Puzzled . . @mako makes a clear pitch on "Free software production needs free tools"
And is very clear on and (though says most code comes from solo not collaboration!). Yet not a hint of coop ownership of to keep tools honest & open (GitHub!). Surely tools today become platforms? And platforms require collaboration even if code doesn't? So why doesn't follow automatically, as we talk tools? How does libre not equal coop in FLOSS world?

Of course, when talking and I'm thinking of too. If exists to cooperatively own and operate tool platforms (did I get that right?) . . what other tools than Mastodon will come under the umbrella? And which kinds of users will they be tools for? Tech nerds? Coders? Ordinary everday folks? P2P/solidarity economy activists? Etcetera. Diverse use cases, can't serve 'em all well?


I think you need federated economic software, integrated with the social federations. ActivityPub is a good way to do it. Holochain wants to do it, too.


By the way, git is actually economic software for mutual coordination. Federate it!


Don't think of economic as only about money. The root of the word is about managing the household.

@bhaugen "Economic does not equal money" (or trade). Absolutely.
'Use value economy' is one way to steer clear of this language trap? But clumsy term. 'Political economy' helps? Historians' term (EP Thompson) 'moral economy' can do some of the work too? Whatever, it's a term we need to take back from the bastard finance sector. And their running dogs in government.

Oops pardon me, had a flashback to the 70s ;-)

@bhaugen Use value is a lovely notion - and basic in a 'politics of production' of everyday life and work? Good old Karl, he got that right! But in compounds - like 'use value economy' - it doesn't quite roll off the tongue?

I think the problem is conceptual rather than linguistic, and have a hunch that the notion of an economy of this kind needs to be deconstructed somehow. Just too rich to fall under one term? Part of a pattern language of commoning, is my hunch. Work to be done on this

@mike_hales we went through this a couple times already, and the strongest feeling among those involve was that, if and when we'll expand, it will be towards implementing other federated tools (peertube, matrix chat etc...). Also, I prepared a specific questionnaire to be used for when we'll get the ball rolling on this matter to better understand what are the most relevant tools for our user base.

@Antanicus Federated tools, of course. IMHO offered list seems a bit bread&butter - C21 variants on C20 print media telephone &c?

What of emerging technologies to change relations of ownership with what we make and say - web, ? Existing technologies on wild commons of data . . should be in the storefront serving *us* not back office serving extractive corporations?

A fediverse issue not issue? But might lobby devs, boost protocols.

@mike_hales Cooperative management of shared infrastructure is path to "libre." A more libertarian approach is decentralization and federation around fixed (or cooperatively managed?) protocols which deemphasize the need for shared infrastructure in some way.

If we believe that effective cooperatives will be limited in scale or scope, a combination of the two may be necessary. This is more or less what we have here at which is part of a larger federated network.

@mako So if I'm understanding . . the problem with GitHub wasn't that it wasn't cooperatively owned by users (and so could be sold for $7.5bn into corporate hands). But that it wasn't - as a *platform* (a system of tools in the cloud) - open (even though the code in the repository was). Wasn't distributed. Wasn't operated as (socially & operationally) federated nodes?

And if multiple smaller discrete instances of infrastructure is the model, the pivot is the collective 'ownership' of protocols?

@mike_hales I'm saying that there are two distinct ways of solving the problem of infrastructure run by organizations with little structural reason to act in the interests of their users: (1) Build new tech to decentralize tasks so there is less/no need for shared infrastructure. (2) Manage infrastructure cooperatively & democratically (and develop new/better ways to do this!).

Both approaches have limits and I think the best results involve pursuing both in parallel.

coopβ‰ libre but coopβŠ‚libre

@mako I'm getting it. But protocols are the 'infrastructure of infrastructure' that can't be decentralised? So (2) is the option here, at this fundamental level?

Sorry to be going over Anarchism 101! But as a Brit and a (libertarian) socialist it's harder to see this kind of thing than for, say, an American anarchist? ;-)

And option (3) would be, create infrastructure-owning organisations that DO have structural reasons to act in the interests of their users. Equals user-governed coops?

@mike_hales In terms of managing protocols, you're right that's turtles all the way down.

But I also think there's real autonomy to be gained from pushing things onto a lower turtle. ;)

Creating, changing, adding to the SMTP (email) protocol standard involves politics. And it has been coopted in clear ways. But the fact that it's a federated protocol by design means that we're MUCH better than alternative where everybody had to use GMail to send messages to each other.

@mike_hales More to the point, I also think it's better than if we all had use some cooperatively run GMail alternative.

Being able to choose between many federated coop-GMails feels much more flexible & resilient to me.

@mako So the search is on - for the Last Visible Turtle ;)

@mike_hales We should remember that although the consequences rarely involve being sold to Microsoft cooperative organizations also become oligarchicβ€”e.g.

Peer production & Internet-based cooperativism is hardly immune:

@mako "Cooperative organisations become oligarchic"

Oh bugger! You mean they still have PEOPLE in them? Greed, ego, stuff like that? O shit! I'm going to bed. ;-)

Tomorrow I'll start work on a dhamma gene, to be compulsorily installed in all persons at conception. Now THAT's how to make democracy work. 😞

@mako @mike_hales By using decentralised models, keeping scale small and using non-hierarchical federal internetworking protocols the opportunity for capture of the organisation by oligarchs is severely limited.

@mike_hales @mako Most coop people don't understand software, let alone Free Software. Most Free Software people don't understand coops. The intersection of these two groups is tiny, but hopefully growing.

What I would like to see would be more people interested in learning, and less people trying to impose their very particualr views on the other camp.

The implied assumption that Free Software projects can't possibly stay honest is indicative that a lot more work is needed.

@h @mike_hales Agreed! I boosted @mike_hales's toot because I thought the conversations we had in response to it was a good example of such work! I certainly learned!

@mako @mike_hales Free Software was built to free people from their shackles. Free Software was almost exclusively built by Free Software people. It would be a good thing if people arrived into the world of Free Software with humble aspirations to learn how the Free Software collaborative mode of production came into being in its 30+ years of existence, and undeniable success.

@mike_hales @mako

Free Software needs many things, such as a focus on diversity, a more deliberate way to fund itself without depending on corporatism, and increased interest in other human factors like accessibility.

I believe that coops can be helpful to deliver improvements on those fronts.

@mako @mike_hales

At the same time, too many coops sometimes have an excessive tendency towards bikeshedding, and endless brainstorms with few people actually compromising to deliver products, and dillution of responsibility when not managed properly.

That's the antithesis of what Free Software is about.
It's better to be an excellent coop before assuming that any and all coops can be a good match for Free Software. Otherwise we're at risk of ending up with the worst of both worlds.

@mike_hales @mako

By "excellent coop" I mean those sticking to the letter of the seven foundational ideals.

Too many cooperativists appear to have lost them somewhere along the way.

@mike_hales @mako @h Hey, I want a living wage, and I want to be in a coop. How do I do that? Because if you can point me to a link, I'll get on that, and then we'll get coop-run platforms.


@h @mako @mike_hales The Digital Life Collective - which a cooperative, is going down this path. I encourage people here to join.

@Graham_Mitchell Digitlal Life Collective IMHO seems a bit smothering and over-engineered with its standards and recipes. But there are many consumerist folks who like to buy a package rather than blaze a trail so maybe this platform has a contribution to make?

I found it opaque on first contact, too many tools and statements nested one or more levels down under a sleek UI surface, too many core processes undescribed. Hopefully, life will triumph and the lunatics will take over the asylum.

@mike_hales I'm interested in your perception of the Digital Life Collective. I've been involved on and off for about 8 months now, and whilst I would certainly agree with you that it feels opaque, what I've found underneath is an interesting and interested group, pursuing a range of fairly disparate projects, but at the same time sharing some common values and core concerns.

@mike_hales A while back I thought that this diverse and loosely connected group wasn't sufficiently coherent to be able to act in concert, and almost walked away from it.
But I've now changed my stance on it, and see the collective more as a broad umbrella under which lots of interesting things could happen.
So for the time being at least, I'm sticking with it.

@mike_hales I'd love to understand more about your take on it, as a few of us are working to change the outward-facing presentation quite dramatically, and your insights would be invaluable to help guide that.

@Graham_Mitchell Too full of stuff to dive down into the DLC site, and methodology 😞 Glad to hear the presentation may be changing. Can imagine that what you say about broad umbrella & common values is true.

IMHO the project does present as a kind of 'radicalism lite' or community development by numbers. But for all that, it could be a route for folks to get deeper involved, think more and network. Takes all sorts! If disparate projects are underneath, front end is amazingly coherent!

@mike_hales Many thanks, valuable feedback, which I'm sharing with others in the collective (anonymised) as we review and redesign. Greatly appreciated.

@h @mako Exactly. That's why I learned so much from two deep-history talks by @mako today, and we've been batting toots around for the past hour. Thanks :)

Oh BTW I'm a newbie in the coops too (My background is corporate subversion, rather than self-sufficient cooperation.) So the intersection between the two communities is even thinner than you thought @h ;)

I really AM going to bed now . .

@mike_hales Because FLOSS world is a meritocracy and not a democracy?

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales

Might be worth remembering that the coiner of the term "meritocracy" meant it as a criticism.

(But I am seeing a lot more cooperative dev teams these days...)

@bhaugen @mike_hales And it is a criticism of sorts. For a FLOSS project, or indeed any sort of project, meritocracy is a very sensible and obvious place to start, but it's not sustainable. As the project matures, more voices need to be heard, and governance needs to broadened and become inclusive - hence a democratic cooperative approach fits well. But project owners rarely have the knowledge or interest to to pursue this option.

@Graham_Mitchell @bhaugen
> project owners rarely have the knowledge or interest to pursue this [broadening democratic] approach

Is this cultural silos? Entrepreneurial temperament? Tech nerds & facilitators can work very happily togather (). But to start, it calls for acceptance that the other community is there, and knows stuff that gets stuff done. Calls for a social-cultural mission too, rather than a tech mission.

Tech nerds can build this bridge? But not big-ego Tech Gods?

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales

We ( ) have worked with a lot of projects. One conclusion is that a sustainable project is like a cell and needs both a nucleus (a tight set of core contributors) and a membrane (an onboarding gate and process).

But then if it is to stay alive and be healthy it needs to welcome and mentor new people, move them ever closer to joining the core. And if the core gets too big, divide, spawn another cell.

@mike_hales @Graham_Mitchell

The need for a core seems to go along with @mako 's research, although he seems to think it leads to the core benefiting themselves from their positions to the detriment of the project's mission, which can definitely happen. Is it inevitable?

Scuttlebutt may be an instructive counter-example. They welcome new people all the time, and one member of the core is also an active and visible mentor of new developers. And they have spawned several new projects.

@mako @Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales

None of this stuff is easy. I wish I had a recipe for a healthy organization that does only good. Eternal vigilance?

@mike_hales @Graham_Mitchell @mako

One principle I like, from the P2PFoundation, is equipotentiality.

I think that page is missing a necessary part of the principle, which is that if you take it seriously, it requires that the organization provide help and resources for each member to develop their full potential. Applies especially to the young.

Jorge Ferrer's quote on that page gets close.

@bhaugen @mako @mike_hales I guess in terms of cooperative values and principles, I've always taken the principle of member education as critical in this respect. An informed and educated membership is much less likely to allow the organisation to be captured.

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @mako

I totally agree about member education, especially education in how to participate in internal democracy. near us has done a pretty good job at that, helped by a couple of people in the early core who believed in and practiced and exemplified internal democracy.

@mako @mike_hales @Graham_Mitchell

The other need is actively helping people migrate into the core, and then dividing the cell when the core gets too big.

Bringing people into the core, and dividing the cell, has been more difficult for Organic Valley because they have become a successful business and have hired a management layer from capitalist businesses.

@Graham_Mitchell @mike_hales @mako

This is also part of the contradiction of cooperatives embedded in a capitalist system.

@bhaugen @mike_hales @mako And therein lies the seed of its own demise. Look at the big dairy in NZ and AUS for good examples of ag coops growing to become dominant players, which leads to a weakening of the internal democracy, growth in power of executive management, and eventual capture and demutualisation as the individual farmer members see more value in getting the cash than in continuing to cooperate.

@Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

Some of the people I know at Organic Valley are very aware of those problems. We'll see if they can deal.

@bhaugen @mike_hales @mako Dividing the cell is - for me - the critical piece to learn. And I think that this is very hard to do well, probably even when it is designed in from the outset.

@mako @mike_hales @bhaugen Maybe the best approach in terms of cell division is to do it much earlier in the life cycle, giving time to nurture and grow the mycelial networks that will in turn nourish and internetwork between the cells/nodes, before division becomes critical to growth. This approach also makes the whole less attractive to malicious oligarchs as it is much harder to take power.

Perhaps the motto needs to be "divide early, divide often" like an embryo.

@Graham_Mitchell @mako @mike_hales

To some extent, Organic Valley did this when they helped a couple of other local cooperatives get started with both technical aid and money. One of them was a partial competitor which a strictly capitalist business would not have helped:

But FifthSeason specialized in fresh produce, while Organic Calley's specialty has become dairy, so that might have made it easier.

@bhaugen @mako @mike_hales I don't believe that it is inevitable. But it speaks volumes that charity law exists in part to stop core team from benefitting.

And in terms of the soft power that core team people inevitably accrue (whether the like/want it or not), there does need to be written in guidelines/rules about how to address that.

Oligarchy isn't always actively sought.

@mike_hales @mako Probably because FLOSS is mostly in the hands of programmers et al who are scared of collaboration with other people? FLOSS is nice because when you work together, you can still work fully on your own terms...

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