Open Source & Web Tech Cooperatives

Tadpole.cc is a worker collective made up of five people who use open source software (specifically WordPress and CiviCRM) for their client and personal projects, and who have agreed to work in cooperation with one another. ┬áBut what does it mean, exactly, to be part of a “collective” and what do open source software and worker cooperatives have in common?

2012 Allied Media Conference, Detroit I recently attended the Allied Media Conference in Detroit where there was a panel on Worker-Owned Webmaking: Tech Co-ops. Not only were all the panelists members of tech cooperatives, but they all use open source software in their work — that caught my attention. So here’s a little observation and comparison:

What does it mean to be a Cooperative? The International Co-operative Alliance has a list of seven principles that define what it is to be a cooperative:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
  7. Concern for Community

What does it mean to use open source software? The Open Source Initiative lists ten criteria that define it:

  1. Free Redistribution
  2. Source Code
  3. Derived Works
  4. Integrity of The Author’s Source Code
  5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
  6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
  7. Distribution of License
  8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
  9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
  10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral

Though they have quite a different focus from each other, what they have in common is they are free (as in kittens) to be part of (or use), and they are a collaboration of peers. Essentially, you have a voice in the work that you do and you have a hand in determining its outcome. If this is appealing to you, here’s a great resource to get started: A Technology Freelancer’s Guide To Starting a Worker Cooperative.

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