The movement is underway. #buytwitter, #buythisplatform, and buytwitter.org are among the efforts pushing to rethink Twitter ownership. Twitter votes May 22 on a petition to explore a co-op option for Twitter. And a recent discussion co-hosted by Shareable, has some insightful thought on the topic: #PlatformCoop Round Table: Scaling Community Control & User Democracy. The round table discussion was streamed live on Apr 13, 2017 and moderated by Shareable’s Maira Sutton. Confronting an established, $10B company about ownership is new territory, but discussing it can lead to innovation.
Business Insider reported on the pending vote and says “unanimous opposition from the board means the vote is unlikely to pass.” It would be a big change, termed radical, in the article. I suppose asking a board to reconsider its own power might not elicit a sharing response. But if discussing it causes new ownership and governance to be considered more broadly, then it’s a good exercise. And Maira Sutton points out that major outlets have written about the premise of buying twitter. The conversation is started, and that’s already a success.
Featured in the platformcoop discussion were Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation; Terry Bouricius, political scientist and sortition advocate; and Susan Basterfield, of Enspiral and Catalyst. This was part two of a previous panel moderated by Douglas Rushkoff.
Maira stated in her introduction that the term platform cooperativism has evolved into platformcoop. Then she asks the question: how are platformcoops viable on a large scale, such as one with Twitter’s 300+ million users?
Brought to light concerning size was a reality about participation. Michel Bauwins pointed out that there are segmented streams of activity. Not everybody needs to be involved in running the platform. Don’t panic about 300M people on the platform he says, there are modules of governance that will break down the larger group. Ultimately about 15% may have the willingness and energy to fully participate. Susan Basterfield added that participation at Enspiral happens in pockets, or pods based on interest and energy. These groups effectively divide governance.
Another concept to consider for such a large co-op is the jury model or sortition. Maira also mentions this theme in her article about the round table discussion: “6 Ideas on How Millions of Users Can Own and Govern Twitter.” Terry Bourcious presents this as an approach to picking temporary and random cross sections of the organization to make decisions. This can be effective because these people are a true representation of the organization. Conversely, leaders that come forward themselves can often have the wrong motive such as ego or self-aggrandizement. A randomly selected temporary jury can pick a board of directors among other tasks.
The discussion also brought to light a platformcoop tool: Loomio. It’s used as a tool in two of the participants’ organizations. This is a voting platform tool, and co-op, I’ve used and have praised in this blog. Susan describes how Loomio changes how work is done at Enspiral. It’s not just a platform for participation, but also encourages deliberation. Michel also uses Loomio and agrees it provides time for deliberation, but also gives direction to decision making. Such a tool could likely serve Twitter well.
You can show your support for Twitter as a platformcoop. Buytwitter.org has a form where users and shareholders can sign a petition. The co-op idea is a long shot, and other business thinkers are seeking influence. Bruce Judson in a Tech Crunch article makes a direct appeal to CEO Jack Dorsey suggesting a new fee structure (only).
This movement isn’t just about Twitter, but is the leading edge challenging the online extractive economy.