Is open source more democratic or meritocratic? You could make a convincing case for either one but, like a lot of things in life, it’s probably somewhere in between. Consider open source’s characteristics.
First, open source is in some ways the ultimate democracy: people are campaigning for a specific piece of code, voting, and challenging, especially in the Apache environment. It’s not always the easiest or most efficient method, but this democratic process generally gets the software to become better and better as time progresses. It might be frustrating at times where things aren’t going as fast as you want, but then you see that the projects are indeed getting better.
People get respect relative to the amount of contribution they make to specific projects, which is a wonderful thing. Those who contribute the most, who write in the most useful code, are typically going to be listened to — more than those who just talk. If you have someone putting in a lot of new code that’s accepted by the community, that person will be respected more than someone who only contributes a lot of opinions.
That brings us to the merit-based aspect. You get elected and progress to commit code to the project because you have the right ideas AND know how to execute them with quality. The most successful contributors are not those who can offer clever critiques but no code, or those who offer poor code. The most prominent ones translate their insights into better code and do a better job of getting other people on board with their ideas.
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