When I launched Gittip over two years ago, one of my goals for the homepage was to quickly answer the question, “Does Gittip actually work? Is anyone making any money here?” I decided to add a leaderboard showing the top receivers on the site so anyone could see for themselves.
Within weeks it became apparent that the leaderboards were going to be contentious, and indeed they have been over the years. Gittip is about collaboration, but the leaderboards on the homepage lent the site an air of competition.
Yesterday, we launched a new homepage. It’s a much simpler introduction to Gittip, with a straightforward call to action: Sign in to accept payments! For those who aren’t ready to sign in, we provide a link to our About pages as a secondary call to action, and other potentially interesting pointers in the fine print. Once you’re signed in, the homepage shows a simple “Welcome back!” and a link to your profile. In the future we’ll be making the homepage more dynamic for signed-in users.
The community pages still have leaderboards for now, but we’re planning to remove them from there as well. We have conversations going about what behaviors we want to encourage on Gittip, and how to use the community pages to do that. We’re also talking about how to provide value for companies that have been using their place on the Gittip homepage as a form of advertising.
Gittip’s Teams feature enables the distribution of funds each week among members of a team. During last week’s payday, two bugs in the algorithm for distributing team funds led to overpayments to 55 members across 21 teams, totaling $141.34. Most of this was for the Gittip and Aspen teams: $124.56 (88%) to 13 members (62%). Additionally, funds (less than $2) were not distributed at all to eight members across three teams.
The payday algorithm runs in three loops: payin, pachinko, and payout. Pachinko is where the team distribution happens. Payday crashed twice during the pachinko loop due to bugs in the pachinko algorithm. After the second crash, we decided to skip the pachinko loop entirely and proceed directly to the payout loop. We took this decision on the understanding that the dollar amounts involved with teams is relatively small, so the risk of needing to do a major correction was low, and we were under time pressure to submit payouts for the day to our processor, Balanced Payments.
Since most of the money involved in the error was for the Gittip and Aspen teams and the effect on other teams was so small, we decided to let the overpayments stand. This amounts to an extra payment from the teams in question to their members.
For further details please see this GitHub issue.
One of Gittip’s core values is a love of self-critique, so as we watch the story unfold of Julie Ann Horvath’s harassment while at GitHub, we thought it an appropriate response to ask ourselves, “In what ways is Gittip at risk of enabling harassment?”
We are an open company, which for us means that we share as much as possible, charge as little as possible, and fund ourselves openly on Gittip itself. In fact, our purpose in helping drive the open company movement is precisely to address the root causes of social ills such as harassment. GitHub’s fall from grace is so sad because it’s so predictable: it’s simply too easy for harassment to fester behind closed doors. Open the doors! Fresh air! Fresh air! Many eyes make bugs shallow, both in code and in culture.
Speaking personally as someone who ticks all the standard boxes of privilege (straight white male, etc.), knowing that my conversations and interactions are public helps me pay more attention to what I’m saying and doing. Why do I want to pay attention to my words and behavior? Not, I hope, out of fear of reprisal (whether in court or on social media). I want to avoid bullying and harassing others out of love. I want my avoidance of harassment to be a byproduct of my pursuit of positive relationships with everyone I interact with.
But open companies, like open source, are not magic pixie dust. One lesson we’re taking away from GitHub is that a flat organizational structure has challenges. There may be no clear path or authority figure to go to for conflict resolution. Combined with “hidden structure” (re: Valve), the lack of conflict resolution pathways especially hurts those most in need, those without power. Of course, traditional HR departments have their own issues. Ideally they are an objective third party to resolve conflict, but to the cynic they exist to limit the company’s exposure to lawsuits. GitHub’s most recent statement suggests this approach.
GitHub is a fantastic and inspiring product, and we heavily depend on it in building Gittip. We pay GitHub $25 a month, mostly because we believe in paying for the products and services we use (we do use private repos as part of our security issue workflow). We haven’t yet used a purchasing decision as activism, and it’s not obvious to us that this is the time to start. For now, we’re keeping our repos at GitHub.
As this story unfolds, we’ll keep asking ourselves whether we need to vote with our dollars, and as we grow as a company we’ll keep an eye out for policies Gittip needs in order to resolve conflict early, and to properly handle harassment when it comes to that.
Chad Whitacre is the founder of Gittip.
Gittip has doubled for the third time in just over a year. On January 3, 2013, we moved $1,425. Using that as the base, here’s what doubling means:
Today, we moved $11,683. That means our dollar volume has doubled three times in a little over a year. Here are the actual numbers:
Our number of active users is growing slower than our dollar volume. This makes sense because we have more companies giving on Gittip than we did a year ago, and they are generally able to give more than individuals. For example, &yet announced a program in November (they’re currently our top giver), and Engine Yard stepped forward this past week.
From our charts page:
We mark time from week 31 because that’s when our founder, Chad Whitacre, started working on Gittip full-time and building a team in earnest. You can see that growth was relatively stagnant prior to then, except for an initial burst, and a small bump that turned out to be fraud.
It took 18 weeks for our dollar volume to double once, 17 weeks to double again, and 23 weeks to double the third time. We chalk up the slight slowdown in growth to the fact that we released no user-facing updates to the site in the fourth quarter of 2013. Instead, we focused on technical infrastructure and team-building. Our Company Retreat in early January demonstrated the success of our team-building efforts, and marked a return to user-facing changes.
Since the retreat, we’ve released the following user-facing improvements:
We’ve also improved our customer support system, as well as continuing to improve our developer experience. We’ve soft-launched a major redesign project to engage the design community in Gittip and build a truly world-class, user-friendly product.
On average, we’re doubling our volume every four or five months. If we continue at this rate, we’ll hit $22,800 by June or July, and we should pass $100,000 per week sometime in the spring of 2015.
Thanks for using Gittip, and stay tuned! :-)
On February 4, 2014, we leaked security tokens for the Venmo accounts of 41 Gittip users, which an attacker could have used to steal money. We discovered the leak on February 7, whereupon we stopped the leak and notified Venmo. Venmo revoked the affected security tokens, and has confirmed that no transactions were made using these tokens.
For details, please see the incident repository, which was private while the incident was underway and has been made public with this disclosure.