At Drupalcon, there was a recurring theme of "do-ocracy". Simply explained, a "Do-ocracy" is Drupal's version of a meritocracy. Well, it's not even so much Drupal's version, as how people perceive the way that Drupal works, or how they choose to explain what a meritocracy is. Being involved with Habari and our own brand of meritocracy, I'm glad that they've come up with their own ridiculous term to explain how their project works.
As part of the definition of meritocracy on Wikipedia, you have this:
In a meritocracy, society rewards (by wealth, position, and social status) those who show talent and competence as demonstrated by past actions or by competition.
That's the ideal scenario. But what the folks presenting do-ocracies at Drupalcon are advocating is something slightly different. They're giving wealth, position, and social status (or whatever the open source equivalent is) to people who simply "do", not by people who show talent and competence. That is, your work needs to be of no merit, you simply need to do it. That's not right.
Shouldn't there be some implication that a meritocracy involves contributions of some merit? I expect that the Drupal project would choose to award additional project rights and responsibilities based not solely on volume of work, but on its usefulness or importance to the community. Some will point out that this treads a somewhat dangerous road.
The main reason this is controversial is that there needs to be someone or a group that decides what has merit. Who is to say that one person's 35-page dissertation on the virtue of the l() function has more or less merit than a patch that enables OpenID logins? And how do you even start making those comparisons of worth?
I think that's where the cop-out is that leads to this do-ocracy. I think people see that difficulty and are unable or unwilling, most likely because they don't want to subject themselves to the resulting community abuse from their decisions, to decide what things have merit. Instead they simply give credit to anyone who can "do". So what's wrong with that?
The result of the do-ocracy is at least twofold. First, the people who do a lot, and I'm talking volumes, get more credit, regardless of the quality of their work. One might think that if you wrote a resource full of errors and misconceptions that it would be shunned. But in a do-ocracy, this should not be the case. Deciding on merit would result in that outcome. Bottom line: People are getting credit for contributing crap.
Second, the level of acceptance of anything done is high. So many people contributing a lot of code results in a lot of code (and documentation, and testing, and... etc.) being accepted into the main project that is not good. Bottom line: The project gets filled up with unvetted crap.
In the case of Habari, where we like to think of ourselves as implementing more of a meritocracy, the value of the contribution is considered before it is accepted. This is my controversial point in my own social group. I personally believe that contributions need to be qualified for acceptance. We should accept all contributions, but there should be no expectation that every contribution has merit. There are some in the community that assume that their contributions should be accepted blindly as in a do-ocracy, and that they should be awarded due credit for simply contributing, even if the quality of the project is reduced by their contribution, the functionality they've provided is not welcome by the community, or their contribution is not in line with the direction of the project as a whole.
The inevitable question is, who decides what has merit? Usually, it's decided by the existing managing members of the project. This is how meritocracies come to be thought of as "old-boy's clubs". If you weren't in at the beginning, then you're already a step behind in getting your contributions accepted. You're being excluded because you're not "in the club". The problem with this thinking is that this is how these organizations are supposed to work, and it's beneficial that they do so.
Think about it. The body of organizers is self-selecting. Why would a management committee elect to include another member who didn't share their philosophical beliefs about the project? They wouldn't! Likewise, they would not accept contributions as having merit that do not also align with the originally established philosophy and direction of the project. Granted, those beliefs would get diluted and permute over time, but there would be such an established culture that new contributions would necessarily have to fit into the consistency established by the early members.
I've exaggerated many things in this post, especially about the Drupal process of accepting contributions, simply to make my point that a do-ocracy is not a meritocracy, and that people who consider meritocracies as working primarily on an unvetted, volume-based submission queue are wholly incorrect.