Value accounting, the sharing economy, and GOSH

I just wanted to start a thread to talk about alternative ways to create and distribute value. @thomas.maillart and I had a discussion about how to distribute value in an open development chain using Github or Gitlab, and I think it represents another possible avenue for addressing the problem of scaling open science hardware projects by incentivizing contributions and developing stable contributors.

I talked with Bob Haugen (https://github.com/bhaugen) and Lynn Foster (https://github.com/fosterlynn) who’ve been working on this stuff for many years - specifically making generalized software for any group to set up a value accounting system and better track contributions.

@mariafrangos I’m sure you also have some things to contribute to this thread from your experience in Sensorica.

I’ve been following this stuff for some time, so I’m just going to pepper a few questions out there so we have the info we need for people interested in jumping in.

  1. What the hell is value-based accounting?
  2. How could value accounting help the GOSH community and advance open science hardware?
  3. What are the best (and most easily browsable as a non-developer) implementations of value-based accounting?
  4. What other technologies are making these systems more usable/easy to implement (crypto-currency, for example… no I’m not just name dropping, it solves a major problem with value based accounting!)

Ok - ready… go!

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Hi @gbathree - thanks for the intro and ping.

I’ll describe what we’ve done that I think is related to your questions, and then answer some of the questions.

We collaborated with Sensorica, an open-hardware “Open Value Network”, to create some software that they called a “value accounting system”. Their other bright idea was what they called “value equations”, which are democratically-decided methods for distributing income according to people’s contributions to creating whatever brought in the income.

We (me and Lynn) called the resulting system NRP, for Network Resource Planning. It’s open source, I’ll put the github repo in a separate message. It’s also been forked a few times, with different names, which I’ll explain in other messages, too.

Here are a couple of readings about value equations:

(I had a lot of other links in this reply, but the forum software only allows new users to post 2 links in a message, so I’ll try to split it up into separate messages and see if that works…if not, I’ll send one long message to Greg and see if he can post it.)

More of the reply:

You can do better than our NRP software. We think of it as a working proof of concept.

For one thing, it takes a lot of work to set up. For open source software, and open source hardware designs, value networks should be almost automatic, because all of your contributors, and their contributions, and all of your dependencies and all of their contributors, should be findable. Most of the software stacks that I use have ways to declare all of your dependencies. For example, here are the dependencies for our NRP software.
Here are all the contributors and their contributions.

So some software using something like a value equation could find all of that information, and if the top-level project got any income, could distribute it fairly to all of the contributors. If NRP ever gets any income, we’ll do that.

On to some Q’s and A’s:

  1. How could value accounting help the GOSH community and advance open science hardware?

I think we (as an open source movement) need to find better ways for people to make a living doing this work. Value networks and value equations might help.

Reply part 3:

  1. What are the best (and most easily browsable as a non-developer) implementations of value-based accounting?

If you mean somewhat the way we do it, the only stable version of our software is the repo linked above. But some better forks are up-and-coming:

* This one, called OCP, adds a cryptocurrency called FairCoins, which as Greg wrote above, would make distributing income a lot easier. It’s being used, but unfinished.

* This new project, temporarily called the rea-project, brings together a group of great programmers from several forks of our original software. Eventually, it will be the best, but is not even runnable now.

Reply part 4 (Bob cont.)

A different way of distributing credits and income was designed by a project called BetterMeans: https://better.boon.gl/front/index.html. The company that was running it appears to be dead, but the software looks like it is being operated by somebody else (the company URL, http://bettermeans.org/ , does not respond). But their open-source software lives on at https://github.com/Bettermeans/bettermeans .

For software and hardware that is published in repositories like github, gitlab, etc, where both the contributions and dependencies are part of the repository, I think some new software would be better than using ours. I don’t think this software exists yet.

  1. What other technologies are making these systems more usable/easy to implement (crypto-currency, for example… no I’m not just name dropping, it solves a major problem with value based accounting!)

See OCP for cryptocurrencies. They’re using FairCoins now, but plan to implement multiple currencies. But much easier would be the mythical software that follows all of the contributions and dependencies in an open source repo.

By the way, if anybody wants to create that mythical software, we’ll help.