We are a group of people who are about to start a software cooperative, which means all of us (and other future workers) will be the owners of the 'company' rather than having bosses and employees. We do this from ideological reasons but also because we believe this allows many advantages - power of democracy (see SE..) , motivation, creativity, good work relations and atmosphere and more.

We do face some questions about how exactly ownership of our products should be split, should we give different percentage for different people which put in a different amount of work hours or brings expert knowledge.

We want people to feel they get what they deserve, not more, not less, and we're not sure just splitting it even will give this feeling.

What are some good guidelines for solving these questions in a cooperative?

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    Hi Roy, I think this off topic here and would better fit OnStartups – thorsten müller Nov 27 '12 at 9:50
  • @Roy I think this is a great question, but it could really apply to any job function so I think it is offtopic. I will look into possibly getting it migrated to a more suitable site. – maple_shaft Nov 27 '12 at 12:12
  • I have seen other co-ops that paid everybody a competitive market salary according to job description, then split ownership per person. That seemed to work out fair enough. – maple_shaft Nov 27 '12 at 12:16
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    Law firms in the United States have formed legal partnerships for decades. You might find some guidance in their practices. – Gilbert Le Blanc Nov 27 '12 at 14:26

Both for ethical/ideological reasons and for technical/sociological/practical ones, trying to measure the performed work is a very bad idea. In Italy, where I live, it is even against the law (at least in the specific case of a cooperative). I strongly suggest you to just split even the cooperative global income, no matter how much any individual programmer has actually worked.

The typical legal structure of a cooperative provides many others managing/political tools to deal with lazy people or other problems. You do not need this.

You are right when you are looking at SE and other community-driven projects. In these projects, nobody tries to measure the work perfomed by members. There is a reason for such a lack of control. This is one of the reasons of the success of many open source projects.

Highly-skilled people, like programmers, want acknowledgment much more than anything else. You cannot measure deserved acknowledgment by hours worked or by written LoCs. Only the rest of the community (the rest of the cooperative members) can give acknowledgment to a programmer. They do it through the typical tools of any democracy: personal judgement, vote, silent recognition, given reputation and so on. Rely on these.

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