4.1.D. Peer governance in peer production?

From P2P Foundation
Jump to: navigation, search

4.1.D. Peer governance in peer production?

How does peer governance work in actual peer production processes, in free software/open source projects for example?

Aaron Krowne has done useful work to define the authority models at work in such projects. The models define access and the workflow, and whether there is any quality control. The free-form model, which Wikipedia employs, allows anyone to edit any entry at any time. But in the owner-centric model, entries can only be modified with the permission of a specific ‘owner’ who has to defend the integrity of his module. He concludes that “These two models have different assumptions and effects. The free-form model connotes more of a sense that all users are on the “same level," and that expertise will be universally recognized and deferred to. As a result, the creator of an entry is spared the trouble of reviewing every change before it is integrated, as well as the need to perform the integration. By contrast, the owner-centric authority model assumes the owner is the de facto expert in the topic at hand, above all others, and all others must defer to them. Because of this arrangement, the owner must review all modification proposals, and take the time to integrate the good ones. However, no non-expert will ever be allowed to “damage" an entry, and therefore resorting to administrative powers is vanishingly rare." The owner-centric model is better for quality, but takes more time, while the free-form model increases scope of coverage and is very fast. The choice between the two models can of course be a contentious issue. In the case of the Wikipedia, the adherents of the owner-centric model, active in the pre-Wikipedia "Nupedia" model, lost out, and presumable, the success of Wikipedia has proven them wrong, since the latter totally open process has been proven a success . Similar conflicts are reported in many other projects . Collaborative projects are no utopian scheme were everything is better, but subject to intense human conflict as well. A general problem still associated with FLOSS software is their lack of user-friendliness , they are often made from the biases of a development community, and may have less incentive than corporate entities, to make them customer-friendly, which is why a niche has been created for service companies such as Red Hat.

Another important aspect of FLOSS projects is how they handle 'equipotentiality'. While formal degrees have been abandoned, and open participation is in principle encouraged, most projects will over time produce a number of rules in their selection. The important aspect is that these rules are generated within the community itself, though mostly in the early phases. After a while, they tend to consolidate and they are a given for the new participants who come later . At this point, a process of socialization is crucial to eventual acceptance . The process is akin to the tradition of artisanship, which has been used in the three-degree system of original freemasonry as well: apprentice, companion (fellow craft), master. But it is implied rather than formalized.

Crucial to the success of many collaborative projects is their implementation of the reputation schemes. They differ from previous reputation-based systems, such as academic peer review, because the open process of participation (equipotentiality) precludes a systematic strengthening of reputation so that it could become a factor of conservatism (as it is in science and its dependence on dominant paradigms) and power. In the better P2P systems, reputation is time-sensitive on the degree of recent participation and the possibility of forking and of downgrading reputation grades, introduce an aspect of community control, flexibility and dynamism. See in particular the endnote on this topic, outlining the example of the NoLogo site . Reputation-based schemes are crucial because cooperation is based on trust, and they offer a collaborative scheme to indicate those who are the best contributors to the common value, while motivating everybody to use the more cooperative, and less the more baser sides of human nature."