A Time of Gifts

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Here’s the recorded talk:

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I found this worthwhile.

Some points that I enjoyed:

  • We are accustomed to market values.

  • “Shooting stars” come in with big energy, do a lot, are given more to do, burn out, don’t want to hear advice to do less.

  • Narratives, or ways of thinking about issues, can help or hurt us in solving particular problems.

  • Narratives from early in open source history hold over with good and ill effects.

  • Lots of contribution isn’t actually to scratch own itches but others’, especially when we look at non-code contributions like organizing, board services, and the like.

  • Gift-giving communities are vague and messy, without any ability to get even and walk away.

  • We should realize that whatever we can give as a gift is enough. Cue Tom Yorke.

  • Active succession planning and manageable term limits, three to five years, are very important for all involved.

A few points of hesitation:

  • I think the presentation of the “old” open source mindset was a bit straw-man. Even just looking at ESR, there was a lot of speech and writing about hackers’ obligation as stewards of essential infrastructure.

  • “Transactions don’t build community.” This is not my experience! Dollar-denominated transactions can certainly happen without community. But folks can definitely get to know each other and grow closer through repeated business.

  • “…being an employee is not being in a community of shared contribution with your employer. At least not in the companies I’ve seen.” I appreciate the qualification, because I do think this happens. But I also believe it’s relatively rare.

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I have also been in situations (though scarce) where I’ve enjoyed working on someone else’s company and I’ve had respect/admiration for the owners/founders.

But a long history of capitalist exploitation and poisonous pro-capitalist propaganda has definitely given me a pessimistic attitude when dealing with any company. And then it’s up to the folks running the company to more or less prove to me that they’re not trash people and that they’re worth giving a damn; beyond just being a source of income.

That may sound like I’m a prejudiced jerk, but companies screw over their workers all the time; so being pessimistic about employers is the smart attitude, IMO.

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Thanks for posting this. I watched it and made these observations:

re. - the selfish motivation supposedly pushed by the cathedral and the bazaar book. I think if the presenter knew that one of our basic psychological needs is relatedness, she might acknowledge that we might be “selfish” and altruistic at the same time.

The story about desirability of messiness on one hand and transactions destroying communities on the other is also misguided. Even in small groups, gift giving is closely scrutinized by both parties, albeit the accounting is not done in numbers. Gifts can’t flow in one direction only in healthy communities.

…which is also why the volunteering world is cracking, as the economic value it produces is not reciprocated, but appropriated by a minority (I know, preaching to the chorus :slight_smile: )

Lastly, when painting the bucolic picture of hunter gatherers, she omitted the fact that “aggrandizers,” among them - as the anthropologist Hayden calls individuals who wanted to usurp more of the resources for themselves - were actively fought by all means available.

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