Nick Sellen

Updates on 2018-10-07

07 Oct 2018

My 5th weekly update entry. New Lanark, social.coop, Debt, Wobbly, 35c3...

What I did last week

Visited New Lanark with my parents

It's a old mill in a pretty little valley. I went with my parents for a day trip there.

The most interesting part of it's history is when Robert Owen decided to take it over to use as a place for his social experiments. He cut working hours, was atheist, believed in more equality for women, supported people to become more educated, encouraged children to play for a good chunk of their childhood rather than jump right into formal education. Generally very progressive views for someone born in 1771.

He seemed to have had the more paternal micromanging style of governance, including inspecting the workers houses to make sure they are keeping things clean and the beds changed, etc...

From the perspective of my interest in co-operatives, the most interesting part is that he was a key influence for the Rochdale Pioneers who were a very important milestone in the history of the co-operatives movement. Some people seem to consider him a founder of the co-operative movement, but from what I see he is really missing the democratic part.

From a modern perspective he'd probably be considered an evil slum landlord child labour supporting asshole. Whilst he lived in a reasonably nice house (more rooms than people) his workers lived 10 to a room. There were still children working 10 hour shifts. He still owned the mill and made big profits from it.

I was very disappointed that our tour guide almost failed to mention the co-operative movement at all, he remembered at the last moment and gave a super short run through of what they are, focusing mostly on the co-op food stores in the UK. I don't blame him personally, he was very new on the job and I guess he's following a script.

I also was curious about the organisation of the New Lanark Trust that runs the place, it is very much not a co-operative, more in the social enterprise direction. They have restored the buildings very nicely though which I suspect would have been lost without them.

I would have enjoyed a more political/economic angle to the whole thing though - the biggest focus was on "look how people used to live!!!"... now please come to the cafe/bar/hotel and buy some shit :)

social.coop migration

Me and Other Nick got ours heads around a lot more of mastodon - we can now list local/remote/recent object paths, and finally got all our rclone settings correct (DigitalOcean Spaces uses the v2 protocol, by default rclone seemed to use v3 - nice of DigitalOcean to notice and tell us and notify us). I think I fixed all the acls (originally had it set to private) by writing a short python3+boto3 script. Both scripts are here.

I also feel confident we can get masotodon to re-download any missing remote assets.

We plan to switch over the object storage tonight, wish us luck!

Went to WTF is Neoliberalism session on the topic of Debt

Was super proud of Taïs stepping up to co-faciliate the session along with Dan. She's swamped in reading material already from her economics course, so to do this on top of that was great and very supportive of Dan.

It's a huge topic, and the most interesting takeaway for me was the section looking at 3 different approaches to economic troubles related to debt after 2008:

  • Iceland - most radical, jailed some of those responsible, lots of democracy involved, decided to not give in to demands to repay - ... and economy has rebounded very nicely (although mostly in tourism which I am not so into)
  • Greece - went down the more lefty and democractic path, but gave in to EU/IMF and accepted austerity against the referendum - ... economy does not seem to be happy now, and rise of far right (Golden Dawn) seems very connected
  • Flint, Michigan - I hand't heard about this before and am not super clear, but seems they basically went to a mini dictator to get it back on track, but made lots of unhelpful decisions, cutting school funding, using toxic/polluted water from the river, etc...

It's a super biased group of course (everyone is a raging anticapitalist, sometimes too much so for my liking - nobody knows all the answers really), but great to be talking about these topics.

We also had great food this time! I would be down with it just turning into a pot luck food meetup too :)

Chatted with John from Wobbly

John is building Wobbly, an app for precarious workers, especially focused on IWW union.

I am mostly just curious about it all, I like his ideas about development approaches, involving the wider community, etc. I joined their discord group and forum and had a 45 minute phone call with him.

I quizzed him about things related to my interests in volunteer-based software development - how they fund themselves, how to keep up motivation, how to choose tech, etc. We also chatted about the bigger vs smaller unions, he is more interested in the small unions and federated structures. I am too.

Well, actually I don't think I'm that interested in unions especially (!), but more in general smaller federated organisational structured. I think I still don't quite get why a small co-operative would also need a union. I definately get why workers at non-co-operatives should be in a union though and wish them success!

I have a feeling their volunteer-dev approach will come into conflict with a union/co-op mindset though at some point - people should be paid for their time according to those movements, some would think they are exploiting themselves by doing it for free. I, on the other hand, am interested in precisely those things that struggle to attract money but still seem useful.

I wrote up some of my thoughts on their discourse forum - [Experiences of volunteer software dev])(https://discourse.wobbly.app/t/experiences-of-volunteer-software-dev/) (requires signup).

Kickstarted discussion about a co-op structure for Karrot

I had been meaning to write it up the proposal for a while, we first talked about it a few months ago in Kanthaus. I think I felt a bit hesistant in some way for some reason I'm not so sure about. I trashed my first draft and rewrote a shorter post.

Back when we discussed it in Kanthaus the discussion started with me feeling like I'm pushing the topic and that people don't really understand it. I was happy that it ended with the people seeming to understand it very well and also be quite into it. The replies on the post confirm that too, I like it! I hate being the only person that is pushing for something.

I think I wrote a crappy draft for a constitution too, so can proceed a bit. I like the idea to make this as lightweight as possible.

Karrot funding

I had a nice call with Bruno from Solikyl (Foodsharing Gothenburg) about adapting Karrot to be useful to co-ordinate Bike Kitchen projects in Gothenburg. There was a bit of discussion on the forum before, but we got more into the details.

There is some funding available for this purpose, and so feel somewhat hopeful we could get our first bit of money for working on Karrot. It's great to work with Bruno as he has very similar philosophies to us - a very grassroots and democratic focus. Let's see how it goes.

Karrot 35c3 talk

We had the idea to submit a talk for 35c3 - the idea is me, Tilmann, and Janina would co-present our work on Karrot. Seems more about the organisational/social structures and concepts around it than about code or anything. We need to spend a bit of time working this out. For me one of the main interesting things is working on it with a very non-hierarchical perspective - we do the software, other groups do their own thing and use the software, and hopefully soon (with the karrot co-op idea) we can invite them more properly to co-own/organise karrot with us too.

foodsharing.de

I didn't do so much. Reviewed a few MRs. Enjoyed seeing a few of the newer contributors get their first code merged in. Also started discussion for a foodsharing hackweek at kanthaus in January/February 2019. See #foodsharing-hackweek channel in ynity slack. The idea is to get a dev and non-dev "streams" and maybe an openday. But requires a bunch of organising, can always just fall back to the normal "devs in a room on their laptop" style.

Tilmann had a good idea to unblock my android dev though! I can make persistent cookies only enabled when you pass in an extra option, so the mobile app can do that and the existing website will still use only session cookies. So simple!

Intense discussion in trustroots slack about harrassment/abuse

I spent quite some time in some discussions in the trustroots slack channel on the topic of how to prevent trustroots from having some of the problems CouchSurfing (CS) does. Apparantly it's very common on CS to get men there looking for sex there are also plenty of stories of people behaving in horrible and inappropriate ways to each other. Some people in the discussion think using these platforms to find sex is OK (or at least not possible to do anything about), others would like to develop a community where that is not something that general happens, or is accepted.

I got quite disturbed by some of the perspectives I was reading, some people seem to find it hard to understand that people experience life differently. To me a good way is just to ensure those other people have a voice so they can tell their own story. Even if I think I understand what somebody else might experience (e.g. a woman receiving lots of requests of possible sexual intent) I would be unwise to put to much faith in my own understanding.

The best outcome from it so far is that I got chatting with an interesting person with whom I shared a bunch of perspectives and she happens to be coming to Glasgow soon and will stay with us :)

Other bits and bobs

  • We have a cat in the house now, he's very old and grumpy. He is not so happy here and poo's wherever he wants. I spent some time cleaning up after him :)
  • We hosted some friends from Taïs' course and had nice chats around the fire
  • The next day we realised we had drank too much so moped around unproductively for most of it
  • We welcomed two friends from Berlin who come to visit for a couple of nights
  • We watched the latest Wes Anderson film (Isle of Dogs). I enjoyed the general mood very much. Although I slightly wonder what the point of it all is. Not that specific film, but sitting in front of a screen building being mildly entertained.
  • I soaked/cooked/prepared fava beans (aka broad beans, but maybe here they are called fava when dried). They are nice, except the skins are quite tough to eat OR quite labourious to remove. I will probably skip these beans in the future.
  • We found a bathroom bin and a nice jar in the street

Things that went not so well

Crap, it's just the same as last week, so I'll just leave it here....

I still haven't worked on Public locations for food distribution - and I still want to, it's quite important. I'm finding it hard to allocate longer periods of focussed time, that are needed for things like this.

I also haven't planned my little UK tour any more yet. I would theoretically be starting it later this week. I have some mental block for planning usually, I usually wait until a sudden burst of inspiration happens.

Also, we did not order bike lights for Taïs, but I got it added to her TODO list, so will ignore it for now.

What I want to do next week?

  • plan a bit more of my little UK trip
  • hopefully leave on said trip
  • create MR for foodsharing.de to support optional persistent cookies (so can run android app against real site)
  • progress Public locations for food distribution ... ahem
  • contribute to Karrot 35c3 talk ideas
  • look into karrot app websocket / push notification issues
  • write CoTech forum post about CoTech CoBudget
  • get some beansprouts going (got some mung beans, a jar, some cloth, an elastic band, and water now)
  • switch over object storage on social.coop with Other Nick (and progress the server migration)