Vivid QA incentives report

Elizabeth K. Joseph lyz at
Sat May 16 02:12:30 UTC 2015

Hi everyone,

At our last meeting[0] efly and I had a good chat about the initiative
to give away stickers for people who contributed to QA[1]

The short version: It didn't help us gain new contributors, so we
won't be continuing the program into the Wily cycle.

The long version:

Stickers are fun, and I thought that a giveaway would be a fun way to
reward our QA contributors and encourage other people to get involved.

I've since learned a lot about motivation and realized that my
assumptions were way off. Essentially, studies have proven that
"carrot and stick" type motivation works for physical, mechanical work
(make x number of widgets,do more data entry, file a busywork report)
but in today's world where most work is problem solving and
creativity-based, it fails to motivate effectively and actually does
harm. The Candle Problem is one of the experiments often cited: (see the section of the
article on Glucksberg).

Our work on QA is not mechanical, make-more-widgets-faster work, it's
problem-solving. You need to go through the test cases thoughtfully
and it takes creativity, knowledge about Xubuntu and effort to report
bugs effectively. Ones that are reported without thought just to get
your stats up on the QA tracker are not helpful, as they don't get to
the bottom of what the bug is reporting, making the report useless to

As if the numbers didn't speak for themselves (we didn't really see a
rise in contributors), most of the people we contacted about their
winning of the stickers were surprised. One nearly declined to take
them at all until he decided he'd give the stickers to people he knew.
Stickers are not why people contribute to Xubuntu QA, they want to
help us and give of their time to support an operating system that's
important to them. This is reflected in other research that I learned
about that explained that monetary and "stuff" rewards for creative
work actually do harm to otherwise philanthropic deeds because they
devalue them. Gosh, I got this all wrong!

Now, how to move forward:

We still need to increase participation in QA, but we need to think of
better ways to encourage participation. Acknowledgement and
recognition given by members of the Xubuntu team should be part of
this. Perhaps an email from the project lead thanking them for their
work when we notice someone is doing a lot of testing, or mention that
they've done good work on social media or a profile of them on our
site. These kinds of surprise, non-mechanical tokens of gratitude go
much further than some stickers they won for competing for most tests
completed. Speaking for myself, these kinds of non-stuff rewards
certainly have motivated me in the past. Thoughts?

As a final note, if you want to learn more like I did, I recommend
reading Drive[2]. The book itself is a quick read (under 300 pages
with TONS of references, footnotes, etc) but led me down the rabbit
hole of other motivation research. The recommendation of this book
came to me from Robert Collins, who I know from Ubuntu stuff and now
work with on OpenStack.

[2] Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph || Lyz || pleia2

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