Organizing for SocialHub Community Empowerment

:100:

+100 here. My perception is that most ppl see the community forum here as a place where sometimes an interesting question comes in, or a nice event is organised, but not as the essential place where we work towards the next-gen versions of the technology + standards that all federated apps are ultimately standing on, and there’s a blindness to the fact that active participation here is ultimately a win-win for everyone, including for your own project.

Other than that I, of course, wholly agree that we should strive to empower any oppressed group. But in general I’d say this means we should be open and embracing to anyone and encourage them to participate, no matter what their background is (as long as they are adhering to our code of ethics policy, being the only condition).

We are a humane technology group, as I see it. So when it comes to oppressed groups we can specifically address topics to solving problems these groups have to deal with. And we should very explicitly advocate for oppressed groups and people to join our community. Joining should be in their interest, and after all they know the problem space best.

Problems like: how can we avoid toxicity to arise, how can we suppress it, how can we protect people from it. But also: how can we facilitate people that are not as highly educated, are lacking financial means to e.g. self-host infrastructure, help them set up organization and target non-English speaking regions of the world. And too: Help those that do not have the same freedoms we have, e.g. living in authoritarian regimes, or cultures where their being different is frowned upon. Etcetera.

nice discussion, I only wanted to add a fez notes, first while I really like the idea of a foundation, I think any discussion of it should be happening collectively and in this thread I mainly see the contribution of one person. To have any validity this idea should have more input, as chances are that many preople here have a lot of experience in groups and knowledge about organisational models.

Secondly my feeling is there are a lot of assumptions this post is starting from and I do not see them as obvious:

I understand this is second degree however I still I think it is a very strange assumption, first you assume that all people here are “devs” whatever that means.
Secondly you assume that people face up saying they do not have a long term professional plan within this community, I did not see this happening around here quite the contrary.

Well not sure what you mean by this but certainly there is absolutely no room in actual funding schemes for community organisation within AP, we probably should be looking fro these. Foundation is indeed a good idea, then it should be much larger then only encompassing the developers universe, and the first conversation here should be: with whom do we want to work.

Again I do not see this as a problem we have a lot running and what seems to be more needed as you also rightly say is to understand how to build meaningful community organisation.

Those groups are the only ones who have the answer and they already have community organisation systems. So best is to take from our time to ask them, rather then take from their time to ask them to come to us.
To understand what is needed by communities developers need to step out from their comfort zones, stop modelling what they think people need, and actively organize to inquire about what communities really need.

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Wonderful, I love your feedback, @natacha. It is indeed a lot of my posts here, as I am sketching my thoughts to other SocialHub members. And in hopes of getting responses back, so… yours is very welcome.

I see this as start of a long-running process to collect the broad input that is indeed needed. Besides here, I’ve sent various toots on fedi, and currently running a poll. I will continue to inform fedi like that, among others.

Please take my assumptions with a grain of salt. They are meant to get a discussion going. The SocialHub has a heavy technical focus (e.g. one of my posts got response from another member that it was not technical enough for this forum). Also SocialCG meetups, while “everyone is welcome to participate” often have such high technical level, that I - as software developer - feel intimidated to raise my voice. I encounter this overly technical focus everywhere, also beyond SocialHub.

Since some time I am advocating to make this community more inclusive for people with a broad range of skills, expertise levels and backgrounds. And to combine our efforts in more holistic approach to fedi innovation. There is a lot of potential that remains untapped. So I started the #fediversity:fediverse-futures which I am also promoting on fedi and recently on Lemmy too.

All the things that require community activity progress very slowly or stall altogether, due mostly I think by lack of time by those involved. Numerous threads in this forum are inconclusive, with no satisfying outcome or follow-up. Open issues in the spec repo’s remain unaddressed. Meanwhile everyone is furthering their own apps, filling in the blanks in custom ways. It might not be bad, because at least there’s progress, but things can be so much more streamlined. And there’s a win-win for projects if they do so. Right now imho (may be just my impression) the fedi technology base is more diverging and fragmenting rather than converging on a common direction.

“innovation pace” was probably badly phrased. There’s no need for speed, but for streamlining, not wasting time unnecessary (preferably win time via synergy), and - importantly “we have a lot running” and what we already have is very hard and complex for newcomers to master. If the onboarding experience were better, we’d get a lot more helping hands.

In my proposal the goal is healthy evolution of the entire technology base on which the Fediverse stands. I see SocialHub as a community of technologists, which is much broader indeed than “devs”. As I see it: Everyone involved anywhere in the software / project / product development cycle in broadest sense, including those that advocate the technology.

The foundation supports SocialHub… ‘a foundation to a tech foundation’.

The community might be even broader positioned and also address socio-cultural and political etc. concerns, be a representative for entire fedi. But I’d argue against that, as that is just too much (at Humane Tech Community which I founded and still facilitate, a too broad audience was what made community engagement nigh impossible).

Fedi Poll: Active community engagement Yes / No

I sent a poll to fediverse. It will still run for 5 days and has 44 responses thus far:

#decentralization are key success factors of #fediverse … but they also come with weaknesses.

Fedi is still a brittle flower, and the #activitypub techbase it stands on is developed ad-hoc. Fragmented across projects & groups we create custom app extensions. #interoperability is on case-by-case basis, with few deep integrations across different app domains.

We must foster more cooperation, inclusive and growing community, advocacy at #SocialHub so we can go next-level.


  •   I agree. Strong community creates strong ecosystem

  •   It is fine as it is. Things move at their own pace

Will update the results here, once the poll is closed.

As a way of thinking about community I like “Community Digital Garden” as explained in this IndieHackers post:

Community Digital Garden

Community process cycle

When I think about what is needed to maintain a community digital garden, I think of these things:

  • the need for curation: the world moves fast, there needs to be a way to constantly stay on top of what is happening in your industry
  • the need for expertise: we need to be constantly tapping into people and their knowledge
  • the need for a process: just like a business, a community digital garden will die a death if there isn’t some kind of process to keep it in place.
  • and of course, the need to build community around all of these things

Some community garden thoughts that spring to mind:

  • When you build a community it is about growing together.
  • Things will look simple and clean to begin with, but can quickly become messy and disorganized.
  • When building a community it is easy to fall into the trap of getting measured by the number of posts, comments, or views, rather than the combined and potential value
  • It’s important to look at the long term value of content and what it means to your community
  • Members can easily default to (lazily) checking and posting from the homepage or forum, over taking time to search and discover
  • Educating your community about where you are heading is probably key to making it work as they can then hopefully align their actions to help you
  • It doesn’t need to mean that everyone has access to add or edit everything, it’s more about having some kind of commitment to creating continual value based on the contributions from the community

The foundation team addresses these things and would take care that the cycle runs smoothly.

This kinda thinking generally wins in the end as #mainstreaming is a down hill run - we need a stop running down this hill, really just stop for a bit to take a breath. Take a moment, contemplate, who are we empowering?

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We live in oligarchy.

"Democracy arose from the idea that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are alike free, therefore they claim that all are free absolutely… The next is when the democrats, on the grounds that they are all equal, claim equal participation in everything.

It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election."

The “liberal fig leaf” you put in front of the foundation will fall off the first time the wind blows.

Yes it is easy to run down this hill, yes you can force this into place, few people will try and stop you.

But before you do this please think - Do we in the fedivers want to live in oligarchy or are we actually building something different.

Results of the poll are in. Not too many respondents (47 in all):

  • 70% are in favor of fostering strong community.
  • 30% think things are fine as they currently are.

Update: Note that in terms of engagement 24% of our user base (107 out of 443) have visited the forum in the last 30 days (i.e. since @how announced the EC event). Not a bad number.

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Lets set up a BBB on this after soon after these current events.

Am working on fascinating stuff that comes for 30 years of actually working in and with radically decentralized networks. we do have working solutions to meany issues - the challenge is turning them into code and scaling them.

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I could sign with both hands under this:

The tyranny of structurelessness comes to my mind. Not sure if I agreed with proposed solutions though.

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Very interesting discussion. It actually made me feel like at home :upside_down_face:

Loosely related, I found recently Ukuvota which is a tool to facilitate cooperative decision making for collectives. The Manual is worth reading, imho.

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PS. They are quoted here: What would a fediverse "governance" body look like? - #79 by aschrijver

Interesting tool, thank you.
In an recent SocialCG @bengo mentioned Loomio and support stacked ranked voting: 2021-04-23 Social CG meeting - #25 by bengo (I was in favor of trying to use what this forum offers).

As I read them right now I think they are very good points. I remember that when I read the text first time I wasn’t convinced but then re-read it and thought it was very good, though that something was missing (to built an inclusive culture).

I have some notes from the times it was very relevant to me, if you were interested I could dig into them and try to find out what I thought.

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Yes, I think both @hamishcampbell and me are interested to get any feedback you have on the subject…

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No preference for the voting tool. I think voting in general is very interesting and grateful domain to work on and craft tools.

Ukuvota has great rationale in the manual.

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Did you try the ‘Poll’ option from the composer?

I usually tend to avoid voting as it often shortcuts a proper discussion to reach consensus or at least to explore the complexity of a given issue. This is why I don’t like things like Loomio or Liquid Democracy.

I think best what I can do is to just link here some of my docs:

  • Dev culture fix
    It contains some of my observations, distilled as if it was not me taking part in them. If it contains names of some of my upper managers it is just to add context, I don’t write anything personal about anyone.

  • Cloud Object Storage
    change strategy
    grassroots proposal

    On page 7-8 have a proposition of solution - team structure - that may be (or not) most interesting to you. It was a solution as I saw it then and there, I don’t think of it as the ultimate, universal or final solution. I was heavily challenged all the way as I tried to explain my perspective and ideas so it may seem overly explanatory.

Together, they are a record of some of the efforts I made to make the world around me more that I could last there. Now it seems funny how serous I was about it.

You can comment on them if you’d like to.

They are based on some very personal experiences - though not described here and everything is written as impersonal as I could. I wanted to sound professional :wink: I kind of practiced participatory observation at the time.

Enjoy!
I am especially proud of the apx B, proposal of improvement, that almost whole engineering team supported.

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Thanks a lot for posting, @mariha, I did enjoy reading them. A lot of aspects are very recognizable and are at play in some form or other in most IT companies. In companies I’ve worked for in the past there are two specifically that were in opposite extremes of Autonomy and Inclusiveness:

  • The first one was where the founders developed the initial prototype and based on that thought they were most in-the-know of all technical ins and outs as the company grew, and that ‘IT was easy’. They dictated product direction and Marketing was at their level, kept away from devs, and product features sold before they existed. That was, as you can imagine, highly frustrating.

  • The other company was marvelous. With hundreds of employees they truly retained ‘startup culture’, everyone tech-savvy and with business accumen where it was needed. More than 60 nationalities intermingling, truly diverse, everyone highly autonomous in a flat organization structure (tribes + squads in a spotify engineering culture). Highly agile.

This last organization, it seems to me, comes really close to what you were proposing. Yet here new challenges arose, and these challenges are also relatable (in a way) to what SocialHub faces currently. Some characteristics at play there:

  • GOOD: Very autonomous; low ceremony; informal and social interaction, leading to highly productive teams.
  • HARD: How to keep overview, the grander picture: a comprehensive product portfolio
  • HARD: Balance between informal + formal procedures, and how that impacts organization + culture.
  • HARD: Providing incentives to inform oneself (reserve time) to know what others are doing.

Some real challenges we bumped into:

  • Keeping things very informal works best to a certain extent, until teams e.g. start to diverge and no longer feel the need attend sprint reviews, read retrospectives of other teams.
  • Keeping each other informed about knowledge and insights, decisions, gets ever harder. Part of our Definition of Done of stories and epics included having minimal level of documentation, but bringing this together and have others read it was another story.
  • We transitioned to a microservices architecture, and architects became like Priests while devs were Atheists, unwilling to read the Bible. Everyone was a bit too independent.

If we project this on SocialHub community as if it were a business, then:

  • Autonomy is total. There is no boss, and there is no common direction from the perspective of team (federated project) deliverables.
  • With all FOSS projects there are much more ad-hoc roadmaps and short-term needs wrt AP are fulfilled. There’s little incentive to invest in the future and spend time in a community that is not directly project-related.
  • When investing time at SocialHub, project devs like to spend it mostly on technical stuff, much less on ‘brainstorming the future’ and even less doing the community chores.
  • If other people are doing community chores, they still need active involvement of devs for them to be relevant at all. Without feedback and consent community volunteers will meld away.

Incentives are key.

Why should one spend time at SocialHub at all? What is in it for me? What’s the win-win I get for my project?

In theory it is simple:

If the tech foundation, AS/AP et al, stops evolving, then it will wither and eventually become irrelevant. And with that probably dev projects will suffer too.

But in practice asking people to be involved with the community is similar to asking to care for the environment: we all know it is going to hell, but do not adjust our lifestyle to extent we should.

Note that a governance model, that is discussed on this forum in a somewhat different context, is also no solution. Without involvement there’s nothing to govern, no ‘power’ to distribute democratically.

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“The is such a thing as society” we need to build our tools for this anti “common sense” statement.

The advantage of “governance” of the fediverse (which it needs if it is to become a part of our #openweb based society that is essential for social change/challenge in the era of #climatechaos) is that the is non, this is a good thing.

The Fediverse comes from the “cats” of libertarianism and to a lesser extent anarchism without the (O)

In this, we don’t HAVE to think how it fits into current working practices and current economics. Rather, people PUSHING these “common sense” solutions to the fediverse “governance” problems are a part of the problem, not a solution that might work.

To be “native” to the fediverse we need to use code to build “society”. Organizing for SocialHub Community Empowerment has to be anti “common sense” as the fediverse itself is.

Power comes from power, It’s something you TAKE/build and in the best outcome share, it is never given to you.

Private property - Wikipedia was invented in a mythical past when someone with a big club drew a line in the sand and said to the social group step over that, and I kill you.

Notice this is not the foundation of the fediverse, we are base on an open flowing social web and our lines in the sand are “blowing in the wind”. Yes, lots of people do not understand this.