There are some groups of humans doing absolutely fantastic work for the rest of us these days. Here are a few that I greatly appreciate:
- GitHub—Takes open source to the next level. Hopefully it can spill over into the rest of culture.
- Heroku—The base platform as a service is slick enough, the Postgres service really puts it over the top.
- Google—Search, natch. But also GMail, and lately Analytics, especially real-time—what a thrill to watch the current user count climb!
- Stripe, Braintree, Dwolla—Moving money is waaaay easier than it was 10 years ago.
- Twitter—They are providing a seamless fabric of communication with the people I want to work together with right now.
- Tumblr—My blogging problem is solved.
- IWantMyName—Straightforward domain registration without sex marketing. Finally.
- Apple—Their hardware and OS is so good that it took me a week to remember I was using it and realize that they belonged on this list.
In launching Gittip I am absolutely indebted to these corporations. I could never do what I’m doing without their products. And yet I would like to call attention to the fact that these entities are indeed comprised of humans. The notion of a “corporation” is a legal fiction, an abstraction. A specific human is responsible for the way issues are cross-linked in GitHub. Another specific human is responsible for the slide-out transition on the Tumblr HTML theme editor.
The easier it is to identify these specific humans, the better. Why? Because praise and blame go together. It’s a problem right now that humans can hide behind corporate abstractions to perpetrate evil and banality. “I’m just doing my job. I have to feed my family.” Taming corporations means holding specific humans responsible, and not just top-level executives and scapegoats. The more open our corporations, the better.
Tim Leberecht writes about the “humanist business.” I want to think in terms of the open corporation. Tim’s examples all enroll the business entity as the subject. Amex does this thing right. Patagonia does the other. In the humanist business, the group is still primary, though it strives to do right by the individual. I want to privilege the individual, if only by a hair. I want open corporations, open so you can see the people inside, praise each one when they do right, and call them out when they do wrong. It’s a subtle but significant difference.
Legally speaking, Gittip may shake out as a cooperative or a corporation, it’s too early to tell. But I promise you this: it will continue to be as open as possible. Gittip development happens in the open. Gittip’s finances will be in the open. And the specific humans contributing to Gittip will do so in the open, each personally responsible for their contributions.