Message 05941 [Homepage] [Navigation]
Thread: oxenT05941 Message: 1/1 L0 [In index]
[First in Thread] [Last in Thread] [Date Next] [Date Prev]
[Next in Thread] [Prev in Thread] [Next Thread] [Prev Thread]

[ox-en] "Conflicts and the governance model of Free Software"

Hi list,

first of all a happy new year to all of you :-) .

As you remember Athina plans a conference_ at the 19-20 March. I just
submitted an abstract on the topic

	Conflicts and the governance model of Free Software

When I worked at some slides for a possible presentation I noticed
that I never really thought about this topic as I did now. Here are
some somewhat provisional slides which are also in the Wiki_. As
always I'm very interested in feedback and ideas for improvements.

.. _conference:
.. _Wiki:



=== 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< === 8< ===

Conflicts and the governance model of Free Software

Starting point: peer production

Open production process...

* Production process

  * Not: Pure communication like in social networks

  * Not: Pure distribution like in P2P networks

  * But: Production of useful things / products

* External openness

  * I.e.: Product is available to everyone who needs it

  * Usually: Projects are very transparent

* Internal openness

  * I.e.: Contributions from all sides may be included

...based on Selbstentfaltung

* Selbstentfaltung?

  * Complex theoretical background from Critical Psychology

  * In short: Having fun individually...

  * ...while maintaining a relationship to society

* Selbstentfaltung merges individual well-being with societal needs

  * Key: Does not need alienation for this merge

  * First time in history possible on a global scale

* Selbstentfaltung is an important precondition for peer production

  * Having grave consequences for the governance model

* Expressions of Selbstentfaltung

  * Contributions from volunteers

  * No alienated structural force

* Result: peer production is a new mode of production

Visible aspects of peer production

* All known examples

  * Globally distributed (external and internal openness)

  * Communication and distribution by the Internet (external and
    internal openness)

  * Physical meetings are rare

Examples of peer production

* Free Software

  * Oldest and most important peer production phenomenon

  * Official start during the early 1980's

* Wikipedia

  * You all know Wikipedia

* OpenAccess

  * Peer production in science

* Free Music

  * Check for instance Jamendo_

* ...

* The new mode of production already spread to several examples

Focus on Free Software

Key features of Free Software

* Software projects of all kinds

  * I.e.: People write software together

* Four rules of Free Software

  1. Software may be used for any purpose

  2. The sources may be studied and changed

  3. The software may be distributed arbitrarily

  4. Changed versions may be distributed arbitrarily

* Licenses embed Free Software in the legal framework

  * Use copyright - though in a tricky way

Producing software is complexity everywhere

* Every project has lots and lots of

  * details

  * aspects

  * dependencies

  * tasks

  * priorities

* Big projects have lots and lots of

  * contributions in various forms

  * contributors

  * specialists

  * stakeholders

  * timing considerations

* There are lots and lots of Free Software projects

Free Software needs governance

* In general producing software is a very complex process

  * Openness adds to this complexity

* Without governance

  * complexity would result in chaos

  * Free Software simply wouldn't exist

* But: Free Software exists!

* Thus: There must be governance in Free Software

The governance model of Free Software

Governance related aspects in key features

* Production process

  * Production as a goal

* External openness

  * Availability of product

  * Transparency of projects

  * Free Software: Four rules of Free Software

  * Licenses

* Internal openness

  * General openness for contributions from all sides

  * Selection of contributions

Interior vs. foreign governance model

* Foreign governance model for governing foreign affairs

  * I.e.: Govern the relationship to the world outside a project

  * Relationships to other Free Software projects

  * Relationships to the non-Free world

* Important parts of the foreign governance model

  * Licenses govern the usage conditions of the products

  * Standards govern the technical cooperation

* Interior governance model governs the work in the project

Cornerstones of the interior governance model

1. Selbstentfaltung of producers

   * Expressed by volunteering

   * Absence of alienated forces

2. Need for governance to prevent chaos

3. Leveraging diversity

   * Specialists for various knowledge fields

   * Specialists for various areas of the project

* Under these conditions maintainership emerges


Key features of maintainership

* Maintainership == non-alienated leadership

  * I.e.: Leadership in duty of the project

* Maintainership process == modified consensus

  * Consensus-oriented decision making is the rule

  * Maintainer may cut the Gordian knot

* Self-appointment of maintainers

  * Acceptance by community

  * Maintainers are also volunteers

  * Often: The founders of the project

  * Often: No formal declaration of maintainership

* Non-political approach

  * Not: "It *should be* this way"

  * Instead: "It *works best* this way"

  * The governance model emerges from the mode of production

Maintainership and Selbstentfaltung

* No alienated force bonds volunteers

  * They can leave the project at any time

* Result: Volunteers can not be commanded

  * At best they can be asked to do something

  * Usually they self-select tasks they execute

  * Self-selection of tasks is important part of volunteering

Maintainership and commitment

* If volunteers are not bond why a project stays together?

* Volunteers are committed to the goal of the project

  * All volunteers are interested in the goal of the project

  * The individual reasons for this may be different

  * Their own interest makes volunteers commit to the project

  * Following own interests is part of Selbstentfaltung

* Maintainer needs to be committed to the project goals, too

  * This guarantees non-alienated leadership

Why maintainership works

* Power of maintainer is balanced by volunteering

  * Bad maintainers chase away important volunteers

  * A maintainer without volunteers is pointless

* Volunteers need maintainer

  * To prevent chaos

  * Maintainer fulfills a special role in the project

  * Like anyone else...

* A system of built-in checks and balances

* Key: All contributors are committed to the project goal

Maintainership challenges

* Main goal of maintainership:

  *Keep the project producing useful products*

#. subgoal: Make productive volunteers stay in the project

   * Otherwise there is nobody who produces

   * I.e.: Non-productive volunteers are dispensable

#. subgoal: Keep project on track

   * Otherwise it stops producing useful products

* Subgoals can conflict with each other

Consensus as the fundamental governance method

* Consensus?

  * A way to make decisions

  * Short definition: Nobody needs(!) to object

  * Not: Unanimity

* Consensus prevents conflicts

  * Participation of all interested parties by definition

  * When nobody needs to object at least nobody is against a decision

  * Longer discussion process x-rays a problem fully

* Consensus is a cultural technique

  * As such rather unknown in democratic societies

  * Each participant is very powerful

  * Not everyone is good in handling this power carefully

Conflicts in the governance model of Free Software

Sources of conflict

* In projects

* Between projects

  * Aside from forks I don't know of any...

* Between a project and the rest

  * Rare

  * Often projects find a smart solution to circumvent a problem

  * Danger: software patents

  * Sometimes: use of Free Software violating the licenses

  * Don't be surprised: A successful new mode of production benefits
    the ancient regime *also*

Forks as the ultimate conflict resolution

* Fork?

  * A situation where a peer production project is split up

  * Usual reason: Irresolvable conflicts

* Basis of a fork

  * Common work results are available to everyone

  * No structural force bonds volunteer contributors

* Contributors are the resource to compete for

* A successful fork must propose an exciting perspective

  * This is hard to do

  * Forks are very rare

* Top two reasons

  1. Development process is too slow

     * Current maintainer blocks quick development

  2. Changes in the license

     * For instance because company wants to benefit more

* Examples

  * gcc (reason 1)

  * XFree (reason 2)

  * Ubuntu (reason 1)

* Top two results

  1. Two branches join again later

  2. One branch vanishes

Lots of projects

* Forms of collaboration

  * Governance!

* Generally: working in parallel

From Free Software to Wikipedia



Governance model

* Fork

  * Citizendium?

Thread: oxenT05941 Message: 1/1 L0 [In index]
Message 05941 [Homepage] [Navigation]