22 Online governance
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Cooperating little fish take on a big one together

Distilled, grassroots, radical governance is a good fit for the fediverse.

This working practice comes from 30 years of building from The Tyranny of Structureless tick box list.

Social change groups have worked in this way to challenge and change power structures on the ground. Some examples of Social change groups: from squats, protest camps, climate camps; to indymedia, Reclaim the Streets; to XR and even Occupy.
Rainbow Gatherings are a working example of this grassroots governance. They have been going on for 50 years and the core is still based on the founding traditions which came from the Vietnam War - not the hippy dippy origins that people talk about.

From the perspective of a radical, grassroots, social technologist this is distilled into a codebase, as a “permissionless” roll-out of frameworks for social groups to form and see/govern themselves.

Based on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

OpenWeb Governance Body

The body is made up of three different, balanced groups:

1. Stakeholders

One for each instance – if you want a voice, you can run an instance and register it.
This is clearly the voice of the #fediverse, as they are the people running it.

2. Users

The Stakeholders are then balanced dynamically by the same number of Users who are interested in the process.
They are chosen by lottery from the registered accounts.
You have a choice to register or not your account as a possible Member of the Body.

3. The Affiliate Stakeholders

These have to be ratified through the body to become members. A few examples below:

  • Fediverse Codebases (e.g. pixelfeed, mastodon, peertube)
  • Fediverse Events (e.g. group meet-ups, conferences)
  • Fedivers Support Organizations (e.g. ActivityPub Rocks, Fediverse party)
  • ActivityPub Standards Crew (e.g. wc3)

OpenWeb Governance Diagram

The work flow

Sign up for the site, then don’t untick the box for “role” if you become a “stakeholder”

If you are not picked by the lottery for a role there is still many things you can do as a stakeholder in the groups. If you are not picked as a stakeholder you can still put proposals for the stakeholders to make into group decisions.

The outcome is something much more representative of the #Fediverse than we can currently think about, let alone implement.

There is #nothingnew in this idea.

The power of the voice

User proposals are accepted from anyone who has an ActivityPub account. The body gets an activity stream of notifications and if they reach a core consensus they can create a group around the issue.

  • Groups – are a part of the process, these come from ideas getting a level of support from the members of the body.

  • Agreements - come from groups, these can then be enacted by the voices if they are interested.

  • Voices - they have double power, they can start groups to reach agreements and can enact the agreements of groups.

  • Consensus of Voices (-1) makes agreements THE "voice of the Fediverse".

The actual number of voices are dynamic depending on the number of stakeholders but between 3-5 is likely a good number.

What are the risks

“serving the humans trying to communicate” by getting out of the way and let the humans work it out and simply providing structure for the groups, we don’t define the groups.

  • Groups could be captured by agendas – being open to all body members mediates this.

  • Bad group of voices - are flagged by other body members. When the flagging reaches a criteria the security group can act to reach an aggreement on these flags. If the bad voices sneak through these checks, we have an exeptional case, where the body acts as an admin by flagging over a threshold by a set period.

Basic security and checks – to see if an instance still exists and is real. If a member account is actively posting or a puppet – all of this can be done with member flagging, some automated others by people – flagged accounts and posts goes to the “security group”. It’s a lottery, it’s up to the groups to influence and as a last resort “recall” if one goes a new one is chosen by lottery.

We mediate the problem of sock-puppets and spammers by basic checks such:

  • Was the account created within the last year?
  • Are there active postings over this period?
    • [Need to somewhere define "active"]
  • The normal ActivityPub moderation tools

Upon registration, you are automatically entered into the lottery to determine working roles within the governance via Sortition. There is a box you can untick if you do NOT want to take an active working role (opt-out - important here).

Only people who want to be part of the governing body AND play an active role are enrolled in the lottery.
Users are just user accounts, stakeholders are mods, voices are admins, the code is the management.

Every time a position opens the lottery picks a stakeholder to fill it, if it is you and you would like to do the job – get to it.
If you do not want the job then resign and the lottery will pick a new person.

The representative “stakeholder” body accepts proposals and make decisions

Some stats for the fediverse: population ~ 4.152.753 accounts active users ~ 1.192.023 people servers > 6.828 instances

Let’s say a tenth of the instances signed up, that would be over 600 Instances Stakeholders and thus 600 Users Accounts for a total of 1200 members of the body and a smaller number from Affiliate Stakeholders. For easier decision making, this number is likely too high, so we can put a limit to 100 chosen by lottery from the instances Stakeholders, this is then matched by 100 from the User accounts making a total of 200 Members of the Body + small number of affiliates. It’s up to the "admin group" to choose the right number to build a working community. If you don’t have enough good people to fill roles, open the pool up, if there is too much discussion reduce the size of the pool. Try different approaches.

A 3 way split of stakeholders: instances/users/affiliates (builders&supporters). If the affiliate group becomes larger than the number of instances, they would be be chosen by lottery just like the others.

“serving the humans trying to communicate.” we get out of the way and let the humans work it out – we provide structer for the groups, we don’t define the groups.


Looking at existing projects

Further Reading

More info:

Outline images: