Subject: labor relations
From: Tom Lord <lord@regexps.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 04:25:07 -0700 (PDT)



	Ben also writes:

	Secondly decide what your policy is on people doing open
	source work on company time, and how you attract those people
	without paying for work that has nothing to do with you.  I
	suspect that the following policy might be a reasonable
	template:

	  1) Be willing to pay a healthy premium for people who are actively
	     involved in open source work, particularly if that work is in
	     areas that relate to skills that your company needs.
	  2) Give them a generous flex plan and access to company computing
	     resources for developing personal projects.  (Note that the
	     incremental cost of disk space and CPU time tends to be rather
	     low if you have the computer already.)
	  3) Make it clear that work on open source projects which directly
	     relates to the company's business is fine on company time, but
	     work on open source projects that do not relate to the business
	     should be accounted as part of your flex schedule, even if done
	     while present at the office, on company computers, during
	     regular business hours.
	  4) Do not attempt to monitor compliance with the third item
	     closely.  Instead make reporting it part of an honour code with
	     strong penalties if the freedom is abused.  Spot-check this
	     in a friendly manner.

	If I am not mistaken, this kind of policy can create an environment
	which is likely to attract people developing free software, while
	minimizing how much the company pays out of pocket for extraneous R&D.

That's a very bad policy -- completely unprofessional.  I realize
that's an inflammatory assessment, but I hope you'll read my reasoning 
carefully.

First, some postive alternatives -- two strawmen and one real:

	option 1) Segregate work and personal life absolutely (which
		  is probably impossible for workers whose personal
		  life includes publishing on the Internet things
		  which are closely related to work, and whose work
		  is of a nature that much of it takes place in the
		  mind.)

	option 2) Evaluate work by milestones.  If milestones are met
		  in fewer-than-regular-hours -- that's just fine (it
		  indicates your company is healthy if pretty much all
		  the employees are in that state).  If regular
		  hours and reasonable and competent best effort don't
		  meet the milestones -- the employee has still 
		  fulfilled their obligations to the compnay.
		  (The problem here is the qualification of managers
		   to evaluate "reasonable and competent best effort"
		   and to assign milestones fairly and in a way that
		   really keeps the business going -- that's a nearly 
		   impossible job even for technically skilled managers.)

	option 3) Employ people you trust, make sure they understand
		  the business and participate fully in planning.
		  We're all in this together.

		  (The problem here is that it requires collective
		   determination of COEs, job security, and
		   compensation -- no more "playing survivor"
		   or "playing weakest link" -- no more managers
		   in loco parentis.)
		  

So what's wrong with Ben's policy:

Presumably you aren't implementing this policy out of pure charity,
simply in hopes of increasing the quantity of code under open source
licenses -- but rather, you're implementing it with the hope that all
of that volunteer effort will keep the Free Software commons green:
you hope those volunteers will produce code that is, eventually,
relevant to your business.  If nothing else, their activity will
contribute to the reputation of your shop.

It's a little bit disingenuous to say that that kind of volunteer
development "has nothing to do with you".  In the darkest
interpretation, what's really going on is that you're acknowledging
that you can't legally order people to work beyond their regular hours
but strongly "encouraging" them to do so anyway by linking that extra
work formally to employability, and informally to job security,
compensation, and advancement.

Moreover, when you say "do not monitor closely"...and "spot-check this
in a friendly manner" -- that's not generosity either.  What's really
going on is that you're asserting the right to intervene arbitrarily
and unevenly.  So everybody goofs off 20% of the time -- but which
workers get spot-checked the most?  Perhaps the ones who's volunteer
efforts are least aligned with your plans?  Or the ones with the
oddest clothes?  Or the ones who represent a threat to their manager's
illusion of competence?  That's a *bad* policy.

It's also an example of what Foucault describes as the "panopticon"
nature of contemporary society -- human activities organized by the
ubiquitous, insidious, and whole-life-circumscribing intervention of
power relations, especially regarding the capturing of the labor power
of workers, rather than by a rational and deliberately reflective
effort to improve our condition.  There's a famous experiment that
took place at Stanford that points out how peoples ethics can become
confused to the point that they think such interventions are The Right
Thing, even in a society whose surface values speak about Domestic
Tranquility, the Blessings of Liberty, Justice, and the General
Welfare.  A truly thorough court would have to scrutinize your policy
against the amendment XIII.  Yes, I'm serious about that.

But I'm probably wandering off-topic with that last bit.

What I want *my* employees to do in their spare time (during work
hours or in private life) is to be free, hopefully to have richly
engaging and deeply fulfilling lives.  I don't think it's my place as
an employer to make policy about that.

As for my management policy: I want my workers to work smarter -- not
longer.  *That's* the right role for policy: picking the specific
technical goals that make the best use of labor reasonably acquired by
a trade for wages and representing the management superstructure in
the collective determination of COEs etc.

-t