Reasons to resurrect this forum - and a plan

I have just copied a Discourse blog post into a forum thread on this forum:

I believe the XR Victoria (and probably many of the other XR groups in Australia) are suffering from poor and confusing online communications. We used to use this forum for rebels to find and communicate with eachother, with posts being used to initiate projects, upskill rebels and debate new directions for the movement. When we discovered mattermost, the forum quickly hollowed out as everyone migrated over to mattermost, which I believe to be a mistake. As the thread linked above details, mattermost and Discourse (this type of forum), each work best for different kinds of communications, and work best in compliment to eachother, rather than both of them trying to be everything.

For example, this type of long-form post is better suited to a forum such as this one. In XR Victoria, this type of post is occasionally going onto the XR Vic Discussion Group on Facebook - which is a problem because Facebook, like Mattermost, is ephemeral, with posts disappearing into oblivion as soon as the buzz on them dies down and the algorithm deems them no longer worthy. On Mattermost, posts exist forever but info can be hard to follow and search through after the fact. Here however, threads exist in subforums as logical groupings of topics, and when a matter no longer is satisfactory, old threads are resurrected to continue discussion and find new solutions.

As written in the thread linked above, forums have the advantage of being inclusive, scalable, permanent, categorized, explorable and searchable, and have effective moderation controls. It’s for these reasons that XR France has a forum with over 7000 active users discussing all manner of ways they can further the aims of XR. The categories on their forums include different focus areas for each local group (e.g. actions, artivism, training, essential info), national resources, guides and procedures (including for example, ways to contact every local group and every working group including very specific sub-groups), off-topic forums, an archive of newsletters, and a forum for new signups that walks people through how XR works, what the structure and principles are and how the forum works before they are released into the full forum.

This kind of structure means that people can easily find the people talking about the things they want to talk about - an advantage for collaboration and integration. This compares to facebook, where the topics people are talking about are dominated by some fad topics of the day some persistent topics that people will over and over, repeating the same debates with no resolution, and mattermost, where people often have to sample many different channels on slightly different topics to find one that is active.

I believe that by switching back to the forum we will improve our accessibility, inter-connectedness, transparency, accountability and effectiveness. Let’s do it!

I have a bit of a plan:

  1. One or two working groups to start using the forum. As that forum develops it will develop a store of knowledge, which will become attractive for people who want to get involved, bringing in more people. Eventually other working groups will see the benefit and join in.
  2. Actively build libraries of useful documents, as well as useful tools, and calls for feedback on the forum. This can then be shared with people, also attracting more people to the forum.
  3. Put effective moderation systems in place as the forum scales up.
  4. Shut down the XR Vic Discussion Group on facebook (this might apply to other groups in other states), directing people over here. I would do this after the above 2 steps are complete and people have started using the forum.

Any comments?
This post is the opening salvo of the plan.

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Max, I agree you have identified a significant issue with poor and confusing online communications, especially for newer members of XR groups in Australia.

You’ve provided a good summary of the benefits of the different communication tools available and recommended, Signal, MatterMost and this thing here known as the Base [Discourse?]. I will try to engage others here in XR-AUST-ACT and get them to consider and discuss ramping up our engagement and use of this platform.

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I have just been granted admin access here so I’ll be rearranging the layout of the forum soon.

The layout is ready to start bringing some XR Vic rebels on board.
We are now at a stage of getting buy-in from some XR Vic Coordinators and populating the base with some useful documents. Once there’s useful content on the base, we can move to a stage of redirecting rebels from the relevant mattermost channels to Base topics.

@plotinus I see that you’re in. As you can see the Base is in a basic state at the moment - although there’s quite a few topics in the Victoria category, it’s not really ready for national organising. Let me know what you think.

Hi Fellahin, I can set up a group and private category for XR ACT if you wish.

Applaud your work here Max with restructuring the forums.

I believe it was the right choice for groups to move to Mattermost in the early stages as it allowed for people to connect and organise quickly. With that said, I think it’s well overdue for us to start making proper use of the forums. The initial structure of the forums was a turn off for the coordinators here in South Australia and contributed to our decision to primarily use Mattermost.

I think we need to be weary of introducing too many platforms to new rebels too quickly. So I’m interested on hearing when you think it’s suitable to pull people into the forums.

Just to provide some context here is how we roll things out in South Australia.

  • Mattermost - Details provided after completion our DNA Workshop/Induction
  • Signal - Introduced once rebels join an affinity group
  • NextCloud - Introduced once rebels have joined a working group and have come to meeting (requires a protonmail account)
  • Facebook Groups - We don’t have them.

Maybe it’s that our working groups are smaller but I can’t see the forum being beneficial for them. A Mattermost Channel and NextCloud folder seem sufficient. Can see the forums being useful for information sharing between the states/local groups and as a way to discuss larger national and state issues.

I’ve raised the new restructure with some local organisers who have been thinking about our comms. If you could setup an XR SA Forum that would be great.

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XR SA Forum is now up, will reply to other points later.

It may well have been, especially in SA, as Mattermost is a fairly good platform for small groups to organize. However it doesn’t scale well.

Agreed - it was a bit overwhelming and there was little work done on encouraging and enabling good use.

I agree that this is a thorny issue and a bit complicated by the current proliferation of platforms. In Victoria there is varied use of platforms including email, mattermost, facebook and signal that seems to depend on personal preferences of whoever is organizing what. I know that introducing the Base will for many rebels be difficult as it is adding ANOTHER platform. I would hope in the long term that the Base can be as it is called: the base for our communications, where new rebels wanting to get involved land (maybe after being a casual follower on social media). However, I think that long term goal is not where I would start things at this current moment, but rather something to work towards.

In Victoria we have:

  • Mattermost - Details provided on induction into local groups or working groups.
  • Signal - Introduced ad hoc by various groups, often affinity groups, for planning actions and other things
  • NextCloud - not really used
  • Facebook group (Extinction Rebellion Vic Discussion but there’s another for Gippsland and others for some uni or local groups) - Free to join, often the first landing place. Not utilized very well.

This may be an issue of scale but I think that the Base could be very useful for working groups - for inter-working group communications, for documentation of projects that working groups are working on and to discuss problems they are having with the wider rebel community, allowing others to help out and find a pathway to integration.

Example: The XR Vic Outreach / Relationship Building working group (which is just a few people who also have other roles in Outreach) could make a topic where they list out the other organisations and movements (e.g. SS4C, Greenpeace, Socialist Alternative, The Unitarian Church of Melbourne, etc) we are talking to, with posts including notes on discussions we’ve had with them and where we stand with them. The first post could be wiki-editable and include a table showing all the information in aggregate, and providing links to the individual comments which include notes on conversations. At the bottom of the original post could be an invitation for rebels who want to become liaisons with other organisations, and instructions on what is required to take part and an invitation to leave a comment if interested.

Another example: What I’ve done in the Victoria category, with a topic entitled “Upcoming Actions in Victoria”:

This page then links to other topics where individual actions are described in detail, e.g.:

These topics can be used to discuss ideas for improving the action and ways for people to get involved in helping to organize the action. (Note: I am aware of a need to describe exactly what kind of discussion should not take place on the Base for Opsec and Legal reasons)

I think one of the strengths of the Base is it’s potential for radical inclusivity, allowing rebels to give helpful suggestions to working groups which at the moment are a bit cut-off from the wider rebel community with limited and difficult to access opportunities for communication. Rebels with good ideas and energy can share them and launch them into new working/affinity groups here (topic example: “Let’s start a samba drumming band!” ), or just share the knowledge and store it here to be picked up later by the next rebel that comes along who is interested in the topic (topic example: “Creative culture-jamming” ).

With that in mind I am hoping to get this Base to the stage where it can take the place currently occupied by Mattermost for most uses, and have it be the basic communication platform that rebels are introduced to upon induction, as well as for keen rebels to join up to if they have access limited by remoteness. Rebels can then find their way to mattermost via the Base for some uses.

What to do now
However, the stage is not yet set for mass-adoption of the Base, so for I aim to be getting buy-in from some key groups. For this I’m targeting some core organizers in XR Vic, with whom I have a store of goodwill, to get some of the working groups using the Base in the above described way. Once these are up I hope to roll it out to other organizers in XR Vic. One way of doing this would, for example, be by having the above use of the Base for the Outreach - Relationships group to document their progress, then directing people in the Outreach - Relationships Building mattermost channel to the Base. Doing the same with the Actions group and some affinity groups (e.g. the Media Mates is a good one because it is trying to organize several different actions with a large group of people via multiple signal channels) and I expect uptake to gradually but exponentially increase as more and more rebels are referring to the content on the Base, and joining the discussion.

I plan to support these groups by holding zoom sessions to show them how the Base could work for them. If the SA rebels are interested in going through a similar process I’m happy to take on a role supporting that.

The other key group is core interstate organizers who have national organizing needs, fore example action organizers who would benefit from some coordination such as for getting involved in coordinated global actions, or feedback and decisions on the date for the autumn rebellion in Australia.

Max, I appreciate that offer and it is an obvious and great idea. We are already at work in ACT to get more of our membership to create [or other encrypted mail accounts] use them to invite and sign up for and then also the option for the two Bases. should be used by most our tech literate and other more engaged members, especially Working Groups.

We have a lot on this coming week with activities and actions at federal parliament house for the People’s Climate Assembly. I’ll use some of that time to discuss this forum with some of the XR-AUST-ACT Working Group members and ensure they sign up.

One/some of us will get back to you to confirm the details about setting up the XR ACT group.

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Yep, I think getting the working group members on and most tech-literate is a good way to go right now. I have made a category for ACT organizing here:

2 posts were split to a new topic: Base Setup and Onboarding Project

Great to move from Facebook as a discussion tool and thank you for initiating this. Many people are not on FB for good reason.


I’m just revisiting this plan to evaluate and update.
(1) Get a few working groups using the Base:
There has been progress on this, with the following groups moving some or most of their online comms onto the Base:

  • The XR Vic Anchor Circle
  • The XR Vic Strategy Circle (which is still forming)
  • The XR Vic Outreach Group has started sharing some communications on there.
    XR Macedon Ranges has started using their category in earnest and there’s also a few national groups that have dipped their toes:
  • National SOS
  • Strategy Discussion Nationally

(2) Build libraries of useful documents, tools, resources. Seek feedback on the Base.
There’s a few aspects to this:

  • The Resources, Guides and Procedures has a decent collection of stuff, but some of it is not well presented or curated. It would be worthwhile have a project to improve this section.
  • There are some useful resources within the Victoria categories including a directory of upcoming actions, a map of the XR Vic SOS and contact details for the groups in it. The Vic SOS map would be better if it linked to individual topics on each group which could talk about their current projects and needs as well as how they can help rebels and local groups.
  • The VIC jobs board is there but there is tension about hosting it on the Base.

(3) Build a moderation team.
So far there is not really much of a team but it is not needed thus far.

(4) Move off of XR Vic Discussion Group
More work is needed before doing this.

Rollout Plan

With this in mind, I am preparing a plan for the next phase of Base rollout.

My proposal is to work in a few stages:

Stage 1 - XR Vic WG and XR National WG Onboarding

This stage involves concerted attempts to onboard some Vic working groups and start one or two national working groups. Victoria is chosen as a focus area because I am from there and have direct communications with the groups.

Onboard some Vic working groups: This will involve a concerted effort to onboard some specific working groups en masse. This is to test how difficult it is, what the barriers are, how accessible it is, and whether the groups see much benefit and how quickly. I will try first with the Outreach group (which has already shown interest), and perhaps with the Actions group.

Get National WG Activity Going: This will be done by continuing the current discussion on autumn rebellion strategy and seeing if this momentum can be continued by forming some sort of national strategy working group.

Make resources for self-onboarding of working groups and individuals: There is already a basic How to Get on the Base Guide and Video. I will make a basic guide to onboarding working groups and how to use it effectively for working, local, community and affinity groups so that they can onboard themselves. This will involve improving the FAQ, and providing other guides for self-organising. I will also host a regular “Base Support / Onboarding” zoom and invite groups to send people to ask their questions and get help.

Stage 2 - Work In Progress

I have ideas on this but I don’t have time to work on them today. See ya later.

I had a bit of a brainstorm and organizing session with @Garryw who has offered to help get the Base project up and running. We came up with a few priority areas for action that fit into the above rollout plan:

To Do

  • Reach out to other groups.
    • NSW - @ManicMax will try to make contact.
    • Invite national conversation re: coronavirus XR responses
  • Create project to create a Guide to self-organizing using the base.
    • Create a topic to house the project plan. - @Garryw will make this.
    • Apply self-organising principles on the Base to current or wanted initiatives including coronavirus community action, paint the streets.
  • Create a guide to onboarding your working group to the Base
    • Informed by guide to self-organizing using the Base