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Re: PaySwarm-based Debian donations

Martin Owens <doctormo@gmail.com> writes:
> On Mon, 2013-06-17 at 19:03 -0500, Gunnar Wolf wrote:

>> site requesting user's charity

> You mean user's involvement. You don't want users to be invited to
> participate in Debian. Debian isn't elitist and it shouldn't care that
> the tool being deployed is money rather than time.

I object strenuously to this attempted equivalency between money and
participation.  They are not the same thing at all.  The social effects
are almost completely different.

> Your argument invites exclusion and you've not made a good case for why
> out-of-band unknown-to-everyone transactions are better.

The case has been made multiple times in this thread: out-of-band
transactions are not socially distortive to the same degree because they
are not officially endorsed or routed by the project.

I can understand how a pure mathematical and economic analysis would seem
to indicate that this difference is not significant, but emotionally and
socially it is significant.  Money comes with a context and with social
implications.  People have pre-conceived and deeply engrained concepts of
how money, payment, tips, charity, contracts, and reimbursement work,
which is strongly grounded in the larger economic societies in which we're
all embedded.  Those are not simple or transparent constructs, and they
carry significant social weight and influence.  Some aspects of that
influence are directly contrary to the motivations and goals that many
Debian contributors have seen in the project.

Right now, we have a (sometimes uneasy) compromise in which those who do
not feel that way about money can pursue donations privately or seek out
funding models that align with their view of the free software world, and
the project does not condemn, endorse, or comment on those methods.  This
is a social compromise between several sides with very strong opinions.
Previous experiments with negotiating other ways around that social
compromise revealed a signficant risk of instability in poking too hard at
that compromise.

> Although we don't even invite users to participate with their time. So
> we're not even good at advertising Debian to Debian users anyway, even
> if it would be interesting and good for them to do so.

I agree with this.  But I don't think asking them for money is the place
the project as a whole wants to be.  This is a participatory project, not
a charity with paid staff.  There's nothing wrong with being a charity
with paid staff; there are numerous such charities in the world and they
often do exceptionally valuable work.  But Debian has never been that sort
of organization, and I think it would be a wrenching cultural change to
turn into that sort of organization.  A wrenching change that would also
leave behind things that are highly unusual and valued about the type of
project Debian is now.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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