A github post discussing our application was brought to our attention from an email we received from Gratipay (this is what the email is largely in response to). In it you should see a lot of insight into the reasoning/discussion behind the application process at Gratipay. You’ll also find some rumination on how they plan on improving the application process through more dialogue and discussion, rather than an email out of the blue like we received.

We also received a direct response to much of what we brought up below. I’ll go into more detail, but basically, Gratipay holds a lot of weight in sharing enough commonality in a worldview with applicants to accept them and with conforming to what they call “Open Work.” Our problem with Gratipay remains largely the same regardless of our rejection: what they are looking for in applicants is extremely vague to those looking into the service.

They stand by the first reason for rejection because our worldview is too different from Gratipay’s. What they really mean is that we don’t view GamerGate the same. Reading this, it seems that even mentioning it is too far outside their worldview. He talks of reconciliation, but how else is there to come to one without a discussion? How have we not provided discussion?

It seems you mean a particular kind of discussion, “Gratipay’s value of ‘discussion and deliberation as means of reconciling wills and making decisions’ assumes the context of a deliberating body in a decision-making forum …” So is it the fact we discuss GamerGate or is it that we don’t discuss it in a manner you would like? If it is more of the former, it would probably be of value to explicitly mention GamerGate and other issues you don’t want applicants to be a part of, rather than have them have to try to interpret your true meaning through the vague terms offered on your brand guidelines page. That because we don’t see GamerGate “characterized by conflict, combativeness, divisiveness, intimidation, outrage, and the like,” we are rejected. Again, it’s fine to hold that view, but make it more clear.

The page also mentions honesty. We’d be dishonest to not discuss GamerGate and offer a place for a chance of discussion and reconciliation. Not talking about an issue doesn’t make it go away, even if you think GamerGate is a terrible group, which I don’t know that you see that way, but can only assume from the brand guidelines page. Again, the vagueness is making it really difficult to have a constructive dialogue. I applaud you in your thoughts to evaluate the application process and open a dialogue with applicants, but if they have to constantly readjust based on the particular response they receive, how valuable can it be? Just be clearer with what you want and what you’re looking for from the beginning, on the guideline, policies, and related pages someone or a Team may look at when considering Gratipay.

They are so open to interpretation, so vague, that Gratipay can reject anyone for just about any reason, while still pointing them to that page. That’s not helpful to people genuinely looking into the service. Why not say what you’re really looking for rather than waste people’s time, including yours? Since you are concerned with the wasting time on rejected applicants, having less rejections to go through because you are more clear on what sort of applicants you are looking for would seem like something to strive for. Spend time now to spend less later.

If it is about worldviews not meshing or complementing one another, shouldn’t applicants both know that is one of the criteria and have a pretty good understanding of what that means? It seems it would serve to benefit both you (better applicants) and them (knowing if they should apply or not in the first place).

But onto the second reason. First, this is (and was before) Andrew, not Rutledge. Second, I don’t think this has anything to do with a familiarity with open culture. What you describe doesn’t automatically take me to that definition.

For example, TechRaptor, by the wording on the policy page, does indeed conform to Open Work, “Open Work means that the Team provides a clear path for any individual to voluntarily begin contributing to the Team’s work and to share in any revenue the Team generates.”

We have a clear path on our write for us page for any individual to begin voluntarily contributing. But there’s still an issue, right? What does “clear path” mean? Does clear path mean that you can easily get involved (i.e. apply)? Or does it mean there should be no restrictions to apply? Or does it mean there should be no application process whatsoever, just a place for people to submit work?

But you detail that more later, “People need to be able to contribute meaningful work without your explicit permission. Practically speaking, that means you need a public listing of available work (e.g., an issue tracker on GitHub, etc.), and some kind of self-onboarding documentation.”

Why not make that more clear? Take the wording here, modify it a bit, and attach that to the Open Work discussion because what you just provided in a response there is not what people will necessarily think of when reading the Open Work definition as it is now.

One of your responses has really confused me. We asked “Is it no longer considered Open Work if that work is then evaluated and rejected?” You say it isn’t. How does that work exactly? If someone wrote a piece of code for a project that, on evaluation, did not work, does the Team need to accept it? Do they need to be compensated for it even though they may not have been asked to do the work? Is the Team expected to find some use for it, even though it may be completely unrelated to the project?

Then we asked, “Is it Open Work to have it evaluated at all?” And you said yes. So, is it only Open Work as long as it is accepted? What if it unequivocally does not work? Put in our context, what if we receive a submission in Chinese, should we publish it? How does that make sense? If we as a project state our goal is to be an English gaming and tech site, does it not make sense to reject submissions that aren’t English?

The same goes for some piece of software. What if the submission is irrelevant to the goal of the Team and/or goes against it? What happens then? Is the rejection of the submission against Open Work?

Getting back to this from above on Open Work, “People need to be able to contribute meaningful work without your explicit permission.” You say evaluation fits in Open Work but rejection doesn’t. What then are Teams to do with contributions that don’t actually contribute? What if they actually detract?

Let’s take a look at an example you give on the Open Work definition, “hackerspace that pays individuals to teach classes or manage its operations.” Is such a group supposed to just hope that anyone can teach the classes? Or is this banking an organic manifestation in that someone involved in the group just starts teaching others? Or is this more of the Team lead asking someone to do it if they already know how? If it is that last question, is that not putting a block in the “clear path” because not just anyone can volunteer? What happens if they are found to be incompetent, possibly teaching incorrect things?

In situations where it is undeniable that a certain prerequisite skill set is required to complete a job, is it not prudent to evaluate and then reject those that undeniably cannot do it? I’m still very unclear on the “yes you can evaluate them, but no you can’t reject them” part.

In the end, Open Work needs to be better defined and would likely be greatly served by many more varied examples of what fits with what Gratipay is looking for exactly.  The main areas I think need clarification are what exactly fits in line with Open Work in regards to someone becoming involved with the process (e.g. applying), how to deal with contributions that either aren’t really contributions or lack in function/quality, and how the possible goal/project may play into the acceptance of certain contributions (like above, does your definition of Open Work force an English website to accept a Chinese submission?)

Before moving on, I think many of the questions above can simply be answered by answering one question in response to the answers you gave us: Why?

For example, why is it Open Work to evaluate contributions but not Open Work to reject them? Why does it matter how much money we give out in compensation even if they didn’t really contribute? And so on.

Below here, I go a bit more into what Gratipay is exactly, which is also unclear to me, but is a little bit off track of what was discussed above. However, this is still an attempt at getting some clarity from Gratipay.

Backtracking a bit to compensation, you never really answered the question. When asked, “What would you do in the case of someone contributing to an open source project, but that contribution is deemed unfit and is rejected as being a part of the end product, is that person a part of the team?”

This was your response, “Depends. How much money are they taking? If relatively little, then what’s the harm? They get to learn, and, more importantly, to belong.”

My question is still largely the same regarding compensation, but this has brought me to another question. What is the purpose you are looking for in the projects you want on Gratipay? Are they there to accomplish some project or goal, because it seems a lot of what you say about Open Work (which I am still obviously unsure of its intended meaning) puts unnecessary hindrances and hurdles on their attempt to do so.

Or is it about finding projects that cater to allowing people a sense of belonging and to learn? You could say you’re looking for one that does both, sure, but what you seem to be conveying to me is that the project itself is of lesser importance, which, in reality, is what a lot of people will be funding it for in the first place.

Is the purpose of Gratipay to allow people to give money to Teams they believe in? Or is it about allowing people to give money to Teams that create a sense of belonging? In other words, shouldn’t Gratipay be emphasizing what contributors to projects are likely contributing for, the projects themselves?

So what is Gratipay really about? Funding projects, or allowing a platform for the right projects? If it is more the latter, just be clear in saying so. Be clear that you are less concerned with the project or its outcome and are more concerned with how it operates.

I think that mentality is best evidenced by the answer we received to this question, “Can people be asked not to be a part of the Team any longer or would that go against Open Work?”

You said: “Yes, they can be asked not to be a part of the Team any longer. It would not go against Open Work.”

First, how is that any different than evaluation and rejection? Is the importance of being a part of the Team, even if it is for no time at all, greater than the outcome of the project itself? Why bog down a Team with accepting someone and then asking them to leave?

You also say in your post that people can be banned in extreme circumstances. What that might be is probably obvious, like trolling, harassing, and the like. Is this the exception to the rule in asking someone to leave a project? What are the criteria that must be met in asking someone to leave a project, as with banning you give the answer “extreme circumstances”?

Your brand guidelines talk about your idealism. I’d say idealism has about as much value as it is applicable. Right now, your ideas of projects can definitely exist. However, by conforming to the strict definitions you seem to be going for—I think you are going for anyway, as the whole point of this is that they are unclear—the projects are unnecessarily hindered in their attempt to achieve their goal. In other words, if so few projects can meet the criteria and function semi-well, what’s the worth of those ideals? What’s the point in trying to realize ideals that aren’t actionable—in this case I would argue ideals that don’t consider reality enough. Certainly strive for them and have them guide you in what you do, but it seems that is about as far as they should go.

To sum it all up, Gratipay, just tell us what you want. Tell us what you mean by your guidelines. Tell us what your “worldview” is. Tell us precisely what Open Work is. Tell us what Gratipay’s overall purpose is. Don’t make the dialogue you want to have with applicants be about trying to understand what you’re looking for. Shouldn’t that be about what the project itself is?

Right now, vague and general terms seem to be a mechanism to deny those you don’t want on Gratipay—not necessarily against anything on Gratipay’s website. I am not accusing you of doing so, but that’s what the slim definitions give the impression of right now. In having those vague and general terms, it is much easier to explain away people you’d rather not have around. Again, that’s totally fine. It’s your prerogative to do so. I’d just prefer people not get led around as both you and they try to figure out whether or not whatever the project is, is actually fit for Gratipay.

I think Gratipay is a great resource that could benefit many groups, to which I truly do wish success. But for all the above reasons and many, many questions, I think some work needs to be done in facilitating easier access for applicants.  Maybe a more Open Work style would help?

Andrew Otton

Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief at TechRaptor. Lover of some things, a not so much lover of other things.