Bounty Hunting: inclusion, equality & diversity

As, unfortunately, we all know very well, discrimination takes place in many scary, stupid forms in the business realm: from the hiring process and day to day interactions to key decisions related to promotions, raises, and layoffs, often people will weight, consciously or not, factors such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, class, appearance, and even your name. It’s almost as if we were addicted to stereotype others.

Eradicating discrimination is not as straightforward as many preach, though. Too often, even companies that proactively take action and boldly commit themselves to foster a progressive, inclusive culture through education and continuous self-vigilance have to deal with tough setbacks. Think about Google, for example.

Enters the Bounty Hunting model

Bounty Hunting is a business model derived from the gig economy in which organisations (bounty hosts) openly post tasks and problems to certain communities — usually through a specific platform or service such as GitCoin, HackerOne, and Bugcrowd. Each task and problem comes with certain criteria related to the scope of work (requirements) that must be attended, and a certain predefined bounty — either money or any other pre-agreed form of payment, prize or recognition. From there, absolutely any person can work on those tasks and problems in exchange for their respective bounties, as long as they are able to deliver the work attending to the predefined criteria. The hunters themselves choose what tasks and problems they want to work on, without the need of any pre-approval of the bounty hosts. Not rarely, the hunters don’t even need to interact with the hosts during the entire process.

For example, some companies offer bounties to anyone who can find security glitches in their systems (white hat hacking). Other companies distribute beta versions of their applications among bounty hunters and grant bounties to those who find any sort of bugs (crowdtesting). Some companies offer a bounty to whoever finds the best solution for a certain problem (e.g. decrease in processing time) and other companies even distribute a substantial amount of their regular day to day tasks and projects to be executed by bounty hunters — almost as if they were outsourcing those tasks to freelancers, except that here the hunters/freelancers are selecting the tasks and not the companies selecting the hunters/freelancers. Plus, the Bounty Hunting process usually involves less bureaucratic and operational friction than the process of hiring and working with a typical freelancer.

The Bounty Hunting model has been around for a while, but it has been on the rise in recent years due to its large adoption in the blockchain market — not only because those companies are exploring the model to overcome the scarcity of talents, but also because the model itself is being reinvented with the use of smart contracts, which arrived to solve the subjectivity and impartiality sometimes linked to Bounty Huntings in the past.

And, contrary to what some imagine, Bounty Hunting can be a very profitable occupation, way more than just a side gig. According to the findings of a survey included in The 2018 Hacker Report, released by the bug bounty platform provider HackerOnet, in some countries bounty hunters earn up to 16 times more than their peers working in regular jobs. Plus, from time to time top hunters end up with very special bounties in their hands, as the Chinese researcher who earned a six-figure payout from Google’s Android Security Rewards program.

Now, let’s get back to our initial point and reflect for a moment on the most beautiful and socially relevant aspect of Bounty Huntings — which, by now, you probably already noticed — and which, even if a “casual feature”, must be praised and closely examined.

The Bounty Hunting model is a deep deconstruction of the concept of work. It separates what’s genuinely inherent to what’s necessary to achieve a certain goal (i.e. to perform a certain task or to solve a certain problem) from any and all other variables — including the race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, class, appearance, and name of the people trying to achieve that goal. Doesn’t matter at all if you, the bounty hunter, are an 18 y.o. Pastafarian monoplegic Latin American man or a 75 y.o. Roman Catholic dekora Asian woman. There is no inequality or exclusion due to discrimination, since there are no "discriminating variables" to begin with.

Doesn’t matter, either, if you’re in Finland, Nigeria or Cambodia and the bounty host is located in Switzerland. It’s a model naturally open to cosmopolitanism and the remote-first approach. Doesn’t matter which clothes you are using while working (if any), or at what time of the day you prefer to work. And guess what! Doesn’t matter even if you have any related background, experience or diploma!

The huge question now is: how can we replicate those qualities in other models, up to (or down to) the most traditional models in the most traditional organisations in the most traditional industries?

If you have any idea, please let me know.

Bounty Hunting: inclusion, equality & diversity was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Publication date: 
05/16/2018 - 05:14

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