There’s a nice mailing list called “OnFac” (for “On Facilitation”) where there is some exchange of opinions related to community facilitation. It does not often deal with communities of practice, and it’s not my favourite lurking-ground, but some nuggets do crop up. This week there was an exchange that ended thus:
On 21/06/07, Elissa Perry <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Hi, everyone. I’m a very infrequent contributor to this list but wanted to
> respond to this thread with a word of caution. I belong to two other
> “professional” lists and both have stated in their rules and enforce a no
> pricing discussion clause as this can be construed as illegal price-fixing.
> One group¹s rules state “Rule: 1.5 Please don’t discuss freelance rates on
> this list, as it potentially violates antitrust/price-fixing laws. This is non-negotiable.”
Another group has a rule which states
“Rule 72b: Anybody who interferes with a free flowing discussion by
introducing unnecessary words of caution, calling upon laws of foreign
lands and quoting rules from unspecified other groups shall be 1)
cautioned 2) banished 3) deported to Australia.”
Andy’s quip is worth reading :-). But Elissa had raised an interesting point. Indeed that was not the first time that I have seen debate about freelance prices quashed in a community resource. A printing and pre-press forum is notorious for the squabbles whenever labour issues are raised.
Communities of practice are a queer beast in this sense. They are somewhat of a “vertical labour union” gathering different levels of professionals, often bosses and workers side by side, so they are awkward places to debate the sharing of the spoils.
And, when the members are indeed all independen service providers… they become a prime coordination environment. In the unlikely event of a profession-wide membership (or a membership wide enough to determine prices) it can indeed be perceived as a cartel. Which can be illegal, or not, depending on the country.