Proposing visions unite tools for Portside

Drafts of a letter to moderators.

Subject: Increasing Portside’s impact

In addition to the ideas for expanding Portside’s circulation, reach, and influence—which of course are intended to increase Portside’s impact—here are ideas especially for increasing the impact of Portside’s articles, which will have a virtuous loop of increasing circulation, reach, and influence.

Your readers all want to change the world. Portside gives them the knowledge. But knowledge, by itself, is not power. The power to change the world comes from organization.

For this organizing power to come from the Left, to distribute power among people and not concentrate it in an elite coordinating class, it must be self-determined, not imposed, organizing.

Tools to help this are a natural pair with communications media, especially ones intended, like Portside, as a space that fosters imagining a new and more just social order.

All news media has a problem: Nobody wants to read the truth if it means terrible things they can’t do anything about.

We have “Interpret the world” as one part of Portside’s tagline and that is covered in the content. We have “and change it” as another part of Portside’s tagline, and that is left as an exercise for the reader.

Along with material of interest to people on the Left that helps interpret the world, Portside could help its readers take action to change the world. Portside can give its readers the tools to communicate directly, to coordinate actions to build power.

How it works:

Reader Robin proposes a goal, or jumps straight to proposing an activity, based on an article she read. She invites her friend Fred to participate and colleague Cal to support. Fred and Cal are likely to be people who had not heard of Portside before, but now have seen a call to action inspired by an article on Portside.

The action or activity might be:

The goal, strategy, or action isn’t limited, like it would be partnering with a petition site. The only limit is people’s imaginations— and the effect is limited by participation and by the cleverness of tactics.

Every person who agrees with a goal—whether it’s abolish policing in the United States or encourage voter turnout in this congressional district—has a choice to join as supporter or a participant.

Supporters will receive only calls to action or updates deemed important by the group.

Participants will receive all messages discussing the goal or action.

When the number of participants becomes large, the decision to promote an action, or for a message to go to all participants, is made by representative sampling of the participants. In this way, the group of people working toward a common goal retain full control of their communication, mediated only by themselves.

Goals can have sub-goals that people can also join as supporters or participants, which allows people to create working groups to work on goals and actions, nested as many deep as is needed.

Portside, with its broad donor base, has a built-in way to protect from low quality or spam goals or actions being associated with its articles—and to encourage donations—by limiting the ability to initiate goals to donors.

Additionally, there’s a special action which Portside could make available to people who support a goal who are also donors. A supporter could be allowed to publish a goal, action, or article on Portside if a random jury of donors agrees.

In summary, the proposal is for Portside to:

  1. Connect articles (interpreting the world) to action (change it).
  2. Give people a way to act in concert.
  3. (Optional.) Let one of the options for action be for a Portside donor to propose that a call to action or message be shared with all Portside subscribers, subject to a representative sampling of donors approving it.