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Gittip crisis

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Gratipay, formerly called gittip, is a company that allows individuals to receive recurring donations for their work, identified by their accounts on Github, Twitter, and/or other sites.

Timeline Edit

Gittip adopted by activists Edit

By early 2014, many prominent tech feminists -- including Shanley Kane, Ashe Dryden, Lynn Cyrin, and others -- as well as organizations (such as CallbackWomen) had begun to derive significant income from gittip. At one point, Kane and Dryden were among the top five users in terms of weekly income received via gittip.

Gittip criticised for transparency to the point of causing harm Edit

In February 2014, Chad Whitacre , the founder of gittip, requested Ashe Dryden join an open call with a man who had been harassing her on twitter and suggested her funding on gittip was "panhandling." Chad explained this was important because he "[believes] strongly in embracing conflict as full individuals." This led to some concerns that Whitacre's dedication to openness could be harmful to marginalized users of gittip.

In May 2014, Shanley Kane, the founder and CEO of Model View Culture , tweeted about a call for articles about management in tech for an upcoming Model View Culture issue (now published ). She mentioned that she was "also open to people writing about the new shiny things like Holacracy and the Open Company thing." Another party pointed Chad Whitacre, the founder of gittip, to her tweet and Whitacre engaged with Kane asking if they could do an interview about the topic. Kane declined citing discomfort with open calls and followed up with some concerns about Whitacre's philosophy of transparency and how it impacts gittip.

In May 2014, Shanley Kane (among others) pointed out that Gittip's philosophy of "radical transparency" was potentially hazardous for marginalized people -- among the very same people who were making the most use of gittip at the time.

Later in May, a gittip community member sent Chad Whitacre, the founder of gittip, a long letter of advice that specifically warned him that retweets of criticisms of the activist recipients looked like endorsements of those criticisms. (The letter was private until June.)

Shortly thereafter, Chad Whitacre, the founder of gittip, responded positively to (CW: Hacker News) a comment on Hacker News calling gittip "a joke dominated by professional victims" because women use it.

Chad Whitacre extensively criticised Shanley Kane Edit

In June 2014, Whitacre published a hit piece on his blog in which he effectively called Kane -- who had recently been forced to make her Twitter account private due to death threats and other harassment -- a bully. Kane deleted her gittip account, losing a significant source of income, and Dryden began looking for alternative funding mechanisms. Discussion before, during, and after the publishing of this piece can be found in the public gittip irc logs .

Very soon after this, the letter of advice that specifically warned Whitacre about how retweets of anti-activist comments appeared, dated to May 21 (before the Hacker News interaction), was made public on this wiki.

The following day, Whitacre published his followup Kindness and Kyriarchy.

Later the same week, Whitacre privately distributed a draft of a third blog post, described as again criticising individual activists, to those same activists for comment, despite prior requests from them to cease all contact. He was later the same day reported to have decided to not publish his third post.

Paul Fenwick, a gittip development community member scheduled to give a gittip talk at the Open Source Bridge conference in the last week of June, requested that conversations around gittip be closely confined to his talk, and pledged to withdraw the talk upon request and without questioning the requester.

Activists left Gittip Edit

Activists began leaving Gittip, or seeking parallel sources of funding, within hours of the publication of "I Resent You" by Whitacre in June 2014.

This wiki has a list of people and organisations who transfered out of Gittip.

Gittip renames to Gratipay Edit

In July 2014, Whitacre opened discussions on renaming "Gittip" to "Gratipay". As part of the discussions, he stated that part of the motivation was to distance the company from the Gittip crisis: "since our momentum is already busted we might as well take advantage of the opportunity and get the name change out of the way while we're here in momentum-busted-land." The name change to Gratipay started taking effect on August 26.

Lessons Edit

The gittip crisis is an example of the way in which men in tech only support meritocracy when it favors themselves. The success of Kane, Dryden and other feminist activists in using the site was taken as proof that there was something wrong with the site or that they were cheating, rather than as a meritocratic outcome.

It also shows the perils, for feminist activists, of depending on infrastructure that is run by people with no interest in supporting feminism (and, often, an interest in opposing it) and that thus fails to take their needs and unique circumstances into account. Of course, to a large extent, such dependence is unavoidable. (Also see Nothing about us without us.)

Impact on GittipEdit

Gittip provides metrics about their system on a weekly basis around when they exchange funds. These events took place after week 107, so it is possible to correlate impact on Gittip by looking at changes since that week.

week 107 week 108 % change
total users # 30,611 30,707 0.31%
active users 2,999 2,874 -4.17%
weekly gifts $14,136 $11,729 -17.03%
charges $12,481 $10,625 -14.87%
withdrawals $7,671 $8,154 6.30%

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