Fri 2 Apr 2021 11:52PM

Software used for collaboration

D Danny Public Seen by 64

A thread to discuss (through polls and comments) the software used by Biotech Without Borders in order to foster collaborations on the organizations operations and projects. Proposals may include, using a new piece of software, modifying the way we currently use a piece of software, etc.

Short history

I started this thread before we had the option of meeting in person and used the comments here to inform the way I proceeded with setting up various communication channels. We considered using Slack, but there was not a lot of engagement on it and I am personally not enthusiastic about it's use (which isn't to say it is not a good choice to use, just that someone else will likely have to spearhead it's adoption. As per our operational principle of consensus taken from Noisebridge, I am standing aside here). See the context history for more information.

Intention for a working culture at BwoB

(at least for the operational side of things)

I wrote in the introduction to this group that I am quite inspired by the help guides of Loomio. But also an article about working in a company that has no meetings. Among other things this is what stood out to me:

Instead of having meetings, people “talk” to each other via GitHub, Notion, and (occasionally) Slack, expecting responses within 24 hours. Because there are no standups or “syncs” and some projects can involve expensive feedback loops to collaborate, working this way requires clear and thoughtful communication.

Everyone writes well, and writes a lot.


But the deal we already had in place was better for what our people prioritize: freedom over growth, sustainability over speed, life over work.

I am hoping that Loomio can help with cultivating this culture and I explain how in the presentation linked on the help thread. But there are many software which we might leverage to create a working collaborative culture which is able to engage our community, members and officers.

Internal vs External

Although I believe in transparency (as per the Mission Vision and Values), I also understand a need to draw distinctions between different levels of involvement with the organization and allow folks to have spaces to discuss among themselves. There is also a difference in opening up access to software for a broader community and inviting that community to become a member in order or engage with the software. The Permission Levels refers to a conceptual separation of the the users of the software into meaningful groups that engage differently with that piece of software.

Current Software Ecosystem @ BwoB

I will revisit this later and create a mind map using FreePlane, but for now I offer a list and some short descriptions on how they work together to build a cohesive stack of software that allows the BwoB community, members and officers to work together. In bringing this stack together I have been influenced by this article as well as the discussions on this thread and 1:1. I go into more of the rationale for using Loomio and Open Collective in this presentation delivered at Biosummit 6.0



Permission Levels

Loomio (you're already here!)

Discussion and Decision making (aka consensus building)

Community, Members, Officers

External Facing (via email invite)


Email, Managing Google Ad grant, Video chat, External calendar

File storage


External Facing (via Google services


External appointments, Document Signing, Project Management, Internal calendar

Video chat (potentially via Matrix with Jitsi backend)

File storage

Members, Officers

External Facing (on a per file basis and with appointments)

Matrix (private server)

Public space

Public chat room (public server)

(E2E) Chat

Community, Members, Officers

External Facing (still working to determine the best way to integrate select channels from different DIY projects and other chat services [Slack, Discord, Signal, Telegram, Whats App, Instagram, Twitter] into a single chat room)

Open Collective

Collecting membership dues and donations, reimbursing mission aligned-purchases, transparent budget reporting


Members (still working to determine the best way to allow members manage funds for their mission-aligned projects)

Community, External Facing (payment and reimbursement only)


Mailing list, CRM


External Facing (receive only)

CiviCRM (link forthcoming pending security review)

Mailing list, CRM


Members (still working to determine the best way to allow members to manage information for their mission-aligned projects)

External Facing (once a migration from MailChimp can be completed this platform will serve as our CRM)


Sharing references

Members, Officers, External Facing

Moodle (link will change at some point to learning.biotechw...)

Developing and Delivering training

Members, Officers

Community, External Facing (pending creation of broadly applicable training)


Yuriy Fazylov Fri 2 Apr 2021 6:23PM

Great, we switched from a free platform to a pay per your time on loomio membership.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sat 3 Apr 2021 2:26PM

It's a one time cost right? If it's a one time cost, I think it works as a place to organize discussion, and it would come out to less than the cost of an electronic signature service actually, which is already a highly competitive software industry with near rock bottom pricing for added-value services, so the pricing seems reasonable. I don't know of any FOSS options that have feature parity with loomio, if we did something like Slack which might get close with polls and all we would still probably have to pay after a point. One thing that I don't like about Loomio is that compared to Slack or Discord, it doesn't really support chat, which seems like a pretty important part of collaboration. Quick private chats, threads, etc are important IMO, and making everything a part of a formal record like Loomio does can be prohibitive to open collaboration within a team. I also have thoughts on the consensus process, but that's not central to loomio necessarily.

Overall, I think this software is alright, but these all depend on how engaged people are going to be, and I do feel like it's not enough to cover all our software needs. We'll need gsuite, obviously, for email and docs. This isn't a fully formalized legal platform (and not a place to get signatures for membership agreements) so we may or may not want something along those lines. It's not a great task manager so we might want one of those as we start operations. It's not a great solution for chat, so people still tend to have chats offline. It doesn't have built in video calling, and that's an important part of collaboration. Basically, it does what it does reasonably well, and then I think it's a cost-benefit analysis of whether it's worth a one time cost (which in my opinion it probably is), but I also don't expect this to be the last bit of paid software we have to use (considering I think we already use a gsuite?)


Danny Sat 3 Apr 2021 4:30PM

Yes we have gsuite for free through our non-profit status. So yes that will certainly become part of our software suite. But I didn't see what the user agreement was which always makes me weary. I agree with your idea that there needs to be a space that is less formal for discussion like a chat. But I also think that writing on record like this asks of people to think carefully about how they interact. There should be space for both!


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sat 3 Apr 2021 4:32PM

Definitely agree that there should be room for multiple avenues of collaboration, including video and (eventually) in person!


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sat 3 Apr 2021 5:43PM

What are loomio's data export capabilities and is there a mobile app?


Danny Sat 3 Apr 2021 10:06PM

They allow for full data export. As a JSON I think. No mobile app as far as I know I'm just using it as a tab in my Firefox browser.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Mon 5 Apr 2021 12:41AM

Another thing - it looks like loomio core is open source? I guess we could deploy our own loomio server, I think between azure/gcp/aws at least one of them offers some sort of decent free credit set for nonprofits. We could experiment with a self hosted deploy, or forking a version and developing it to our own needs, though IDK if that's worth saving $200. And self hosting would be a pain.


Danny Mon 5 Apr 2021 11:07AM

Yes I'm glad this idea crossed your mind. It was something I thought about when I first thought about this software. I don't think it's worth saving the $200 but it could be worth it for branding purposes.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Mon 5 Apr 2021 1:05AM

Loomoo also has slack integration which would solve the needing a place to both discuss and male decisions issue


Danny Sat 17 Apr 2021 10:38PM

I put a link to our new Slack in this comment: https://www.loomio.org/d/Leq91WmU/software-used-for-collaboration/11


Danny Fri 16 Apr 2021 3:13AM

Since some have expressed some interest in using Slack. Here is an invite to a free workspace I made. As I said in the community meeting I probably will lurk on it more (at least at first). But I don't want to stop people from having a place they feel comfortable communicating in.



Yuriy Fazylov Mon 12 Jul 2021 4:48AM

So We don't do BWOB domains but we need one to enter slack? what's up with that?


Danny Mon 31 Jan 2022 7:02PM

If folks want to join the slack send an email to [email protected] and someone will generate you a link. Also any person in the slack should be able to invite new folks. No official policy yet on getting an email with our domain. I assume this will be for Officers.

For members I started a Matrix server to chat with. It'll be bridged to discord and slack channels as appropriate. Mattermost integration will come eventually.


[deactivated account] Sat 17 Apr 2021 12:41AM

was this efficient? I think yes.


Danny Sat 17 Apr 2021 9:53PM

I don't understand. What is efficient?


[deactivated account] Sat 17 Apr 2021 10:49PM

this process of engaging on loomio with the benefit of records to go back to. project management suite seems functional


Danny Sun 18 Apr 2021 1:18AM

We will see :D Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Item removed


Danny Wed 24 Nov 2021 1:28PM

Actually I probably didn't think the previous answer through enough. I don't see Loomio as a project management solution. We will probably use a kanboard on Nextcloud for that. I see this as a decision making tool. But in order to make a decision one has to again support and that is the purpose of the poll tool.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sun 18 Apr 2021 9:58PM

I'm glad to see the robust discussion taking place in this thread! One thing I'd like to mention that can make Loomio work better/make the record easier to parse in the future is to have back and forth discussions in the new slack here: https://join.slack.com/t/biotechwithoutborders/shared_invite/zt-ozkqqxli-rDcLMqj01W9QyD_9_3zphA

Slack is also a great place to connect with other members to have general discussions, participate in group chats, reach out to members regrading questions, etc. In this context, it would be useful to have parts of the discussion either in a slack direct chat or in a slack group chat (Feel free to create new channels as well!!) and post a summary of each side of the discussion here to Loomio.


[deactivated account] Sun 18 Apr 2021 11:24PM

joined slack, migrating over.


Danny Mon 19 Apr 2021 12:07PM

Just one additional note about making the record easier to parse on Loomio. If you look at the example of the logo there is the ability to pin comments to the "timeline" (I pinned Frank's comment about the typeface). So I disagree that back and forth discussions have no place on Loomio. The key in my mind is that responses are polished to the best of their authors abilities and made in light of the context. Again, I am happy to create a new thread or allow participants to create a thread if the seems like it would be a useful ability. Let me know.

Sorry to break the fluency of your comments Vik but these points belong on the thread about software collaboration. Perhaps a small edit would help it flow better?


Danny Sat 30 Oct 2021 3:00AM

This is the one I was thinking about @Vikram Krishnamoorthy


Danny Tue 30 Nov 2021 2:32PM

I'm talking with Marc Juul about setting up a Matrix chat


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Tue 30 Nov 2021 3:43PM

Let's please not use open source chat apps. I know open source enthusiasts are head over heels for them and for self hosting etc but they create huge amounts of friction for onboarding new members, especially tech non savvy users. And they have limited features and app integrations. People are already familiar with slack and discord, using those is zero friction, and it let's people focus on lab work and classes instead of fiddling with an open source chat app


Danny Tue 30 Nov 2021 4:43PM

I hear you about the new software part. But the idea behind Matrix is to provide interoperability between all sorts of services to reduce friction. Folks should be able to join a Matrix channel using Slack, Discord, Mattermost (I know Open Insulin is here), Element, or whatever service they choose. Although I think Marc has to set up the integrations for each service. Also I experience some friction on Slack and for sure on Discord.

I also think a channel might let us become discoverable with the folks who run and associate with Noisebridge and other community labs who are working with Marc to set this up. Still asking about the exact hosting set up they are thinking about.


Danny Tue 30 Nov 2021 2:35PM

Also I saw this thread on social.coop's Loomio and would like to implement Metagov when it gets more stable. Looking though the documentation with my partner led us to believe that it would be difficult to implement and maintain as of now.


Danny Wed 24 Aug 2022 1:32PM

Previously we used google sheets in place of Loomio. The notes we took there can be found here. I'm also going to link it in the Nextcloud in the Meeting Minutes folder.


Poll Created Mon 7 Nov 2022 4:24PM

Would folks be interested in a Mastodon server adminsters by Biotech Without Borders? Closed Mon 14 Nov 2022 2:01PM

by Danny Mon 14 Nov 2022 2:24PM

Only got 3 responses and nobody was particularly interested in having a specific Biotech Without Borders instance. (As always I really appreciate the input). I think I may set one up but just for an institutional account, but it's not a priority for me. For those who are lab members, I mentioned at the meeting that there are some other groups I am working with that might have an interest in setting up an instance for others. Plus there are many instances coming online so if folks want to join this doesn't have to be something we organize through Biotech Without Borders.

Faz made a good point that if folks already have a Mastodon (or—for that matter—any other Fediverse) account it would be good to connect there. If we put a link to the organization in our bio or make posts about our interactions with BwoB it would be a good way to increase our visibility on that network.

I've been spending a bunch of time helping microbiologists move over to the fediverse by way of several new academic Mastodon instances and I am becomingly increasingly interested in moderating and administrating an instance of my own.

Is anybody interested in Biotech Without Borders setting up such an instance?


Results Option % of voters Voters
Yes 0% 0  
Not sure yet 4% 3 EJ A F
No 0% 0  
Undecided 96% 75 JS D YF SH W EW VK ID TL E N HI J CC F BM CT A AM AS

3 of 78 people have voted (3%)


<span class="translation_missing" title="translation missing: en.poll_check_options.Not sure yet">Not Sure Yet</span>
Mon 7 Nov 2022 4:24PM

Users are usually shy to start and learn how to use new communication software and splitting channels could lead to confusion.


Ellen Jorgensen
<span class="translation_missing" title="translation missing: en.poll_check_options.Not sure yet">Not Sure Yet</span>
Mon 7 Nov 2022 4:24PM

I have no idea of what this is, how much it would cost or the legal and reputational impact


<span class="translation_missing" title="translation missing: en.poll_check_options.Not sure yet">Not Sure Yet</span>
Mon 7 Nov 2022 4:24PM

I think the first step is to compile a list of BwB who are already on mastodon so we can follow eachother and have conversations.

We can move our accounts to our own server if we reach a critical mass of members on mastodon. I think having members spread across servers may help to raise the profile if BwB , especially if we include a link to BwB in our profiles.


Ellen Jorgensen Mon 14 Nov 2022 3:30PM

Also is there a cost associated with this?


Danny Mon 14 Nov 2022 3:39PM

If we support many accounts then probably yes we would have to pay for some additional server infrastructure. I asked the wider community in the previous poll because I was thinking that if we do have interest from outside the membership we would establish a separate collective to collect those fees. But for the institutional account I'm hoping to just using the existing servers we have for Matrix and the website.


Ellen Jorgensen Thu 2 Feb 2023 3:15PM

I saw the presentation, totally impressed with the depth and your commitment to community.