Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Universe is Unfair

Fairness is a highly subjective thing. It's not simply about everyone being treated equal, it's about everyone being treated in a way that's proportional to need, merit, or some combination of the two. The universe is objectively blind to need and merit. It rains fortune and misfortune on the guilty and the innocent with equal abandon. Given that the universe is unfair, we must intervene to rectify the situation and be prepared that when we do, it will be, as Dave points out, contentious.

So it is with divvying out the Friends of Eclipse funds. Scott suggests we give up. Just kidding; I'm distorting his words by taking them out of context. What's life without a bit of humor? He actually suggests we give up centralized control. Fortunately he doesn't mean we should have a vote each and every time. We all know how contentious voting can be and how easily one can stack the vote with all your best friends. It's more likely to resemble a popularity contest than anything else.

Concretely, in 339239, Scott suggests that the individuals donating the money should make the decision. I'm not completely sure what this would entail. I think the suggestion is that the donor delegates the spending decision to a specific project's leadership, sort of like ear marking it, perhaps via a huge drop-down list of all projects. That certainly sounds very fair, at least to the donor.

Let's consider though just for a moment if donor earmarking is likely to be fair in the grand scheme of things. I hope the Aardvark project, being early in the list of choices, doesn't get most of the donations! I hope projects with poor documentation, builds, and testing get some money to help fix that. I hope projects that are used in the many other projects, but aren't apparent in the user interface, get lots of donations. In fact, I hope it's not just a few sexy projects that get the lion's share of the money. Simply put, I hope the donors will be fair. I doubt it though. I fear it will just be a case of the rich getting richer. Personally, I'd rather have people I trust to do what's fair making the decisions.

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