There are currently about 100 groups on the NYCGA web site and we get more requests for added groups every day. We, at Tech Operations (formerly known as Internet), are very concerned with this situation and after many conversations with other groups in the movement, we know that the negative implications of this are vast and serious. These concerns include the following:
- Unclear and inaccessible groups: Many working groups listed on the NYCGA.net website lack clarity about their function and/or provide no information about what they do or how one can participate in their work. Many have no (or inaccurate) contact information listed and many do not even have a real administrator beyond the site admin who created the group initially.
- Non-functioning groups: Many working groups are either non-functioning or not actually groups yet they maintain the same status as active and participating working groups.
- Non-local groups: This site was designed to serve the occupation on the ground at Liberty Plaza and Wall Street. It was not designed to be a central hub for any group involved in the global movement. The groups represented on the site, therefore, should be working actively, on the ground with the OWS occupation. For many of the current groups, this is not the case.
- Redundant groups: Many groups are redundant in part due to a lack of communcation and transparency; there is no simple way to find out if a project idea has people working on it; collaboration between groups and projects is very difficult; difficult for groups who want to coordinate projects OWS-wide to get the word out.
- Decreased Productivity: In almost 100% of instanced, the existing groups are overworked and understaffed. Groups need help. We have serious problems that need to be solved (housing, food, transportation, medical, financial, and so much more) and every time we make another fractured, specific, group, we dilute the resources available to the existing groups that are working so hard to solve these problems in a focused way. Instead of starting new groups, which only divide us and split our focus, we should be working on strengthening the groups we have so they can do the important work that needs to be done.
- Barrier to entry: Inaccessibility for newbies to OWS is extremely high due to the lack of clarity what the OWS activities are. In tandem is a general need of more people involved in OWS Groups & Projects.
- Over-crowding of the site: With so many groups, it becomes so much harder to find the group you’re looking for, or identify the appropriate forum to have a conversation in. We need to maintain an environment that is digestible to new visitors. If we do not, the site won’t be able to effectively serve anyone in the community and we would not be living up to our charter or our obligation to the movement.
- Financial complications: With the current standing policy of $100 at-a-time allotment for groups, the Finance Working Group needs a more clear definition and creation process for groups. If just anyone can become a group, then anyone can begin asking for money out of our general fund with no accountability.
As you can see, the situation is complex. The spokes council was supposed to help clarify which groups were Operations Groups, Movement Groups, and Caucuses, but that process has not been moving forward as quickly as many of us had hoped. We in Tech are taking some immediate action and seeking some more long-term solutions to be brought before the GA in collaboration with the Communications Cluster (Tech Ops, Media, Outreach, PR, and Info/ComHub) .
Immediate: We have come to consensus as a group that we are past the point of being able to support new groups until our body as a whole reaches consensus on a good way to manage and ratify groups. We have thus put group creation on hold pending further action by the GA and Spokes council. This is a policy that has been partially in place for weeks now, but that was not clear to all group-creators on the site, so some new groups have continued to slip though. As of today, those exception will no longer occur.
To assist with navigation of the current set of groups, Tech Ops is also considering adding categories to the Group Directory Page based on some existing models and definitions:
- Affinity / Ally
We are not a decision-making or policy-making body and would like to step back from any implication of being gate-keepers to tech resources in any way. We are therefore not in a position to autonomously determine the requirements to become a group, and we do not want to continue to add to the problems by adding unlimited groups with no-questions-asked. We need the GA to step in and fix this broken system. To this end, we are pursing the following more long-term solutions:
Long-Term: The Communication Cluster is working on coming to consensus on a proposal that will attempt to clarify the group creation and upkeep process. Please read and edit the proposal here: notes.occupy.net/p/group_update_proposal (Remember, you can create your own note pad at notes.occupy.net)
This proposal will be brought to GA on Saturday. Public comment on this pre-draft version ends on Thursday at 1pm so we have time to compile them into a proposal which can go to the facilitation team to be posted online before the 24-hour Future Proposal window. If you would like to participate in the Communication Cluster meeting please join us at 2pm Thursday at 60 Wall St.
We hope that, if passed by GA, this proposal will help Tech Ops manage the website better by allowing us to remove defunct groups and giving new groups clear instructions on how to become a group on this web site.
Let us know how you feel about all this in the comments. Thank you.