Open Collective
Open Collective
Funding application put in for OGB
Published on April 1, 2022 by hamishcampbell

 Application received

The following submission was recorded by NLnet. Thanks for your application, we look forward to learning more about your proposed project.

Organization: The OMN is a collective, building and hosting standards-based socio-political software

Project: OGB (Open Governance Body)
Abstract: The #OGB is not a traditional social coding project of a top down fight for power like the #mainstreaming agenda. It is a bottom-up grassroots fight for sharing power, found in many of the 20th century activist/social movements. We program tools for formation, communication and decision-making of communities. The #OGB code does not impose a singular agenda. The project delivers a robust, accessible, sortition and ActivityPub-based solution for communities to get together, formulate and agree upon proposals, vote, and take actions. It's first incarnation builds upon XWiki, a well-established and stable platform. The resulting code shall be designed to facilitate integration with other systems. The system is designed to be easy to understand, flexible in it's application, and work without training or configuration. That said, it can be reconfigured as required, to fit the needs of many communities and the unique challenges they face; to get shit done. The OMN approach gives local communities a stronger voice to work together and come up with viable, long term solutions that more closely represent their /actual/ needs and wants.
Experience: Our team has been actively working in the area where this project would be used. We've seen directly what works and what doesn't. Hamish has 30 years experience in running grassroots social tech projects. He has been directly involved with UnderCurrents, VisionOnTV, London Boating, among others, and has a firm grasp of what does and does not work within organising both social and technological communities. Tom has 30 years of experience in development and project management, bridging the divide between the chaotic human aspects and the more quantifiable tech. Saunders is a programmer and permaculture designer/teacher who has worked on grassroots social projects, involving horizontal organisation. He is also the sysadmin for the OMN, keeping the servers online for the last 5 years. The project comes from our life times of lived experience of activist/hacker culture. We are coding an important/hidden part of our society. We as a team have been at the heart of organising these events for generations, back to our grandparents. We have been involved with social change groups from squats, protest camps, climate camps; to indymedia, Reclaim the Streets; to landscape and community rehabilitation via permaculture. we are working to solve The Tyranny of Stucturelessness (see Attachments). The team also has experience of working on UN and World Bank projects in West Africa and from this has decidedly moved to managing them through community/scrum, rather than formal methods. All of our team have worked in social/technology for there careers. Currently OMN run 6 servers hosting public instances within the fediverse, including and grassroots journalism, running for over ten years.
Amount: 50000
Use: Payment will be handled via Over a period of a 1 year Hardware: servers, backup Human labour: programming, community/University outreach, training and support Travel: outreach and training events (e.g. UK universities/protest camps). Misc: company upkeep It will be used to pay 4 people to work on the project at a fixed rate of ten thousand euros for 9-12 months work, invoiced at the end of specific milestones. The bulk of the work being programming and implementation details. The remaining ten thousand will be used for servers, expenses, outreach work, extensive testing and company upkeep. The 4th team member will be a new programmer, to be found - we need a solid "activist" coder to widen the OMN collective, to build sustainability and keep up levels of ongoing support. At the next stage of the funding application we will submit a more detailed budget.
Comparison: The results of foundation funding too often ends badly for openweb project agendas. Let's briefly look at some projects. #NGO process like and Both Loomio and Decidim came directly out of an encoding of the failure of formal consensus; Climate Camp is a great example of this. Climate Camp started out flexible, open - with the introduction of formalised consensus it became ossified, with sub-optimal results. E.g. 200 people in the room where 10 geeks had a rigid process of formal consensus that no one could grasp. Ultimately this led to the agenda of the 10 being pushed through. Formal process is a BAD tool for "herding cats" in social challenge groups and the fediverse. We build up from actual producers/active members of a community; those who are already evidently participating and doing something - thus there is a higher chance of producing a functional outcome. We are similar in part to an un-conference ( or to the do-ocracy of Noisebridge ( OGB is designed for chaotic governance. A lack of community leads to money not being enough for a project to succeed in the long term - when the money runs dry, there is no community to uphold the work. Our project focuses on developing and supporting the community. ActivityPub works. It was developed by a community, continues to be upheld by one and is a rare example of a sensible standard. It emerged from a failure of "governance by power" who serendipitously did not turn up so the "little guys" got a voice. We aim to institutionalise this outcome with the OGB.
Challenges: To fill an obvious hole in our set of openweb digital tools while not reproducing the mistakes of the past. We increase our chances of success by taking something that has worked for generations and turning it into federated #4opens code. Technological challenges: (D)DOS disruptions shall be handled with standard techniques. Access control is to be managed by OAuth2, with re-captchas during account creation. ActivityPub is extremely active and if our code were to listen broadly enough then pulling signal from the noise becomes increasingly difficult. Comments originating from the fediverse at large and output from OGB do not generate notifications internally. This means an OGB only has to focus on trolls that are /within/ their immediate community. How this works in practice will be balanced/refined during roll out and testing. People challenges: We have to map messy human processes into code (which is better at representing more rigid structures). Our approach is therefore to map simpler behaviours and functions, while not imposing /how/ they may be utilised in the bigger picture. This allows for emergent behaviours to freely manifest, instead of trying (and failing) to define them. An API that is open and modular, thus flexible - not too micro-focussed to do one overly specific thing only. ActivityPub is a good example. Integrating into complex live systems. While ActivityPub has a standard, many implementations do not strictly follow it. Our awareness of this coupled with #KISS should help us here - implement only what is necessary as we need it, i.e. solve the /actual/ problem in front of us while being conscious that this can be a moving target. Bad actors are mediated by the system itself. This is one aspect of where sortition shines. Mis- and dis-information can not be properly handled by any social-code implementation - this can be seen clearly with constant failures (or deliberate censoring) of algorithms such as those from Facebook. In OGB, the responsibility rests upon a functioning community who use a "Security Group" (part of all Templates) - this encourages the process of moderation to be open. Such a group can be seen to do /actual/ research, fact checking, etc, and provided proposals may then be decided and acted upon by the community. The full tech spec is uploaded as an attachment to understand this better.
Ecosystem: The ecosystem ultimately encompasses all scales of community, from e.g. a local neighbourhood, through districts and out to nations and global. With federation, we scale in the fediverse native fashion, sideways. We start by engaging with subcultures of the fediverse and specifically activism, but rapidly move beyond this as the project UX and workflow matures to more mainstreaming groups. Stage one roll-out and testing will be for: - the fediverse: predominantly online, run by technologists; those who should make the decisions are those who are running the instances followed by those utilising. - a local street market: predominantly offline and mobile based - a community group working for bike use in Chiswick, London: predominantly offline, but whom communicate largely online. The outcomes will be published publicly via the instances themselves, being /OpenWeb/ Governance, furthering the OGB project itself.
Attachment1: OGB-Funding-Application-Attachments.pdf
Attachment2: OGB-Tech-Spec.pdf
Attachment3: OGB-Rev-March-2022.pdf 


Posted on April 1, 2022

The 4opens

The #dotcons can not be fixed.
The #fashionistas who keep flocking to new “ethical-ish” ones are a problem, not a solution.
The #4opens are a simple way to judge the value of an “alt/grassroots” tech project.y
  1. Open data – is the basic part of a project without this open they cannot work.
  2. Open source – as in “free software” this keeps development healthy by increasing interconnectedness and bringing in serendipity. The Open licences are the “lock” that keep the first two in place, what we have isn’t perfect, but they do expand the area of “trust” that a project needs to work, creative commons is a start here.
  3. Open “industrial” standards – this is a little understood but core open, it’s what the open internet and WWW are built from. Here is an outline
  4. Open process – this is the most “nebulous” part, examples of the work flow would be wikis and activity streams. Projects are built on linking trust networks, so open process is the “glue” that binds the links together.


It’s easy to become a #4opens project and join the openweb family. Just show that your project fulfils 2 or more of the above "opens".
  • 2 opens - Bronze badge
  • 3 opens - Silver badge
  • 4 opens - Gold badge


The Tyranny of Stucturelessness

We aim to tick EVERY box on this list.

There are some principles we can keep in mind that are essential to democratic structuring and are also politically effective:

  • [x] Delegation of specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures. Letting people assume jobs or tasks only by default means they are not dependably done. If people are selected to do a task, preferably after expressing an interest or willingness to do it, they have made a commitment which cannot so easily be ignored.
  • [x] Requiring all those to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to those who selected them. This is how the group has control over people in positions of authority. Individuals may exercise power, but it is the group that has ultimate say over how the power is exercised.
  • [x] Distribution of authority among as many people as is reasonably possible. This prevents monopoly of power and requires those in positions of authority to consult with many others in the process of exercising it. It also gives many people the opportunity to have responsibility for specific tasks and thereby to learn different skills.
  • [x] Rotation of tasks among individuals. Responsibilities which are held too long by one person, formally or informally, come to be seen as that person’s “property” and are not easily relinquished or controlled by the group. Conversely, if tasks are rotated too frequently the individual does not have time to learn her job well and acquire the sense of satisfaction of doing a good job.
  • [ ] Allocation of tasks along rational criteria. Selecting someone for a position because they are liked by the group or giving them hard work because they are disliked serves neither the group nor the person in the long run. Ability, interest, and responsibility have got to be the major concerns in such selection. People should be given an opportunity to learn skills they do not have, but this is best done through some sort of “apprenticeship” program rather than the “sink or swim” method. Having a responsibility one can’t handle well is demoralizing. Conversely, being blacklisted from doing what one can do well does not encourage one to develop one’s skills. Women have been punished for being competent throughout most of human history; the movement does not need to repeat this process.
  • This is mediated [see Point 1] time will tell if its a TICK
  • [x] Diffusion of information to everyone as frequently as possible. Information is power. Access to information enhances one’s power. When an informal network spreads new ideas and information among themselves outside the group, they are already engaged in the process of forming an opinion – without the group participating. The more one knows about how things work and what is happening, the more politically effective one can be.
  • [x] Equal access to resources needed by the group. This is not always perfectly possible, but should be striven for. A member who maintains a monopoly over a needed resource (like a printing press owned by a husband, or a darkroom) can unduly influence the use of that resource. Skills and information are also resources. Members’ skills can be equitably available only when members are willing to teach what they know to others.

Point 1: we mediate the "Allocation of tasks along rational criteria" with tradition and workflow, yet people to fill roles are chosen by lottery from the pool of interested and motivated persons. We have a no-blame, easy "step down" workflow - the next person is immediately chosen from the pool. If a person who is clearly a troll or "trouble maker" holds a position they can easily be “recalled” by the group/body/consensus of the voices; a new person is then immediately chosen by lottery to fill the role.
Point 2: we have an option to aid/onboard new roles by having an overlap with the old roll-holder where they share the role.
Point 3: we have the option to stagger the sortition of body members so only a % are chosen each 6 months as on-boarding of new members.

A Look at Existing Projects

Foundation funding agenda often have a bad effect on openweb projects agendas. lets briefly look at some projects is #NGO process this like has, as offline process, has been imposed lots of time in activism and has always failed. Formal process is a BAD tool for "herding cats" in social challenge/challenge groups.
Looking through for a week, and it's the same ideas/workflows that were pushed onto climatecamp, indymedia and occupy in the first two case it ossified the projects in the last it was a mess.
These #process geeks have not changed, their projects are a bad fit for life and a terrible fit for the #fediverse or activism.
Though they might work for some #NGO and more formal #coop organising.
Formal vs informal - both build and use "consensus" - the #OGB is more like

More on governance of the fediverse:

Further Information

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