Subject: Re: Bug Bounties. Making $ from bugzilla.
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 11:42:48 -0500

Kragen wrote:
> Brendan Macmillan wrote:
> > It's a *little* bit like that newsgroup dot-com, where people got paid
> > answering questions.  I can't remember the name, or find any links to
> > so that doesn't bode well.    However, there might be some lessons from
> QuestionExchange.  I remember it because it made everybody on
> comp.lang.perl.misc mad --- the extra incentive to answer questions
> induced people who didn't know the answers to guess, and guess wrong,
> misleading people.

I remember it as well.  I got paid something like a hundred dollars
there, then discovered  It was interesting.
QuestionExchange paid people money as an incentive to give good
answers.  PM pays nothing but makes it fun to be there.

So what happened?

The attempt to give people incentives at QuestionExchange stifled all
conversation.  There was a constant stream of questions I could answer
but I didn't learn something by being there.  By contrast at PM I
found a lot of conversation, some of which I learned a great deal
from.  And a lot of the best conversation comes from discussion and
criticism of merely adequate answers.

As a result I have given orders of magnitude more time and energy to
PM than I ever did to QuestionExchange.  Furthermore I have seen PM
make a far bigger difference in the quality of new Perl programmers
than I think the QuestionExchange format could possibly do.

And upon reflection, I don't think that this difference is fixable.
When you offer incentives for behaviour, people tend to do what they
are incented to do.  PM offers very silly incentives for high quality
interaction, and they get it.  QuestionExchange offered much better
incentives for routine answers, and that is all that they ever got.

I fear that trying to motivate open source development would have a
similar result.  Pay people for fixing immediate bugs, and that is all
that you will get.  Pay people to produce a system that solves problem
X, and that is all you will get, with no eye to whether the system is
high quality, will grow, etc.  Make good programmers live with a
program for a while, and they develop all sorts of esoteric concerns
about things like code quality, architecture, etc.