Crabgrass for Free Riders

A short how-to on figuring out using Crabgrass for Free Ride! members

Signing up

To sign up, ask someone who has crabgrass access to send you an invitation. You’ll need to give them an email address to receive the invitation (but that won’t be remembered when you make an account, unless you want it to be – see ‘notifications’ below).

Logging in

When I log in, what should I look for?

First thing – check the upper left hand corner (under your username and image). You’ll see:

  • any notifications people sent you or of pages you are ‘watching’
  • tasks you are signed up for, across multiple task lists (whether you signed up or someone signed you up – like after a meeting where you agreed to take something on)
  • messages people sent you (inbox)
  • a shortcut to your ‘dashboard’ (a place you can see the status of everything you are involved in recently).

The upper left hand corner ‘status’ area may be the most important thing about crabgrass – this is where the collaboration occurs!


How can I receive notifications about things I care about?

  • check ‘Watch For Updates’ at the upper right of any page you want to ‘watch’.
  • if you want notifications sent to your email and not just your crabgrass inbox, make sure to provide an email address – go to ‘account’ at the upper right corner. This is also where you can add a picture if you want.

What is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass is social networking software for group organizing. Crabgrass software is a project of the riseup collective in Seattle. Crabgrass software is hosted on various servers, but the Free Ride group is hosted on a server provided by, another project of the riseup collective.

How is Crabgrass structured?

Free Ride is one ‘group’. Within this group are ‘committees’ which are groups of people working on something. They may be the same as Free Ride Committees, or may not be (for instance, a committee may exist on Crabgrass but not in real life – such as a committee for volunteers, or kids’ bikes, or whatever).

Crabgrass ‘Groups’ and ‘Committees’ have members, or users.

What does Free Ride use Crabgrass for?

The majority of content on Crabgrass is in wiki form, where Free Riders have posted information on proposals, their thoughts or plans, how programs work, policies and bylaws, meeting notes, etc. Another main use is sharing a non-wiki file with each other, such as a brochure or flyer. Most of the time this would be a pdf, openoffice file, photo, spreadsheet, or text document.

What more could Free Ride use Crabgrass for?

One way in which Free Ride could use Crabgrass more effectively is to use sharing, notifications, messages, and shared task lists more effectively. See ‘sharing’ below for more information.

How do I make a wiki or file page?

Less involved explanation – wiki pages only

To make a wiki page:

  • Go to an existing wiki page, and click on the “Edit” link at the top.
  • Edit the page to add a new link to the page you want to make (put the name of the new page in [brackets]).
  • Click the “Save” button.
  • Click the new link (name of the page) you just made. This takes you to the ‘new page’ screen. See the second point below.

More involved explanation

  1. To make a wiki or file page, go to the upper left corner of the screen to the ‘me’ tab and pull down to ‘create page’. The top two choices are ‘wiki’ and ‘file’.
  2. The next page is the ‘new page’ screen. It asks for a name for the page, for its owner, and for who should be able to access it. The default is for the document you made to be yours – you are the owner. But usually, you would want it to belong to a committee, or the council. Below this, you can add committees or individuals that you want to share with. It’s best to leave this blank for now and share it later, because then you can send a notification to them.
  3. The wiki option leads to a blank wiki that you can edit and save. The file option leads to an upload dialog where you can choose the file and upload it.
  4. Sharing: When you make a document, no one can get to it! There are a couple ways to make it so someone else can see it. You can make a link to it, and you can share it.
    • Sharing is easy. In the bar on the right, click ‘share’ and add the people, group, or committee you want to share with.
      • When you share something, you can notify people that the page exists, or that you made an edit or left a comment at the bottom. You can choose to send a notice to their email as well!
      • You can also be notified when someone modifies or comments on a page. Click ‘watch for updates’ in the bar on the right. To see notifications, go to the ‘me’ tab at the upper left and pull down to inbox.
    • Creating a link is slightly more difficult:
      • Go to an existing wiki page, and click on the “Edit” link at the top.
      • Edit the page to add a new link to the page you want to make (to learn how, click on the “?” icon above the edit box). Generally, the format is to put the linking text inside brackets, with an arrow → pointing to the page you are linking to, and then a closing bracket.
      • Click the “Save” button.
  5. Once the page exists, if you forgot to assign the correct owner, in the bar on the right click ‘details’ and add the name of the owner you want to assign this to.
  6. Finally, is the page public? If so, check that box in the bar on the right. If in doubt, don’t make it public until you are sure. Ask someone else or look at older pages to see how it was handled in the past.

What about this crazy formatting?

When in the editor, there is a link to editing help. As you begin, you can ask someone to help edit your text to look like you want it to. Eventually you can get fancy, but it’s fine to start with plain text or whatever.

What else can Crabgrass do?

There are lots of other kinds of pages on Crabgrass too. In the past Free Ride has not used these as much. See if you can find a use for some of these:

  • Messaging
  • Group discussions
  • Ranked votes, approval polls, surveys
  • Shared task lists
  • Shared galleries
  • Links to multimedia

Who has crabgrass access?

Note that the title of the wiki is ‘Free Ride Council’ but at present it’s used by involved people, council or not. This has been a subject of debate in the past.

It may be effective at some point to invite people to join ‘committees’ instead and restrict crabgrass to council, or not. It probably depends on how we come to use it. One drawback of having low barriers to crabgrass access as we currently do is that anyone who has access can see all information, so any information that is in-progress/not ready to be shared, or that is for committee or council use, can be seen by more people than is at first apparent. Some may see this as a benefit.