Open money and Debian

I recently read an introductory article in an IT magazine on the increased usage of new currencies. It briefly mentioned the work of a researcher called Arthur Brock in using those currencies within open source communities. While I did not find more details on the research, it led me to think again about Debian’s relation with money.

The reason why we have troubles using money to pay the time spent by our developers is that money is scarce and it’s thus next to impossible to be fair in the way money is spent among us. So why not invent a new currency that is not scarce and that would encourage the kind of work that we really value? Apparently there is free software out there to build new currencies: see metacurrency.org or openmoney.org. Let’s call the new currency “swirly/swirlies” for the sake of the examples below.

There are then multiple ways to create a small economy within the community and/or even create bridges with the national currencies:

  • we could have auctions (priced in swirlies) to redistribute goods among us (say I have this unused laptop and I want to give it away to someone who could make use of it within Debian)
  • Debian sponsors/partners could offer discounts codes on their products and Debian would exchange them against the Debian-specific currency (inspired by community way);
  • swirlies could be used to get funding to attend debconf and/or other meetings;
  • we could donate our swirlies as bounties on important projects that we want to see implemented, we could even grant swirlies to release managers to help them drive the project towards a release (they would not end up in their accounts but they could use them to motivate people to work on release blockers);

I’m sure we can come up with many similar ideas. Feel free to share yours in the comments.