhaugen @mike_hales And it is a criticism of sorts. For a FLOSS project, or indeed any sort of project, meritocracy is a very sensible and obvious place to start, but it's not sustainable. As the project matures, more voices need to be heard, and governance needs to broadened and become inclusive - hence a democratic cooperative approach fits well. But project owners rarely have the knowledge or interest to to pursue this option.

@Graham_Mitchell @bhaugen
> project owners rarely have the knowledge or interest to pursue this [broadening democratic] approach

Is this cultural silos? Entrepreneurial temperament? Tech nerds & facilitators can work very happily togather (). But to start, it calls for acceptance that the other community is there, and knows stuff that gets stuff done. Calls for a social-cultural mission too, rather than a tech mission.

Tech nerds can build this bridge? But not big-ego Tech Gods?

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales

We ( mikorizal.org/ ) have worked with a lot of projects. One conclusion is that a sustainable project is like a cell and needs both a nucleus (a tight set of core contributors) and a membrane (an onboarding gate and process).

But then if it is to stay alive and be healthy it needs to welcome and mentor new people, move them ever closer to joining the core. And if the core gets too big, divide, spawn another cell.

@mike_hales @Graham_Mitchell

The need for a core seems to go along with @mako 's research, although he seems to think it leads to the core benefiting themselves from their positions to the detriment of the project's mission, which can definitely happen. Is it inevitable?

Scuttlebutt may be an instructive counter-example. They welcome new people all the time, and one member of the core is also an active and visible mentor of new developers. And they have spawned several new projects.

@mako @Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales

None of this stuff is easy. I wish I had a recipe for a healthy organization that does only good. Eternal vigilance?

@mike_hales @Graham_Mitchell @mako

One principle I like, from the P2PFoundation, is equipotentiality.

I think that page is missing a necessary part of the principle, which is that if you take it seriously, it requires that the organization provide help and resources for each member to develop their full potential. Applies especially to the young.

Jorge Ferrer's quote on that page gets close.

@bhaugen @mako @mike_hales I guess in terms of cooperative values and principles, I've always taken the principle of member education as critical in this respect. An informed and educated membership is much less likely to allow the organisation to be captured.

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @mako

I totally agree about member education, especially education in how to participate in internal democracy.

organicvalley.coop/ near us has done a pretty good job at that, helped by a couple of people in the early core who believed in and practiced and exemplified internal democracy.

@mako @mike_hales @Graham_Mitchell

The other need is actively helping people migrate into the core, and then dividing the cell when the core gets too big.

Bringing people into the core, and dividing the cell, has been more difficult for Organic Valley because they have become a successful business and have hired a management layer from capitalist businesses.

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @mako

This is also part of the contradiction of cooperatives embedded in a capitalist system.

@bhaugen @mike_hales @mako And therein lies the seed of its own demise. Look at the big dairy in NZ and AUS for good examples of ag coops growing to become dominant players, which leads to a weakening of the internal democracy, growth in power of executive management, and eventual capture and demutualisation as the individual farmer members see more value in getting the cash than in continuing to cooperate.

@Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

Some of the people I know at Organic Valley are very aware of those problems. We'll see if they can deal.

@bhaugen @mike_hales @mako Dividing the cell is - for me - the critical piece to learn. And I think that this is very hard to do well, probably even when it is designed in from the outset.

@mako @mike_hales @bhaugen Maybe the best approach in terms of cell division is to do it much earlier in the life cycle, giving time to nurture and grow the mycelial networks that will in turn nourish and internetwork between the cells/nodes, before division becomes critical to growth. This approach also makes the whole less attractive to malicious oligarchs as it is much harder to take power.

Perhaps the motto needs to be "divide early, divide often" like an embryo.

@Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

To some extent, Organic Valley did this when they helped a couple of other local cooperatives get started with both technical aid and money. One of them was a partial competitor which a strictly capitalist business would not have helped: fifthseasoncoop.com/

But FifthSeason specialized in fresh produce, while Organic Calley's specialty has become dairy, so that might have made it easier.

@bhaugen @mako @mike_hales I don't believe that it is inevitable. But it speaks volumes that charity law exists in part to stop core team from benefitting.

And in terms of the soft power that core team people inevitably accrue (whether the like/want it or not), there does need to be written in guidelines/rules about how to address that.

Oligarchy isn't always actively sought.

I'm aware I'm necroposting on a very old post by @Graham_Mitchell but I think it sums up a common misunderstanding of how open source democracy works, which hasn't gone away. If you tried to run a proprietary software company democratically, a dissenting minority would need a license to fork, so it generally wouldn't happen. As in a state with a monopoly on violence, you could only protect minority interests, from the monopoly on code commits, via politics.


@mike_hales @bhaugen

But the freedom to fork, to walk away with a complete copy of the latest code (and all future versions unless a project goes proprietary, like ShareTribe), provides minorities with a direct means of holding project leaders accountable. A more effective one than any number of constitutional checks and balances could possibly give them.


@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

Project leaders have to consult widely and make technical and governance decisions by broad consensus, or lose their leadership role by the 'iron law of two feet'. Eg Sun did a good enough job of this that a large dev community gathered around OpenOffice. But when Oracle acquired Sun and tried to rule the OO project with an iron fist, the majority just walked away, formed the Document Foundation, and forked OO to create LibreOffice.


@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

In summary, in this model, democratic accountability is not maintained through the politics of the court, where the subjects have to do the work to make sure the King or Thing considers their interests. But rather by the politics of the tribe, where the burden is on the chief to ensure they do enough listening and responding that the tribe stays together under their leadership.


@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

In this model, leadership doesn't drift into the hands of the people most skilled at political game playing, but the people most skilled at understanding what project members need and making sure that either they're getting it, or that they understand and accept why they're not.


@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

You also can't rule an open source community by "owning" it, as Oracle discovered to their chagrin with OO, MySQL (many devs defected to the MariaDB fork), and other projects founded at or acquired by Sun. Another example of this is the company that thought they "owned" the Koha library software, because they owned a registered trademark on the name in a number of jurisdictions. They don't:


@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

@strypey @Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako neh but the trademark trick kinda works to harm forks. Mozilla uses it for that effectively.

@icedquinn I feel like we've argued this before. Given the long list of Firefox forks that have been existed since Mozilla was set up, it doesn't seem to be that much of a barrier. I remember Stallman explaining that trademarks serve users, because when forks have to choose their own name, users can identify exactly whose version of the program they are running.

@bhaugen @Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

@strypey @bhaugen @Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales trademarks are more about preventing other people from getting to cash in on your brand recognition than anything else. if you spent all the money to market X, someone else can't just name their product "X Lite" to get free marketing off you.

a lot more people know what a firefox is than what a palemoon is.

@icedquinn Agreed, it has this effect. But it exists primarily to protect customers from lower quality knock-offs. Imagine I started manufacturing shitty cars that broke down after 2 years and sold them as "Mercedes", for the same price. Anyone who bought one expecting the quality the real Mercedes guarantees would be pissed off, and quite rightly. Trademark laws exists to prevent Bad Actors from doing stuff like that to customers.

@bhaugen @Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

@icedquinn Along similar lines, imagine I started distributing a fork of Firefox, still called it Firefox, but bundled in a whole bunch of ransomeware. So anyone that installed it had to send me crypto to get their files back, and would be pissed off, quite rightly. Allowing Mozilla to control the phrase "Firefox" (in the field of web browsers) as a trademark stops me hijackinging their reputation to do stuff like that to users.

@bhaugen @Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

> a lot more people know what a firefox is than what a palemoon is.

That's because Palemoon is a pale imitation. Abrowser FTW! ;)

@bhaugen @Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

@strypey @mike_hales @bhaugen @mako
This all makes perfect sense from a relatively narrow developer perspective. Does it still work as well when we take other stakeholders and their needs into account?

> Does it still work as well when we take other stakeholders and their needs into account?

Does it work to put devs under the control of a central institution and use that to control the way the work? I can't see how that could possibly work, because the devs always have the option to fork and walk away (Frank forking ownCloud to create NextCloud is another example). The only way to avoid this is to go proprietary and use "IP" to coerce them.

@mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

@Graham_Mitchell Maybe the best way to make sure that devs

> take other stakeholders and their needs into account

... is to treat them like humans, not manufacturing plant, and negotiate with them in good faith?

@mike_hales @bhaugen @mako

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