Considering Gratipay

I’ve recently come across a service called Gratipay. In essence, one can pledge to give money each week to people or teams for the work they are doing. What makes it interesting is that it is all based on having gratitude for the work others are doing, and for those on the receiving end, having gratitude for the Gratipay they receive. There is no limitation or rules as to how the team’s Gratipay is split up, so the system is heavily based on trust, honesty, gratitude, and openness. Another point worth noting is that Gratipay is an Open Company, whereby they themselves are funded on Gratipay and operate very much so like an Open Value Network without the accounting of value aspect, rather that is replaced by the trust model. There are some interesting blog posts from the Gratipay team on being an open company, their motivations, their challenges, and more. I read through most of them and found them to be insightful.

We have discussed using Gratipay over the last week as a tool for dispersing compensation to folks working on the OpenFarm project. I figured we could use Gratipay in two ways:

  1. We could have a “team account” with the handle @OpenFarmCC. I would put in money each week from our Kickstarter funds. Other people might put in money as well if they had gratitude for us working on OpenFarm. This would give us a weekly fund to use to compensate everyone involved. Each week, each member of the team would determine how much they take from the pool. So there is no control over who takes what, and everything is public. It seems awkward in the sense that some people are going to value themselves more and take more, and some are going to value themselves less and take less. We would not be able to throttle anyone’s take except by removing them from the gratipay team completely if it became a problem. Now maybe this is not a problem in a perfect world where everyone is contributing without the expectation of being compensated, and is instead truly gracious for the gratipay that they do receive/take, no matter the amount and no matter how much others are taking. They would need to be focused on the first gift of their work, and have gratitude for the second gift of compensation. However, I am doubtful of this panning out in practice. I imagine this system would foster resentment towards the heavy takers from the light takers. These feelings would be hard to express and awkward to bring up, and ultimately there is no way with Gratipay to change how it serves our team. I think using Gratipay in this way would cause tension and not add significant value to our team or project.
  2. We could use gratipay as a platform for payments, and payments only. We calculate each person’s compensation in some external way (a formula, bounty based, judgement of the value of one’s contributions, etc) and then I simply use Gratipay to compensate each person. I don’t see any benefit of processing payments with Gratipay over using PayPal or BitCoin or something else.

After considering the above options, I have concluded we should not use Gratipay other than just having the team account active and open to the possibility that some folks will give to us. It seems that a more formulaic and controlled way of dispersing money will be more equitable and reliable than opening it up to “take whatever you feel you deserve or need”. Furthermore, using Gratipay as an alternative payment processing platform is just less useful than using platforms built specifically for our use case.

As we move towards implementing a more transparent, open, equitable, and scalable compensation and internal business model for OpenFarm, it is important for us to look into all of the available tools and models. Be on the lookout for a post on our rendition of the Open Value Network for our projects!

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