I have lot of sympathy for Matt Slater's arguments for Protocol Cooperativism. This is essentially the songbook I was singing from, since the late 90s, and throughout my time working on the Aotearoa localizations of #Indymedia and #CreativeCommons. But in hindsight, those songs were naive. As Matt points out within his own essay, capitalists have already figured out ways to dominate open networks based on open protocols (eg Microsoft's "embrace, extend, extinguish"). Ownership matters.

@strypey Don't you think "embrace, extend, extinguish" depends on us accepting their propositions though? (eg. using Github), maybe out of convenience, cost saving, or even necessity (eg. using it to survive capitalism).

Hence we need networked alternatives (making them protocol-based means we can achieve 'network effects' and scale cooperatively, rather than each small initiative having to fight that battle again and again) that are not only convenient and attractive to use, but which also help us thrive economically (something @matslats and others have been working on for a long time)...

@mayel @matslats to be clear, I'm not arguing against open protocols. I'm saying they've proved to be necessary but not sufficient. Open protocols alone haven't stopped #DataFarms dominating chat (gOgle started out embracing and extending XMPP, then effectively extinguished it by de-federating and switching to WebRTC). They haven't stopped them dominating the web (embracing and extending HTTP on both server and client ends). There are numerous other examples.

@mayel @matslats
What allows them to dominate? They have financial resources smaller players don't. For example, they can pay as many fulltime staff as they need to make their products and services more attractive than more freedom-respecting alternatives. They can get their PR posters slapped up all over major cities. Protocols + cooperatives offers us a way to compete with this. The point of Platform Cooperativism is that neither can do it alone, which is what Matt's essay seems to miss.

@strypey They can afford to produce as many loss leaders as they want to leave every small shop out of business.

@mayel @matslats

@h @mayel @matslats true, but one effective way to compete with that is a pitch based on shared values. I envision the digital equivalent of organic grocery cooperatives computing with corporate supermarkets or independent coffee house cooperatives competing with corporate cafe chains #DigitalCafes

@strypey I get you, and your idea fits in nicely with the concept of 'exodus' that @KevinCarson1 has written about extensively. The problem I see is that most cooperativists (especially in fiercely capitalist countries) are unaware of their own impossibility of being truly cooperative honouring all 7 ideals and pursuing capitalist objectives at the same time. 9 out of 10 adopt the cooperative form, but functionally they behave like a typical corp in everything but name.

@mayel @matslats

@strypey Most actually existing cooperatives still behave under the logic of competition and the capitalist production mode by default. It's not enough to say "we're a cooperative, we're good people". We should rather ask "Is this org really fostering collaboration and helpibg to produce common wealth beyond itself?". If the answer is "Yes, but..." then that really means "No".

@KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats


"we're a cooperative, we're good people".
IMO it's not about 'values' - whatever they may be . . some kinda idealist arm-waving? Rather, actual relations of production, actual material articulation of forces of production? What joins up with what, in practice? Eg, are there commons being curated and stewarded, or just more consumers and workers seeking comfort? Is laying so much stress on 'values' one of the weakest things about coops?
@strypey @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@mike_hales For someone like myself coming from a Free Software background at Groklaw and the Ruby community, and having been part of a few cooperatives, I feel confident in stating that cooperatives are lacking binding contracts like the GPL, and very few coops have the knowledge and inclination to bind themselves to such a common social contract (and other byproducts like friction reduction)
@strypey @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@mike_hales In that particular sense, I think analogue coops have a long way to go before they can become nearly as effective as the Free Software movement has been in such a comparatively short time span. Of course, merging the Free Software ethos with cooperative economic production would be even better. The problem is few people really grok both camps. @strypey @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@mike_hales @h @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats don't underrate the importance of values. The Four Freedoms are an articulation of a set of values. So are the permaculture ethics. They summarize, in simple terms, how production will and won't be done by an organisation that shares them. They allow for informal coordination of effort on a much larger scale than any set of formal MoUs.

@mike_hales @h @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats
For example, I can buy certified organic food and have reasonable confidence that I am supporting growers using sustainable practices, without personally inspecting their farms. That's possible because the word "organic" stands in for a shared set of values around sustainable land use. It's not an ironclad guarantee, but it's a big improvement on just buying anything and hoping for the best.

'Values' . . I'm sensitive to the power of stories & the need to do storytelling skilfully. Meme-wise, words press buttons! I just don't believe there are such things as values. That's just a story we tell, a meme (which clearly is rather powerful for many people).

Too much ontologising here!

'Organic' I see as a hint of certain actual practices, with particular material relationships & consequences. A one-word story that I might choose to believe.
@h @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@mike_hales I think we substantially agree here. But I feel obliged to point out that if values don't exist, neither does production. They're both typed of storytelling about systems of physical interactions between humans and resources. Values are stories about means, productions are stories about ends.
@h @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@strypey There is no permaculture binding document. I don't underestimate shared values, and of course the GPL is a clever hack that encodes primary values, but the fact remains that there is nothing like a GPL for coops. As it's plain for all to see on the greatest public stage the world has ever seen, even the strongest foundations based on admirable values can be shaken and subverted. It's good, maybe. Other ways can be better.
@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@h true, but the ethics (earth care, people care, fair share), as defined by Mollison and Holmgren, are a core part of the curriculum for any Permaculture Design Certificate course, and pretty universally accepted by permies worldwide. The GPL is a strategy for protecting the freedoms valueed by the software freedom movement. The PDC curriculum serves a similar function for the permaculture movement.
@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@h are you envisioning some kind of legal license that forces coops to follow the coop principles (which encode the coop values)? If so, how do you see this working in practice? I worry that using the stick instead of the carrot risks alienating people, with the result that they abandon the coop form. Might it be more effective to build relationships, and educate people about the coop principles and how their coops might better enact them?
@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@strypey There are other ways with plenty of eventual carrot and no stick. In my experience convenience and inconvenience work better than stick and carrot.
Expecting vastly different people from various backgrounds to magically behave in predictable ways without agreeing on binding contracts is like expecting a herd of pre-schoolers to play a symphony without previous training.

@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@h and yet the permaculture movement expects exactly this with the way PDCs are organized, and AFAIK it's exactly what happens. Also, the existence of the GPL doesn't force anyone to license their software under it (unless its derived from existing software that is), and yet thousands of people do.
@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@h I do agree with you that mutually enforceable agreements have a place, in business arrangements with low tolerance for unpredictable behaviour (eg service level agreements for hosted software). But this is not about enforcement of *values*, but enforcement of *agreed actions*. I wonder if you might be conflating two quite different strategic uses of the law.
@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@strypey The GPL is more than a strategy, it's also a legally binding document. I'd personally prefer laws being crafted in a consensual process by an horizontally organised federation, rather than a hack derived from the Berne Convention signed by some UN member states.
But one binding document is far better than none at all, and in the case of the GPL it has proven itself, in fact, to be admirably solid.

@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@h sure, but the #GPL is a defensive tool. It's function is not to enforce compliance with the #FourFreedom values within the software freedom movement, but rather as a preventative measure against the work of free code hackers being abused by anti-social outsiders.
@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@strypey It's externally binding as much as it's self-binding and internally binding.

@mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

@h I don't agree, but this sentence probably summarizes a much larger set of thoughts, which I could easily be misreading. Can you expand on this? @mike_hales @KevinCarson1 @mayel @matslats

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!