The rôle of Crabgrass in TVCA

Concerns have been expressed over how Crabgrass will interact with existing communication, particularly with the e-mail list and physical meetings.

Noam expressed some concerns last night (and in an e-mail today), and I don’t entirely agree with the implicit point that he’s making (which seems to be that Crabgrass could be exclusive, so we shouldn’t use it for anything important).

At last night’s meeting we decided to move some of the agenda setting for TVCA meetings to the online > Crabgrass group.

There was no pre-meeting agenda discussion before, so we’re not replacing anything.

We have a potential shift in the dynamics of TVCA, as to where things are discussed and where
decisions are made – or perhaps are already in the middle of such a shift.

I think again, we’re not replacing or relocating any (or maybe much?) discussion. Questions such as “our politics” and so on are simply not being discussed at meetings, despite some enthusiasm for the idea in principle. In addition, projects such as fundraising, outreach and even actions are not being discussed by the whole group between meetings, in general (there are several outreach plans and at least one fundraising plan, but nothing has been said on the e-mail list). The things to cover in crabgrass training page details a set of useful scenarios for Crabgrass:

  • When you want an answer to something that isn’t too major – coinflipping situations
  • When you have photos from an action you want everyone to be able to see
  • When you want a long involved discussion about politics
  • Collabaritive document editing (wiki stylee)

Clearly, none of these are things are particularly well-suited to e-mail or meetings, so I really stand by the fact that Crabgrass is additive rather than replacive.

Between email, crabgrass and meetings, it is important to think how we are most inclusive, and what
potential exclusions are there.

A lot of people can’t make meetings in East Oxford, meetings in the evening or meetings on a Monday. We’ve accepted the exclusivity of having Monday evening meetings in East Oxford, however. I can’t receive e-mail from the list (due to a problem with my email host), and whilst you’re on Gmail and I have my own solution to the high volume of traffic on the list, many people are using a webmail system to receive list emails, and having any kind of long conversation on e-mail therefore excludes those people from being properly involved. I accept that there are people who don’t like web forums, or don’t like reading a lot of text online, but there are also people that dislike e-mail, particularly for group discussion, and I think we should look at the potential benefits to the group as well.

What concerned me most yesterday was that we made a decision without having this discussion first. It
was presumed by most that a shift to Crabgrass was natural and it would make everything better.

As stated above, we haven’t “shifted” anything, and, whilst I would personally like to see a lot more of our discussion happen through this medium, there was nothing of that sort in yesterday’s proposal.

I do believe that there is a place for questioning of our processes, but I don’t see that putting extra information on a website to which anyone can sign up is the most exclusive aspect.


In my typical way, I agree with Noam and Carl. Making decisions at meetings is exclusive of people that can’t make it to the meetings, email lists are exclusive to people that cannot receive email or receive too many, and Crabgrass is exclusive to people that don’t want to get involved in yet another wiki. So, in my mind, there are no ideal solutions.

The thing I would like to question is how many people want to get involved in this discussion in length at meetings (which is our current default)? Is there a case to be made for those that want to get into this type of thing to form a process working group that goes away, bashes out lots of ideas, and comes back to the whole group with a summary of their discussion and make proposals on how to move forward that the whole group then adopts in a consensus stylee? My fear is that, without this type of working group format, we might spend all our time talking about how we make decisions (which is important, but maybe a relatively few people have the energy to put lots of time into), and very little time talking about taking action on climate change (which is kinda urgent, and hopefully all TVCAer’s have energy for).


I think a working group in general is a wonderful idea, but I think Noam’s point is that he feels we’ve already had a small group of people make a decision that affects everyone, and without wishing to speak for him I’m not sure that working groups would address those concerns.

Ironically, this is the sort of discussion that I think would suit Crabgrass perfectly, but in lieu of that I definitely think we should speak about it at a meeting.


It strikes me that Noam’s key objection is that he doesn’t want to have to join another “forum”. And that doing so is a barrier to entry and therefore exclusive. He seems to want to both be involved in the discussions but not to join Crabgrass. I think the only way to resolve that is to be clear that Crabgrass only gets used for the things that its useful for (i.e. those from Carl’s post). But I’m kinda loathe to propose that because there’s bound to be other things that we could use it for that we haven’t thought of yet.

Perhaps we could make a what to use for what sort of a list. I’ll wikify it if peeps fink its useful.

What to use for what

  • Decision-making: Weekly meeting, or working group reporting to meeting
  • Discussions that affect group: Weekly meeting, then on to crabgrass (Or crabgrass then weekly meeting)
  • Chat, tangential discussions: Crabgrass (weekly meeting if they become something that could affect the group)
  • Brainstorming: Crabgrass or weekly meetings or both
  • Minutes: Email
  • Documents – editing, sharing photos, media contacts, etc: Crabgrass
  • Agenda: Crabgrass, extra points can be added at meeting
  • Urgent announcements (needs action in under 2 hours): Email
  • Important announcements (people really need to see this): Email, weekly meeting AND Crabgrass
  • Other announcements: Crabgrass, then weekly meeting

(I’ve probably missed loads!)


Hey – so this discussion should probably happen as much as possible OFF crabgrass, since the people who have the biggest problems with crabgrass are not going to be on here…

Could we relocate some of this discussion to the email list? I know people don’t like getting emails on the list, but maybe if we could just copy all of this discussion so people know that discussion is going on and can get involved in it if they want to.


also my input :

looking at who contributes to crabgrass at the moment, it is overwhelmingly a very few people, and those very few people are overwhelmingly male. So while I totally see how crabgrass has the potential to be an amazing tool, I think it’s really really important to be as vigilant as in a meeting to make sure that people feel included and able to “speak” (read: use computers). And it’s easy to be less vigilant when you can’t see people.


This discussion will (I imagine) be in the “highlights” email going out in Friday; if anyone wants it to go out sooner than that then just post the URL ( to the list — I would, but I can’t post to the list (or receieve anything from it).


In general:
Just to be clear – I don’t think anybody’s suggested using Crabgrass for making decisions. Rather, it’s being suggested that it be used for discussion.

In response to kitty’s first comment …
We don’t know how many people object to Crabgrass. Perhaps we should try and find out, and perhaps find out why they object (e.g. in principle, security concerns, don’t know how to use it). I think the problem with putting this discussion on email is that it would be a very long email (not to say it shouldn’t be done).

In response to kitty’s second comment …
A good point. Perhaps part of the solution is above (i.e. if women aren’t using Crabgrass, what are the barriers to them doing so). But also makes me think of other diversity issues in TVCA. I don’t have definite answers, but as a white, middle-class, university educated, man, I think we should keep asking the questions.