Opening the Base
In order to reduce the friction for rebels and curious potential rebels to access information about Extinction Rebellion, I am experimenting with the idea of opening up the Base. I would like to use this topic to make publicly share-able topics as a test pilot.
I invite people to give feedback on this idea in this category.
What this means
For now, this category and all the topics in it can be read, in full, by anyone who comes, whether they have an account or not.
This means this category and the topics in it are fully transparent and can be freely and easily shared.
I will be moving some carefully selected topics from other categories into this topic so that they can be shared with others.
I will prioritize opening up topics that are:
- Useful or interesting.
- Have minimal potential for security risks.
In addition, anyone with an account with trust level 1, meaning they have gone through the first steps of the Base, will be able to post new topics and replies in this category that can be seen by anyone - to encourage adding new content and sharing it.
Please Nominate Topics to be Added to the Open Category
As I will be adding existing topics, and there is a lot to choose from, please nominate categories to be added here. Just post in the topic you’d like to see moved here and tag @staff requesting the move.
I would like us to use the pilot period to test the waters - try out the anonymous viewing format, share resources using the Base, and test for any inconveniences, security tensions, or unexpected side-effects, while giving people a chance to test the waters.
After a week or so, I would like to further open up other general categories.
Why Do This?
It’s clear the the original of the Base as an accessible, vibrant forum for communications within the movement across the country has not been realised. Rebels are still divided up between a plethora of communications platforms, turning the rebellion into a labyrinth. Furthermore, it is very hard for rebels to find out what the hell is going on in the rebellion and how to get involved.
My intention with opening up the base is to have a platform where transparency and inclusive organising happens.
Although the website is a useful place for resources and news to be shared, the website team itself is overworked and can’t provide a wide-range of in-depth content and resources on the website into something that can be used as a communication channel for movement-building. Furthermore, communication through the website is one-way, from working groups to public.
Social media pages and groups are similarly limited. Although they have higher potential for feedback through the comments, everything that goes through them is ephemeral. Constructive discussion is hard to maintain and moderators experience a lot of stress from moderation. Posts are subject to the whims of the algorithm and lost within days.
Nextcloud and google docs have been widely used for sharing documents, and are useful for that. Concerning google docs, I am uncomfortable about security implications of the record that Google is building of rebels making and accessing rebel documents. For this reason alone I think it is worthwhile giving an alternative to google docs. Nextcloud has much better security, but there is quite a bit of friction to its use - with access problems, and the need to open documents in Open Office - sometimes with rebels downloading the documents instead and tripping up when trying to make edits. It can be difficult to read in a smartphone.
There is also a bit of friction in both google docs and nextcloud when it comes to feedback. Although both platforms have comments features, in practice it is usually only people who feel some ownership in the document who provide comments.
Mattermost is useful for group communication, but comes with its own accessibility problems. Onboarding new people to mattermost has historically been a headache (@cherrybomb has been complaining of the time spent in the last week trying to get new local groups onto mattermost, and the difficulty in organising XR NSW when XR Sydney won’t look at other platforms).
Discourse (the platform the Base uses) is open source and well-supported, and works well on one click from any computer or smartphone with minimal accessibility issues. This makes onboarding much easier - resources and posts here can just be shared and anyone who can receive an URL can see them straight away. It enables anyone to participate in discussion by building an account in a few minutes, and has features that make moderation more manageable. It is my hope that it will provide a good platform for useful shareable content which will make it a more attractive place for people to come.
My end vision is that people will finally have one platform to come to as a Base for organizing with other rebels - putting together new projects and groups, getting feedback on strategy and ideas, and connecting with other rebels.
But What About Privacy and Security?
With further opening comes further transparency, and with that come potential security risks.
At the moment anything posted in any of the open categories can already be seen by hostile actors if they sign up for an account and go through the first steps on the Base - so users should be aware that the Base is not a place for posting self-incriminating information, or information that might lead to pre-emptive arrest.
The key, as shared in [the topic on Security and Organising Actions Using the Base]((Security and Organizing Actions Using the Base) is
use the Base for fleshing out ideas, working through problems, reaching agreements . But never post concretely incriminating details , especially those that can be ascribed to places and individuals . Not only is this the very fodder of the pre-arrest (the same that XR UK struggled so much with in October), but it retro-actively describes intent, and is the most of all incriminating in court.
And so far, rebels using the Base have done a good job of keeping their use of the Base secure. For that reason, I think that opening up general categories to the Base will be worth it and will raise minimal security risk.
However, it does make posts more meme-able, prone to being screenshotted and shared by non-rebels. So I do think that walled-off categories are necessary to give a sense of privacy for some discussions. However we must remember that the forum is open for anyone to sign up and hence not truly private.
Private categories - those made for specific groups of rebels who have control over who can join the group, will remain private.
Please comment to give feedback on the idea, and to raise tensions or issues that come up.