The Scale-Out Blog: Building the Open Source Hackers Cooperative

open-source cooperation

open-source cooperation

Now i am sharing with you an article by a DBA on co-ops as an answer to the current dilemma of how to subsist as an open-source software developer.  It’s an earnest look at the need for a new model for open-source software developers and businesses.  Better than bemoaning a broken system and the dilution of values, the author examines co-operatives as a proposed structure for emerging open-source businesses.  Here “Hackers” refers to any coder who maintains or contributes to open-source software development, not the shadowy people in black hats.

This is an economic problem: how do we allow hackers to make a reasonable living on open source projects while maximizing the long-term value of the software to the widest possible number of users? It turns out there’s a reasonable economic model that can do this: cooperatives

…The Co-op is (sic) model is quite stable, because it aligns interests in such a way that everyone does better if they stick together.

The collective model has been used many times locally to bind together groups of technologists who do similar or complimentary work.  The collective is ideal for techies who still want to maintain their autonomy, yet could benefit from additional resources, and shared business infrastructure like accounting, and sales.  The co-operative model, on the other hand, is rarely applied in tech firms, but the reasons to consider it are strong.

  • Cooperative exist for the benefit of it’s owners, in this case, the clients, end-users, and customers.  Now who wouldn’t like a democratic say in the development and direction of software and tech services that you use EVERY DAY?
  • The cooperative values of education, sharing, democracy, and community are in alignment with similar values in the world of open-source.  Values-alignment is becoming a greater and greater concern to consumers.  There is also a growing market for values-based services in the business world.  The booming cooperative economy (>$3b annually in the US) is a prime example.
  • Mutual benefit is an intrinsic symptom of cooperative organization.  Those involved will benefit from a shared workload, and the co-op members benefit from shared costs (e.g. to develop a much needed new feature).

The scalability of the open-source hackers cooperative may be sticky when dealing with cooperative law, which is mostly mandated at a state level, so interstate commerce and involvement may be hindered by trade and/or membership restrictions.  Often states require that co-op members reside in the same state as the co-op.  The co-op legal database being developed by the NCBA will be invaluable in sorting out these legal pitfalls.

The Scale-Out Blog: Building the Open Source Hackers Cooperative.

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