Organizing for SocialHub Community Empowerment

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.