We Collective - an emerging platform co-op


#1

As a result of a contact made over at the cooperative Mastodon instance I’ve been learning about We Collective

Leo, the person who put me in touch, has also recently signed up on this discourse so I’m sure he’ll probably chip in with more useful information. But for now I thought other CoTech peeps would be interested in this project.

It’s a sort of Reddit-style platform with some interesting features. The people behind it, Leo being one of them, want to turn it into a platform co-op, and are very open to input and ideas about taking the project forward. in fact they very much want to work closely with users to co-design and develop the platform further, which made me think about this interesting convocational development model that someone else in this discourse linked to obliquely the other day, (from the thread about trade unions I think?). I think they would benefit also from more eyes on the coding front.

They have been accepted onto the Unfound programme. Leo also mentioned that they are currently spending £200 a month on hosting and would welcome a co-operative alternative.


#2

This last sentence sounds like a cue for someone at Webarchitects to jump in and offer hosting services :slight_smile: [Leo also mentioned that they are currently spending £200 a month on hosting and would welcome a co-operative alternative.]

Leo can we discuss whether we can co-operatively help here, please …?
Cheers
Jonathan
Webarchitects


#3

That’s exactly what it was.


#4

Hi! Nice to be here, I’ve come across CoTech before in social coop and thought it was absolutely brilliant, so its very nice to join the discussion here.

@jonathan Web-architect seem like a perfect provider for us.

Simplest way to explain WeCo is that it’s Reddit that allows users to post polls and allows more sophisticated categorization (instead of having r/physics and r/science separately, you can have r/physics as a subforum of r/science). Here’s a video describing the cooperative ownership and the features of the platform.

The problem with current social media could be seen as ad revenue maximization that creates design that seeks to maximize all engagement. Whether your comment is constructive or angry is irrelevant.

We seek to address this with a two-fold solution of legally binding cooperative user-ownership and design for constructive discussion.

Currently all users can post feedback, make proposals or vote on each others proposals and vote onwhich user-approved proposals should be prioritized. We are actively transforming ourselves into legally a cooperative and are in a mentoring program that can help us with it.

Regarding constructive discussion, there are two future possibilities I’ve been thinking:

  1. Have randomly chosen ”juries” of users rate randomly chosen comments on how good the comment was, how much they agreed with it and how polite it was. Give more visibility to comments that are rated good whether the users agree or disagree with it and polite.

  2. When answering a question in a poll, show in the top of the comment section the comment that was posted by an user who voted differently from you, but was liked by people who voted like you.

There are some ways the platform could fund itself:

  1. Requiring a membership fee for taking part in legally binding decision. This might also be necessary to verify users and fulfil legal requirements.

  2. In Reddit you can buy and give Reddit gold, that allows extra features for month at a time. There was talk in WeCo about allowing Ethereum tips, RChain or FairCoin tips with WeCo taking a slice is one possibility.

  3. Advertising, which is how Reddit makes money. Few models on it:
    a. Opt-in system, where the default option is not to show ads, but you can voluntarily turn them on and that way create revenue to the cooperative. Current mainstream model in all medias is opt-out, with adblockers the to opt-out option.
    b. User-regulation, such as users choosing only to allow other cooperatives to advertise.

We started first small advertising campaign (500 euros) early this year, and gained about 300 new users, but realized there are lot of small and big fixes we could do to increase sign-ups and activity. We pay for the hosting, and in addition are putting 400 euros (sometimes more) a month for development, and would like to use that (tiny) fund to fund cooperative developers.

We want the platform to form democratically and are more than happy to have WeCo as a test-ground for new ideas of other people. Even if the ideas take the platform to a totally new direction we are happy to fully support them as long as their implementation happens through a democratic process of course.

We are for example open to having a multi-stakeholder cooperative with developers and users as the two-stakeholders, as opposed to the current one where it’s fully user-governed.

The article linked by @Graham Graham was brilliant, I will post a separate comment about it today or tomorrow, parts of it describe thoughts I had regarding WeCo very much. I would love WeCo to have people interested in similar stuff to discuss and implement ideas for a user-owned social media that is not limited by having a conflict of interest between users and owners.

I am more than happy to talk about the small fixes or big visions regarding WeCo forever, so share any of your questions, thoughts and ideas.

Here’s a Wiki article about WeCo in Social Coop Wiki, the content sometimes focuses on social coop in a way that might be hard to understand, but overall it includes a lot of ideas I’m sure that are easy to understand.

Also here’s a private video I quickly filmed to Social Coop, demonstrating a cool way WeCo allows to categorize and discuss articles about cooperatives. It’s just me talking to myself while capturing the screen :smiley: , but it gets the idea across!


#5

Such a great reply :blush:
Please email info@open.coop so we can discuss how to fit you into the program at https://2018.open.coop and help you meet everyone you need to take WeCo to the next level…
Best
Oli


#6

Hi @LeoSammallahti, were you one of the people that stood up on stage at the end of Co-op Congress last weekend, during the unfound event?


#7

Indeed, nice to notice you are here @SteveGill ! Just read you introduction, have some thoughts I will comment on it.

@olisb James, the founder, has emailed you! Hope to see you and many others on Open Coop!

@jonathan I saw that Social Coop bought a membership in WebArchitect, I have to look more carefully into what membership includes, but we are certainly very interested in joining also!

Sorry for taking way too long to reply! Please do not mistake the long time it took to reply as lack of appreciation: the friendly and helpful reception here has made me very happy. Here’s longer update on WeCo from a months ago from the founder.

We recently made the decision making process clearer, and this is what it looks like right now. I have marked with red a proposal as it goes through different phases of the decision pipeline.

The Decision Pipeline In Practice

  1. Phase 1
    Any user can post a proposal in b/betafeedback or its childbranch, b/beta-suggestions. All users can comment or give a point to the proposal. If more than 1% of users give a point to the proposal (currently, 7 or more users), it’s moved to phase 2.

  1. Phase 2:
    The proposal is posted as yes no-vote poll open to all users in b/wecoproposals by WeCo admin user. If the proposal receives more yes than no votes, and over 1% of the users give a point to it, it’s moved to a Loomio group.

  1. Phase 3:
    New proposals are prioritized by members in the Loomio group with a dot vote (you are all welcome to join the Loomio group). Each 5 new user submitted and approved proposals are put to a list, with 25 points given to each member to distribute between the new proposals.

What we now want to do is to make it easy for developers to join (we give all developers free membership) and make possibly interested developers aware of WeCo. We would be more than happy to collaborate with platform6, CoTech, etc. on this. In the most simple forms we would like the user submitted and approved tasks to be in some sort of a list (we have used Trello before) where the developers could easily pick and start pursuing them if they so wish. We also encourage the developers themselves to submit and implement new ideas they have, and feel that they are as much owners of the platform as all the other users, me included.

Hopefully WeCo can become a playground for people with ideas for better social media and developers who want to pursue those ideas, even if those features don’t maximize the next quarterly profits. We are very enthusiastic about the project, but don’t feel like it would be “hijacked” if there are users and developers who want to take it to a new direction, as long as it happens through a democratic process.

We would for example be happy to operate our cooperative as part of Loomio subgroup of Platform6 Loomio group, and allow all members of Platform6 a membership in WeCo. Having a Loomio group inside a larger Loomio community of people with similar interests and goals is in our opinion a better idea than a separate Loomio group we currently have but we totally understand if Platform6 is not the right community for this, and wish to support Platform6 to the best of our abilities nevertheless. We are also happy to pay a membership/maintenance fee of some sort to platform6 or other suitable Loomio group.

The flip side of the coin would be (and this is where I totally understand if it doesn’t fit your plans @Graham), that all the members of WeCo could also join the Platform6 Loomio group in order to participate in the WeCo subgroup.

Currently we plan to give free membership to interested developers and other people who contribute to WeCo in other ways (sharing a post on Facebook about WeCo gives a months free membership for example), as an alternative to 3 £ monthly membership fee through OpenCollective. We can also change the requirements for membership, if the larger Loomio community doesn’t want to allow membership to new members on such loose basis. However, in the long term I think there would be demand for a wide and large Loomio group of platform cooperative people where new ideas and coops can be launched from.

Regarding the article

That was an excellent article, when I read about the convocation process it often felt like the author was talking about WeCo.

Two examples of a possible convocation platform are a subreddit and a loomio domain. The different systems of those platforms encourage different behaviours and generate different results. It’s my guess that the Reddit based convocation would bring faster changes, in wider directions, but less shared understanding, while the loomio would be slower but more deliberate. It’s too complex a problem for me to predict what would happen from those choices (it’s possible that the exact opposite would be true because of the reaction of the members of the convocation).

‘Convocation’ focuses on creating a community of developers, designers and users to interact in the same space, talking to each other constantly about how the service should change. They build theories together, participate in the same experiments, they collaborate on tools to upgrade the convocation space itself. The aim is to provide a common meeting point, so that the ideas start from a place of common understanding.

These are two interesting examples, as WeCo currently is using Loomio and is itself basically Reddit but instead of subreddits the branches are better for convocation for three reasons:

  • Branches allow child-branches inside them, whereas in Reddit you have to start a new, separate subreddit.
  • Weco has polling tools.
  • WeCo is open for branch autonomy, and allows branches to implement new features to their branches as long as other users don’t mind.

We wish WeCo will have more sophisticated polling tools similar or even more sophisticated than Loomio (dot-vote, etc.) and have private, invitation-only branches to allow setting up Loomio type groups for free. Loomio is absolutely brilliant, and it seems quite natural that platform cooperatives would be over-represented in making platforms for more democratic decision making.

Hopefully we will have people come aboard with visions on how to create the WeCo better for convocation. The message we want to give to people is that if they join in, they are as much owners of the project as me or the founder are (I’m just a random guy from another country who ended up as one of the early users, didn’t know the founder personally at all :smiley: !). We don’t want developers to feel like they need to ask for permission from me or the founder, but would rather view WeCo as a playground where the only limits to what they can do is set by their imagination and the democratic process.

“The changes to the app need to be legible to the majority of users. The convocation has to be frequently grounded to explain why any change is necessary, and to see if it is desirable. There are clear general goals that everyone shares, but if specific goals aren’t aligned that is useless.”

This is where WeCo could have an advantage compared to shareholder alternatives. Reddit became big after Digg made a change in their design to favor advertisers, and users moved to Reddit. Reddit has to be very careful with how it changes its design, because users react to a new design in a more hostile way if they are not the ones initiating the change. I believe that this is true even if the change itself is the same: if users themselves have voted on remove the downvote for example, removing the downvote is probably met with less complaining than if Reddit chooses to push the change top-down.

The democratic process of mass-participation enables crowdsourcing of lot of new ideas, and allows the platform to implement those ideas with less resistance by the users (especially if limited to specific branches who want those features, not to the whole platform).

We will also email the person behind the convocation article, apparently he is in a process of setting up a discussion board for making his app (which seems brilliant btw), and we wonder if he would instead be interested in using WeCo instead.

Also, I made a branch for social coop, with a childbranch that collects different ideas for new platform cooperatives that have been tooted by users in social coop. This might be of interest to Platform6 in finding people with new platform coop ideas.

The UnFound programs participants were given combined 10 hours of developer time from CoTech, which should be used to work that benefits platform cooperative sector as a whole. We would like to work closely with Platform6 and CoTech in determining how that time should be spent, and ideally would have CoTech developers come up with their own ideas how they would like to develop WeCo in a way that benefits platform cooperativism more widely, and pursue that instead of us telling them what to do (unless the users object democratically, which is unlikely unless the idea is something very opposed to our values).


Invitation: New Platform Cooperative Project
Hi from Steve Gill at VME (soon to be VME Co-op)