Occupy Movement BoF


These are my notes from the Occupy BoF at Drupalcon Denver 2012. The BoF was moderated by Sam Boyer @sdboyer from New York and Andrew Mallis @andrew_mallis from San Francisco. [My other notes from DrupalCon Denver]

Based on a poll at the start, it looks like about 40% of the audience is already involved in OWS in some capacity.

We've had issues with conference calls where on a single call, most of the time will be spent on introductions of the attendees. We've also had trouble with listservs, because they tend to grow and get flooded until people lose interest and unsubscribe. We need a communication methodology which is structured and doesn't give the incentive to flood an effective communication channel.

We create a movement identity inside each site. If we can create this effectively, it shortens the gap to where we can verify that a person you connect with is not just someone on the periphery of the movement but someone who is influential and involved. These are currently based on individual relationships, which turn the occupation space into a kind of elite group.

Occupy organizes through small groups. Everything we do runs through these small groups, which is the natural place to organize a social platform. We've spent months planning and configuring a social platform.

We're not trying to replace private communication. We want to build a better public communication space. You not only know your friends who are occupying, but the fact that your friends are involved, and that information is online and discoverable, which will help the movement grow.

When I explain who I am to someone else in Occupy, I disclose my name, the group I'm working with and my role in that group. The kind of throw-away manner that groups are treated in Facebook, for example, is not helpful to our movement. We've been trying to articulate some of the features of this group-oriented social space, which is one of the reasons our Drupal project has taken so long.

The semantic piece is invaluable. There is already content out there. We can use that to build a graph where people can create connections without having to create content, that frees us up considerably.

There are also concrete issues we need to solve: Planning meetings. Taking notes. Making those notes available and public. The pattern I've seen over and over is that you can solve that problem for an arbitrary group of people, but it's supporting the group of people and figuring out how you can get people to come into the group and leave the group, and facilitate that with the technical tool. The tools should be tuned to the social space they operate in.

Q: What is the vision for the next year, from the tech side?
A: Because there are projects trying to address each space, a lot of our time was spent negotiating our areas of specialty based on our technological proficency, and the context of what we cared about. Different initiatives are simultaneously exploring these different avenues. We are interested, and interested in using Drupal, for aggregation, RDF, users, roles, groups and social aspects; others are doing a variety of other things. You have folks that have identified a particular tool that we need to solve a specific coordination problem. What ends up being problematic about this is deciding who has access to the tools. The process by which management and ownership is meted out ends up being one of the most difficult things to tackle.

In Las Vegas, we did a very early Drupal site and actually forked the Project module and tailored it for their needs. Project in 7 would be very useful. This is a tool we could invest in to achieve our goals. Communities are defined by the tools they use to get things done. There are tools out there that we can use to refine this process.

Q: By the nature of our groups we're always outside, so there has to be a huge mobile component. People need to be able to add items to the stack from the field.
A: Yes. If it's not responsive, it's not worth doing. In the original discussions, we'd been less interested in providing online meeting tools versus organizing and reporting real-world meetings.

We have a directory at directory.occupy.net with a listing of all the Occupy groups we know of, with JSON, RSS and RDF feeds that you can consume and visualize. There is already a group in DC who is doing this. This is fun to do, because lot of the software projects that come out of Occupy are really labors of love built by people who are really interested in the space.

We have a team of Occupation curators spread around the world, checking on the data and reaching out to the occupations to make sure that the data is current.

The ultimate goal is to create a distro. Provision instances, set them up for occupations, with all these features and stuff that we've been talking about. In the goal of getting things done, we have the directory to create semantics around existing content, blow stuff up and suggest that they use Drupal but if not, turbocharge what's already out there with existing tools.

In addition to distros, we also have to create a platform. Many of you are techs for specific occupations. That's more than a lot of occupations have. We also have to provide a platform that lets people use the system even without the ability to host an application.

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