[Urgent] Can someone hand me some Toilet Paper please?

Apologies for this playful but I hope not distasteful title :wink:

I see big issue with how we use online/offline tools to communicate/collaborate. This two slides try to visualize and link to online tools we currently use or which someone (mostly me) have proposed. We also use some undocumented online tools and practices…

At this moment I consider our signal to noise ratio rather poor. All of those tools have various advantages and disadvantages and while particular tools fit some purposes better they fail short to serve other ones. I must admit that we never documented our workflows well neither took time for proper upskilling.

To address this issue I would like to create a focused workstream with maximum preferably max 4-5 people and come up with recommendations together. I hope that @Kei@Ben@K, @Alberto, @Dorotea and @Marc can join us on that. I would also like that we define clearly interfaces and audiences since I don’t believe that we can find one size fits all solution here. For example to interact with general community in Matera we like it or not but we need to use Facebook, possibly we can also leverage MT2019 platform (especially since 2 more people speaking italian and with good local connections may move in very soon). We can’t also expect everyone to pay attention to ER platform, one person I can think as an example - @piersoft who on the other hand stays very responsive over Twitter and Facebook.

We also need to find clear way for experimenting with new tools and upgrading our setup. Lately @Alberto proposed additional interface for publishing events and I would find it useful to know if he could easily get information about our current setup and requirements we may want/need to address (again Facebook comes in and need to publish events there). I doubt since we currently don’t have it well documented :frowning:

Myself and possibly other people (@Marc?) feel irritated about misuse/abuse of channels which everyone pays attention to  (hopefully still). Things like asking to make sure that someone takes projector cable for some event over main mailing list creates unnecessary noise. Trello for example provides much more granular way of subscribing/unsubscribing to relevant notifications and features like checklists to keep track on stuff like that.

I also find it rather upsetting that while I get tons of information about missing cables etc. Hearing about #LOTE4 happening in unMonastery in October makes me scratch my head and feel sort of confused: unMonastery in Matera? do we speak about Complesso del Casale???..

For front facing communication/feedback channels we also can improve our strategy. I remember discussion when @Nadia visited us about various stakeholders, I must admit that many of them make me think about Yeti and give impression that to get feedback from some of them we use gossip protocol, not sure intentionally or accidentally ;)

I would also like that for various collaboration spaces we create short howtos sharing tips from power users on how to optimize notifications, integrate with other tools and email workflow etc.

How about meeting #IRL + hangout in next days to create clear roadmap?

In next two weeks I plan to work on connecting to various APIs starting with Vimeo API, Trello API and Google Drive API. I invite those interested in details like JSON-LD Macros and Hydra (Hypermedia API) to join Website Development trello board ping @Kei@David Bovill, @Matthias

Up for this!

But can we learn from the mistakes we’ve made - whilst I find it infinitely preferable to use a centralised point of contact that’s publicly visible and referable; EdgeRyders (project development) / Trello (daily operational). What we’ve experienced so far is a deep adversity and lack of understanding for what is gained from this kind of working - and perhaps it simply doesn’t work for everyone.

Trust me when I say I will do anything to reduce email noise - but right now it seems to be the only way to ensure things get heard and done. I’d be interested to know how this issue has been resolved previously by others or in your past experience’s @elf Pavlik - my main experience for this has been in the collective living space I have in London, we’ve moved across multiple platforms and after 3 years of trying different things ended up with google groups mailing list as the only thing that actually works for everyone!

Yes, I’ll join you :slight_smile:

yes, I’ll join you in finding solutions and good communication/ collaboration strategies

I agree with Ben that mailing lists somehow work best as default for many people, as most people use email anyway, but Loomio seems like efficient tool as well

I was wondering if it’s possible to use github for discussions/collaborations, but I know it’s probably not exactly designed for extensive discussions

just a PS. Actually by the way since some time I’m researching on this topic as I’m prototyping solutions exactly for this, it was first meant for collaboration in Open Science, but later the projects got extended to any type of open collaboration, so I’m curious what we could efficiently and realistically do with the current tools.

Not recommended

I may be wrong, but I am seeing a textbook example of the Artefact Fallacy. You have designed an elegant system in your head (“all tools are interoperable, so each person can use whatever she wants and still communicate with every other person”). Since it is elegant, you are sure that if you build it they will come. Everything is artefact-driven: who has the best tech wins.

I don’t believe that is true. If humans are out of the picture, the picture cannot help be incomplete. The most obvious example in your post is the case of Piersoft, who I know reasonably well by now. In his case, I am pretty sure it is much more a case of English vs. Italian than it is a case of Facebook vs. Edgeryders. I know this because we interact on other channels, including the MT2019 one: a Drupal platform explicitly modelled on Edgeryders. Other things you overlook include lock-in effects, idiosyncracies, and predictions. Example of prediction: how likely is it that Loomio (or Drupal, or anything) will be around in five years? And in ten? The rational thing to do here is to go for multipurpose tech (so you can hack it around to do whatever you want) that has a large user base and a large developer community.

I think it is moot to try to fix our internal comms from the top. You will not succeed, because comms are about the people, and their maddening and endearing imperfection. What you can do is try things out yourself. And if they work, people will use them, and they will spread. Engaging lots of smart people in the community in a sort of engineering effort? I don’t think there’s likely to be a payoff. I am out.

PS – I also think that collective deliberation is way overrated, as it gets people debating rather than getting things done. Occasionally it is is needed. But, as Rick Falkvinge likes to say on swarms, “you must under no account let the swarm discuss its purpose. If people don’t like what the swarm is doing, they will simply walk out and join another swarm, or start their own”. It is the same principle that makes “voting with your feet” at unconferences get things done, and political assemblies… not.

this swarm analogy doesn’t fit!

I haven’t read Rick’s work but reading:  “you must under no account let the swarm discuss its purpose. If people don’t like what the swarm is doing, they will simply walk out and join another swarm, or start their own” I can’t help but think - damn silo mentality again?!

I really would like that we continuously lower boundaries for participation. I also don’t want that unMonastery or any other supposedly open and participatory projects becomes edgeryders.eu only environment. While huge amount of creative, innovative, collaborative people around the world with common visions and aims feel comfortable with using tools like Facebook, Twitter, GDrive, also possibly Trello and hopefully open source tools like Loomio, Discourse, Etherpad etc. become more known and start improving their interoperability. Only a handful people feels comfortable or often ok-ish using this platform. I’ll write another post soon inviting to do some SNA to back claims of 2000 people supposedly active here. We can (even should) also do survey among unMonasterians to gather feedback on all the tools we used so far including this platform (this morning I could hear yet another critical offline feedback about it from a fellow unMonasterian).

Please don’t get me wrong, I do recognize, acknowledge and praise (most likely not enough!) all the amazing work you and @Matthias do with this setup. At the same time I would like to stay clear about my perception of issues I see with it, mostly limiting participation to people who want to deal with burden of joining yet another customized installation of Drupal, IMO step very unlikely taken for occasional contributions and even more important for staying in touch and discovering possible synergies…

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Yes, but by degrees.

While I think our communication tech would benefit from reorganization, I strongly agree with @Alberto above that a top-down approach will not work.

Discussing the mappingthecommons.org website, I felt strongly that you should not build a platform for a conversation that you feel should exist, but rather look at what content already exists and use the platform to support - and eventually expand - its reach. In the case of Loomio, while our system of decision making could benefit, using such tools is often seen as an additional amount of work, and working under serious time constraints, this is enough of a barrier of entry to prevent its use. The option here is, then, for you and interested parties, like @fortyfoxes, to start using it for smaller decision making tasks and display its long term value.

In the current state of things, it seems the mailing list has become the predominant form of communication, with Trello relegated to a tool to point to other documents - images, spreadsheets, and proposals - with less and less frequency, rather than as a task management system. Perhaps earlier in the project, during our daily planning sessions filled with initialed post-its (a system also deemed inefficient), it made more sense to use a tool like Trello to organize tasks. While I don’t think communication tech directly mirrors organizational structure, it is much easier to encourage the use of specific tools when a daily, IRL infrastructure supports them. This, too, however cannot come from the top down - we have to try several forms, people have to find a planning structure they like, otherwise it will crumble when it’s no longer enforced by a few people.

My concern lies in that I am not sure exactly where our organizational planning is getting done. With the Piccianello events approaching, I can only find a few documents scattered on the drive detailing its organization. While I’m certain that it’s in brilliant hands, if this is an event to be reiterated in several locations, the record of its progress - how Piccianello came to be, as an idea and logistically - is quite unclear externally. We face a similar case with unMon in-a-box - our correspondence has sprawled across several formats, and now we face the task of compiling it into wikis. This could be inevitable, but one benefit from improving our communication channels, by degrees, could be that we no longer need to act as historians to our own work. This is a much more compelling case to me than the need to improve our signal-to-noise ratio.

That said - my initial, light suggestion would be to move away from the proprietary formats for tech we already use, perhaps prototyping the open source version of Vanilla forums @nathanairplane mentioned and start from there to plug in APIs for other formats we come to find useful. I’d be happy to start using this, and see if it catches on.

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Just iterating on existing state of things!

I don’t suggest some top down assignment of tools, but rather based on our rather rich experience from last few months iterating on improving our setup. We don’t start with blank page we already tried various tools to different extend and now can build upon it. Here I make a call that few people would give it some attention, of course right away offering my participation in that process!

I’m in!

Okay, I’m definitely in for this conversation, as long as we don’t create too much additional work. My concern is that if this comes from frustration with the misuse of certain channels, rather than as a way to see what’s working and see what we’re missing, it won’t be as productive for everyone. :slight_smile:

Agree with Kei

I think you have it right @Kei. Tools should be adopted with lots of care. A minimum requirement for adoption is that someone is there to act as a champion, driving takeup, prevent it dying the entropy death (from lack of updating, patching etc.). But there are many more.

I also agree with @elf Pavlik that audiences matter. We use a lot of Twitter and Facebook, though we only use them as delivery channels for links of stuff that lives on the platform. In the end, @Matthias had the right example: we want to be the GitHub of interproject collaboration. GitHub does offer some basic services (like the possibility to have your own page, your own wiki etc.), and they are useful to small open source project. But when a project gets large and complex it will have needs that GItHub does not accommodate, so they just build their own website and specific tools somewhere else. Similarly, Drupal groups are a very basic way to cater to people that need a place to dream up some project together. At some point it looked like the unMonastery needed some extra tools. Trello, specifically, and a “storefront” website. So you guys went out and deployed them. No problem with that.

The issue I do have is with the mailing list for the internal debate. I enjoy participating as I am doing now, but it is unrealistic to add myself to as many mailing lists as there are projects I like. Of course email is easier for most people. It comes down to deciding if you prefer to use a tool that is easy or a tool that, since it leaves on Edgeryders, gives you more access to random interactions with people who are in Edgeryders but not in the unMonastery. The choice is not easy – we all (including Nadia, Arthur, Matt, Noemi, myself and many others) had to educate ourselves to “working out loud” and to use the platform, and to stick to our guns and give it time to get better while accepting it will never, ever be as smooth as the stuff that Google makes.

The choice is yours, of course. You have to choose whatever works best for you. Here is an argument that could sweeten the pill, if you decide to maintain the debate in this group: it does not have to be easy. Interproject, intracommunity communication should not be too free flowing, or you will overwhelm everyone. So perhaps it is not bad that we all write a little less and think a little more. I have a hunch that a healthy collaboration shifts some burden from the receiver to the transmitter: we try to be brief and clear. This costs us more effort than rambling, but saves much more effort when people try to access what we want to communicate.

The beauty of this process is that we see ourselves as educable. We do not want “good tech”. We want a good human-tech gestalt. You can improve its technological part (by bug-fixing), but also its human part (for example, by teaching each other to use and improve noncommercial, non-sleek software, and drawing conventions that help us find and help each other). Commercial Ux people take their user as a given and accommodate her. We are our own users, and want to improve ourselves!


Email integration

I know that open source and very popular now Discourse has feature reply via email. I think we all like it about mailing lists / Google Groups that we can use interface we like and feel familiar with to interact with it, in contract to using >20 different interfaces while interacting on >20 different platforms. To my knowledge Drupal also allows it (@Alberto?), when it comes to Discourse I haven’t used it that much yet but I see more and more groups appreciating it including OpenTechSchool forum, Peer2Peer University forum. Most likely we will give it a try for OuiShare Labs forum replacing currently used Facebook Group and newly started Google Group! @Dorotea & @Auli

Not a priority

Elf, we are not doing business here. We are trying to keep a community going. This includes creating the conditions for random interactions. And that, on online communities, is done by browsing the website, that gives you all sort of little hints that potentially interesting people are doing potentially interesting stuff (“what’s new”, “recent activities in this group” etc.). I am once again amazed at your determination to take the human element out of Edgeryders.

Here’s my analogy for it: it’s like me asking you to go out for a coffee and a chat and you replying “there’s good coffee in my home. Send me an email if you need something”. It will work if we are doing a business transaction, but that’s not the kind of relationship that people foster in cafés or on Edgeryders.

I admit reply via email has its charms, but this is the kind of decision that I approach with a lot of caution. And no, we don’t all like mailing lists. Personally, I use Google Groups a lot (for business, mostly) and even then I don’t do email reply, because I prize fine-grain control of the threading of my answer (and I hate forums that keep copies of the previous messages below the new one, as almost all email clients, Gmail included, do. So: maybe to consider at some point, but not a priority, sorry.

using edgeryders.eu for what it does well

Thanks Alberto! Your comment in a way reinforces my opinion that ER platform fits certain set of communication patters. But many other cases can benefit from using other channels! Also as you may know I don’t associate community (the people) with any particular online space (a tool). Nowadays such tendencies can exist IMO because we still learn how to use The World Wide Web in more mature way. Same real community (the people) can use in for interacting various online spaces (tools) and I don’t identify Edgeryders (a community) with edgeryders.eu (online space).

Would you like to help us with clarifying where using edgeryders.eu online space serves best need of the people, and where people can benefit more from using other online spaces?

BTW at some point edgeryders.eu can offer set of power tools hosted on sub-domains like: proposals.edgeryders.eu (eg. Loomio), data.edgeryders.eu (eg. ownCloud), media.edgeryders.eu (eg. MediaGoblin) etc. as we all know libre software enables us to host it ourselves. And yes, more people participating in community would need to step up and share effort and responsibility of running all those tools!


I’m happy to give it some attention :slight_smile:

Readjusting expectations for the timeframe and stress levels

@elf Pavlik and others I am picking up a lot of frustration here that comes from trying to push people in a direction or asking them to adopt more/ new tools while racing against a deadline.

A conversation that would be completely uncontroversial at one time and phase of a project can cause a lot of discomfort at a different time. In principle I am not against what you are saying. I think however it makes sense to ask, is this the best time for it? I say gather the learnings from this iteration for discussions in calm and peace when its time for evaluation ahead of a next iteration.

It’s easier to set up protocols for how it is ok to use the existing channels e.g. Mail in the short term. If channels like Trello are not being used, then perhaps the thing to do is just freeze the account until there is time to tinker with it again.

In all this my concern is that no undue stress is placed on Ben in managing the dynamics of the group. If he feels uncomfortable with a proposed set up (i.e. cannot handle the additional work or cognitive load of more proposed changes) then I am afraid it has to wait as far as Im concerned.


I hear you @Nadia and even simple optimizations like adding [SomeContext] to subject lines of emails can help with filtering out what one can consider a noise!

I must admit that reading about lote4 happening in some unMonastery (implying one in Matera), gave me strong impression that I (and I believe many others) miss many important pieces of information. Can you please share with us a link to more information about plans for unMonastery:Matera in October?

Its all here on the platform. Neither date nor location are confirmed.

On a more general note (Elf this is not directed to you but to everyone in the thread): In a context where things are emergent and many people are doing things in parallel you will always be missing important pieces of information. Which should not be a problem unless there is a desire to control and tell others what they can and cannot do at any given time. Edgeryders is not a democracy, nor is it a space where everyone has to be in perfect harmony with everyone else. It’s a platform for those of us who want to get things done and help one another with projects we believe in and want to support, p2p. It has a set of rules of engagement that are designed to empower those who do things over those who try to block things that are not exactly to their liking. In this case it’s no veto power. If people dont like something someone else in the community is doing, they are free to just not engage in it. If not enough people like something, then it will just not get off the ground.

awareness != control

i hope comment about holopticisim which i made right after one above clarifies my take on it!


Just to clarify, I aim for environment where everyone interested can find and preferably follow in real time all the information relevant to one’s decision making processes.  Jean-François Noubel and others often bring up concept of Holopticism @Helene Finidori, @artbrock

With our information technologies, IMO still in their infant stage, avoiding information overload / networking fatigue makes a big challenge!

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Again, this is a vision that people can or cannot subscribe to

I think it is important to differentiate between a long term vision of one or a small number of people, including the ideological stances you take, and the practical reality of any given endeavor. You forget the social aspects Elf, that people have to want and be able to achieve the incremental steps involved. If they just add complexity and work without resulting in immediate benefits as perceived by all the stakeholders at any given time, then it does not matter what rules you try to impose top down.

I read some parts of this discussion as some people pushing for something which requires everyone on board to agree when some of those concerned say no. Which means it is likely you will get a couple of hours thrown into something which will be half baked, i.e. taking time away from the many other things unMonasterians are supposed to be doing. E.g. with their individual projects. In this case I think it is better to shelve the discussion until a more appropriate time/setting where people have agreed to try this approach, committed to get the work required done (i.e. finish what is started) and give it an honest try over a long enough period of time. IMHO we do not have this time at the moment. Obviously everyone is free to decide for themselves.


I really don’t get all this top-down suggestions! I notice certain issue with our communication practices, I put it out, additionally to stay constructive I invite everyone interested to address this issue together, mentioning very shortly few ideas I can think of at this moment.

On the other hand (from my perspective!) you seem to stay engaged only in communication happening on this platform. Where you may like it or not many unMonastery participants don’t engage that much from various reasons! Then what seems to me bit out of the blue someone publishes announcement about #LOTE4 happening in unMonastery (which for me implies Matera). My surprise I connect to my observation of our rather messy communication practices. In my recent very short conversation with @Ben about it I don’t remember him reassuring me about everything, around LOTE4 in Matera, happening in full clarity.

I don’t expect everyone to jump right away into trying out new extremely complex setup. I just hope that we will recognize current state as something we may want to address and then start a process of addressing it with caution not to create and additional overhead.

In worst case I can compile and publish myself a set of recommendations (which will not happen since at least Ben expressed interest in looking at it together) but in such case we not only can take into account less perspectives in needs but I worry that more suggestions of top-down approach will get thrown at me :frowning: