From the Call for Papers:

Our plenary theme is Developing the Virtual Society: Conflict in Adoption of Online Collaborative Networks. As virtual society develops and peer technologies pump in its heart, this conference brings together academics of all disciplines to discuss conflict in the adoption of collaborative networks. This is a time of confrontation between older forms of communication and organization and new ways of sharing, collaborating and acting collectively. We seek to explore conflicts emerging in the transition from and resistance to horizontal participatory networks and also conflict within collaborative networks. We welcome suggestions for panels and papers on any area relating to our theme, and particularly in the following areas:

  • Network Theory
  • P2P and FLOSS methology adoption
  • FLOSS methology
  • Open source conflicts and forking
  • Adoption by NGOs and the developing world
  • Adoption by social movements, hacktivism, cyberconflict
  • Institutional resistance to networks
  • Online P2P Places and Conflicts

We encourage especially contributions, but not limiting, to politics, economics, computer science, business, psychology, sociology, and law.

With your abstract of no more than 300 words please include the following information:


Provisional Deadline for abstracts: 15th January 2010

Call for Papers


Proposed idea:

I think I'd like to do something around:

  • P2P and FLOSS methodology adoption
  • FLOSS methodology
  • Open source conflicts and forking

May be something about maintainership in peer production could be interesting?

Another idea:

  • Conflicts between Free Software and the rest of the world


The phenomenon of conflict can be understood better if it is seen as one part of the governance model of a social entity. In particular a governance model determines

  • what type of conflicts emerge in a social entity,
  • who is engaged in a conflict,
  • how conflicts develop,
  • how the social entity deals with conflicts.

Based on this insight the talk explores conflict in Free Software as an aspect of the governance model of Free Software. The concept of peer production is briefly introduced as a wider theoretical framework which embeds Free Software but also other contemporary phenomenons like Wikipedia. External and internal openness as well as Selbstentfaltung are highlighted as important features of peer production.

Then the talk focuses on Free Software as the most important example of peer production. Important features of Free Software are explained. The complexity of (Free) Software production is highlighted leading to the conclusion that there must be some governance in Free Software or otherwise it would not exist.

This foundation is then used to outline important elements of the special governance model of Free Software. The governance related aspects of the features of peer production and Free Software are outlined.

Then the talk focuses on the interior governance model of Free Software as an example of governance models in peer production projects. In particular the phenomenon of maintainership is explained and how it emerges under circumstances of peer production. The relationship between maintainership and volunteering is explained as well as why maintainership works.

Finally some sources of conflict in Free Software are outlined and the rare but always available conflict resolution model of a fork is explained.


Conflicts and the governance model of Free Software

Starting point: peer production
Open production process...
  • Production process
    • Not: Pure communication like in social networks
    • Not: Pure distribution like in P2P networks
    • But: Production of useful things / products
  • External openness
    • I.e.: Product is available to everyone who needs it
    • Usually: Projects are very transparent
  • Internal openness
    • I.e.: Contributions from all sides may be included
...based on Selbstentfaltung
  • Selbstentfaltung?
    • Complex theoretical background from Critical Psychology
    • In short: Having fun individually...
    • ...while maintaining a relationship to society
  • Selbstentfaltung merges individual well-being with societal needs
    • Key: Does not need alienation for this merge
    • First time in history possible on a global scale
  • Selbstentfaltung is an important precondition for peer production
    • Having grave consequences for the governance model
  • Expressions of Selbstentfaltung
    • Contributions from volunteers
    • No alienated structural force
  • Result: peer production is a new mode of production
Visible aspects of peer production
  • All known examples
    • Globally distributed (external and internal openness)
    • Communication and distribution by the Internet (external and internal openness)
    • Physical meetings are rare
Examples of peer production
  • Free Software
    • Oldest and most important peer production phenomenon
    • Official start during the early 1980's
  • Wikipedia
    • You all know Wikipedia
  • OpenAccess
    • Peer production in science
  • Free Music
  • ...
  • The new mode of production already spread to several examples
Focus on Free Software
Key features of Free Software
  • Software projects of all kinds
    • I.e.: People write software together
  • Four rules of Free Software
    1. Software may be used for any purpose
    2. The sources may be studied and changed
    3. The software may be distributed arbitrarily
    4. Changed versions may be distributed arbitrarily
  • Licenses embed Free Software in the legal framework
    • Use copyright - though in a tricky way
Producing software is complexity everywhere
  • Every project has lots and lots of
    • details
    • aspects
    • dependencies
    • tasks
    • priorities
  • Big projects have lots and lots of
    • contributions in various forms
    • contributors
    • specialists
    • stakeholders
    • timing considerations
  • There are lots and lots of Free Software projects
Free Software needs governance
  • In general producing software is a very complex process
    • Openness adds to this complexity
  • Without governance
    • complexity would result in chaos
    • Free Software simply wouldn't exist
  • But: Free Software exists!
  • Thus: There must be governance in Free Software
The governance model of Free Software
Governance related aspects in key features
  • Production process
    • Production as a goal
  • External openness
    • Availability of product
    • Transparency of projects
    • Free Software: Four rules of Free Software
    • Licenses
  • Internal openness
    • General openness for contributions from all sides
    • Selection of contributions
Interior vs. foreign governance model
  • Foreign governance model for governing foreign affairs
    • I.e.: Govern the relationship to the world outside a project
    • Relationships to other Free Software projects
    • Relationships to the non-Free world
  • Important parts of the foreign governance model
    • Licenses govern the usage conditions of the products
    • Standards govern the technical cooperation
  • Interior governance model governs the work in the project
Cornerstones of the interior governance model
  1. Selbstentfaltung of producers

    • Expressed by volunteering
    • Absence of alienated forces
  2. Need for governance to prevent chaos
  3. Leveraging diversity

    • Specialists for various knowledge fields
    • Specialists for various areas of the project
  • Under these conditions maintainership emerges
Key features of maintainership
  • Maintainership == non-alienated leadership
    • I.e.: Leadership in duty of the project
  • Maintainership process == modified consensus
    • Consensus-oriented decision making is the rule
    • Maintainer may cut the Gordian knot
  • Self-appointment of maintainers
    • Acceptance by community
    • Maintainers are also volunteers
    • Often: The founders of the project
    • Often: No formal declaration of maintainership
  • Non-political approach
    • Not: "It should be this way"
    • Instead: "It works best this way"
    • The governance model emerges from the mode of production
Maintainership and Selbstentfaltung
  • No alienated force bonds volunteers
    • They can leave the project at any time
  • Result: Volunteers can not be commanded
    • At best they can be asked to do something
    • Usually they self-select tasks they execute
    • Self-selection of tasks is important part of volunteering
Maintainership and commitment
  • If volunteers are not bond why a project stays together?
  • Volunteers are committed to the goal of the project
    • All volunteers are interested in the goal of the project
    • The individual reasons for this may be different
    • Their own interest makes volunteers commit to the project
    • Following own interests is part of Selbstentfaltung
  • Maintainer needs to be committed to the project goals, too
    • This guarantees non-alienated leadership
Why maintainership works
  • Power of maintainer is balanced by volunteering
    • Bad maintainers chase away important volunteers
    • A maintainer without volunteers is pointless
  • Volunteers need maintainer
    • To prevent chaos
    • Maintainer fulfills a special role in the project
    • Like anyone else...
  • A system of built-in checks and balances
  • Key: All contributors are committed to the project goal
Maintainership challenges
  • Main goal of maintainership:

    Keep the project producing useful products

  1. subgoal: Make productive volunteers stay in the project

    • Otherwise there is nobody who produces
    • I.e.: Non-productive volunteers are dispensable
  2. subgoal: Keep project on track

    • Otherwise it stops producing useful products
  • Subgoals can conflict with each other
Consensus as the fundamental governance method
  • Consensus?
    • A way to make decisions
    • Short definition: Nobody needs(!) to object
    • Not: Unanimity
  • Consensus prevents conflicts
    • Participation of all interested parties by definition
    • When nobody needs to object at least nobody is against a decision
    • Longer discussion process x-rays a problem fully
  • Consensus is a cultural technique
    • As such rather unknown in democratic societies
    • Each participant is very powerful
    • Not everyone is good in handling this power carefully
Conflicts in the governance model of Free Software
Sources of conflict
  • In projects
  • Between projects
    • Aside from forks I don't know of any...
  • Between a project and the rest
    • Rare
    • Often projects find a smart solution to circumvent a problem
    • Danger: software patents
    • Sometimes: use of Free Software violating the licenses
    • Don't be surprised: A successful new mode of production benefits the ancient regime also
Forks as the ultimate conflict resolution
  • Fork?
    • A situation where a peer production project is split up
    • Usual reason: Irresolvable conflicts
  • Basis of a fork
    • Common work results are available to everyone
    • No structural force bonds volunteer contributors
  • Contributors are the resource to compete for
  • A successful fork must propose an exciting perspective
    • This is hard to do
    • Forks are very rare
  • Top two reasons
    1. Development process is too slow
      • Current maintainer blocks quick development
    2. Changes in the license
      • For instance because company wants to benefit more
  • Examples
    • gcc (reason 1)
    • XFree (reason 2)
    • Ubuntu (reason 1)
  • Top two results
    1. Two branches join again later
    2. One branch vanishes
Lots of projects
  • Forms of collaboration
    • Governance!
  • Generally: working in parallel

StefanMerten/Talks/Virt3CAtHull (last edited 2010-01-01 16:28:43 by StefanMerten)

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