Maintainance and volunteer labour

This is a broad topic, around paid and unpaid contribution, the ethos of free/open-source software, the challenge of paying fair wages and the distributed practice of sustaining infrastructures. A bit ‘philosophical’ maybe? But is deeply embedded in these issues, in practice. Jumping off from a post in Mastodon.

That Mastodon thread from Kat Marchán goes off at a tangent quite soon, into specifics of particular open source projects. But the issue of ‘maintainance’ is one to pay attention to? It’s at the heart of the time-economy of And the project of infrastructure provisioning?

A community worth checking out is The Maintainers who’re concerned with

fanciful ideas—which we call innovation-speak—that are unsupported by evidence about how technology works, about the role new things play in society, and about how humans will benefit.

The Maintainers, a global research network interested in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world. isn’t in the core of open-source, as a community of software developers. But the world of sysops is similar, and the ‘shape’ of peer-to-peer work and continuous maintainance commitments is basically (?) the same? Moreover, is basically, in some sense, an ‘open source’ project, aiming to build sustainable infrastructure and generic capability of some kind - perhaps in organisation, as distinct from tech. So the challenge of (paid?) core work and long-term sustaining is one we’re wound up in.

Nadia Eghbal has come at this from another angle, studying the various kinds of participation and ‘membership’ that sustain GitHub, and the kinds of community structure that emerge, around ‘projects’ of different kinds.

Can you clarify what is the purpose of this thread? Is there some expected output or “success criteria”?

Nope. It’s a bit ‘philosophical’ but bears on practice in a broad way. Just an open discussion, if folks are inclined.

1 Like

maybe it could help us to reflect about ‘labour’ and compensations? We have started with a model where ops member staff commits to certain roles and/or tasks with a certain expectation to be compensated with the net monetary contributions, while also assuming that the invested time is a form of ‘sweat equity’, that maybe compensated somehow in the future. At the same time we have non-ops members who contribute or express interest in doing so, who may not necessarily expect monetary compensation. Questions arise:

  1. can we have paid and non-paid members in our circles of work?
  2. what activities could be taken up by non-ops members?
  3. what levels of access to information are reasonable for effective work and at the same time guarantee privacy of member personal data
  4. what models of combining paid work and p2p contributions are meaningful to us? and how does establish a meaningful reference for its own sake?

Note that I consider our work voluntary, as we do it out of free will and not because we have a contract that says we are obliged to do so. But ops members are paid a compensation for (some of) their work.

In our Five Pillar model, the Production pillar is the one where we define the working relationships, compensations and co-production methodologies. We have developed this at Free Knowledge Institute and femProcomuns, see here and some 50 projects and so many workshops have used this model over the last 5 years.

The challenge IMHO is in particular that: to define very clear rules, document processes and working methodologies, so that people with different relations, capacities and commitments can engage and contribute in a meaningful way to the collective.

1 Like

These are questions that need to addressed in the handbook that is in prototype here. In principle, the way that we will write the handbook, will be through commons.hour. @wouter 's comment is a good starting place, and nicely underlines the plurality that we need to be able to handle in’s operations and in the multi–stakeholder stewarding machinery.

Nice topic. We’ve been discussing what to do in the world and came up with a W.I.P process documented in

1 Like

Related to this broad theme . . here’s a call for an open discussion, with a date poll and some proposed agenda topics Infrastructuring & federating around the FLOSS toolstack

The focus is not specifically labour, contributions and livelihood, but rather, strategy across FLOSS-hosting organisations, and the possibility that more active federation might be called for (aka division of labour), to enable labour-and-livelihhood challenges to be met.