Free Technology Guild

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This page considers rebuilding the Free Technology Academy using a mixed business model that supports training, project coaching, and consulting.

URL: (dead link).


Joe Corneli:

"A spin-off project: reviving the guild model for sustainability

We developed a mixed business model for a post-FTA spin-off that will offer training, project coaching, and technical consulting. “The Free Technology Guild” is the working title for this effort.

In light of the “cloak and dagger” image that medieval guilds may bring to mind, this title may seem a surprising choice. It is worth noting that Free Software already has some significant "guild-like" features:

  • Copyleft: “only members have the right to work in this space”
  • Difficult to learn (or to get commit rights): “stringent requirements to advance to higher levels”

We acknowledge these existing exclusionary features, and propose to develop some additional “positive” features of guilds:

  • shared knowledge resources
  • robust peer support, mentoring, and training
  • help finding payed work (e.g. in software development)
  • pathways to reputation/credibility/trust

Contemporary discussion lists and Q&A systems provide good support for one-off questions, and, in aggregate, are a good resource for learning on the job. But the more detailed technical projects require more comprehensive knowledge resources, and learning these topics may also require human intervention or hands-on experience. Large-scale projects, like improvements to a nation's infrastructure, also tend to require integrated knowledge from service provides in numerous technological fields.

The FTG would effectively provide a several-sided market for projects, internships, and free software (and other technology) solutions. As it gets started, the FTG will probably take the form of a small programming collective, with a searchable database of personal profiles that describe “what I can offer” and “what I'm looking for.”

Some precident for this exists, of course. Advogato uses guild-like “journeyman” and “master” labels to describe the stature of free software practitioners in a network of trust. Ohloh gathers web-scale information about activity in a huge number of free software projects. OpenHatch focuses on skill-building and matching would-be developers with projects. Barter networks and peer learning practices are increasingly popular, enabled by contemporary web technologies.

On the theory side, in 2003, Jordi Carrasco-Muñoz published a proposal for an “open code market” (First Monday, Volume 8, Number 11 - 3 November 2003). The primary difference with that proposal and our current ideas is that the open code market was focused exclusively on market transactions, whereas the FTG captures non-market forces and focuses on learning.

The FTG should be of interest not just to practitioners, but also to researchers working in technology-related fields. Our thought would be to provide an alternative pathway to funding for open research, avoiding the overheads of contemporary competitive grant funding. In other words: instead of a winners-take-all funding model, we could build the infrastructure to support a more collaborative and learning-oriented approach to funding research, with “applicants” working together, in consultation with funders – until their ideas were ready."