There’s a lot of different categories/types of communication I could think of adding beyond the few that already exist in the list below (text chat, voice chat, video chat, forums, listserv, etc.), but I don’t want to make things too spread out while we’re still getting things started (while there isn’t much content yet). I’m definitely open to suggestions as we go further, in particular about how we want to use these forums in relation to the Wiki (the actual wiki at infinite.love/wiki, not the wiki pages you can create here on this forum). I am also keen on using all Free / Libre / Open Source Software (FLOSS) since that is the direction the world should be heading in, but undoubtedly we’ll need to use some of the existing private products if we want to have reach in our communications beyond just between ourselves.
In terms of software we can use for now, here’s my thinking:
Wiki: Contains our most up-to-date knowledge and plans in a format people are familiar with
I originally wanted a Wiki because they are a way to collaboratively edit and share information that most internet users are familiar with. I don’t want the philosophy just to be my philosophy, I want it to be our shared philosophy, so even though I may write the initial entries for a lot of pages while we’re growing, if someone ever sees a way to improve my reasoning I’m all for it! None of my beliefs are cherished that they’re beyond reproach, especially in the face of superior reasoning and evidence.
However… While wiki’s are great for collaboration in some ways, I find that Talk pages aren’t the most ideal place to discuss things — they quickly get messy and disorganized over time. They are also not really the best place for people to put long amounts of text, e.g. if someone wants to make a persuasive argument for one thing or another, we don’t want the Talk page to fill up with multi-page essays. So… that’s where I believe there’s room for a:
Forum: A way to discuss ideas and our plans (the result of which will be reflected on the wiki)
A forum is great because topics are automatically sorted by activity, plus users can pin topics they are interested in, receive notifications about them, search through topics, along with all the other usual forum benefits. So I think the forum should be used primarily for discussions about wiki content, but should we then say that nothing at all should go on wiki Talk pages? Either we can make it so there is some room for certain kinds of discussions on the Talk pages (perhaps common questions or concerns people have on particular topics?), or we can just put a link to the appropriate forum on each talk page to point people to the place to raise discussions. I’m open to ideas here. In fact, if the wiki aspect of Discourse (the software used for this forum) is sufficient to serve as the only wiki we need, then that might be a solution too (also nice because then people don’t need to create 2 separate accounts, although I think for obvious reasons wiki editing will generally be reserved to specific members and not anyone on the internet).
Trello: A project management tool to help track individuals tasks and project goals
Even with a Wiki and a Forum, we lack a project management tool. Trello is simple and easy for most people to understand, though there’s definitely some blurry area with regard to how we use Trello vs. the forums. I did create a Jira account for us to keep in our back pocket but it may be more than we need for now and I don’t want to overload people with complexity from the get-go. I have used both and while I think Jira is a bit bloated, overall it offers more benefits than downsides compared to Trello, with one exception: it’s a lot harder to get people to use it. And that’s one of the most important needs of a project management tool — it’s got to be used to be effective. I did wish it had a list view int he free plan however…
We also have a Discord server, but for now I aim to use that mostly for random chit-chat or if we need to use video or voice chat. It’s just not really an ideal place to organize and stay on top of information, especially once servers get past a certain size and there’s more content posted than one can reasonably read in a day. Should we switch to Revolt (privacy-first, open-source Discord)? New and thus less well known or used, but again probably the direction we should be heading in.
The one thing I think we’re missing is a way for people to edit the same document at the same time. Wikipedia is not really good for for simultaneous editing… Something like Google docs would be great, but it would still need to be combined with a Wiki or some other website to link to each document since there are usability limitations on small devices. Not sure what’s best, but I’m open to suggestions.
- Asana — a classic collaboration tool it seems everyone uses (from my perspective here in Silicon Valley tech), but only 15 members allowed on free trial. Also, it does not appear possible to make projects completely public-facing.
- Freedcamp and Wrike (not currently testing) are the only big-name ones (besides Trello) I’ve found whose free plans allow for unlimited members. However the software doesn’t seem quite as mature as Asana or Trello. I have no problem with paying for software that is valuable to our efforts but many of these tools become quite expensive as they are usually charged per-user. It seems we can minimize our costs and get most of the features we need using existing free tools.
- Basecamp is initially more expensive but with its flatrate pricing it becomes much cheaper when membership increases. However, it only offers a 10% discount to nonprofits, compared to a 50 and 75% discount offered by Asana and Atlassian, respectively. Basecamp does have overall a design that orients people to the important information better than Trello, which feels a bit all over the place. I don’t like however that there is no way to add a task without specifying any kind of status or priority level, although this can be somewhat resolved by creating different To-do lists (say, one as ‘Current’ or ‘High Priority’ tasks, and another as ‘Future’ or ‘Low Priority’ tasks).
@Alexio from the TROM project recommended WikiSuite which may be worth taking a look at as well, but requires manual installation and setup.
Features I’m looking for:
- Ease of use
- User roles/permissions
- Public-facing preferred
- ‘List view’ of tasks, plus subtasks; Kanban nice but optional
- Scalable & actively developed
- Reasonable cost
Trello and Asana are all relatively easy to use. Freedcamp seems also pretty straightforward, but not quite as polished. They all seem to have at least a web and mobile apps. Asana and Trello also have a desktop app too. Basecamp uses a slightly different design from the others, but is still relatively easy to get used to.
- In Trello, without the paid plan any member added to the group has full authority to delete anything, even entire boards… This dramatically raises the trust level required before we can add members. Asana seems to have the same drawback. This can be worked around to some extent by creating multiple workspaces, rather than multiple ‘boards’ (Trello) or ‘Projects’ (Asana) under the a single workspace. This will lead to some unnecessary fragmentation of the project content, however.
- Freedcamp allows for various permissions as part of the free package. Basecamps permissions don’t allow for people to delete anything (only put in the trash) that isn’t there, so no issue with them.
Trello can be public-facing, while Asana, Freedcamp, and Basecamp cannot.
List views are easiest for most people to use. Kanban works but gets messy when there are multiple boards and many cards.
- Asana: list, kanban, and subtasks
- Trello: kanban (plus checklists)
- Freedcamp: list, kanban
- Basecamp: list, subtasks
Asana, Trello, and Freedcamp have list view, kanban view, and subtasks (although Trello’s subtasks are just checklists). Basecamp has the same except no real kanban board (‘cards’ is a close approximation though).
All 4 are large and fairly robust software projects, but Trello and Asana definitely have the biggest companies behind them, followed by Basecamp and then Freedcamp.
The per-user cost of these tools, with the exception of Basecamp, makes them quite expensive as teams grow.
- Trello and Atlassian have a base cost of $10/user/month, both with enterprise options as well. Trello has a $5/month option that is ignored because it doesn’t grant the list view.
- Freedcamp is $7.50/user/month of the price.
- Basecamp is a flat $99/month rate.
- Trello (and most Atlassian products) are 75% off for non-profits.
- Asana is 50% off for non-profits.
- Freedcamp is free with less than 30 monthly users, though it’s not clear we’d be eligible since the one of the eligibility criteria is “Is not an organization that attempts to influence public opinion”. This is a strange requirement, as most non-profit organizations want to do this on some level (at the very least, they all want to convince you that donating to their cause is worthwhile).
- Basecamp offers a 10% discount for non-profits.