Further to open communities using closed tools

So, another community with which I have a long history as a paying member, this one with the mission of "preserving the free and open Internet" in my home country, has decided to adopt Slack as it's single community collaboration and engagement tool. They claim they've done this to "increase diversity and numbers of community members". That is definitely a noble goal, and one which I support. But their method is entirely flawed.

The exclusivity is, to me, the greatest insult of this approach. It embeds at the heart of their community a tool which, by its very deliberate nature, fundamentally undermines their stated goals.

It's akin to the convenors of an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter deciding to move all their meetings to a pub. Because that's where the people are.

But the analogy gets worse as it becomes even more apt - the convenors also add a compulsory measure: people wanting to participate in this discussion have to actively sign up for a closed system which holds its data to ransom in overseas data centres. It's analogous to would-be recovering alcoholics being required to "enjoy a delicious aperitif" before they can introduce themselves at the AA meeting.

The convenors defend this by saying (in effect):

  • meeting at a pub is attractive, because use of the space is "free". (my air quotes)
  • people tend to "engage more" after they've got a drink or two in them.
  • plus, you always get more people at events when they know there's going to be an open bar...

**facepalm**

I suggested to the convenor of this organisation that they should - to be true to their mission - provide an open option as their first class platform (I even offered to provide one pro bono for the organisation, and am in a position to credibly do so), and then offer compatibility with a platform like Slack if they feel they must. That would be like offering people the option to meet in a room next door to the pub with an open door between the two to allow interaction, and offering a non-alcoholic aperitif. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

As things currently stand, I won't be responding positively to the organisation's many, increasingly shrill email requests for me to renew my membership.

This post builds on ideas I've previously discussed: why open communities need to ditch Slack (and other proprietary collaboration platforms) and the scourge of corporate fauxpen source.

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