An example of crowding out at Debian

In my P2P lectures, one of the point I discuss, and generates controversy in the business audience, is the ‘crowding out’ phenomemon. It means two things: that in community-based peer production (as opposed to crowdsourcing by unconnected individuals), paying out money to producers may have the opposite effect of discouraging voluntary labour. And secondly, that the need for recognition and equipotentiality, argues against a privileged role of experts.

Slashdot refers to a recent case which demonstrates this issue, in the Debian development community:

“Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 was supposed to be due by December 4 and development is currently frozen. Apparently the saga was triggered by disenchantment towards funding of $6,000 for each of the 2 release managers to work full-time in order to speed up the development. Many unpaid developers simply put off Debian work to work on something else.”

More details in ZDNet Asia:

“Barth and his fellow release manager, Steve Langasek, have been at the center of a controversy over the last few months, having accepted up to $6,000 of funding each for working full-time on Debian version 4, which is code-named Etch.

The funding for Barth and Langasek has been raised by an “experiment” called Dunc-Tank, which aims to speed the release of Etch.

But the establishment of the group may have backfired, as it has angered many unpaid developers. They argue that Dunc-Tank is turning Debian into a two-class system, which could have a negative effect on the distribution. Some have called for the resignation of the two release managers.

A group of 17 developers, led by well-known Debian maintainer Joerg Jaspert, issued a position statement in October citing its disenchantment with Dunc-Tank. It read, “This whole affair already hurts Debian more than it can ever achieve. It already made a lot of people who have contributed a huge amount of time and work to Debian reduce their work. People left the project, others are orphaning packages…system administration and security work is reduced, and a lot of otherwise silent maintainers simply put off Debian work (to) work on something else.”

We continue to explore the funding issue through a tag at Delicious: P2P-Funding

Benjamin Mako Hill has a thoughtful essay on the issue as well.

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