The following is a post from Aral in the DiEM forum (20th June), sometimes complaining too, but getting things on the way:
"This is my reply to an email conversation we are having with some of the Advisory Panel and Coordinating Community. In the interests of transparency and openness (which this post addresses), I’m also posting it here. I would like to see us have conversations openly on this forum, going forward, so this is my first step towards that. I wrote this a while ago but was holding off on sending it as I wanted to look around the DiEM25 site and get a better feel for the community. Please take this not as criticism of the excellent work that everyone has done with little to no resources but as a conversation starter for making things better going forward:
Lack of transparency: there seems to be little visibly into the everyday communication that makes up the decision-making process at DiEM25 internally. In my (albeit very limited) experience, this appears to have to led to a feeling of disenfranchisement in some of the membership base who feel disconnected – and understandably so. In turn, a grass-roots initiative called Democracy in DiEM (DiD) was started by the membership to address this issue. I feel that this initiative should be embraced and that we should incorporate the structures/systems that arise from it into DiEM at a fundamental level.
Hodgepodge of communication channels: We are currently using a myriad of means to communicate. Again from my own limited experience, it seems that email with CC lists appears to be the primary means of communication between the Coordinating Committee and the Advisory Committee (often times, using Gmail accounts). While this provides great transparency and a permanent record into our communications to Google, Inc. (and Alphabet, Inc.), it falls short of providing a permanent record and transparency for the membership.Where other communication technologies are used (e.g., by the fledging DiD initiative), it is a mix of hard-to-use FOSS (e.g., Muddle) and proprietary, centralised tech (e.g., Slack). I saw recently that there’s a DiEM25 forum – which is great – but it requires a separate sign-on and I’m not sure about its email notification features (it’s a PHPBB installation.) We have an opportunity here to implement a consistent set of cutting-edge easy-to-use free and open source technologies in line with the goals and principles of the progressive technology policy that we are drafting as the 7th pillar of DiEM25 and to consolidate the various channels so that people don’t suffer burnout as Sören mentioned recently.
Tech orientation: I approached DiEM to lead a progressive technology policy with Renata, the fundamentals of which I presented in my initial video pitch. As part of that initiative, we must have a close working relationship with the current tech team at DiEM. Today, I don’t know who is part of that team or who is responsible for what. As a first step, I would like to convene a short online meeting of everyone who is involved in any way with implementing tech at DiEM (the web team, etc.) If there is an existing communication medium that team uses, please let me know so we can get in touch there. Otherwise, a list of names/email addresses should suffice for the moment. If there’s someone heading the internal tech team at the moment, I’d be happy to continue this conversation with them.
Tech review: A review of all technology used within DiEM25 currently. As mentioned in point two in the issues section, above, we are currently using a pick-and-mix of technologies, some of which are the very ones that our tech policy will be warning against and attempting to regulate and foster alternatives to (e.g., the DiEM25.org web site uses Google Analytics as well as AddThis.com – both trackers that Laura and I block with our tracker blocker Better). The purpose of the tech review is to understand the role the current technologies play at DiEM, their importance, and their nature (closed/proprietary/centralised; free/open/decentralised, etc.) with the goal of identifying both what works and what doesn’t so that we can create an iterative plan that gets our internal technology usage in line with our own technology policy going forward.
Update to the DiEM25 forum to add our Internet of People initiative (the 7th pillar) to the Discuss Policy section.
Publish all Internet of People documents/planning we currently have openly to the new DiEM25 forum. I want the membership to have full transparency into our communications. I’m not comfortable with the two-tier email lists / filtered public communication channels or retrofitting questions to answers we already have. That’s a waste of time for all involved. I don’t think any of this arises from malice but from a lack of good communication tools/processes and a lack of time on the part of people who are, for the most part, volunteers like I am. Unless a piece of DiEM-related communication involves private personal information, it should be public (this is the opposite of what we suggest for people, where private must be the default). We’re all here to do our best for a common goal and we should be doing it in an open process.
Encouraging transparency, openness, and a do-ocracy:
I want to see us, internally at DiEM, move towards a pragmatic, consistent, free and open (and whenever possible, decentralised and interoperable) technology stack. This will not happen overnight and it is my goal to ensure that the process causes as little disruption as possible to day-to-day affairs.
In the immediate-term, we should begin experimenting with various communication and transparency solutions in an agile and iterative manner in a space where we are comfortable doing so (a digital “lab”, if you will, apart from the main web site, where we can – to borrow a term from Silicon Valley (spit) – “move fast and break things”). I’d like to use our experiments there as an opportunity to involve the membership base in the drafting process of the initial tech policy.
As a proactive step in this direction, I’ve registered d25.digital as a possible place where we can quickly deploy and test ideas and technologies. For the moment I’ve installed Dokku on it. Dokku is, in essence, our own, self-hosted “Platform As a Service” where we can quickly deploy and play with different communication and transparency technologies. To start with, I’d like to see us:
Open source all our work on our own source control repository running GitLab (e.g., on https://source.d25.digital) and start using the issues there to openly communicate about development-related issues. We run our own source control repository at source.ind.ie so I’m very familiar with GitLab and I’m happy to set this up. This will cut down our truck factor and allow us to more easily accept help from others while cutting down internal bureaucracy. (If our web site, etc., are already open source and available somewhere – e.g., on GitHub – please do let me know.)
Use the forum as our main medium of communication. Communication should be open and transparent, not over private email CCs. The current board may or may not be suitable for this given how well it deals with email notifications (relying on people checking the forum is not good enough). If it’s not, I would recommend we plan a migration to Discourse. Discourse is a modern message board that we’ve found to be very effective over the past four years at Ind.ie (see https://forum.ind.ie). It especially manages email notifications really well to keep conversations going and the weekly digest emails it sends out double as excellent zero-effort newsletters. I would suggest that we set it up at forum.d25.digital to test.
For everyday conversations, use our Mastodon instance. Our conversations should be public/transparent/with a permanent record. I’ve set up a Mastodon instance at https://d25.community to try and help with this. Mastodon is a decentralised, free and open, and federated Twitter alternative. So we’re running our own Twitter at d25.community now and I’d highly encourage everyone on the Advisory Panel and Coordinating Committee to create an account there and hold all everyday conversations openly in that space. You can use hashtags to create topics, to keep conversations organised. While it is pretty straightforward (and should be immediately familiar if you are already comfortable with Twitter), I’m happy to talk anyone who needs it through it and I’m always available if you have any trouble. I’ve set this up at d25.community but, if it makes sense for the sake of consistency, I can move it to somewhere like chat.d25.digital.
Again, these are all things that I can/have set up unofficially to begin with and without burdening the current tech team. Going forward, if we do adopt them, I may need support with hosting costs, etc. (e.g., if all 60,000 members jump on our Mastodon instance) I’m happy to try to cover them myself until it becomes untenable.
I’m happy with d25.digital and d25.community being unofficial to begin with if the Coordinating Committee would prefer that or, once I’m in touch with the web team, for us to announce them officially and create redirects and/or links from the DiEM web site to them.
Regarding the tech policy itself, we cannot make any progress until we publish its core philosophy and goals – what I originally presented to the coordinating committee – and make sure that everyone here is committed to them. The initiative itself must have a democratic mandate from the membership. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, I’m here to help draft a progressive Pan-European tech policy to form an inspiring and pragmatic counter-narrative to Silicon Valley’s Surveillance Capitalism. The structure of such a system must be decentralised, free and open, and interoperable. Our goal must be to protect individual sovereignty and foster a healthy digital commons. Those core fundaments are not open for discussion and, if they were missing, this would not be the tech policy I joined DiEM to create, nor would it be a policy that I would want to support or defend. So we must articulate these fundaments as clearly and accessibly as possible and, if necessary, get a wider democratic mandate for this initiative from the member base to draft our tech policy based on – and filtered by – those fundaments. Once we have these fundaments, I want us to start immediately to get an interdisciplinary and diverse working group of experts together. Before we can do that, however, we need agreement on the core philosophy. This will also give us the focus we need to draft a consistent and impactful policy and empower all members to contribute meaningfully to the process.
In the spirit of the sort of transparency and openness I would like to see us practice, I am posting this not only via email CC to the advisory and coordinating committee folks with whom I am in contact but also to the DiEM25 message board (the only forum I could find to post something like this is the Help DiEM25 → Suggestions forum) and linking to it from d25.community. I would encourage all replies to be sent openly on the forum and on d25.community – let’s start eating our own dog food, as it were
Again, please don’t take this as a criticism of what exists. It’s not. What you’ve created in just one year is beyond admirable in all respects. I have nothing but the utmost respect for it and for this community and that’s why I will only ever be blunt and open with you. I believe that DiEM25 is the only political movement where we can effect the sort of progressive change we all want to see and I won’t risk that by ever sugarcoating anything that I feel could help us in reaching that goal. Similarly, I expect you to be nothing less than blunt and open with me – let’s not walk around eggshells around each other as we have important work to do. Straight talk only in this room Here’s to making things better, one small step at a time, together.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments and working with you in the days to come.
Lots of love,