Version 11 (modified by Daniel Kahn Gillmor, 12 years ago) (diff)

formatting changes, adding outline

About May First/People Link

Here are some questions people ask about our organization. We want you to add any questions you might have and we'll try to answer them. Note that we may wipe questions that are repetitive or inappropriate.

What is MF/PL?

May First/People Link is a membership organization of progressive people and groups who use the Internet. We have joined together to pool our resources to assure ourselves quality equipment; mutual support; Internet tools that meet our needs as activists; and secure, reliable communications.

As an organization, we believe that the Internet is critically important to the future of humanity and therefore must be a priority for the progressive movement in this country. For that reason, we are involved in many activities and campaigns to improve access to the Internet, enhance its function as a tool for mass communication and organizing, develop new technologies and uses for it, and help progressive movements use it effectively to communicate with each other and with the world.

Are you a fairly new organization?

No. We are a merger of two organizations: May First Technology Collective and People Link. People Link was founded in 1995, about a year after the development of the World Wide Web and that makes us one of the oldest Internet organizations in the world and probably the oldest progressive organization of our type in this country.

So you're an Internet Provider?

No. The resources we share are those a commercial provider will sell to you but we're not a provider: in fact, just the opposite. We are a resource sharing organization.

A commercial provider is most interested in one thing: your money. And that provider will do what's necessary to get it but, in order to survive, must limit it to that -- only that which is necessary. Maximum profit for minimum service. The relationship is, even in the most respectful and productive forms, money-driven.

May First/People Link is built on the idea that, to build the society we all need, all our movement's organizations must be able to function well on the Internet. This means assuring maximum capability and we think the best way to do that is through sharing and collaboration.

Isn't that just rhetoric?

It's very practical.

Nothing is sold in our organization. Members pay dues and they take from the pooled resources anything they need and want: as many websites, email and mail lists they need. Never a charge for any of that.

Technical support is provided by members through on-line system designed to encourage the involvement of any member in posting issues, questions and problems and in answering those issues, questions and problems. In fact, all policy and strategy decisions are openly discussed on our public tracking system.

Members control their own membership (hosting, email, etc.) through our members control panel, designed to allow every member to collaborate in the over-all experience of the organization. Anything a staff member can do for you at a commercial provider, you can do for yourself in MF/PL.

Even a section like this one -- About Us -- is based on members' contributions.

But what about quality?

Not only is there no contradiction between quality and a collaborative perspective, we believe that they go hand in hand and that the quality of what we have here rivals and even surpasses commercial providers'. For instance, our technical support is one of the things we are best known for and most respected for.

Think about it. When you have a technical problem, you aren't speaking to the first person who answers the phone anxious to demonstrate that the problem isn't the provider's problem. Since your problem is on the public system it is seen by many people and several will often answer; this means that the help you get is broader and deeper than you would in a commercial environtment.

The bottom line is this.

And member-driven work is the centerpiece of MFPL's work in coalitions and campaigns and events of all kinds. From our work as leaders of the technology workgroup (37 strong) at the United States Social Forum to our internet rights workshop presented at events like the Grass Roots Media Conference, to our Statement of Internet Rights, to coalitions like the one we're building to develop ways to work on political technology hemisphere-wide.

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