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Re: [tdf-discuss] Re: The Floppy icon and meritocracy


Hello Pedro,

Le Wed, 8 Feb 2012 06:47:05 -0800 (PST),
Pedro <pedlino@gmail.com> a écrit :

Hi again Charles


Charles-H.Schulz wrote

Do you have examples? I'd be happy to hear about them, I'm sure we
work in a very similar fashion...


Of course. Here is an excellent one
http://emergedesktop.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1419

You don't work in a similar fashion ;)


I think we do. And I think some terms may not be very accurately used
here. What this thread says -and I took the time not to just look at
the thread but at the other areas of the project as well- is that
developers listen to user feedback. And that's probably a good thing to
do although some people might disagree (cf. Henry Ford); yet listening
to user feedback hardly makes up a democracy. It's user feedback. In
some cases it might be a case of "nice customer service". But it does
not help that much. I'll explain myself. 

Let me describe to you what I called limited democracy here, and I'll
also give you links of small and less small FOSS projects that
implement meritocracy and are by no ways democracies (other than
"limited" democracies). 

A FOSS project mainly produces code. Its sole reason, in fact, is to
produce code; whether someone pays for it or manages to be a guru at
product strategy and marketing so well he can even entrance hackers in
its "Reality Distortion Field" is another question. FOSS projects
produce code. Then, around that rough code you have another categories
of contributors: the QA testers, the localizers, the documentation
writers, the marketers (no particular order here); sometimes you have
the extension developers as well. All these people do something very
specific: they contribute to the project. Granted it might not only be
code, but that's beside the point. They contribute and they make the
project. The reason they contribute might be completely unknown to you,
or there might be as many reasons as you will find for each
contributor. It's good sometimes to question or to know what's the
"general reason" to contribute from one or two active contributors, but
it's not always necessary. Back to our contributors; they form the
active people who push the project forward, heck, they are the project
themselves. But because each of them might contribute for various and
sometimes opposite reasons, any of them, sometimes even all of them or
a good majority of them, will stop contributing; conversely, they might
even increase their contribution. If you stick to the original line
from Eric Raymond (the Cathedral and the Bazaar, a must read), the
reason any developer would contribute is because he/she'd like to
"scratch an itch". Granted that scratch might be for hire or is already
funded, but that's besides the point. 

In the end, it's the people who make the software (and distribute it,
promote it) who call the shots. They call the shots because they get to
"make" the software at various levels. So it's a meritocracy because
it's a "do-ocracy" in a sense.  The good news here is that it makes up
for quite a lot of people. The not so good news in a sense, is that
"mere" users, by which I mean "passive" users, who do not contribute
anything in terms of code, tests, localization, documentation,
dictionaries, pamphlets, designs, etc. are only left with one choice:
to use the software if they like it, or to stop using it. The only
reason is not that it's not a democracy, it's just that they don't have
the power to act on the software project unless they adopt or reject
it. 

There is also a more subtle good part in this: no user is barred to
join the contributors' ranks; and when this user actually does, he'll
have a say as long as he remains a contributor. 

There are projects who do not formally formalize too much who
specifically are their contributors. Some others do. The Document
Foundation does formalize it to the extent that it is our contributors
who "own the foundation" and nobody else does. It's not just in our
social contract or an unwritten assumption, it's legal . There are
rather broad criteria to define what a contributor is and does (our
bylaws and statutes define them) and anyone who qualifies become thus a
member of the foundation with rather large " political" rights. In this
sense we have democracy. But FOSS projects do not run on open and
democratic structure; they run on transparent and agreed processes,
with an free and open source code at their core. 

Hope this helps, and sorry for the long email,
-- 
Charles-H. Schulz
Member of the Board of Directors,
The Document Foundation.

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