Evolution 4 - Do the learning, evolve the legacy

The fourth thread of the evolution project is to develop learning and leave a legacy from three years’ operation of meet. coop. This thread below contains the brief, job list, actions log and discussion.

Background and overall project notes are here Evolution of meet.coop - Background and framework. This thread has parallel threads:

Brief - Learning & legacy

meet. coop is a radical experiment in provisioning, mobilising and stewarding digital means for organisers, in the commons. This is one reason why members join meet. coop, and one reason why organisers in our communities more broadly pay attention to the meet.coop project. Thus part of the work of evolution at this point should be harvesting the learning of what will amount to more than three years of practice - what was well framed and executed, and what wasn’t - so that other initiatives in digital infrastructuring in the commons might build a stronger and clearer frame for themselves.

Thus we need to:

  • Convene a ‘learning’ pod as part of the migration plan.
  • Design a method and outline a programme of activity that might harvest insights and present them in a usable form - for example, as design patterns for commoning and as stakeholder stories.
  • Make a durable home for media generated in this ‘legacy’ project

As part of this programme we need to:

  • Archive the media spaces of meet. coop: the Discourse forum, the interim handbook, the cloud database of internal documentation.
  • Interview multistakeholders in the project, and
  • Solicit and curate their accounts and reviews of the project and their expectations of the project, in any other form they would like to offer.

We also probably ought to:

  • Adapt the plans being made for commons.hour Series #2, Welcome to the dance of infrastructure project so that as much work as possible from that commitment can be performed within the meet. coop evolution frame
  • Specifically, plan a series of commons.hour gatherings to process the learning from three years of meet.coop practice

Learning & legacy - Job list

  • Write a brief - above
  • Open job list (logbook) - here!
  • Open public forum thread - here!
  • Publish & discuss @ forum - started 06feb2023, here.

  • Archive the media spaces of meet. coop: the Discourse forum, the interim handbook, the cloud database of internal documentation.
  • Make a durable home for media

These items seem to be ticked Evolution 4 - Do the learning, evolve the legacy - #9 by mikemh

  • Convene a learning pod
  • Design a method, outline a programme
  • Interview multistakeholders in the project , and
  • Solicit and curate their accounts and reviews of the project and their expectations of the project, in any other form they would like to offer.

these items can’t be tackled with a min-project, as hoped. See below for the pragmatic way forward: Evolution 4 - Do the learning, evolve the legacy - #10 by mikemh

I put out a crowdsourcing call for some gift work in this aspect of the evolution project . See A learning project - Some gift work?

It’s proving difficult to clear the headspace to take this thread forward. The crowdsourcing call, above, hasn’t brought in offers of time. Here’s some material to begin to crystallise thoughts around: @wouter interviewed by Commons Network on the story and lessons of meet. coop: Ups and Downs of a Platform Coop: Lessons from Meet.coop @mnoyes

The following two posts are updates following a meeting 21march between meet. coop and WebTV.

Outreach - formación

  • WebTV has relationships with users in the Greater Montreal region. How do they develop relationships across regions and internationally, grow the coop, mobilise ambassadors in Europe, talk to and listen to members and potential members in other regions and continents (even, cultivate connections in Latinx or global-South communities?) etc? This seems to be work for some kind of continuing meet.coop entity distinct from WebTV . See Evolution #1 - meet.coop Board & WebTV board Define the relationship - #3 by mikemh.
  • Does meet.coop still represent an attempt to construct a commons of digital means? Where does the stewarding of this rest? An elected Board of Stewards? See the topic linked above.
  • “There’s no rush on any of this.” The priority is migrate the membership and the service, and get it stable at the current level. Then appetite for larger things can be assessed. How much do we want to pay attention to the original intention, above? To be assessed @ Board @Stewards


  • A new relationship is effectively being established, between community voice and strategic governance (in a meet. coop front-end of gift work) and the admin of platform and membership relations (in a WebTV back-end of livelihood work and contributions in kind). This implies some kind of tacit federal model between two organisations (WebTV, meet. coop), having distinct memberships and making distinct contributions, in a commons of digital means,p that operates as an economy of coops. This emergent WebTV / meet.coop relationship might be seen as a locus of experimentation in federating in a commons. To be assessed @ Board @Stewards
  • Federating: In what way does the life of the meet.coop ‘front-end’ entity (and its community) depend on back-end platform provisioning (and front-end paid labour) via WebTV? How much of the front end community-capability development (education, formación) can be sustained on gift work? In meet. coop v1.0, this was a tacit ‘sweat equity’ dynamic (@mikemh @wouter ). Now, at this point in evolution, it becomes a strategic choice? Is this becoming more like a movement organisation or collective (like social.coop, MayFirst - both are coops) than a platform coop (like WebTV, Webarchitects, Hypha, CommonsCloud). To be assessed @ Board

Update on media spaces

Originally the job list for this topic included:

  • Archive the media spaces of meet. coop: the Discourse forum, the interim handbook, the cloud database of internal documentation.
  • Make a durable home for media

It looks now as though our most of toolstack of front-end media and back-office tools hosted by Webarchitects @chris will remain there, while the operational back-end (BBB, SSO, Greenlight) migrates to WebTV @gcotnoir . So this Discourse forum will continue (perhaps with a bunch of old topics mothballed, and perhaps with some restructuring of categories). The back-office NextCloud instance might possibly migrate to WebTV: to be decided at some future stage. The Wordpress website will presumably stay where it is.

Steps are under way to host an instance of Outline with Autonomic.coop @3wc , to serve as a container for a revised, forward-looking version of a handbook Handbook evolves - moves into Outline

So: the job list items above can all be regarded as ticked?

The job list for this topic included:

  • Convene a learning pod
  • Design a method, outline a programme
  • Interview multistakeholders in the project , and
  • Solicit and curate their accounts and reviews of the project and their expectations of the project, in any other form they would like to offer.

After trying to crowdsource this kind of contribution , it looks like an explicit research approach on this isn’t going to be possible. Folks are just too committed elsewhere, to give time and attention :roll_eyes: . So de facto, the way this will be done is through supporting the Board of Stewards in assessing ways forward. Watch this space here over the next few weeks, for posting on:

  • Evolution of meet. coop - What triggered the present course of action. The kind of action we’re attempting to take and outcomes we want to achieve. See Evolution 4 - Do the learning, evolve the legacy - #11 by mikemh
  • Principles becoming highlighted - libre software toolstack(s, plural), a community to be served, relationships and contributions of (various kinds of) coop members, commons governance, infrastructuring for organise-activistrs, coop-to-coop federating, cross-regional User-member base, plural language communities
  • Learning from 3 years’ experience, the attention meet. coop has received, offers of solidarity

What triggered the present course of action?

This is a complex story, here is one take. Others, below? See also Evolution of meet.coop - Background and framework.

Migrating our platform operations and evolving the mission and governance framework of meet.coop is triggered partly and most immediately by the response of the person who was appointed last November as Marketing and Product Circle lead. They found themselves faced with a bunch of weaknesses in operations and culture (my precis - this is how I recognise the tangle @mikemh):

  • On one hand, too much hard-to-learn informality : under-developed documentation and protocol, unclear navigation of documentation across NextCloud and the Forum, over-optimistic over-commitment, too much hacking (driven both by sweat equity - work hours being not fully paid - and by free-code ‘agile’ culture);
  • On the other hand, failures of care work and attention: opportunism or do-ocracy, with patchy or casual inclusiveness (towards newcomers? towards non-geeks? towards women?) and failures to communicate sufficiently or efficiently across the operational circles and across individuals’ perspectives, resulting in un-addressed differentials of power and blind spots within the operational team.
    Hard to summarise in two paragraphs! You could write a book! In any coop?

The incoming Product circle lead was unwilling to struggle with these AND develop a marketing strategic initiative, on one day of paid hours per week, and resigned in December. A wise move, I would say! We were spreading way too thin, and the way the new Circle Lead experienced this sweat equity syndrome was the trigger for finally accepting the fact of being way too thin, and for regrouping. Or as we say, evolving @evolution . . . in a way that needs to escape the sweat equity trap aka no time to take enough care.

We now are looking at a reframing of the nature and mission of meet .coop v2.0, and a migration of (some) operations to another, more established coop. This seems to look like some kind of federated relationship with WebTV in Montreal.

But meet. coop has been federal all along - Hypha, femProcomuns, Koumbit, Free Knowledge Institute, Autonomic, Collocall, Webarchitects, etc. And we seem to take the value of federation as being somehow basic to the project, rather than being ‘just’ a stand-alone workers’ coop engaged in projects and contracts (which is perhaps the norm in the sphere of tech coops and platform coops?). So what’s the nature of the shift, in federated practice and commitment?

Is it to be more formal and explicit now, with clearer protocols and maybe (for the first time) some written agreements or Memoranda? Does it hinge now also on a Board, and more explicit and fullt developed multistakeholder governance practice across the diverse community of all member-contributors, rather than on (sociocratic, decentralised, sometimes informal) decisions by underpaid workers in what is operating pretty much like ‘just’ AN Other libre software workers’ coop?

This definitely prompts for deeper clarity and greater practicality in mission and vision and principles. Evolution #1 - meet.coop mission. Review. Will the Board step up for this? @Stewards

I clearly have a lot of reading to catch up on before I fully understand the current state of things with meet.coop. However, I do have very broad strokes suggestions that might help to simplify the complicated mutli-stakeholder governance framework that’s been in use so far.

In short, Meet.coop as the customer-facing co-op that provides online conferencing services to owner-members. This co-op would have its own in-house tech team, who would maintain the co-op website and other fairly low-maintenance publicity and member-support channels (ideally including this Discourse instance). Meet.coop, with advice from its tech team, then contracts a worker-owned tech co-op to provide servers for more heavy-lifting stuff, including the online conferencing servers themselves. This contracting arrangement would be committed enough to provide some certainty for both co-ops, but with the ability for meet.coop to change contractors if agree performance targets aren’t met.

Perhaps what I’m describing is exactly what’s starting to happen? In which case, no doubt I’ll catch up on that as I catch up with the reading.

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Hi @strypey good to hear from you thanks. This thread has been quiet but may warm up soon bcos we’re (fingers crossed) close to a working solution, in a partnership with WebTV @gcotnoir . Then we’ll be able to begin assessing here, what worked in meet. coop v1.0, and what was an aspiration too far. This would include reflecting on ‘architectural’ dimensions like you’re highlighting here. Basically what’s in formation is not dissimilar to the back-end/front-end distributed economy of attention you’re sketching. However, ‘contracts’ are problematic bcos meet. coop v1.0 has no formal coop entity - it’s pure voluntary FLOSS-style federation (!). And the viability of the front-end community-facing activity as a distinct economy of contributions (aka a coop with paid workers) is in question: see below.

I hope we can post more on this soon, and discuss it here: there’s plenty of learning to harvest. See also this thread: Evolution #2 - Infrastructuring through federating. You might want to drop in at this point Evolution #2 - Infrastructuring through federating - #16 by mikemh

For now here’s a recent clip from the private thread of the @evolution team of Ops and Board people.

@flancian enquired:

I’m unsure on the coop and governance “modes” being discussed and the tradeoffs involved; is there a document analyzing pros/cons?

Part of my response was:

My perception: our situation seems more to be that we have little scope for choice, and must adopt what is practicable for WebTV, platformwise, membershipwise. The supply of governance time/headspace/communication bandwidth in the community - and even, of internal ops time/headspace/comms bandwidth - is manifestly pretty thin now. … So migrating our membership into a modified (re-badged) version of one of WebTV’s current services… seems the most hopeful path right now…

The tradeoff basically - a big one - is that we adopt a ‘passive consumer platform coop’ model for meet. coop v2.0 and cease to pursue some original aims of v1.0: federated provisioning of infrastructure, active community strategic dialogue (via the forum) across diverse segments of membership, multistakeholder governance practice, commons.hour venue space. What we retain is FLOSS toolstack, coop governance form, provisioning infrastructure through livelihood work at a fair wage. That’s significant.

That’s just a sketch, hopefully more texture soon. Basically (my perception) we’ve flatlined on attention - both front-end community-facing and back-end tech. Too many key people have too many competing commitments - which prominently include earning steady family income. We now need to do something simple and stable to continue to provide User members with a sustainable coop FLOSS service. I hope we’re almost there. Then we can do some retrospective strategic philosophising around federated coop-commons infrastructure and transformative movement organising!

Key Learning point from my perspective as someone who has been involved - often marginally, but with interest, and not right from the start:

  • Business planning- there was - as far as I can see - little clarity early on about how people might get paid for their work. As a direct consequence people got burned, and that tainted a lot of what followed. Learning point: work out early how people are going to get paid, and that shapes what work gets done and on what basis.
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@mnoyes made a suggestion, which I’m agreeing with and outlining here.

To assemble a review of reasons for needing to regroup at this point in meet. coop’s evolution, we might invite a coop-sector, roots organising friend to interview some dramatis personae. This often is a better way of triggering something written, than asking participants to write directly. Yep :+1: So Matt will ask Josh Davis of GEO (Grassroots Economic Organising) if they may be interested in playing that role. Matt, a member of meet. coop Board of Stewards and social.coop is also one of the organisers in GEO. Fingers crossed :eyes:

Summarised highlights of interviews is one kind of resource we can assemble. This resource can work in tandem with:

  • This forum, where we can spin up threads of reflection and commentary
  • The meet. coop handbook which is work-in-progress. Outcomes from the interview process can be lodged there, for example here; and
  • A short series of commons.hour - maybe three or four monthly sessions.

This covers the bases of ‘the trinity’ of communicative tools identified by Rich Bartlett and Nati Lombardo: extended trinity. BBB/commons.hour = chat; Discourse/forum = deliberation; Outline/handbook = repository.

In an email exchange @osb noted saying to @Graham : " high time we wrote up some ‘lessons learned’ from some of our less successful co-op endeavours, explaining what happened and why we think that might be, so others can learn from this…" @wouter @mikemh @mnoyes @otisyves were in this exchange too. This is the place to kick this off?! Time is ripe. Hope we can have Josh from GEO help us get thoughts and reflections documented.

There are some reflections here in the forum Evolution #1 - meet.coop mission. Review