[Dev] Reflection on the Relationship of Money and Parabola

hellekin hellekin at gnu.org
Tue Jan 6 09:34:16 GMT 2015

Hash: SHA512

On 01/06/2015 03:33 AM, Luke Shumaker wrote:
> OK, now that I have a nice strong beverage I can begin discussing
> this.  This kind of conversation isn't the type I come to this list to
> have :/
*** I'm very sorry about that, but I guess it's an adult thing to do
when an issue is presented, to discuss, evaluate, and solve it.

> Tiberius has been very generous, and Ceata seems to be a good match.
> However, I don't think that we've given the SFC or SPI proper
> consideration, and I think that it would be a mistake to simply go for
> the first foundation that reaches out to us.
*** Fair enough.  It's good indeed to ponder what is to be done, and the
offers.  Fully agree with the points of "handling donations", "making
donations tax-deductible", "copyleft enforcement", and "liability
protection", and that "copyleft enforcement is important.

> I'm pretty sure Aurélien feels worn out by this discussion, and I
> don't blame him.
*** Nobody is blaming him.

> My stance: as much as I would *love* to receive a cheque for my work
> on Parabola, I think that money distributed among developers is a
> terrible idea.
> I'm OK with receiving donations that cover expenses.  I think I'd even
> be OK with using donations to employ one of us full-time (though I'm
> skeptical that we would raise even close to enough money to do that).
> But rationing out the money is a terrible idea.
*** I think it is as well.

> There was a study that I can't find (because the keywords are utterly
> unhelpful) that showed that introducing money into a community like
> this poisons it, even if it seems like a strict improvement.
*** Is it "The Psychological Consequences of Money" [0]?

That would suggest people looking for money outside of the project will
develop self-sufficiency and therefore lower their interest in the
project.  Just kidding, but it reminds me of Thomas Hardin's 1974
article "The Tragedy of the Commons" that predicted doom, and Elinor
Ostrom's response "The Drama of the Commons" that demonstrated Hardin
was wrong with successful examples of commons management from around the
world.  Similarly, several articles citing the original study seem to
attenuate or reverse the perspective that "money is bad".

[0] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/314/5802/1154

> And speaking from my own perspective, as nice as it would be to
> receive a cheque; unless it's somehow enough that I can consider
> myself employed by Parabola and avoid getting another job, then it's
> not a very good use of the money.  It wouldn't affect my contributions
> in any way, it wouldn't substantially affect my happiness.
> OTOH, if the funds sent me a BBB, that would likely be a pretty good
> use of the money, as it is a piece of hardware that would directly
> allow me to contribute in new ways.
*** See, it's a matter of allocation.  In your case it would be a
machine to suggest pain (guilt of defecting) and pleasure (satisfaction
of cooperating) in contributing ARM code.  For someone else, it would be
paying the rent, so that their basic needs are alleviated and they can
actually spend more time on working towards self-sufficiency within the
project instead of stepping back to re-orient their priorities out of

That's an example of allocation.

>  Aurélien still objected.
*** Aurélien merely objects out of principle, without giving any thought
at it, and reacts violently when his worldview is challenged.  I gather
that he has had negative experience with money and friendship, and
projects these experiences on the project.  Or maybe he simply fears
such potential experience, but didn't live any.  It's impossible to know
since he rejects discussion and feels threatened by the topic.

> Several other users have piped up with their support for that idea;
> a project can exist entirely through donated *stuff*, as we do.  I can
> definitely get behind that.
*** That's certainly a proper way to allocate money.

> OTOH, having a pot of spare money would allow us to do experiments and
> things that we might not otherwise do because of the overhead of
> coordinating with someone else over the resources. [...]
> if we can try new things that have expenses without as much overhead,
> then it allows us to try more cool new things.
*** Yes.  I was part of a virtual community that started off as a single
person's charge to support the costs.  After a few years, this person
informed the community that he'd like to transfer the "benevolent
dictatorship" to a community sustained model.  A volunteer stepped up to
take care of the finances, and a fund was created to receive donations.
 I can't remember exactly how it came to be, but over the years this
system evolved into a dual fund approach: the "operations fund", that
receives voluntary donations in priority up until the necessary income
to cover 6 months of expenses is attained; then people can decide
whether to allocate to this expense fund, or to a solidarity fund.  The
latter fund can be tapped "anonymously" by members in need.  People use
it to pay an extraordinary health bill, a late rent, or some other
unpredicted expense.  The result is that people are reinforced in their
sense of community because they can actually count on the community to
help them, most of the solidarity fund expenses are reimbursed, and
expenses are covered regularly.  Whenever the funds run low, a call or
reminder is made to the community and money flows in.  Incoming
donations are announced (anonymously, but donors can publicize it if
they so wish), which enables people to donate more when they have
disposable income.  This experience is entirely positive, and has not
brought any negative consequence on the community, quite the opposite.

> Let me put it this way: There are a lot of pros and cons to whatever
> decision we make.  My support of any decision in this matter is
> contingent upon Aurélien's support.  If Aurélien does not fully
> support whatever is decided, then neither do I.  I don't necessarily
> agree with him; I may try to sway his opinion; but without his full
> support, you don't have mine.
*** That's understandable.  I need to make a disclaimer: I do not expect
any contribution to come my way from Parabola.  This is why I feel free
to comment and suggest and criticize.  I have no conflict of interest
whatsoever.  My only objective is to help.  I regret Aurélien's reaction
but I understand it, although I'd be happier if he would not feel
threatened by this discussion, and participate instead of simply vetoing it.

> OK, so what is the end that the money is a mean to?  What needs
> qualify a developer to receive funds?  Who gets to judge their cases?
*** My personal view on it is self-determination and trust in the will
to cooperate--friendship, remember?

> And with money, we have to have some sort of formal administration.
*** The interface between Parabola and [sponsor] does not need to have
any decisional power over the allocation of money.  Actually it's better
if they don't to eliminate any conflict of interest.  This can be a
rotating role, but more practically a revocable role should be enough.
The interface needs to announce to the commnunity how much money is
available, and to [sponsor] how it was allocated.  Any "situation" must
be treated on either side, and timely communicated--the interface role
is that of a neutral messenger.  Introducing "democracy" there is
opening to conflicts of interest and bikeshedding.  Anything that is not
concerned with money, e.g., GPL violations, is something to be dealt
with within the community (e.g., decide that Luke will be the legal
representative) and communicated with [sponsor].

> remember the mention that with the bureaucratic duties of being such a
> representative, one might have less time for technical contributions.
*** Therefore the interface should be someone who will not contribute
technically.  As long as the accounting is managed transparently, and
the communication fluid between Parabola and [sponsor], there's no
reason why it would take much time.



P.S.: I have done my part on this.  Good luck with the rest.
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