Sun 2 Sep 2018 2:07AM

The Purpose of Social.Coop?

MC Matthew Cropp Public Seen by 64

I’ve been listening, discussing both privately and publicly, and reflecting a great deal as the controversies of the past week have roiled Social.Coop. There are many elements and dynamics that could be dissected ad nauseum, but I want to focus here on one thing that I think it’s essential that we clarify if we are to pick up the pieces in one way or another and move forward: our purpose.

In the beginning of the instance, the implicit purpose was broad but sufficient: an experiment in building and operating a user-self-governed co-op instance to challenge the hegemony of surveillance capitalist social media. In ways that, in retrospect, mirror some of my experiences with the Occupy movement in ‘11-’12, this broad, ambiguous purpose allowed people with diverse, and perhaps contradictory, goals to see space for them within the project, and our community began to grow.

This worked for a time when stakes were low and the level of trust was supplemented by the many relationships that people brought with them from the co-op and platform co-op movements, from which the lion’s share of early members were drawn. However, as the stakes grew as new members joined and established significant Fediverse networks from their social.coop accounts, tensions between un- or semi-articulated understandings of social.coop’s purpose began to rise, and the recent controversies have surfaced a number of them into clear view.

The three that have become apparent to me are outlined below, and I’m sure that there are others. My strategic question is whether these purposes can continue to exist under a singular umbrella, or if it would be healthy/necessary to fork into more than one co-op instance, with existing members welcome to choose the one that suits their needs best (or to join more than one)?

Collective v. Representative Governance
This question of whether a strongly participatory and flat form of governance is core to the project has come up off and on since the project began. A few months back I started this thread in the Governance/Legal working group expressing my sense of the need for a board-like body to handle our scaling. It was greeted by a mixed reaction, with Mayel expressing that if such a thing were adopted he would view the project as having failed. As such, I tabled the issue and focused my efforts on getting the Community Working Group moving towards a functional operations team.

Early in the present controversy, I decided to take a straw-poll on the question, and the results revealed a cleavage in our community. Of the 47 respondents, 46.8% were for a board or board-like entity, 38.3% were against, and 14.89% were neutral. This clearly is an issue around which there is no strong unified “sense of the co-op”; rather, there are significant blocs of members who support each approach.

Subject-Specific “Common Bond” v. General Membership
The question of whether the target membership of social.coop is co-op practitioners or a more general population was explored a bit in this thread about 6 months ago, and Leo recently lauched this poll asking about the desirability of more co-op-related content.

Talking to folks who recently joined (and some who subsequently left), a common reason for joining because the idea of a cooperative instance appealed to them, but their primary purpose for being here was not co-op shop-talk.

Whether we exist for the former or the latter both has a big influence on how much scale we need to plan for (a few thousand v. potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of users), as well as how much community norms can be expected to influence member behavior.

Relational v. Rule-Based/Administrative Moderation
In the code of conduct development process, there was definitely some tension between the desire to create a set of clear, enforceable rules, and spelling out what has been referred to as “soft” conflict resolution strategies. Upon reflection, I think this seems to have come from a desire on the part of some members for social.coop to be an “intentional community” of sorts, in which, beyond agreeing to abide by a set of standards, members consent to relate to each other in ways thought or hoped to be more deeply transformational.

One way that this tension seemed to come to a head in the recent controversies was around the perception that including such language places potentially onerous expectations on marginalized people who desire a clearly articulated plan for keeping them safe, not a more ambiguous framework for a form of deep/transformative participation/communication.

While we’ve not had a poll to explore this particular question, it does appear to be an issue where some members would prefer to trust a form of administrative justice as a primary tool of the co-op, while others desire a more intentional community approach where such tools are used as a last resort.

Two Possible Ways Forward (among others):
- Reform Social Co-op: Looks pretty much like what Michele has proposed in his recent open letter. A body with strong, intentional diversity is s/elected to steward the re-launch, and one of its roles is to define the ‘why’ of social.coop in light of the above tensions and other factors before re-opening the instance to new members.
- Fork Social Co-op: The most obvious “successor co-ops” I can conceive of would be a Collective, Subject-Specific, Relational instance, and a Representative, Rules-Based, General Membership instance. However, the reality would almost certainly be more complex, so rather than defining the potential successor instances, if a fork is the desired path, we would need a process by which teams could propose their forks, and through which the financial resources of social.coop could be divided up among those proposals that garner a critical mass of support.

I’m still processing all that’s happened, and want to emphasize that the above list(s) are in no way exhaustive. I’m very interested to hear others thoughts.

I do feel strongly, though, that unless we can define a clear answer to the why? of social.coop, it’ll be difficult to chart a viable path from here.


Melody Sun 2 Sep 2018 4:03AM

I'd just like to comment, mostly on this "relational vs rule-based" thing because I think it conflates a lot of issues that have also been at the core of the disastrous CoC and Reporting Guide processes.

I'd like to start by saying here is that it's beyond critical that we distinguish between conflict and abuse/harassment. They are not the same and treating them like they are tends to exacerbate problems. There are a lot of kinds of healthy conflict, and resolving conflict can be generative, but conflict is not abuse. The code of conduct and reporting system are for responding to abuse.

The second thing I'd like to say is that transformative justice process have to be consensual -- the rest of the fediverse did not consent to this, and we can't expect them to want to. At a minimum, we need to be able to prevent our users from disturbing everyone else, regardless of what we're doing internally. That means having, at a minimum, a process that can in some way keep somebody who is dumping harmful or problematic content outside our walls from continuing to do that. I think further than that, though, this implication that a transformative justice process doesn't involve protecting people's safety as the first and foremost priority (there seems to be some dichotomy set up here between a clearly articulated plan for keeping people safe and transformative justice, but that can only work from a place of ongoing consent and safety, these are not contradictory ideas) is silly. There's no justice in transformative justice if you're forcing a person in acute distress to sit through a week or more of that without acting, out of a misapplied sense of ideological purity. The harm must stop immediately.

In general, I actually think that most of these dichotomies are false -- we can have collective governance and have selective points where there are smaller groups empowered to represent us in certain matters (almost every coop makes many day to day decisions without voting on all of them, the work has to get done at some point, what's important is understanding which decisions require constant group attention and which can be left to people who are expected to be able to represent the general interest and take care of them when the time comes). You can have rules, expectations, and a rapid response to abuse and handle outcomes through a transformative process rather than solely through punitive processes. You can have an instance made up primarily or entirely of cooperators without all or most conversation being coop shop talk.

The problem isn't that we didn't pick between these false dilemmas, it's that people are using the ability to argue about these things to stall progress on critical priorities. The fact is that absolutely none of the arguments against developing functioning abuse reporting processes were radical, revolutionary, or transformative -- they were the same old shit that it always is when you put a load of white men together in a room who are refusing to listen to marginalized people's needs: stalling, waffling on whether it's really okay to have rules, endless whining about "censorship", making excuses and increasingly esoteric justifications for bad behavior in order to absolve them of responsibility, and occasionally paying lip service to our concerns without ever really acknowledging the need for rapid and immediate harm prevention. For every post I've seen on here arguing against common sense moderation policies in the recent threads I could find you fifteen men on reddit who might have written an identical post, absolutely none of it was novel, radical, or interesting. It's hard to describe the utter banality of all this hand-wringing and stalling and braying about free speech and censorship if you haven't lived through decades of watching it all play out the same way, but there's absolutely no room for it in a healthy or functioning accountability system. The system doesn't necessarily have to be punitive, but it can't be nonexistent, non-consensual, or a vehicle for abuse and further harm. By tolerating that kind of behavior, this coop chose, and I do mean chose to further alienate and marginalize the people who those policies may have otherwise protected, in favor of making this space comfortable for young white men who did not want to see processes put in place which might hold them accountable for their behavior.

The tensions identified here are, mostly, a mirage -- these are not tensions it's impossible to resolve, but a lot of these have been straw-manned and treated as anti-cooperative and anti-radical specifically to de-legitimize the concerns of marginalized people, but the absurdity here is that we aren't the ones that are asking for the status quo -- permissive, hands-off moderation and "sort it out between yourselves" is literally the dominant moderation policy for the entire rest of the internet. Protecting marginalized people from harm is radical, letting white men say whatever they want without ever being held to account because they hold too much power, are less invested, and have more time to play word games and engage in "rational debate" is not.


Aaron Wolf Sun 2 Sep 2018 5:13AM

I agree, not just in general but with most of the nuanced points here.

Having systems and policies to block abuse (and also to block/censor/hide harmful posts that aren't quite abuse) is top priority. Everything else can be more easily dealt with after that is in place fully.

Still, the rest of restorative justice / conflict resolution is also important and should be used where appropriate. We needed and need that especially right now in working through our own internal tensions themselves.

And these are compatible. We can have both.

Matt is still right that we need these visions and values clear so we aren't confused what it is we're even talking about. Though there's no conflict between blocking abuse and having restorative justice / conflict resolution, they are different. Conflating the two was a primary source of most misunderstandings that came up in previous discussions.

Similar goes for the other contrasted points.


dphiffer Sun 2 Sep 2018 1:53PM

Thanks for writing this Melody, and thanks for your posts on the riot chats.


Thomas Beckett Tue 4 Sep 2018 1:49PM

These are among the wisest words posted here this week.


Liam Murphy Sun 2 Sep 2018 6:26AM

People do not have time to read so many words. Another fault of capitalism. The project will not gain traction without leadership. Ownership can be shared, leadership can’t. I want an alternative to Facebook. So do more and more people. Copy Facebook and reproduce it for the masses. Stay the right side of IP laws - or - ‘tokenise the enterprise’. Campaign to make Facebook public so it can be co-owned and governed (as it should be).

Superficially, the ‘internet’ for most people, looks like Facebook. Either take it off them or copy it.... it’s just what works.



muninn Mon 3 Sep 2018 12:07AM

How many members of coop groceries, or credit unions, or whatever, participate in the governing process? There may be some useful data in the answer to that. There are likely a great number of users here who joined because they wanted to try an instance that's cooperatively managed, and that's it, and don't care to have every decision, or even a majority of decisions, end up in their email as a loomio vote. And that's FINE.

I am one of those people. I'm here trying to use a social network, not have a deep and agonizing soul search over my relation to capital every few months. Representative decision making is almost mandatory for me, because I don't have the time, energy, or interest to participate in the minutia, and I don't want to see dozens of Loomio messages per day in my email inbox. I suspect there are a lot of other people for whom this is true, and I suspect those people are probably going to make up a huge majority on any general-interest instance.

It appears to be time to really decide whether social.coop is a topical coop-focused instance, or a general interest instance that is cooperatively owned and governed. I think a lot of people have joined with the latter expectation, myself included, and that a lot of them will leave if that expectation is altered, myself included.

I am comfortable with having a vote on policy (AFTER working groups have something well enough put together for general voting), and on the constitution of teams/working groups and the board, (edit: and instance-level blocks/unblocks), and that's it. Representative government, hopefully by people who I get to know and trust a bit over time by occasionally participating in the process, is good enough for me. And I would also caution that once you get more users than the Dunbar Number, hierarchy of some sort rapidly becomes necessary.


Sam Toland Tue 4 Sep 2018 12:42PM

I think this says it all - it's really coming up to decision time.

I am definitely in the same category as Muninn when it comes to engagement with this co-op.

I am not able to participate all the time, value being able to drop in and I am totally ready to delegate my vote either through a board and/or proxy voting.

I would personally remain a member of social.coop whichever route we take, though i am coming around to the idea that a co-op focused instance might be simpler to scale at the minute.

I think if we are going to continue as a general-interest instance we in effect need to formalise IMHO with a semi-professional core team who are leading this project (with a plan to scale to a point where subscriptions cover operationing costs + small surplus). A fluid, volunteer system with very limited accountability cannot hold such a disparate group together (and develop and maintain all the myriad policies and procedures to mediate between such a large and less close knit group).


Graham Tue 4 Sep 2018 1:20PM

I think I'm with @muninn and @samtoland largely. I got involved in social.coop because I saw it as an interesting and potentially important experiment to see if a cooperative model for a social media platform could work. I believe that it is still exactly that, an experiment, and as far as I can see it seems to be working OK. Of course with any experiment there are going to be issues - disagreements, outages, and so on - and it looks like we've had a fair amount of all those. That's only to be expected. For me it feels a bit like people are rushing to try to fix things that aren't necessarily broken, or solve problems before we're actually clear about the causes, or indeed whether they are problems at all or just the latest ripples in the ongoing experiment.

On balance I think I would encourage everyone to slow down a bit, relax, and take a step back. I see this platform being operated on a voluntary, no-warranty, sold-as-seen basis. I expect there to be little or no policing, although I'm happy to be involved where I can in a conversation about what sort of conduct might be appropriate, and work towards some approaches that might mitigate against bad actors and miscreants whilst respecting ideas of freedom of speech. I appreciate that others might take a different view, and I understand that there are facilities within the technology so that we don't have to see opinions and ideas that might offend us.

It's disappointing that we can't always play nicely, but that's life. Please let us not rush to judgement, and make decisions that we might come to regret later. I've no idea how many people have active accounts on this platform, but it feels like we have some way to go before scale becomes a major issue.

This is a small experimental group with limited resources. Let's be realistic about what we can and cannot do, and acknowledge that we can't please all the people all the time.


Edward L Platt Tue 4 Sep 2018 2:12PM

I would love to see this become a largely member-run organization, but agree with the above posts that it is very difficult to make that scale. I'm glad that we're closing new registrations for the time being, for that reason.

That said, I do think it is possible. I helped start and run the i3 Detroit hackerspace for many years, and it is now at about 200 members, with an annual budget on the order of US$100,000 and entirely run by volunteer members.

As well as my own experience, I've learned a lot about self-managed organizations from this book: http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/


Matt Noyes Tue 4 Sep 2018 2:21PM

I want to see us continue exploring this space -- organizing horizontally -- instead of falling back on the familiar centralized structures/practices. I think we have actually made a lot of progress.


Robert Benjamin Tue 4 Sep 2018 5:24PM

Would love to learn more about that organization and structure. My assumption is the common bond and goal is super strong. Either way very impressive. For SC and any social media endeavor they are pretty dissipated if not conflicted in general. It feels like there is some kind of sweet spot of representative/leadership based management and direct democratic participation. Maybe we're on the way there and it the price is to pay is just painful and draining.


Bob Haugen Tue 4 Sep 2018 5:36PM

If this leads to some lessons for how to do something like social.coop successfully, it will be very valuable. If those lessons get incorporated into a reorganized social.coop, so much the better.

I do understand it has been rough for the founders and organizers but hope the reorg will bring personal as well as co-op revitalization.


Matt Noyes Tue 4 Sep 2018 5:46PM

As Rihanna's tattoo says, "Never a failure, always a lesson." (got that from a.m. brown)


John Evans Wed 5 Sep 2018 11:09PM

Create a forking /process/, and a merging /process/ that all forks agree to. Social.coop acts as the base layer that the forks agree to sit upon. Let instances grow, or decline as they prove functional/dysfunctional and if they seem to be duplicates of each other, let two instances merge. You don't have to argue why your governing ideas are better, you can just demonstrate that they are better, by showing that your fork has a more harmonious community. Social.coop is a victim of its own success, this furore is a scaling issue - the community is too broad for one instance to be comfortable. The choice as I see it is either:
a) try to find the compromise that works for the largest number of existing users, where at least some people have to leave
Or b) create several instances, and let the different visions of cooperative social media play out, in a series of experiments
My preference is for b), because if there was a perfect set of rules that satisfied everybody in one instance, I think we would have found it by now


Danyl Strype Fri 7 Sep 2018 7:07AM

This is a creative proposal, but I'm not sure it's viable as you've laid it out, because if all the instances sit on a shared technical infrastructure, that shared infrastructure needs governance, so ultimately all the cats are still in the same sack. Also, because there is still no smooth way to move an account from one instance to another, the existing instance is the one everyone will have a reason to keep their account on; it would still be an asset to be struggled over.

How about this; the hosting side of social.coop forks off into its own worker-owned coop that provides an instance hosting service like Mastohost does. This coop makes sure the servers stay up, OS and app software get updated, and so on. But the hosting coop plays no role whatsoever in the internal politics of the instance(s) it hosts, and the instances play no role whatsoever in the internal politics of the hosting coop.

Each instance the hosting coop has on their servers has its own domain name, so the reputation of one has no effect on the reputation of its neighbours on the server. The hosting coop may have its own rules about who it does and doesn't host (eg no spammers, no neo-nazis, no Homers), agreed on by the workers in the coop, but hosted instances have no power to demand their neighbours get evicted. They can, of course, make a request, ideally with examples of how the instance they want booted off the server is breaking the hosting coop rules, which ought to be published on its website.

As for the instances, either:
* Social.coop carries on as a general instance, and if desired, new topic-specific instances are established for geeking out about coops, and so on
* Social.coop carries on as topic-specific instance for geeking out about coops, and if desired, a new instance(s) is established as a general instance run as a coop

If or how such an instance fork happens is up to the existing users to come to consensus on, and make a formal, democratic decision, which the hosting coop would then action. Either way, I think separating the governance of the technical infrastructure from the governance of the social community is essential. People doing essential tech work need to be insulated from the distractions and damage to morale that can be caused by getting embroiled in ongoing moderation policy debates etc (as we say with @mayel). FWIW I would be interested in being a member of a hosting coop working along these lines.

PS another options would be to buy hosting services from an existing tech coop, eg Web Architects


Graham Fri 7 Sep 2018 7:24AM

I've been thinking along similar lines: separate the business of keeping the show on the road from the deliberations and concerns of content policy and moderation.


Bob Haugen Fri 7 Sep 2018 8:28AM

This is an interesting idea, but expect at least some of the people keeping the show on the road to join in the deliberations. Otherwise it's a just a job, which is ok too, but maybe not what everybody will want. Might not be their only motivation.


Aaron Wolf Fri 7 Sep 2018 4:13PM

if there was a perfect set of rules that satisfied everybody in one instance, I think we would have found it by now

I disagree and think that really underestimates the challenges of building consensus. I think we are on track to finding a set of rules that satisfies everyone. These things are not trivial or easy, and they involve a lot of listening and constructive coworking. And the result of all that hard work is often worth it. Giving up because we don't readily have consensus is counterproductive IMO.


Noah Fri 7 Sep 2018 4:22PM

Agree with Aaron's point about consensus and patience. Also, as someone who might credibly be involved in a hosting coop like the one proposed above, I would have the same concerns about content and moderation that I have as a member of this coop - in fact I'd likely feel even greater responsibility on that front since we might be facilitating even more posts and greater reach, if hosting many instances - so I'm not sure that would be a clean resolution of those questions anyway.


Danyl Strype Thu 13 Sep 2018 8:43AM

You seem to be saying that the tech workers who keep the lights on need to take responsibility for (which implies taking power over) everything that happens under those lights. Putting aside the ethical/ structural implications of this hierarchical technocracy, I don't see it as practical. If we force everyone who wants to do tech work to involve themselves in every moderation discussion, on every instance (of any app) their work is part of hosting, however divisive and unpleasant, how will they have the time or morale to get any tech work done? I would not work under these conditions, even if paid.


Bob Haugen Thu 13 Sep 2018 11:13AM

@strypey I'm not sure who "you" was in your comment. Did somebody want to the force the tech workers to get into all the discussions? As compared to "maybe some of the tech workers might want to be involved in some of the groups that use their code"?


Noah Thu 13 Sep 2018 1:36PM

Well, then maybe you and I would not be compatible partners in running a hosting company, Strypey. I didn't say everyone would be forced to involve themselves in every moderation discussion, I said that I personally would feel some level responsibility for the content created on my platform (It's clear that this is a minority position in tech, but unclear whether the Tech WG or this hypothetical spun-off co-op would fall somewhere towards my end of the spectrum or in the mainstream doctrine of "I just provide a platform"). If I were designing a hosting platform for something like Mastodon, I'd probably start with some baseline rules and model policies for instances I hosted. Maybe there's no market for something like that, I don't know. I do wonder how masto.host handles the possibility of hosted instances federating with instances that share illegal content (CP, etc). Seems like "we're just a platform" would be a complicated position to hold anyway.


Bob Haugen Thu 13 Sep 2018 1:53PM

We're in possibly yet another position. We only develop software with and for organizations we like, and do get somewhat involved in their discussions, but not so much to take responsibility for them or to interfere (very much - tho interacting does affect them) but to interact, ask questions, see where they're going, see if we want to continue, etc etc.
We don't even think about market share.


Noah Thu 13 Sep 2018 2:17PM

In my day job I am a very pedestrian freelance developer/sysadmin; I do try to steer people towards accessibility, inclusivity, etc and away from abusive patterns, unnecessary tracking, that sort of thing... over time I've been able to get more picky with my clientele while still getting the bills paid; it's a hard line to try to walk. It's easy for me to speak about a hypothetical co-op being picky because I'd only personally be building something like that off of my existing level of security from ongoing contracts.


Bob Haugen Thu 13 Sep 2018 2:29PM

@noahhall we're in a very different position there, too. Retired, downsized radically, living on US social security, no burn rate. So we feel very lucky and understand that younger people will have very different constraints.


Noah Thu 13 Sep 2018 2:51PM

followup on "i wonder what masto.host does" -- here is their ToS, if anyone's interested https://masto.host/tos/


Danyl Strype Thu 13 Sep 2018 6:06PM


As compared to "maybe some of the tech workers might want to be involved in some of the groups that use their code"?

Just to be clear, this sub-thread is talking about hosting not programming. To answer your question though, it is impossible to release software under a free code license and control what anyone else does with it. That's the whole point of these licenses! To defend the freedoms of software (re-)users, software developers have to be free of liability for all downstream use.


I personally would feel some level responsibility for the content created on my platform

Sure, I have no problem with a hosting coop that has standards applying to all its customers, based on values and principles shared by all the workers in the coop (eg 'we don't host white supremacist groups' would be a no-brainer). But having agreed to host an instance for a group, I would treat that instance as private property of that group, governed by their members and rules, not ours. If compelling evidence was presented that white supremacists were organizing on an instance we were told was for anti-racist organizing, that would be breach of contract, and their instance would be deleted from our servers according to a published process, with a mechanism for appeal in case of misinformation. Otherwise, what goes on in their instance, and how they govern and manage it, is none of the host's business.

"It's clear that [taking responsibility for content] is a minority position in tech"

There are very good reasons for the industry norm that hosting organizations are common carriers, like the entities that operate services as part of the telephone networks. If a coop hosting an instance has to take responsibility for the content on that instance, by the same logic, so does their upstream host (the virtual hosting service providing our VMs or containers), and so does their upstream host (the datacentre their service runs on), and theirs (the telecom corporations that provide net connections to datacentres). In other words, telecoms corporations would get to govern every piece of content on the net, and have to operate massive censorship bureaus to decide what is and isn't allowed on the net.

If the operators of the cables can just say "we just provide access, the customer is responsible for what they say and do with it", as telephone companies do, so can the datacentre, and the virtual hosting company, and so can the instance hosting company. That way, responsibility and power over what gets said is delegated to the end user, or a democratic collective sharing a site of end use, which is where it ought to be on a democratic internet.


Noah Fri 14 Sep 2018 1:10AM

If a coop hosting an instance has to take responsibility for the content on that instance, by the same logic, so does their upstream host

You seem really concerned about being forced to do something, but I haven't said anything about forcing anyone to do anything, and the way you keep inserting that assumption that people will be forced to do something they don't want to do is making me feel like there's not much else worth saying here that I haven't already said.

I do think this sub-thread serves as a very useful case-in-point for my original statement that carving out a separate hosting co-op would not resolve any of these arguments but merely displace them.


Danyl Strype Wed 26 Sep 2018 4:32PM

I guess I'm just failing to understand why you meant by "some level of responsibility". My understanding of being responsible is being able to be held accountable ie. taking responsibility is an obligation (you're forced to as a matter of policy). It's not fair for someone who is held accountable for something to have no power over it. So having "some responsibility" for the use of the hosted platform has to be interpreted is 'having some power over' clients' use of the server they pay you to host for them. My previous comment about "common carriers" was an attempt to explain why I think that's a bad idea. Is there another way of understanding "some responsibility" that I'm missing?

I think we're also talking past each other on what counts as "my platform". If I am a member of the coop being hosted, it's my platform (ours collectively). If I'm being paid to host a coop's servers as a commercial contract, it's their platform. Keeping that platform maintained and working is my business, and maybe making sure it doesn't break my hosting coop's Terms of Use (as I said in my first comment). What rules they make for their servers, and how they enforce them, is their business, not mine.


Matt Noyes Fri 7 Sep 2018 5:09PM

In the words of Al Green, "Let's stay together." I think we are on the right track. The difficulties we are encountering (generating?) are valuable and meaningful. They offer us opportunities to go further, to embrace pluralism and difference and debate while at the same time, developing new practices of dialogue and consensus building. As the Zapatistas say "we want a world where many worlds can fit (Un mundo dónde quepan muchos mundos)". I want coop talk and pics of bunnies. I want witches and tech folks. I want cooperativists and solidarity economy activists. I want active, engaged cooperative nerds and people who like the coop platform and participate in governance as necessary. Let's keep building this platform, exploring new combinations and formats -- no need to answer the "purpose of social.coop" let's just keep asking question, better.


mike_hales Tue 11 Sep 2018 4:33PM

Opening this thread, Matt wrote . .

unless we can define a clear answer to the why? of social.coop, it’ll be difficult to chart a viable path from here

Being bugged by this ‘why?’ question (and some ‘what?’ questions) a short while back I relaunched the editorial subgroup to explore it. That’s now very much overtaken by the present crisis. FWIW, as a recent joiner, I’ve written a summary of my past and present expectations of the ‘why?’ in social.coop. It’s more complex than I thought it was, and there seems to be an A list (things I naively expected) and a B list (things I naively didn’t expect). These turned out to be lengthy, so I’ve attached them as a document.

From these lists, I conclude . .

On diversity . .

I seem to believe that diversity can be dealt with purposefully and concretely around shared work . . if there’s an agreed core of ‘what we’re doing here, together’ - an A list. But attempting to deal with ‘diversity’ among a collection of folks who just walk in off the street and want to give voice, without acknowledged common purpose, is fated to circle and float, and will be subject to the pathological splitting/dependency/projection dynamics of an un-oriented ‘basic assumptions’ group (Tavistock Institute/Bion group-relations insights)?

I suppose I’m also saying . . if somebody's A-list is stuff on my B list, that looks like another community to me . . another instance? With brotherly/sisterly relations between us (and overlapping fediversal participation, for sure) but not doing the same core work. Some folks will want to be core in one, and some in another. Some will lurk in one or both? Maybe Mastodon is a machine-for-lurking?

When I originally looked for a Mastodon instance, and joined social.coop, no-one drew my attention to anything like an A-list.

On lurking and working . .

Whatever the A list of social.coop turns out to be, active tooters and Loomio-commenters could do more to intentionally mobilise diverse voices and resources in cultivating A-list agendas? Even so, lurkers will be lurkers.

Seems to me, it really does need to be made clear, day by day, who is putting time in, actually doing the work of handling the traffic and transactions and infrastructure in the community? It’s taken me several months - and a crisis - to begin to see this at all clearly. In the end it all comes down to time/labour? And then, to the forms of accountability that are workable, for those (chronically extended?) volunteer labourers, towards lurkers of various kinds. This will include people reluctant to speak for any of several good reasons, and people reluctant to work (in this particular collective) for any equally good reason.

Michele (now sadly left social.coop) started a thread for weekly reporting by sub-group coordinators. Seems to me this is basic machinery for making the work visible and accountable. Nobody adopted it apart from Michele and me. The tool’s there to be used. There’s no way we’re all going to join and keep up with every subgroup in Loomio?

Whatever group I joined, I would expect to contribute first to whatever it is that group is doing, and put challenges on colleagues (including attempting to stretch the A-list?) only when I was a recognised contributor and had a sense of what resources and difficulties others - notably the volunteer infrastructure-builders - were working with. This is not the yoghourt aisle at the supermarket, where every commodity-shopper gets their needs met, and it’s statutory, on the label. It’s a place of harvest, where each gets a share of what’s been sown and grown, depending on fortune, labour, vision.


Miloš Wed 12 Sep 2018 2:42PM

Hey, I really like what you're saying here. Your point about those who do work reminds me of Michal Parenti's parecon. I think that makes sense quite a bit, but of course should be loosely structured to encourage newcomers..

The idea about weekly reporting for working groups has worked well in groups I've been part of in the past. I think it would make sense that it's part of of the norms of conduct here.


Sam Toland Wed 12 Sep 2018 8:40PM

This is really well articulated.


mike_hales Mon 10 Dec 2018 12:33AM

Community ops team

@matthewcropp Now the Community Ops team has begun meeting, is it time to play this discussion, here in this thread, into the developments to be undertaken by that team? The team is thinking about onboarding and 'a welcome letter'. Also, about moderating. D'you think this relates to the notion of 'an A-list' that I was trying to frame here, and the thoughts on diversity in this comment above?

Also, the thread for weekly reporting mentioned above has lapsed. But, if the Ops Team has a weekly rota, might it also be helpful to reinstate this device of a weekly update from groups? @emido @mattnoyes @wulee @alanz @gimcgrew @leosammallahti


Miloš Wed 12 Sep 2018 1:58PM

With all due respect, and I apologize for the harshness of my tone, but - Anglo-speakers didn't invent self-management. Pretending you did just replicates the colonial logic that makes your/my existence possible. That said, the work you all did here thus far is great, and I am quite grateful for it.

I have benefitted from this discussion, even if some of the (largely American) terminology makes it very hard to read. My response to @matthewcropp is that:
* I'm part of social.coop because it's a social network that is a self-managed cooperative. That is the only reason - the discussions don't have to be about coops necessarily, the key point for me is that it is one.
* from my experience in large collectively-governed organizations, two things are needed for succesful functioning: 1) a clear procedure of shared governance - this could be the delegate model, where major decisions are made collectively and minor ones are made by a group of delegates who are transparent and recallable by all members 2) a shared set of principles that goes beyond the delegation model and prevents brigading by malicious new members (entryism).

Thus, this seems to me like a possible effective basis for social.coop to continue.


Manuela Bosch Tue 11 Dec 2018 9:32AM

Thank you for this contribution. In additon to 2) I would love to have a simple process in place to develop and review those principles, ways to come together as community. I have some ideas. I also see that a lot of work around principles and values has been done in the Code of Conduct process already.


Edward L Platt Tue 11 Dec 2018 3:15PM

+1 for process to review principles.

As far as I know, the general social.coop ( http://social.coop ) membership hasn't been involved in developing any principles. To use principles effectively, members need to know what they are and agree enthusiastically. They should definitely be part of the onboarding process, but there seems to be a disconnect between existing members and the process of documenting principles, unless the plan is to re-onboard all existing members.


mike_hales Tue 11 Dec 2018 3:57PM

@edwardlplatt I'm unsure whether 'principles' identifies where it's at - I'm inclined to think that it's particular forms of relationships that need to be cultivated. That's a bit philosophical? But not just quibbling over terms, I think. Regarding 're-onboarding', however . . Back in July, the Editorial subgroup was reframed as a place for considering how social.coop represents itself - not only to the public, or to potential participants (as an aspect of onboarding), but also to itself. So rather than re-onboarding, one possibility is that discussions in the Editorial space could foster a fresh set of more explicit choices regarding the representations that we publish in various media, of . . what s.c is for (and not for), what the core concerns are, how people conduct themselves (and don't conduct themselves) within s.c, what the working processes are (governance, maintainance, safety, etc)? This being a process extending over time . . as s.c evolves? This activity hasn't started yet (was put on the back burner in turbulent August/September) and could be quite work-intensive.


Danyl Strype Tue 11 Dec 2018 4:34PM

I agree that there is a need to define what the goals and guidelines of s.c are, and are not, going to be. You could use up a lot of time and energy trying to canvas the fullest possible range of views, but I suggest it would be more productive for those who are really passionate about the continuation of s.c to put forward their visions, and come up with a functioning consensus for the next stage of development.

Others, like myself, who are on the fence, will make decisions at some point about whether to dive in or wander off. Other still, who have already wandered off, may choose to return. Those decisions will be based (at least in part) on whether there is a core of people committed to sustaining the project. If it seems there is, I may be willing to help out even if their collective vision doesn't gel exactly with my own goals and preferences. But at this point, involving me in endless rounds of consultation is likely to leave me thinking the project is a zombie, and make me more likely to lose interest.


mike_hales Tue 11 Dec 2018 10:52PM

For clarity . . the work that the Editorial group might do is basically about publishing what s.c actually is/does, so that folks can tune into them, thro positive feedback & recruitment - not a consultation process. And as those things evolve, those things get published, etc. The basic mechanism which moves things forward is essentially what Strypey is advocating . . active groundbreaking and organising by 'principled' people, coupled with explicitness about emerging principles. Not 'consultation'.


Bob Haugen Tue 11 Dec 2018 11:07PM

Is social.coop proving to be useful to cooperatives, cooperative organizers, the "cooperative economy"?

What would improve its use-value?


Aaron Wolf Tue 11 Dec 2018 11:10PM

I find it useful because it helps network and discuss things with other people with shared co-op values and goals.