In the free and open source software communities, meritocracy is one of the 3 main governance models in use and is likely the most popular, powerful, and successful. However, there is still, at times, confusion over how exactly this model works.
First and foremost, the basic tenet behind meritocracy is that people gain merit by their actions and activities within the community. What actually comprises that merit is determined by the pre-existing community itself, and so there exists an internal, stabilizing feedback system that prevents a healthy meritocracy from going askew. This basis of “what is merit” and “how one earns it” is self-defined and known within the community and can, and does, vary from community and project. For example, one FOSS project/community may value simple coding capability above all, and thus heavy-coders will gain merit quickly, whether they do so as volunteers or are paid to do so, and whether they work well with others or not. Other communities value a healthy balance of coding skills with consensus-based collaboration skills, whereas others also include the individual’s personal stake in the project (how much they are personally involved and invested).
As the above shows, a meritocracy is not, therefore, a democracy proper but a pseudo-republic. The wants and desires of the community are weighed in the atmosphere of merit that enables access and control.
One practice of meritocracy is the consensus-based decision model. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making, “Consensus decision-making is a group decision making process that seeks the consent of all participants.” In practice, it is different from a majority-vote-wins approach. In the CentOS Project a discussion toward a decision follows this process:
Block (-1) votes used as a veto are typically used only when consensus cannot otherwise be met, and are effectively a veto that any sitting Board member can utilize with sufficient substantiation.