Opening the Base

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

:test_tube: Pilot Trial

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:

  • :open_mouth: Useful or interesting.
  • :calendar: Recent.
  • :eye: 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.

:exclamation: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.

:open_book: Full Opening

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.

:question: 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.

Tensions

:male_detective: 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.

2 Likes

There’s one issue I immediately see come up which is that we might have to modify the way the trust level promotion works on reading the first steps to using the Base.

I think the solution to this would be to add a step 0 - for anonymous users to read, inviting them to make an account. Then hide steps 1-5 for people that don’t have an account by putting them in a sub-category that is hidden from anonymous users.

Optionally, we could use the Discourse Policy Plug-In to nag people to agree that they have read the introductory steps. At the moment people get to post in the main topics when they get to Trust Level 1, which requires viewing 5 topics (the introductory ones) with their account. I’d be open to leaving the rule about viewing 5 topics to post in place, and just nudging people with the policy plug-in to tick that they’ve viewed the first steps.

1 Like

I was having a look at the Base in incognito mode and noticed that it literally invites anonymous users to join the discussion:

This will make sharing Base content even more inviting to new users.

Great initiative @ManicMax. It would be good to see the Base used more. I particularly value:

  • the search function
  • asynchronous structured forum format as a way of supporting discussion and capturing collective wisdom
  • ability to share resources and information via a direct link.

Apart from the Introductions and Help categories, which by their nature have always been understood to be public, I’m not so comfortable with moving existing topics into an open category without checking with the original posters.

1 Like

I understand this tension and rest assured I won’t rush things on this.

Privacy and Existing Categories

I think it’s important at the moment to be aware that the general categories are not and have never been private. All it takes to view anything in the general categories is making an account and going through the first steps - a < 5 minute process.

The general categories are:

  • First Steps
  • HELP
  • Resources, Guides & Procedures (and subcategories)
  • Actions
  • Anything Goes
  • Arts
    • Paint the Streets
  • Climate Justice
  • Infrastructure
  • Media and Messaging
    • XR TV
  • Mobilisation / Movement Building
    • Talks and Training
  • Regenerative Culture
  • Rebel Ringing
  • Self-Organizing Systems
  • Strategy
  • Base Feedback & Support

In addition to these, there are the State and Local Group categories, which have slightly more friction to their open access - but anyone can get in by joining the relevant groups.

So, to repeat - there is no existing privacy in the above categories, or in the state and local group categories. Although there is is a minimal barrier to entry.

What I Would Aim For

My aim is to have the general categories be open, with private categories being provided for groups that need it - with a more secure level of privacy assured in those categories.

Problems Along the Way

Having some topics and categories be totally open, and others require log-in, without a clear distinction between when a category would require log-in, is going to lead to navigation challenges. For example, look at my response here where I had to point to the two Arts topics that are now in the Open Category instead of the Arts category:
https://base.ausrebellion.earth/t/stock-photos-for-facebook-twitter-local-group-pages/5689/

So it would be great if the whole Arts category was open - because it’s a great resource for people, it’s categorized into topics for easy navigation, and we could use it as a way of making it easier for new rebels to find Arts resources. Rebels finding it could then start contributing to the stock of resources. But to do that we have to make the whole category open for unlogged viewing, which entails removing the current barrier to viewing, and inviting more people to view it.

As someone in the IT Working Group said:

Exposing people to public scrutiny when they have previously not expected it seems fraught with possible risks for everyone.

So we get stuck at a bit of an impasse.
My suggestion for how to move forward is first, to remember people are posting here with the intent to share with others. That sharing is negatively impacted by the low utilisation of the Base. If we were successful in promoting the Base, there would be a lot of people looking at the posts already, and lots of scrutiny. Second, remember that they don’t have privacy in the categories we’re talking about. And in the end, if we manage to get good use out of this forum, with dozens of new posts per day, then the existing posts will end up buried by the deluge of new posts.

Third, I would message power-users of these categories - the people who are the most exposed and the most active - and ask their permission to open up posts they have made. In the Arts category, we can see that 95%+ of the posts are made by about 15 people. I will mention them in a reply here and ask them if they are ok with their posts having that barrier removed so that we can share the Arts categories publicly.

Fourth, if the feedback process uncovers posts that people think are too sensitive to be opened up, then they shouldn’t be in the general categories in the first place, and we should delete them or archive them somewhere private.

Then we can move on to other categories to open.
Then we can be clearer about where the private categories are.

Colour-Coding Categories to Intuitively Indicate Level of Privacy

Perhaps we could modify the styles available on the Base so that colour is used to indicate whether you are looking at an open, private, or minimal barrier category. I’m sure someone who understands CSS could have a look and work it out:

I have a question for you all @jess @kate_s @RosariaRebel @brad333 @costasmaniatis @JaneM @HyperNexus @ageorge @Jean_Lestrange @bethal @lesley @the-river-jordan

Would you be ok with me making your posts in the Arts category shareable? The aim is to have an arts category where content can be easily shared to and browsed by rebels, without making them go through the process of signing up for an account here. This is to make it easier for rebels to find arts materials, and to make the category more useful as both a stash of materials and a collaboration platform.

(I’ll follow this post up with private messages. I know that @HyperNexus and @JaneM already approve.)

4 Likes

Short of getting the ARTS stuff actually put on the webpage in it’s own Resource section - that’s good. Will the link be on the Website ?

Yes totally fine with me. I think it’s a greast idea.

All good with me

Good idea.

I’ve spoken to @jess, the coordinator of the XR Vic Arts WG (also running the National Arts Meetups), and she said she would love the arts category to be opened up. She said her and @kate_s were wanting to use that category as a way to share resources to people.

1 Like

Yes from Costas

Ok, I’ve got enthusiastic approval from @jess @kate_s @RosariaRebel @brad333 @costasmaniatis @JaneM @HyperNexus and @ageorge for opening the Arts category. They collectively represent a majority of posts in the category.

That leaves @Jean_Lestrange @bethal @lesley @the-river-jordan who haven’t replied yet who have also made a contribution

  • I’m reaching out to @Jean_Lestrange @bethal @lesley @the-river-jordan separately to get approval. I’ll go ahead and send some messages to them via other avenues.
  • We could go through and hide or delete posts by people who haven’t consented to opening up the category yet - but does this really serve a purpose? It might be better to just look at the posts and make a judgement call, remembering that the category isn’t truly private anyway.
  • It would be good to move forward with this soon so that the category can start to serve its purpose as an easily accessible and shareable treasure-trove of arts designs.
2 Likes

I vote yes

The idea is to inspire more rebels to Paint the street or make a banner and join us on the street yes please open it up
If there is a reason we are keeping under wraps I can live with that too.

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With open categories we can now easily Base posts by sharing the URL. In signal, Facebook and other places this will generate an attention grabbing preview - especially if there is a picture in the post. The preview will be custom-generated for the specific post your linking to. This could make it a lot easier to promote events, resources and campaigns to other platforms.

This is what one of the previews looks like in signal:

I’ve had approval from @bethal and messaged @Jean_Lestrange. I’m not sure how to contact @Lesley but in reviewing her posts, they are all about trying to share Arts resources more widely - so I think its safe to say that she will approve.

That leaves just @the-river-jordan.

I would like to make a move on opening up the Arts category and then proceed to work on other categories as I think the opening of the Base could be a really positive development.

2 Likes

A post was split to a new topic: Doorknocking for Mobilisation

Ok, the Arts category is open now.
I want to get the Actions category open next, and move towards opening up other major ones soon.

Hopefully people are feeling a bit more comfortable about it now since nobody raised any personal issues about the arts category opening up.

The actions category has always been closely monitored to avoid holding anything incriminating - and people have kept to the security guidelines well:

I’ve just looked through it and it looks safe to open up. I’ve been coordinating the Actions WG up to now and I’m pretty confident that nobody in the group would be fazed by this move - most of the current members are not impacted by it anyway.

Regarding the M&M, Mobilisation and Infrastructure categories, I’ll seek feedback from their working groups. If there’s lots of negative feedback I can pop the current topics into a temporary walled sub-category and then open the categories up. That is to say, for example, if people don’t want the Mobilisation category opened up as is, the Mobilisation category would have all it’s topics go into a sub-category called Mobilisation Semi-Private Archive. The Mobilisation category itself would be opened up, and the Semi-Private Archive kept restricted to people with Trust Level 2. I would then ask the Mobilisation people to tell me which topics to move over to the new category. And after a month or two anything left will be archived and the sub-category removed. The same process will apply for the other categories.