wiki:projects/membership-meeting/2013/mesas/infrastructure

Version 10 (modified by Jamie McClelland, 7 years ago) (diff)

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Infrastructure, Resources and Security in Communications

The Infrastructure, Resources and Security in Communications mesa will address the stability and resilience of our infrastructure and systems. In addition to our technology infrastructure, this mesa also must address paid vs volunteer staffing, office and other recurring expenses, as well as securing our internal and external communications.

Please access the Riseup pad to participate in live note taking.

Review proposals made to the infrastructure group.

Notes from preliminary phone call

These are copied from the Riseup Pad used to take live notes.

In attendance: Shannon (Altroots), Ross(Glocal), Jamie(Progressivetech), Ken(Advancing Justice LA & NLG-LA), Alfredo(MF/PL), Hilary(MF/PL), Analia(APC), Rasha (Project South), Steven (Cyberunions), Suren (Mass Global Action), Walda (League of Revolutionaries for a New America), Daniel (NY/MFPL), Mallory (MFPL LC), Enrique (MX - MFPL), Juan Gerardo (MX-MFPL), Steve Revilak (Mass Pirates), Olinka (Mexico)

Jamie: Reminder of the membership process. First time to use 3 mesas, topics of conversation for the membership meeting. This is the Infrastructure mesa, the second is Membership/Movement (inreach/outreach), the third is on Democracy and structure of organization. October 19th, Saturday, all day meeting for all three mesas to make final proposals for what the org should do with their topic area.

Two proposals:

Expansion of tech working group - https://mayfirst.org/node/405 Creation of outreach position as paid position - https://mayfirst.org/node/408

Alfredo: proposal identifies a challenge that could become a problem - how we address tech needs and how we do these projects? We've done well, we are a tech org when all's said and done, but the definition of what a tech org is has expanded over the years, in some ways because of our efforts. The US Social Forum is planning to have ...(dropped signal -rla). What do we need to do to address it? Political leadership has not been involved with tech workers as it should be, techies working directly on infrastructure/response/new software, those techies do not have organizers who are non-techies. They do interact with movt, but org doesn't facilitate interaction. Proposal is to reorganize our tech group to include non-techies, with intention to change the way stuff is being discussed... Wordpress work as Rasha's been doing...social networking and how we'll approach it, our current offering is pretty slow by comparison, how do we respond to the private/corporate capabilities put out there? If we are going to make a major effort to bring on more organizations, we'll have to address that a lot of orgs of color in this country do not view tech as we do, for them, it's about Facebook, Twitter, etc. The new revelations about NSA affirms what we've saying, at a few of the large workshops there is a lot of people of color representation, but we're going to have to be intentional, and about how our software and offerings relate to orgs of color.

Jamie: clarifications about problem or proposed remedy?

Rasha: acknowledges and appreciates that the proprosal reflects requests from southern movement organizing process, esp. for distance collabration software and service alternatives. Thanks!

(Juan Gerardo checks for interpretation needs)

Ken: Could not agree more with the problem as it's identified. This could serve to differentiate the difference between mf/pl and other types of providers. If I had a concern, it would be the sustainability aspect of it. Since this is both a self-recruitment piece and a "value-add" for members it could actually give back to the sustainability component.

Jamie: thanks, Ken. Any other reactions, or to the problems identified?

Daniel: Totally agree with what was just said.

Jamie: Alfredo has been asking if I'll disagree with the problem, and no, I don't disagree with the problem, but aspects of it aren't just specific to tech working group - how do we involve the membership in all decisions (outreach, programmatic), probably this topic is better suited to the democracy mesa, to discuss further in a few weeks, but the tech aspect is particular in this project. How can we better understand the divergence between what tech working group is doing from what the memberhip wants, understand what difference race makes for tech needs identified.

Alfredo: can Jamie clarify what MFPL offers, that might clarify.

(Hilary has to leave the meeting)

Jamie: MFPL operates 15-20 physical servers, located in 2 corporate hosting facilities in NYC. Of these, we operate 150 virtual servers, which means we maintain that many. Most members interact through primary hosting server, 35-40 of those for email/website hosting. IN addition, we have a handful of 4-5 servers in other hosting facilities or member home which are experimental/backup. Support has US core formed after USSF, focused primarily in NYC area, meet 1/mo for 12 hour work session, in addition MX City getting up to monthly meetings and is being integrated into the Support Team. US Support Team is almost entirely white men, and make most of the decisions, and that is the racial/gender aspect that Alfredo is getting at.

Ross: I don't have much to add on infrastructure, maybe it doesn't full capture the amount of labor it takes to maintain the infrastructure. It's not fully white men; we've made some strides at least on gender, but yes.

Enrique: Consider geographical location of servers. In the US, in the global North. For an org that wants to grow steadily, we need to develop a new strategy.

Alfredo: Diversity context. We're pushing the issue of diversity much harder than in any time in history. Party because of struggle development in the US. Areas of struggle: what's called immigration/global majority migration, voting rights/democratic structure. Campaigns from USSF, Personal Survival, Dream Defenders, Project South's work; much of this work is led by people of color and takes place in communities of color. Strategically, if we're going to stay in touch with movt, we have to build membership inside those communities and movts, same goes for the rest of the hemisphere, particularly with the sharpening struggle in MX. Emanates from politics of situation, not to efficacy, but is not just a desire, but also strategic for the movt in general.

Jamie: can we get any feedback or reaction to what alfredo's said?

Rasha: I don't have most awesome signal, but I'll try to be clear. Over last year & 1/2 (AMC and panel discussion there), one of themes that came up: what can feel like technology as a tool for liberation struggles and as a front of struggle itself. Technology as a front of struggle as we can read about & recent relevations about surveillance. Also technology as a tool across liberation or fronts of struggles. There can sometimes be a tension, because it may be difficult for folks coming from a liberation struggle who many not have as many tools for technology. Challenge to bridge those spaces. Tools whether there platforms, software, or social structures for sharing tool. That bridging phase is needed. Proposal seems like one way to address that.

Jamie. I want to return this point.

(missed a little here) - some un-interpreted Spanish conversation (maybe someone bilingual can add notes here?) -- Apparently, Olink(c)a (sp?) joined the meeting and does not need interpretation.

Jamie explains how to provide interpretation.

Olinca: I'm here.

Jamie: Enrique, will it be possible for the person who arrived who needs interpretation to have their own connection to the phone call?

Jamie: OK, I think we're going to proceed. Thanks for your patience. This is our first phone mesa, and we're working out the interpretation. I'd like to spend 15 minutes discussing this proposal, then discuss 2 more proposals. I want to heighted what Rasha said. I do think there is a tension the political philosophy that we've made, and to the use of tools that are proprieary, run by corporations, and not tools of liberation. I think that's a real point of tension. Need to think of how to think of it and frame it. I wonder if anyone has a comment on what Rasha said, or my reformulation of it.

Ross(?): I personally think there's not much more tension between people of color and free software; between movements in general and the struggle for free and open source protocols. Movements that are white and relatively wealthy tend to use worse practices, like i-devices.

Ken: I think this is a long term issue to reflect upon. The root of the issue is identifying location of our production servers. Maybe there is a long-term plan to reassess what our options are. One of the luxuries of empire is that we have at reasonable prices. Are there long term sustainable solutions. Co-lo in global south, or something that members are interested in. Actionable concern rather than a philosophical concern. Glad this was raised. Think it's a long-term discussion.

Alfredo: I want to pick up something ken said, which is what we take up when we take it up. Providing viable alternatives to facebook and twitter is long term project. Putting time and resources into development is something we should be doing. Video and videoconferencing are on the table right now. We're going to US social Forum right now. FOSS version of videoconference software is not stable right now. Tested at left forum, there are some problems with it. Traditionally, ross, jamie, go into a room and handle it. I don't think we should do this. Don't think ross should spend 3 nights in sleepless isolation. We need to be meeting now about how we're going to address this. Really important to get a solid teleconfrerencing system. If we do that, we'll have advanced the struggle is us, and mexico. Maybe we need to prioritize which of the stuff to take up now, and to schedule how we deal with these different issues.

Maritsa: Security issues, restoration of movement going forward. Getting alternatives would be a longer term project. What would be a timeline? It's getting to a point where we won't be able to use them as we use them now.

Enrique: help with interpretation, please.

Jamie: Ross, do you have comment on timeline for video conferencing?

Ross: I think Marita was referring to broader issues, including social networking. One thing we have to account for that perhaps we're not accounting for, is notion of development. MFPL support team is not developing this software, that's happening elsewhere. In part, our decisions to make are tools to use based on other ppls development. Those are actually kind of difficult to make. WE had a half hour conversation, we decided to implement a tool: friends.mayfirst.org, slow, it does function but it may not be the best tool out there. A lot's going on. We don't really have the framework to make those decisions, to try, find limitations, now people use it, how do we back out of it? Our framework is not ideal, we're limited in our physical infrastructure, to have physical/financial resources that Facebook has. In some sense, this may be a question of HOW we implement over What we implement. If the membership had a sense of how they could use these networking tools to interact with each other, this may be more useful than going up against Facebook. Video conferencing is in the realm of other ppls development - it works, in some context, limited, but that will change 6 mos down the road, but we as the support team can't change that. We can work with the development team, but we're waiting for other people's work to come to fruition. We have a short window to have a very workable solution for video conferencing - 6mos to a year down the road we'll be better off than we are now.

Jamie: I propose we discuss the solutions proposed and take an additional 10 min. This conversation is not intended to come to agreement, so that we can come up with concrete proposals for the membership meeting on Oct 19th. Two proposals are:

Construct tech working group w/ 1/3 non-techs Construct outward looking tech like wordpress, video conferencing, social networking Focus teams work on the USSF.

Daniel: Creating expanded support team is interesting. Wondering - so much work to be done- how would this work in practice? I'm not sure this is actually what's needed. I don't know that we need folks on calls who don't know what the tech is. We need folks who can be involved with what membership/movement needs, conversations about usability, last thing we want to do is waste time to create tools because they don't approach the usability of commercially available tools. I'm not sure that the solution is creating integrated supported team.

Ken: echo with nuances what was just said. Would be nice if this position/addition were focused on member-driven, needs driven projects. Maybe they don't want social network, they want maybe training/documentation, or secure communications tools/practices. Salient things would be: it would be tragic to invest resources in identifying tech that won't get used. To modify/consider within the proposal that this team would have that within their mandates.

Maritsa: I don't know that should be non techs, but maybe there need to be other meetings. I think it would be beneficial, there is a different conversation that needs to happen about security. People will use the easy platforms until we can't use them and then we'll be left with no way to communicate without pidgeons. We're not at that stage yet, but it would be useful for the movement to understand that tech is political.

Jamie: Sounded like JG had something to say. Speaking as participant, there's a lot of value for membership to make decisions about 2-3 priorities for Support Team to make available, with understanding that we prioritize maintaining existing structures first. We haven't had systematic member involvement. I don't know that a non technical membership is the right approach, perhaps we need a task force. The 2 non tech workers will have a lot of work, testing, collaboration, what works, what doesn't work.

Juan Gerardo: problem has been clearly identified, the solutions we are working on. I think we are elaborating a strategic medium and long term plan on tech, which would include all the items today, including the intercultural aspects, safe communications, how membership would be involved, both paid and voluntary work, I propose we think about medium, short term, and strategic.

Rasha: I think I often bridge the space between tech and non-tech. I may be categorized as very technical or non-technical. I'd like to question about whether that term is really meaningful. I think people involved in these conversations will have a lot to say about technology. We can talk about different skills we want people to bring. There's a need for people to develop and maintain systems (i.e. "techies"). I may not be able to set up videoconferencing but I have experience as an organizer and as an administrator of using these tools. ... based on what we understand the actual field use is in organizations or communities. No amendments to make, just a clarification. Talk about skills in a positive way (other than non-technical).

Jamie: I think those are good points. I think our choice of words, dividing people, is a frequent mistake. I appredicate Juan Gerardo's summary.

Jamie: I'd like to direct to second proposal. Mayfirst people link is primary a volunteer org. Vast majority of effort is provided by members on a volunteer basis. During last few years we have very slowly hired volunteer members. (missed spanish speaking -- Enrique providing direction about interpretation). MFPL is run by volunteer labor of our members. We're paying members for what we feel is a priority for the organization. We hired hillary for doing bookkeeping. Ross was hired to answer support tickets on a day-to-day basis. Hired dana to pick up support tickets, so that ross could to day-to-day server maintenance. Part time is ~ $1,000/month. More stipend than salary. This proposal is for next hired person to be focused on outreach, which has never gotten the attention that other forms of work have. Outreach is critically important, if we are more strategic in our outreach effort.

Mallory: Who was current on staff -- it's the same people that you named? Is there one more?

Jamie: Hillary, Ross, Dana are all paid for by the US-based part of the organization. In addition, there is a bookkeeper hired by the Mexico-based part of the organization.

Rasha: Is one purpose of this position to do event work that Alfredo, Jamie, etc have been doing at movement events?

Jamie: Yes. For support team, I envision this person as not doing labor, but organizing volunteers to do the labor. Essentially, that's the scope of work I envision for the proposal.

Rasha: I know that MFPL staff may be migratory. As the staff expands, how much insistence is there on having this position based in New York, Mexico City, or somewhere else.

Jamie: Proposal is completely silent on that question. I'd like us to think of whether we need a candidate first. If youre a technologist, the more you can do in person the better. You can make arguments for more geographically diverse. That's a strategic decision we'd have to make if we move forward with this.

Juan Gerardo: I don't know if it the moment for this, at the beginning of the year, when we spoke of technology we also spoke of culture(?) is that a subject for this mesa? Is there any any progress in us for locating suppliers of free, non patented hardware that could be supplied to us in the medium and long term?

Jamie: I do think the question of hardware purchases is relevant to this mesa. You asked about patent-free hardware. The support team has not spent much time on this issue. Much of our hardware is Dell. Each of them contains proprietary BIOS, we have not made much progress identifying hardware that is free from this. Questions, comments, or followup?

Mallory: Related, but go back to discussion of outreach coordinator.

Jamie: one more request for feedback on outreach coordinator.

Ken: Affirmation, great proposal. Comment on geography issue. Would be great if that person could be based in MX, NY, but see if new members have pattern of geography, would be interesting to use info to look at geographic possibilities.Especially if newer member orgs are in places such as SE United States.

Jamie: Let's hear Mallory's comment and then switch to location of our hardware (North Hemisphere expanding to South).

Mallory: It wasn't exactly a response, but similar. It would be interesting, members would support, get new members, if we looked into sustainable tech. There are multiple levels where this can be done: sustainable use minimizing. 50% of energy consumption is in data centers. Reduce climate impact based on knowledge as techies, buy servers that are low-energy, move to co-location that is sustainable. Some in upstate NY, there are tradeoffs. It's related to Juan Gerardo's suggestion. Like free hardware, sustainable hardware is critical for people to be educated about, and not too much an impact on what we're already doing to make some impact.

Jamie: Could both of these be written as proposals to bring to this mesa at the membership meeting? Both important to discuss, we have opportunity to engage our members.

Mallory: Would propose that they be the same proposal: transformative tech. We make tech choices that fulfill the needs of our communities. I would prefer they be the same proposal.

Jamie: about 13 minutes left. Address Enrique's proposal, can you repeat the concerns you had about servers in Northern Hemisphere and NY and expanding to the south?

Enrique: Thank you, I've been speaking to some people in Brasil. They brought up one concern related with the Snowden leaks. Most of email is travelling mainly through us. Wondering if having servers that don't have US interconnections would be safer, and keep people in more control of their data. Also capabilities that MFPL members have at this point. Also capabilities that we could pursue outside the US. Mexico city support team believes that the more experience we have, the more opportunity we have to have dialog with specialized techies, the more chances we will have to support all of our members, not just those located in Mexico. I think there's an important strategy we need to develop these capabilities in Mexico City, and to find where there are members in the global south that want to increase these capabilities and whether we are in good shape to locate first a piece of hardware there -- small server in those countries. I know there's people in South America who are already members, and are interested in developing a MFPL instance over there. I think we should _ and have a systematic evaluation of those chances, what people are interested, what's their profile. Can they manage technical aspect and organize with social movements in their countries. There's a specific effort _ to start growing in those countries in the global south.

Jamie: comments, questions, reactions, from other people?

Rasha: At one of our first leadership committee meetings, we discussed risk management as it relates to growth and infrastructure. A proposal to diversify phyiscal location of servers sounds like a good step towards risk management.

Mallory: I want to support very strongly having infrastructure in the Global south.

Alfredo: I think it's a critically important issue, from a political perspective. What is the relationship between MFPL in US and perhaps in Mexico, with other countries. How far do we want to organize, and what form do we want to organize in. The Mexico US connection is organic. People in the US stole the land from mexico -- it's a long term relationship between these countries that we're expressing. Building relationship has been a lot of work.

(dead silence - freeswitch stopped running)

(ross restarts freeswitch. Yay ross! Double Yay!!)

(folks rejoin conference)

Rasha: we are closing the agenda. If alfredo and Jamie rejoin, we can continue. If we don't hear from them, maybe we can wait. Or Maybe enrique or Juan Gerardo could take us to closure.

Enrique: could you please repeat the last think you said.

Rasha: I was proposing, since we are close to the end of our agenda, if Alfredo is not able to join and we don't hear back from Jamie, could Enrique or Juan Gerardo help us close the third proposal and the mesa?

Enrique: while we wait for Jamie and Alfredo to come back, I think that related to main concerns we've been discussing, we sent a survey to all of our volunteers. Tries to find out their thoughts on the work they do, and their main motivation for doing the work they do. Survey was sent very closely to this mesa. We will have results in a couple of weeks perhaps. We'll send all these results to our members. I think it's a great opportunity to have a dialog between the different working teams and our membership. It will help our members and all of us to understand the internals of MFPL, since an important amount of work is done by volunteers. It will help us to figure out the political importance of it. I'll share microphone with Juan Gerardo, and I see Jamie is back in the call.

Juan Gerardo: I'd prefer Alfredo, if he's back, finish up his statement. As a first mesa, I hoped there would be many more people participating. I hope next mesa will be better. That analysis, discussion, and evaluation of these issues will help us have a members meeting with more important and strategic decisions, and with feedback that is important to the leadership committee and the support group.

Alfredo: I think there's a lot more to hosting servers in many different countries than putting them there. We need to discussion relationship between those countries, movements in those countries, and the people on the ground doing work. If we colo servers in other places, do we share those servers? Do we use these as a way of collaborating, experimenting with a shared resource approach. Our relatioship with Mexico -- a natural, generic relationship -- even so, there've been great challenges and a lot of work required to make these connections. Colocating in global south isn't automatic. We have to answer the questions that I've raised.

Jamie: On those words we should close. We had 20 people on this call. Thanks for participation in this mesa. Thanks to Rasha, Steve and Ross for taking notes, and Analia(?) for interpretation. Next mesa on movement building. Look forward to the next mesa.

Enrique(?): Goodbye from Mexico City. We were together in the Mexico city office, and there were some members online.

(Meeting ends at ~ 20:15 US/Eastern)

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