Encoding a Meritocracy

April 18, 2007

I started off thinking I was going to revolutionize the way businesses were made. The idea was to create a dynamic share system within a company, so that people are rewarded based on their contribution. At the outermost layer of the user experience, you join a group that has some goal you like. People would divide the main goal, for example selling sprinkler heads, into subgroups, such as development/marketing/sales. Each of these sub-goals would be a percentage of the main goal, and as such are a percentage of the company equity. Within these subgroups people could set bounties for certain tasks that would be some amount of shares in the sub-goal. When the company is set to generate income, you set a release version which locks everyone’s shares so that people will be payed based on that release. You can go on contributing, but your additions will only be represented at the next release.

We planned to make money by setting up this platform where anyone could insert their ideas and other people on the web could contribute. Then we would sell business services to these groups like app hosting, logo design, shipping, etc.

However, we couldn’t figure out how to protect the groups’ assets. What would stop someone from taking all the work and selling it himself and denying the contribution of others. Or some guy in a country with loose piracy laws stealing it. We could have various circles of trust, where as you do more work, more of the code, artwork, and prototypes are revealed as the admin trusts you. The trouble is working on a project is usually an all or nothing deal. In the end, their seemed no way to ensure that all contributors got payed, and that there would be no outright theft of people’s work.

Then we discovered that there was someone doing something similar CambrianHouse. Though their overarching idea was similar, we differed in that we were more focused on creating what would probably described as a structured wiki. I wish them all the luck.

Perhaps we will create an in-house version of the software, so that our current company’s share system is dynamically adjusted. I do like the idea of encoding a meritocracy, but for the moment the resources are going elsewhere.


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