Future of Agora

Continuing the discussion from Change of activism group:

Hi Jacobis and Gualter,

from this announcement I read that nobody is actively using this Discourse anymore. Community activity has declined a lot over the last weeks and months.

Should we consider this experiment failed, or is it simply missing guidance and documentation to allow for a more visible space in Degrowth world?

A little concerned and a bit saddned that mailing lists win over contemporary conversation software, especially a third party one on riseup and not on https://lists.degrowth.net/

What do you think?

Jon

Hi, @yala,

We have to admit, that we do not exactly know, why activities in agora decrease in general. For the activists there was a natural break between the GDD in June and the meeting in Torino. But as we said, we want to use it more as a discussion forum (the original meaning of this forum, as you, Jon, have mentioned to us some months ago). That’s the reason why we cleaned it up and asked you to open it to public in the personal message (https://agora.degrowth.net/t/changes-for-activism-group/661). Would you do so?

It might be also a problem of documentation: at least on https://degrowth.net/ there is always the “learn” option for each tool, but there is nothing inside. We mentioned this already to @gandhiano some time ago…

The handling of staged users is definitely a major issue, because we were not aware of “staged” users at all and replied to them and were astonished, that there was never a reply. When we found out, the group was really annoyed, because we might have lost some people because of this technical problem…

But we think this can’t be the only reasons. Because we had 25 plus members, but only 5 to 7 were active. Well, we think for our group, we wrote information into the forum, which might not be so relevant for others. That’s the reason, why we move now to a consolidated mailing list…

Personally we have not given up agora (activism group could be filled by new input; we aim to establish a discussion forum for germany, that’s the reason why we asked you to create “Deutsch”…). But if you are now not sure, if you want to continue, please let us know! Because in this case we won’t try to bring “Deutsch” to more people.

Best regards!
Anne & Arndt

Best @Anne_Arndt_Jacobi,

you have been the most stable contact point to the degrowth.net community during the past. We value your contributions, awareness, experiences and opinions very much. In that sense you are one of few community moderators here. Yet we cannot miss, that some activity declines, because there is no active moderation process. The groups are not held accountable with information that is produced within them.

There might actually still be exchange about the groups, but elsewhere. We don’t know, as seen from here. Also #groups:activism turns into a mailing list, which seems to meet the expectations of the users. Here we cannot even guarantee if an eventual response to a signup request is being delivered to the users, as private groups were heavily requested when setting things up. Requests to the support group how it imagines online collaboration and transparent communication flows are often forgotten.

Why your move to open up the group might be the logical choice to increase participation. The more visible a group is, the better one can interact with it. Ours had only been announced as small links on

to a page on which the groups were listed with the least-accessible email entrypoint

and had not been linked to their categories, like the ones at the overview in #groups.

For this to work out well, we failed with to follow up conversations about establishing a shared editorial board with Nina and Joëlle for coordinating between degrowth.info, degrowth.org and degrowth.net in March.

The documentation was intended to be completed later with the community. It takes a lot of effort for us engineers to do technical writing in a natural language that does meet users needs.

Yes, I am still uncertain about what might have caused the issue, as I couldn’t reproduce it lately. This will need another test in a private category again, to see again if we can make it work as expected.

Fortunately public groups are much more accessible to the users, as they do not need manual intervention by a moderator of a group, or the user to request membership on

I have investigated the staged user from

and validated with https://agora.degrowth.net/admin/email/sent that she only started receiving the digest message since beginning of October, but really was never sent the reply in the discussion.

Yet it seems noone from @research, neither the #groups:research members nor moderators, seemed very invested in onboarding their possible partners:

https://agora.degrowth.net/t/request-to-join-research-group/670

https://agora.degrowth.net/t/request-to-join-degrowth-working-group/243

https://agora.degrowth.net/t/request-to-join-mailinglist/380

https://agora.degrowth.net/t/request-to-join/370

… and probably many more.

Only people writing in the group will produce messages, that confirms that it is there. The contacts collected here are still possible collaborators. The quirk might be that Discourse messaging focusses on actively engaged users, and not on passively subscribed members of a list.

This is why we need to explain better, that users can retroactively register with their email address, and see it associated to their previous messages. We also need to explain the notification system better, which tries to keep the overall message volume low, as we’re all overwhelmed by too many messages everywhere: Users who participate in a conversation, or those who are tracking the category, next to people being mentioned will receive notifications. In case their last login is already a while ago, people also receive email notifications. People can decide to being sent all messages via email in their profile.

I am reluctant to foresee any eventual futures for Agora, and hope to engage in a wider conversation, before we can come to a conclusion about the experiment. Such an evaluating retrospective would very likely also have to include the other degrowth.net services, and how much they are known and used.

To close with a note about the fact, that we are not the only ones facing these online community building challanges, I am citing https://runyourown.social/

Social solutions to social problems

This document exists to lay out some general principles of running a small social network site that have worked for me. These principles are related to community building more than they are related to specific technologies. This is because the big problems with social network sites are not technical: the problems are social problems related to things like policy, values, and power.

  • Running a social network site is community building first and a technical task second.
  • And while community building is hard work, it’s often worth it.
  • This is my pitch to you: using big social media sites is easy, but you pay a steep price for it. You should consider running your own site, which is harder, but can be extremely rewarding.

The high level overview is:

  • keep the number of users on your server very small
  • remember that your job is social first and technical second
  • provide custom onboarding
  • provide group activities
  • provide custom features if you can
  • enforce your code of conduct

Do the technical administrators have to be the same people doing the social organizing? I think the answer as of June 2019 is, sadly, yes. If you have 2 people with root access to the server and 2 people managing the community aspects, you’ll end up with imbalances in that group of 4. You will end up with technical administrators who feel like code monkeys who never get the gratitude that the community organizers get, or you’ll end up with community organizers who feel like glorified babysitters while the techies have all the real power. You might even end up with a situation where both are true. I think that if you’re dedicated to this sort of project though, you could start with something like that 2 and 2, and then the techies could teach the organizers the technical skills, and the organizers could teach the techies the organizing skills.

Let’s talk soon, and also hear @gandhiano’s opinion,

Jon

Hi, @yala @gandhiano,
yes let’s talk! As the time before Christmas is rather crowded, how about begin of January? We are back online on Jan. 2nd… It would be great if the two of you could make a suggestion for a call :slight_smile:!
Merry Christmas and happy New Year!:christmas_tree::champagne:

Hi,

yes, let’s find something in the beginning of next year. @gandhiano is most probably out of the game, so it is on us to find a suitable perspective.

Let’s talk then, okay? We can spontaneously find a slot to talk.

Ciao, Jon