Community Coordination Software for Portside reader projects


Community Coordination Software for Portside reader projects

Portside aims to provide ways for readers to connect to one another and begin to form community. Brought together through the mailing lists and, people will form groups for particular, focused purposes. Many groups will then stay together for ongoing collaborations.

People would be invited to share the topic they hope to connect about and to choose the context of that connection, such as:

Projects would indicate up front if they are open-ended or have a definite end date. Tools for coordination would be recommended. Perhaps the recommendations would include platforms provided by Portside (or a coalition including Portside).


Simplest viable implementation

The initial connection could be made through Portside’s main website or e-mail lists, with Portside moderators suggesting projects, readers expressing interest, and then Portside moderators choosing a facilitator and giving that person the means to contact everybody who expressed interest. So that people’s e-mail addresses stay private, this could be done through a mailing list set up for each group or by using the website to send the e-mail.

Example projects

Here are some ways the involvement opportunities could be presented, with four example proposed projects and the option for readers to suggest their own project. When you press a button it reveals a form for submitting information (typically only an e-mail address).

Discuss two Portside articles a week

The facilitator will choose two articles, one published that week and one from Portside’s archive.

Read and discuss a book

Over the course of eight weeks, reading under 50 pages a week, we will read and have weekly online discussions on Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty by Annelise Orleck.

Labor movement discussion group

Join our forum to talk about today’s labor movement.

Local meetups

Suggest a project

[ text box ] [ e-mail address ]

Manual steps in the simplest viable implementation

When any project has enough people, Portside chooses a facilitator and gives them the ability to send an e-mail everyone who expressed interest, introducing the facilitator and likely proposing the first event (videochat at link on date).

We could further have suggestions of tools for people to use in further coordination, or do some kind of integration with one or more of these tools.


Portside’s goals and analysis

Before launching initially, Portside spent two years discussing the project. Much of what was discussed did not come up, but a fair number of things did, and the up-front decisions were borne out as valuable.

Portside is taking a similar approach to social media, beyond the initial step of maintaing a surface-level presence on many key platforms so people there can find Portside.

Social media is a qualitatively different way of interacting from Portside’s broadcast model and, perhaps, from the ways Portside hopes to connect readers to one another.

Social media, including the fediverse and Mastodon, is relatively crude and clumsy for coordinating a group of people. One cannot interact easily with a group, for example by setting up a messaging groups.

In chat software (Zulip/Discord/Slack/Mattermost), you can address to individuals or a group, either by having people explicitly assigned to a group or, much more easily or naturally, by addressing ("@-mentioning") an entire stream/channel/room at once.

Portside is nevertheless waiting to seeing what kind of horizontal organizing could appear on social networks and willing be part of that.

One of the questions i have is scale. Conversations are inherently limited in size. Once you are past 10 or 20, it is no longer conversation, it is broadcast. What you want to do is cultivate some autonomous groups, anyone who wants to be a group leader, volunteer for it.

To have a vibrant ecosystem of events, you’ll have to have an owner of the events. Having an owner works pretty well up until a certain scale, but that works pretty well up to a large scale. With a bad owner, you either spawn off a new group, or in our case with control we could replace or shut down the group.

Want that flexibility, which means combining a lot of different tools, which don’t always work together well.

Maybe no tool is perfect. The nice thing is if people don’t have to put 17 different programs— if everyone can have google meet and discord, and that’s going to be enough to run the show. And then something to send the news of the day.

Protecting reader privacy

Portside wishes to maintain people’s privacy even when they volunteer for a coordination role.

Encouraging people to join Mastodon, or most any software or service, would not involve people revealing their e-mails to one another.

Agaric’s analysis

Here we draw on Agaric’s engagement with social change efforts and community groups, and the individual experiences of Agarics, in particular Michele Metts and Benjamin Melançon.

A person who reads a news article, or indeed who receives any piece of information, should have a way to begin to ask on or react to this news in concert with others.

News with no ability to change anything is likely to be harmfully depressing. The only feasible way to change things is with collective effort. (See the 2020 August 7 proposal “Increasing Portside’s impact impact by connecting supporters”.)

This requires that the person be able to share their idea of what to do or their willingness to participate, even if they do not have the capacity to take a coordinating or leadership role.

For people who do step into a facilitation role, they would benefit from access to a basic contact management system to reach out on an individual basis to people who have expressed specific or general interest.

Existing software for community organization

At a high level, community coordination tools can be grouped by three conditions:

Federated here means both having an open protocol and this open protocol being in active use by more than one organization. (An open protocol is a communication protocol that is is openly accessible and usable by anyone.)

There is nothing that is both proprietary and federatable yet (Bluesky would be the first if it federates, although it might also go truly open source at that point).

There is also nothing that is part of a larger network, not federatable, and truly Free Software. Signal is closest, but parts of their server-side software is no longer open source.

Of those that are part of a significant larger network, are able to federate, and are Free Software, it is really only Matrix and the fediverse software: Mastodon, Firefish, Akkoma etc. (Nostr is probably

My sense is that ‘ability to federate’ is not highest priority.

Then there is the degree of scale— the fediverse has 15,000,000, Facebook


open source free software

“You cannot build freedom on someone else’s slavery.”

— Michele Metts

Self-contained community

Open Social

Drupal-based “digital spaces that empower your members to connect, share knowledge and spread their ideas.”


Drupal-based with actions, events, and groups.


“Chat for distributed teams.”

Zulip has real-time chat with topic-based threading so you can more easily catch up on important conversations and ignore irrelevant ones.

About: and Example:

Not open source free software.

All-in-one community text and video chat whitelabel SaaS.

Focuses on monetization (memberships, paywalls, gamification)


“The online home for your community”

Modern, high-quality forum software. Has polls and community-editing wiki capabilities also.

It also has built-in encrypted private messaging.


“Empowering community by fostering thoughtful connection”

People can fill out profiles, write posts, read posts, leave comments, react to posts and comments, follow users, follow tags, search the site, receive notifications, create classified listings, listen to podcasts, embed rich content, ingest an RSS feed, report users, block users, become moderators, moderate, send direct messages, participate in group chats, and receive achievement badges.


“helps groups and networks build community and a better world, together.”

A chat-focused, fairly heavy application based around separate groups (unclear how groups interact, even groups listed as being within another group). Within groups, Hylo supports events, a member listing, a project listing, and above all Facebook-style posts with threaded comments underneath.

Messages, notifications & profile Search for posts & people. Send messages to group members or people you see on Hylo. Stay up to date with current events and edit your profile.

Made Open

Not open source free software.

A proprietary platform that

timebanking (through TimeBanks.Org software), volunteering, idea sharing, discussions, events, listings, and polls (activity sharing features); member directory, private chatrooms, search for members by similar interests, and earn and display community badges (member networking tools);

Connects to a larger, existing multi-community space

Activitypub-based fediverse instance. Currently using Mastodon, but has not been promoted and does not have active users.



federated social media with plans to do much more


Not complete, or at least not in live use yet.

By Framasoft, a small 10-person non-profit that works on a lot of software and maintains many more as donation-driven services. They sometimes drop what they previously were pushing.

Visions Unite

Still in alpha.

“Everybody’s Voices, Nobody’s Noise: When Conversation Can Scale, Visions Unite”

Groups are able to self-organize without needing to select facilitators or moderators; people share the work when randomly selected to do so, but intended for large groups.


“Karrot is a free and open-source tool for grassroots initiatives and groups of people that want to coordinate face-to-face activities on a local, autonomous and voluntary basis.

It is designed in ways to enable community-building and support a more transparent, democratic and participatory governance of your group.”


An open source & free to use clone.

Action Network

Not open source free software.

“empowers individuals and groups to organize for progressive causes” (not any horizontal communication, though)


“social networking, group collaboration and network organizing […] tailored specifically to meet the needs of bottom up grassroots organizing”

Crabgrass has wiki pages, group discussion pages, ranked vote polls, approval (good, ok, bad, no) polls, task lists, file pages, and image galleries. Most things are one more step than you would expect. The look and feel is… dated.


“helps communities turn information into action with an intuitive and accessible crowdsourcing and mapping tool. By enabling the rapid collection, management and analysis of crowdsourced information, Ushahidi empowers everyone—individuals, community groups, governments, activists, organizations—to create meaningful change.”

Very focused on enabling communities to contribute to data collection. Would probably need several groups with this need before it is worth standing up ones own server for integration with SMS and the other things that make it stand out beyond Drupal or WordPress. UX could be better but it is proven software.

Encrypted chat

Revolt chat

“stay connected with your friends and community without sacrificing any usability” … “your conversations are confidential and your data is secure.”


Sets the standard for encrypted chat, and allows video calls (with a current limit of up to 40 participants.

It does not have any mechanism for easy discoverability of different chats (like streams, channels, or rooms, making it ill-suited for efficient organizing where people can easily pick which conversations they want to take part in. Its secure approach to encryption also means people cannot join conversations after the fact and see

Its centralized service model and expenses increasingly outstripping revenue ($33M versus $13M in 2021, the latest year public) also make it hard to recommend for long-term adoption for community-building despite its dominant use in left organizing.

Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB) / Manyverse

Manyverse – a peer-to-peer social network

“my ideal software for that would be something like Scuttlebutt but without relying on append only logs (which are good for censorship detection but bad for plausible deniability)”




Specialized tools

Crab Fit

“Crab Fit helps you fit your event around everyone’s schedules.”

Better than Doodle or When2Meet, Crab Fit has fast set up of the date and time ranges for the initial options, fast and easy selection for each participant, and an intuitive group view.


Videochat plus screenshare without requiring registration or software download. Includes many features suitable for education or discussion, such as sharing a video feed and breakout rooms.

It is possible to integrate Big Blue Button with WordPress, Drupal, or other platforms for one-click room creation. (This is possible with other videochat platforms also; Zulip does this with Jitsi.)


Videochat plus screenshare without requiring registration or software download.

Learning Management Systems

A Learning Management System (LMS), such as Moodle or Canvas, typically integrate a variety of tools, including videochat such as BigBlueButton. With sufficient coaching, people can set up a course or a lesson on their own. However, all known LMSs are fairly reviled by those who have to use them— especially the proprietary leader, Blackboard.

Volunteer connecting services

There is precious little open source software still maintained for connecting people based on interests and skills with groups working on compatible causes that need those skills.


Possibly one of these listed above could be used instead of building the connection capability into It would have to be compelling in its capabilities for it to be worth trying to convince people to first go to and potentially join another platform before connecting with people. Or the platform would need to provide an API or at least an embeddable form, so that the interaction that begins the connection could start on

We did not find any software or combination of software tools that would truly allow the gathering of people into a group with a common interest and the mechanisms for facilitating that group. This is especially true for achieving more than simply meeting up.

successful cooperation is dependent on groups being able to draw the boundary of their membership to those who are aligned with the collective aim

“There ends up being a core made up of almost entirely cooperators that is densely connected, with almost every cooperator being connected to every other cooperator. Defectors are moved to the edge of the group, ending up in small neighborhoods with mostly other cooperators.”

Via discussing

Another type of interaction we don’t yet support for our readers:

Suppose we were to sponsor people to organize reading groups.

Or their might be geographical groups.

Or people interested in a given subject get together.

Which video platform to support this?

Once you have the group of people defined, i’m not sure it makes too much difference which video platform you use. As long as the group leader has a zoom account.

How does this interact with people finding each other?

People should be connected by shared interest without having to scroll through profiles to glean such information.

The tool that connects people need not be the same tool people use to talk and collaborate once connected.

in the same time zone.

While Portside could solicit geographical location, timezone, interests, and more to help coordinate connecting people down the line, it is best (and most compliant with various privacy laws) to only collect what Portside has plans to use. Even time zone

You give them some tools, recommendations.

Let’s say Portside puts out six books we think are really valuable for people to read together. Who would like to be the moderator of the discussion group, and which books? Then collect people

Have a listing on Portside, write in if you want to be part of this. Read Stacey Abrams’ Supreme Court novel.

People in different towns, meet people in different towns, put in where you are, and if you are willing to host such a thing.

Ben: Technically not that hard to have Portside play the coordinating role:

There would not need to be any external tool— we could build the basic connection functionality into itself.

Somewhere on the site would be an introduction to potential projects and a way to get involved: either as a facilitator, or someone who wants to participate.

Don’t know if it would take the form of little advertisements on Portside “i’d like to do this” and if you read this, and want to have the discussion, click on this box, we can meet up here.

We can put a pull area, a section of the website, so that people who want to find out, can consult this part of the website, options of what they can do.

Does this intersect at all with Mastodon? Does Mastodon add anything to something like this?

To encourage serendipitous connections with people beyond Portside readers, the best tool is social networks. Anything Portside readers are encouraged to join for social networking should both have a strong guarantee of at least Portside-level of stewardship and the ability to interact with people across a broad network beyond that. Right now, that is the ActivityPub-based fediverse (Mastodon, Akkoma, Firefish, Pixelfed, etc) and nowhere else.

#RiotsWork for RICO: “This is an especially nasty th…” - Urbanists.Social



PSA if you got an email from Patreon today about updates to their privacy policy, don’t just delete it like you normally would.

It’s actually advising you that in two weeks you will be automatically opted-in to a new public profile feature for everything you fund.

No, I don’t know why anyone at Patreon thought this was a good idea.


#RiotsWork for RICO](

This is an especially nasty thing for Patreon to do at the same time as people trying to #StopCopCity are facing indictments for as little as accepting small reimbursements for household supplies.

Causes and creators should prioritize using services that protect privacy and don’t risk their supporters getting state attention.


A drawing made to look like a bottle of Elmers “Glue All” jammed to say “Georgias Indict All!” The title is “no good cops - no bad protesters - stop cop city” and there is language from the indictment regarding someone who was reimbursed for a small glue purchase.


Sep 22, 2023, 21:14 · · 6 · 0

2d *[

𝙛𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙠 🌻 :anarchy_bi: :squat:](”)

@riotmuffin @hugh more reasons *by the day* to move toward decentralized & community-managed platforms—even if we have to create them from scratch



@riotmuffin @hugh I did try to search for this but didn’t get anywhere. Are there privacy protecting platforms you would recommend?


#RiotsWork for RICO](”)

Liberally is one I know of. I also happen to have had great experience with good old fashioned cash 🙃

@Tiffany @hugh

Are you suggesting these things would be posted on a Portside bulletin board?

After moderation, yes.

For connecting, yes on teh web site, the discussion part etc not necessarily.

Ideally this will be a shared project among two or more sponsors.

How do you distribute, and can you distribute the connection mechanism, and the joining mechanism.

Ideally it is not just a portside project, but Portside is a proof of concept, and not duplicated (or joined) but extended.

Suggest a topic seems to me we should have a form so they can suggest all the parameters we consider important for a project: - Frequency of meeting - Amount of time for week - Length of time it will continue - Maximum number of participants - Schedule (weekends, Monday nights, whatever)

As soon as you generalize this beyond one sponsor, you have a shared location where people can become coordinators, volunteers. (Not having Portside run it necessarily.)

  1. Finding people.
  2. [are people behaving well] Recording, reporting mechanism, people have a place to go, do you know what’s going on here?

Should definitely note that this needs an efficient and an agreeable solution.

“This project leader is being abusive”, “This project leader kicked me out for no good reason”

Launch simple one ourself, or gathering sufficient

People will raise these questions if we want to collaborate.

Scalability: As the project grows, the responsibility for scaling grows with it, but that the supports grow proportionately and not fall back on Portside or whichaver group started it.

Have it not be about us— let people take real ownership over what they are doing. It’s hard when organizing to have people take ownership of a project. And they may object to being told what to do, but we don’t want the blowback if any group [does bad things.]

Ben: start the project by assuming that people should be organizing in Portide’s lane, just so we can start learning about what works and what does not.

People are thinking along the same lines; there’s literature about the question. The investigation of the problem of building community has not caught up with the technology of doing it.

We have a vague notion of a limited list of partners that we may reach out to. Each will have their own ideas, and resources— though no one has extra people or money sitting around to do this project. Many of these organizations have a long-time independent existence. Some have existed for 100 years, literally, in different forms. The were a magazine, or newspaper, and that reputation is what they built their circulation on, what people know them for. They do have a lot to lose by jumping in. We want to be sure we’ve thought through all these questions, and we want to let them know that they are part of the project from the beginning.

Organizations are going to want to come into this on the basis that it will not dissolve their identity, and that they can expand their own enterprise. We want to help people to do their own thing.

VU: You probably don’t want people seeking power in power. You join Example: Group to support retail workers. Person can join group, and then propose potential collective action. Goes to a random selection of people on the app as a whole— is this spam (or hate speech). This keeps a minimum standard for the network as a whole. If it is OK, then it goes to the sortition process, a random selection of people in the group, if more than half of those selected, then everyone in the group gets notified.

You don’t have to have an audience first.

Does this imply that everyone in the super group, that could be drawn from in the sortition?

Could it be just anyone who signed up, could be helpful or harmful, you organize this group around supporting retail workers, the union-busters infiltrate it, as their job is a way to find a way to hurt it every time?

It’s the obvious question.

Should you have a mechanic or system that allows people to be prioritized— because they have more expertise, because they are marginalized.

Sortition + scientific sampling.

Democratic manipulation

size of the sample matters for its validity sample size of x, with

Would also say that as the universe gets bigger, the moderation task is different, not just filter out bad ones, but to filter the number of things that get approved.

Would you change the threshold? Require a supermajority perhaps.

On the other hand, as you require a higher threshold, maybe you are throttling exactly the dissident messages.

On organization not being subsumed into the network?

People are going to want to be able to sponsor, brand, and control a certain set of projects that are in this tool. So they will be able to attract people, and build their identity in their

And maybe there will be a mechanism for people to form alliances.

People care about their brand, trademark— reputation. You have a name, a symbol, that’s a very significant asset that lets you carry out your mission.

People do not want to loose that. If you join the commons but lose yourself, what’s the point?

Everyone is going to ask that, and rightly so.

You want

it would be inherent in the way they are cooperating, that it is not a better than thy neighbor system. By working to support yourself, you are working to support others.

If you are doing something together, hopefully that will attract others to contribute, and know that they are not being paracitized.

When portside sponsors a reading group, what does that entail?

What if the facilitator and the group want to read articles from the economist?

Vision for group control?

What is the vision for autonomy, or meaning of autonomy for groups? You can scale by pushing the decision-making of what to do and how long to keep doing it, to the group.

It would be necessary to define that

With whom does tho local autonomy reside? In the group itself, or in the

Military example of some deg

Is it hierarchical or

The driving force of Facebook was decentralized, people with their own networks.

We are not trying to build a national organization; we are just trying to help people connect.

(Chapter-based is usually geographic.)

Not interested or capable in a bunch of extra responsibilities chartering and monitoring chapters; that’s way beyond us, and not the kind of thing a coalition of left media would be well suited for undertaking either.

The community-based model seems closer.

Hierarchy or merely mutual [acceptance]

Ask people what modality people want to connect.

House parties, for example Bernie Sanders movement asking people to sponsor a house party, they give you a script, some technology to do it Gave a template for how to run your meeting.

Reading group would be similar: - technologies - procedures - guidelines that would be enabling.

The grou

Over the past 20 years, that sort of thing has worked really

not just one off, but

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