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Open-source economics is not what you think (mikemcquaid.com)
50 points by mooreds on Oct 27, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments



A good article making solid points. The bottleneck is indeed scarce maintainer labor. Money is an important factor but not the only factor.

I found the Github product placement distracting. At the 3d mention of a Github product, I checked, and sure enough: the author works at Github.


Fair point here, I've added a caveat in https://github.com/MikeMcQuaid/mikemcquaid.com/commit/d70880...

Context:

- I've only ever been an open source maintainer for projects on GitHub (including before I worked there)

- I'd still recommend those tools primarily if I didn't work at GitHub (because of personal preferences to e.g. not run my own servers)

- This blog post was a companion to a talk I presented at GitHub's Universe conference this week


To be fair, a lot of open source projects are hosted on GitHub and advising the use of freely available resources to lighten the burden on scarce maintainer labor doesn’t seem outrageous to me.

A disclaimer would be appropriate, but the content seemed fine to me.


The author is also maintainer of the Homebrew package manager, which has an atypical “funnel” and which practises its own, fairly blunt way of dealing with users. I wouldn’t necessarily extrapolate Homebrew’s experience to other projects.


Also pay attention to the “top of the funnel.” Make sure your project page discourages users that your project is unlikely to be a good fit for, since they will be a source of controversy and a drain on resources.


I like the article, but it comes so short on describing what economists do it’s almost a strawman. The possibility to convert money into labor in a labor market is not rendering the labor irrelevant and leaving you with capital only, because, simply put, the money spent on labor is _not_ allocated capital - in the worst case, it’s purely cost! Cash and capital are not the same thing!


Some good points here. At the end of the day, it's all about scarcity, and that changes, as he points out in an open source project: https://journal.dedasys.com/2007/02/03/in-thrall-to-scarcity...


Sort of need to ground it from an economic point of view, not point out like an ethical statement or a procedural issues.

The common is solved surprisingly by enforcing rights and individuals sharing with group. The dynamics of the maintainer net and the consumer net plus their interaction is an interesting topic.

The topic is sound too high.

It should touch either theoretical summary and recommendation or practical one like issues raised here as maintainer and copycat say : https://lisp-journey.gitlab.io/blog/why-turtl-switched-from-...


> An “economic problem” is one which requires the allocation of limited resources in order to solve a problem.

That’s not an “economic problem”, that’s a resource allocation problem.

Economics is the study of the statistical, game theoretic, and computational properties of a market.

A market is a protocol for decentralized decision making.

Not all markets solve the resource allocation problem. For example, prediction markets.


> Economics is the study of the statistical, game theoretic, and computational properties of a market.

I was taught in my Econ 1 textbooks that Economics is the study of scarcity. Game theory and stats didn't enter into it until much later.

Either way, it's just a semantics question about what "economics" means. The author has a real point about what's actually scarce here, and the contrast with people's expectations is a good one.


The economic problem is often phrased as „how to get more output with the same input, or how to get the same output with less input“. Prediction markets do only exist because they help with the problem - betting on the wrong horse is a waste of scarce resources. In the same way, matching markets have centralized decision makers that can be more efficient than decentralized approaches.




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