[ox-en] Openness and control in Free projects
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2003 00:43:53 +0100
Hi once more!
This is the separate thread following the discussions in the Oekonux
events which took place in "We seize!".
We had a discussion about how Free and open projects like Indymedia or
Wikipedia protect themselves against disturbances like spammers, far
right-wing posters, fundamentalist (Indymedia India served as an
example) and so on and how this relates to (the ideal of?) openness,
control, power and so on. Also this question touches the question on
how to ensure that a project produces quality and keeps producing
Ionnek from Indymedia UK explained that there are discussions in
Indymedia UK about what should be permitted and what should be
removed. The results of these things are written down then as
editorial guidelines which people have to comply to. In a personal
conversation I added that the unwritten rules which are in the head of
people change in some way when they are written down.
In Free Software I think there are two solutions. On the one hand in
most projects there is some kind of maintainership where a maintainer
with a vision for a project and some technical excellence decides
finally. This is the way how quality is ensured in the project.
On the other hand there is some market like mechanism in parallel Free
Software projects - i.e. in Free Software projects which try to tackle
the same problem. Usually only one or at least very few projects
survive or are *the* solution for this sort of problem. So in some way
the general public also decides about what are good decisions and
which are not.
Basically I think that every project has the same problem in the very
moment it becomes successful. A successful project is always also
interesting to people which are in no way related to the goals of the
project. I'd like to say they are alienated from the project. As the
guy from Indymedia India put it: There are some 15 fundamentalist
people who decided to use Indymedia India as there loudspeaker and on
a daily basis post some sexist and otherwise fundamentalist stuff. Now
the people from Indymedia India are very busy to clean this up also on
a daily basis. Also we have some similar situation in our
neighborhood, in OpenTheory. At the moment it is not possible to enter
new projects there because that would be a further invitation for some
spammers. However, this affects everybody which is of course a pity.
More and more I think the need for control is deeply embedded in the
way things in the world are. I mean you need *some* sort of control in
a Free Software project or otherwise a few stupid patches make the
whole product unusable quite quickly. This is a fact which can't be
discussed away. So this factual need should not be denied because
otherwise things realize themselves behind the backs of the persons
involved. This is then known as latent hierarchies, some tacit power
structure and all this stuff.
So to me the main question is less and less to prevent control, power,
etc. but in the first place how to control a project and how to do it
an emancipatory way. The key is to enable people, to empower people by
that sort of control instead of suppressing them. At least the people
which are interested in the goals of the project. On the other hand
people who are alienated from the project need to be stopped, their
power must be countered.
All very interesting stuff I'm keen to look into more thoroughly. I
think it would be great to have this on our conference. For instance
also in Wikipedia there are some editorial guidelines and people who
care about this. And in Debian, too. So this might be even become some
main topic on the 3. Oekonux conference.
Mit Freien Grüßen