Tuesday, 14 June 2016

General Discussion 002

Issues from the previous General Discussion post:

1.1. An intranet or similar system to improve communication between Momentum branches
- Discussion now moved to Organisation 001

1.2. A collaborative research and rapid rebuttal capability
- Research: Research Capabilities 001 in General Discussion
- Rapid rebuttal: outstanding
- Collaboration: Collaborative Working 001 in Systems

1.3. Generating reference materials for public information and use in campaigning (especially online campaigning)
DP: the problem is to design a structure for online debate which is able to help us to produce good quality policy materials and good quality political education materials
(This may not necessarily be best achieved by online debate as such. See Research Capabilities 001)

1.4. Creating small-scale, high-impact think tanks to provide a voice for left Labour views in public discourse, especially among the media
-  Think Tanks 001

1.5. General co-ordination and encouragement of activists on social media and elsewhere; encouraging supporters to be pro-active, for example seeking out and politely intervening in online discussions or (on a purely individual basis) contributing to Wikipedia

1.6. Creating a directory of activists willing to offer their skills, interests, time, other resources, so that these can be matched with corresponding requirements
Organisation 001

1.7. Generating and propagating 'best practice' in making our case - this covers everything from a readily-searchable data base of well-researched facts and figures up to detailed recommendations for a 'party line' on specific issues

1.8. Developing an organised route whereby individual anecdotes attested by Labour members can be 'harvested' and used for rhetorical purposes and possibly supplied as 'human interest' stories to the press

New Issues Arising:

2.1 stevemanc1 is developing his own system at momentumunofficial.freeforums.net. Initial responses from the LRP team and his own comments suggest that our two projects will remain separate and distinct, at least for now.

2.2 Loomio
- Loomio 001

2.3 DP:
A website which acts as a repository for substantial contributions is almost certainly required.
- Research Capabilities 001
Then we need to talk about how debate can be organised. Left Futures for example has many qualities but the appearance of materials on different issues is virtually random. Can we set debating themes and try to tackle issues collectively?
- Policy Development 001
Should be try to produce an on-line magazine?
How should debate be moderated?
- Research Capabilities 001
- Collaborative Working 001
What place, if any, should be given to theoretical issues along with practical ones?

2.4  CM proposed 'a possible structure for a policy discussion system'
- Policy Development 001

2.5 CM also raised a security issue: checking credentials. Need to liase with Momentum/Labour
- Security 001

2.6 TW asked about a welcome page where people can introduce themselves. JW seemed to approve of the idea to some extent, so:
- Introduce yourself 001

2.7 TW: a manageably concise yet definitive history of UK politics since say 1970, with all the funny business left in - 'history uncut'. It's not impossible that actual credentialled historians might be tempted to participate in such a process in some way.
Speculatively suggested contacting  John Simpkin. CM also speculatively suggested Leo Panitch.
- outstanding

2.8 Various scattered remarks on various aspects of technology - these are quoted as appropriate on a number of new posts.

2.9 JW:

I could host a 'community forum' (such as Vanilla Forums, phpBB and other free stuff) - I have access to a local Momentum group web hosting package, so this could happen straight away. (http://www.momentumrushcliffe.org.uk/ - nothing there at the moment - the hosting package has been paid for but nothing is happening with it yet)
 - outstanding

 2.10 JW:
there is an untapped pool of like-minded members in my constituency...lots of new members (over 600) many of whom have, for example, University-gained professional skills they are willing to apply
-outstanding/still untapped

2.11 CM:
...how to hold the administrators/moderators to account...We want to ensure that admins aren't in some way giving preference to those they agree with and also that admins aren't in some way directing the discussions.

There are various suggestions I can make to ensure that users' views are represented. This can include electing moderators and having the chief authority be a council selected by sortition. It would be good to have mechanisms in place in the software which allow for changes to these roles, including recall, to happen automatically.

Another issue is that of the sysadmin-type roles.
 - Organisation 001; Security 001 

Please feel free to raise any further issues. If I've missed or misinterpreted anything, please raise it either here or in the appropriate comment thread.

Finally, here is another copy of a diagram depicting (what I take to be) some key areas and interactions. It is not intended to be prescriptive (though obviously it reflects roughly how I envisage the organisation might function once fully operational) but to prompt discussion.


John Walsh said...

My take on the founding blog comments we made on Left Futures.

Labour Roots main purpose - Encourage, invite, enable more meaningful involvement by the grass roots. In particular, the 200,000 new members, many of whom bring valuable, much-needed skills and understanding.

'Involvement' could include - being part of new democratic processes, actually discussing such things as policy, aggregating grass roots' knowledge and understanding (e.g. in policy papers), devising Party political education initiatives (on policy, strategy, tactics or how the NEC operates).

Primary barrier to Labour Roots - a deeply rooted conception of membership, entirely based on activism, which sees no place for our initiative. This barrier exists across left and right, is especially prevalent in Momentum (from Jon Lansman downwards). It is simply immovable in CLPD. We could invent industry-leading 'involvement' software, which then produced high quality policy, strategy and tactics output, but without culture-change our work would simply be ignored.

Initial purpose – to devise, write, picture the ‘Labour Roots’ initiative so that we attract more contributors. This might include concrete examples of ‘involvement’, an account of the primary barrier and a call for particular skills (a kind ‘job’ advert). It could take the form of a coherent Labour Roots 'package', including website (somewhere for members to both see details and sign-up), flyers etc.

Chris MacMackin said...

Good points. I don't really know how we go about changing people's conceptions of membership. The reason I've focused so much on the tech side of things is because that's what I do know how to proceed on.

I have a friend who is a Labour member and supporter of Corbyn. I think in many ways she is representative of the Corbynite membership, so it might be interesting to see what her thoughts are on these sorts of issues. I know she'd commented that she was turned off of the university Labour club due to the hostile atmosphere between pro- and anti-Corbyn elements, with both sides having degenerated into name-calling (on the Facebook page at least). We will need to make sure anything we do as a more welcoming atmosphere, at least.

Tim Wilkinson said...

The way I see it, We have no standing or influence to speak of in Momentum or Labour (and we are really looking at the former for the moment since as mentioned we can't trust or reason with the Hostiles in the Labour party) so we have to

(1) attract members to our platform and get them connected across the Momentum organisation instead of in local cells. This I think has to be a case if 'if you build it they will come' - if we can offer a usable resource which enables better communicatiosn, coordination, policy formation, etc - qand a vision & direction of travel that makes it appear that the future is ours, we can recruit staff and partcipants (and the architecture proposal I'm taking a minute or two out of working on elides that distinction - participants will be doing work even if they don't realise it).

(2) Achieve a critical mass of Momentum users, and start to produce materials that clearly benefit the party/leader's office, and promise to provide greater benefits. If we get this kind of buy-in, then the implicit reframing of membership as participative goes through by default.

I'm sure JC & probably Lansman are in theory amenable to this kind of 'empowerment' of members. But I think there is - in Momentum at least, perhaps, a certain inertia: most of the a network (Or rather hierarchy) of organisers, while we owe them a debt of gratitude for their faithful dedication in keeping the flame alive over the past 20 years or so, are probably in many cases not up to date with the full possibilities offered by IT. It may not be a great exaggeration to say that during the long period of Left retrenchment they have become accustomed to operating almost uin undreground cells, marshalling a skeleton staff with almost ritualised performances of leaflet folding, meetings, raffles etc. In any case, I think momentum is not necessarily well equipped to push forward a large movement in innovative ways.

In addition, JC's staff have their hands full at eth moment and - pretty understandably - don't want to embark on any grand experiments with new working methods and various attendant risks.

WE're in a position to try and do a lot of that experimentation in parallel to activities going on in Momentum & the Leader's office - if we provide proof of concept and show that it is capable of producing sensible and useful output and outcomes based (almost) entirely on volunteer labour, the what's not to like? Add the implied mandate that policy recommendations would gain if a sufficient number of members participate in them, and the fact that this might even provide leverage for JC et al to break the stranglehold of the Progress types on various aspects of the party machine, and I think there's every reason to suppose that our initiative will be welcomed rather than resisted.

Obviously a part of this is to avoid so far as feasible any hostility, toe treading etc. If we can lead by example and demonstrate, rather than agitate for, our case, we avoid hardening attitudes and provoking resistance. We (Momentum/Labour Left/Corbyn's office) are after all on the same side. Any organisation has its little frictions and irritations, but here we really do have unity of purpose and dedication to shared ideals. If we go about this the right way, then I think that fact can eventually win the day.

It's very easy to overdo the cynicism and forget that actually the default in most situations is for facts to win out over untruths, for good ideas to be adopted because they are good ideas, for people with a common enemy to work together, etc. Examples abound where this doesn't happen, of course, whether due to cock-up or conspiracy or something else. But still, those are the pathological cases, parasitic on the normal course of things - which is why they are what merits and attracts our attention.

Tim Wilkinson said...

OK I seem to have gone off on a tangent here but key points:

We just need to complete this initial scoping & high-level design project, resulting in an outline plan that can start small & show fast results, attracting new developers and participants, and allow a continual monotonic improvement path toward a really powerful tool that can't be ignored. This is not a pipe dream; we are on the verge of it already and there is nothing preventing us from achieving it. Even the first step, which is actually not far off, of coming up with a clear plan will equip us to start recruiting more people. I know two people sympathetic to Momentum with considerable IT experience, once of whom is a Labour member & Corbyn voter who works for a really big consultancy and actually approached a number of people, including notably Angela Eagle in a chip shop at conference trying to find out how to offer hisservices to the Labour party - to no effect.

And I think the reason for that is just that these people don't have the time, the structures, the knowledge or the luxury of 'blue skies thinking' that would be required for them to know what to do with him. He was, to them, like the work experience kid who creates more work for everyone else by needing to be kept busy.

As we make progress, we also demonstrate by our actions competence and the ability to get things done, which makes us a far more attarctive proposition than just another bunch of grumblers on a web forum.

(Sorry, a bit rambling & possibly odd in tone - no time to tidy up.)