Distribution of Labor

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= concept that should be contrasted with the Division of Labor as characteristic of industrial society.


Samir Chopra et al. in Decoding Liberation:

"The FOSS practice of distributing source code and accreting changes submitted by user-programmers is a form of production where the traditional practice of dividing labor among a pool of programmers is enhanced, expanded, and rendered radically flexible. The labor pool for a FOSS project is not limited to a small group of workers, but is expanded, exploiting the Internet, so that the cycle of distribution and accumulation of modifications is orders of magnitude more efficient and effective than the code-sharing of the past. FOSS, that is, relies on “distribution of labor,” an enhanced form of division of labor, by opening the gates of the virtual factory. The organization of this “factory” can be hierarchical, but this governance does not imply a hierarchical imposition of work assignments. . . . To make an industrial analogy, while senior developers often act somewhat like foremen, workers are not told where to go or what to do. Instead, the shop floor is scattered with tools and partially complete work, with copious explicit instructions and advice: anyone can pick up an unassigned programming task, read the documentation, and consult with other workers through e-mail, newsgroups, and chat. Work schedules are very weakly constrained, though there is no guarantee that a worker’s contribution will ultimately be accepted: contributions to work within this “factory” come from all time zones and are accepted on the basis of a meritocratic process. Workers are free to leave with a copy of the product and to open up another manufacturing shop: programmers are always free to fork a development tree. Users are also “workers,” as they may become producers of future versions of the code. Workers’ inspection of each other’s work, combined with effective management, ensures that the energies of an army of programmers, of whatever size, can effectively be focused on solving the problems of creating excellent code (Raymond 2001)."