The need for organisation

Interesting post from MJ Ray on the need for organisation – which perhaps busts the myth that open source software development is a perfect model to follow for other types of groups:

Are free software users particularly bad at the basics of running an interest society (like welcoming and expiring members, calling meetings, publishing routine communications, and so on), have I been spoiled by cooperatives with their friendly Member Services departments or secretariats, or what? Is this why so many free software orgs seem to include self-perpetuating leadership groups? Is this a serious problem if, as reported, Software Development is a Team Sport [etbe]? Are there fully-working free software mass participation groups out there?

I feel a lot of these problems are caused by attempting to order our inherently entropy-filled world completely and insisting everything follows petty rules, such as refusing to answer a question because the “wrong” member asked it. The world will not become less random just because hackers try to impose arbitrary rules. Sometimes it’s good to put down minimum standards (because calling zero-day meetings is a mostly-avoidable way of excluding some members) but it will always be a poor alternative to trying to do the best you can for others.

7 thoughts on “The need for organisation”

  1. Whoa! I’m not criticising the software development projects themselves, but the support organisations around them that handle the money and other property, so I can’t see how it “busts the myth that open source software development is a perfect model”.

    If anything, I think it might work better if we ran the organisations more like the main software development projects and less like hackers-playing-at-governments. Councils are often pretty inefficient anyway, and then some free software support organisations seem to behave a bit like a council run completely by new untrained councillors, but there’s no training provision because they don’t recognise the problem.

  2. The Membership Project may be interesting, but it’s very hard to read because pages like http://commonspace.org.uk/about-membership-project keep using line-breaks instead of paragraph breaks, which really doesn’t work well in a drupal-default style. Actually, trying to read it made me feel ill! The white-on-pink headings and red-on-pink navigation links don’t help either.

    What’s it about? If you sign up there, do you have to maintain Yet Another Blog? Does it connect to social bookmarking services and so on?

  3. Hmmm, looks like there were some copy-and-paste issues there. I have admin rights on the site and will edit the paragraphs back in. One of the issues with Drupal I find is the cackiness of the Tiny MCE editor plugin – it seems to work much better in WordPress.

    I appreciate the annoyance re: CAPTCHA but the way around it is to register with the site. A pain, I guess, but if something is worth getting involved in…

    What’s it about? Well… The Royal Society started a project to look at how it could adapt itself to a world where social networks etc make membership organisations potentially less valid. It’s the Clay Shirky idea of organising without organisations. David Wilcox had the idea of opening the discussion up, because the findings could have relevance for all manner of orgs, not just the RSA.

    So, he started the Drupal site as a collaborative space where people could sign up and leave blog posts or not sign up and leave comments. I think the aim is to keep barriers to entry low while trying to combat spam etc. David and friends have worked on similar efforts in the past, like the Open Innovation Exchange – an attempt to bid for some government money using an open codesign process – again Drupal based. They came second to a team from – I think – inside the government, so didn’t do badly at all.

  4. Check that the TinyMCE installed on Drupal is up-to-date – I don’t use it, but I think I read a lot about TinyMCE updates during WordPress’s 2.2 and early 2.3 series. Hopefully it’s a simple merge to upgrade it.

    So is that blog seperate to this blog? Can you syndicate all or part of this blog to that site, in the style of http://cooperativemagazine.co.uk/ ?

    I can’t tell whether the site is worth getting involved in and the jargon around it is confusing (had to look Clay Skirky up, for example), but that CAPTCHA (mostly useless for combatting spam but brilliant for obstructing security-conscious humans) is a big warning indicator that the site owners are probably a bit clueless about the web. Then again, more clueless people have made big money on the web…

    I’ve sent in a question about whether it’s intended for all the Third Sector. I’ll see what comes back.

  5. Yeah, totally separate, this blog is just my own personal ramblings.

    It certainly isn’t about making money, big or small. David and the others involved in the project are good folk working to make things better – see his other bloggings here and here. Don’t let the CAPTCHA thing get in the way of what might otherwise be a worthwhile project.

  6. Sorry – the money throw-away comment was a bit of a red herring. You’ve a stray double-quote in the second link there, too.

    But it does bring the question I asked up: is The Membership Project limited to not making money? The site mentions “Third Sector” and so on, but cooperatives seem almost entirely absent.

    I’m not the one letting the CAPTCHA thing get in the way of what might otherwise be a worthwhile project. If I could remove that barrier to entry in a reasonably way, I would.

    Maybe I’m just bitter. I’d like to try, but a couple of things stop me.

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