[TOS] how broad a mandate?

Janet Hawtin janet at hawtin.net.au
Fri May 1 14:32:14 UTC 2009

Hi folks

I have participated in some volunteer communities, some which have
involved open source technologies.
ianacoder so for me floss is largely a social conundrum. Some of the
social challenges are about copyright, standards, patents, and some of
them are about communities and volunteering. Some flossy coders are
paid, the following ideas are more about voluntary aspects.

constitutional monarchy: encouraging the momentum of invaluable
individuals while also practising good governance that attracts
interest and activity by general membership.

no capes: in volunteer contexts promising superhuman feats can result
in people expecting one person to do it all, this can also
result in other participants thinking of themselves as audience rather
than team if they feel merely human.

cultural hackysack: juggling the factors which make diverse
individuals feel at home in a community. these balances happen in all
communities but in volunteer contexts the ebb and flow of
participation feels more sensitive than in contexts where people are
participating for money rather than fun.

knowing when to fold them: a project has momentum and community,
sometimes people have differing perspectives on paths forward. because
there is some investment and advantage in persisting with a single
project there is some resistence to forking. forking distributes the
efforts in different directions. forking may still be a useful choice
if people feel strongly enough about the ongoing purpose of the fork.
perhaps sometimes resources and ideas can be shared. this would be
more feasible if we are careful to divorce gracefully and without
rancor. the aim of the game in the long run is to make choices without
losing overall momentum for any of the perspectives which people are
prepared to commit to.

moderation: i am participating in a community website which has a chat
function. it is a very diverse population. there is discussion about
whether the project should straighten up and fly right or be wild and
feisty, and about which perspective is more likely to ensure happy
growth of the community. it is probable that both flavours are useful
and that the answer lies in having boundaries that are like cell
walls, permeable, negotiated, able to engage with useful material and
to minimise problems constructively.
I follow some education blogs including Artichoke in NZ. She has an
interesting post on boundaries

all of me: managing personal momentum with diffuse interests. one of
the challenges in volunteering is about scoping personal commitment. a
group has recently been initiated called blue hackers. it is a
recognition that some coders face depression. i think this may in part
be due to the borderless nature of committing to voluntary work. i
think finding ways to make commitments finite, and to celebrate the
journey so that there is a sense of progress are both important.

Stormy Peters did a great keynote at the Melbourne LCA 2008 called
Would you do it again for free?

The presentation suggested that it can be tricksy going from a paid
role on a project to an unpaid role on the same project. I think this
is because there is a certain level of momentum expected in a paid
situation and that the community around a project might have residual
expectations once the person is once again doing it as and when they
can get to it.

I agree that sometimes the way that social aspects of geekery are
tackled can be demotivating but think that it can be fascinating and
developing an awareness of how these things often play out
individually, projectly, distributionly, flossily generally, will be
useful longer term. I am not sure how the course is being scoped, it
would be possible to do a course on technical aspects of open source,
it would also be possible to cover social aspects. The choices would
probably depend on the experience level of the students. Perhaps with
people very new to open source it would be good to start with
technical aspects and having a go at collaborating. Once students have
some shared experience in collaborative practice they might find the
social aspects more interesting to reflect on?

All the best


More information about the tos mailing list