Welcome to Crabgrass


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last updated 26/Aug/14

Crabgrass Web Application

Crabgrass is a software libre web application designed for social networking, group collaboration and network organizing. Our goal is to create communication tools that are tailored specifically to meet the needs of bottom up grassroots organizing. By social networking, we mean the ability of users to get to know one another through their online contributions and presence. By group collaboration, we mean the ability of small groups to get things done, such as share files, track tasks and projects, make decisions and build repositories of shared knowledge. By network organizing, we mean the ability of multiple groups to work together on projects in a democratic manner.

Current Status

Crabgrass currently consists of a solid suite of group collaboration tools, such as private wikis, task lists, file repository, and decision making tools. We are currently working on better social networking tools, blogs, and event calendars, as well as better support for collaboration and decision making among independent groups.

As Free Software, anyone is welcome to check out the code (git clone git@0xacab.org:riseuplabs/crabgrass.git) and follow the documentation, run their own site with it, and contribute improvements and changes to the source code.

Crabgrass is written in Ruby using the Ruby on Rails framework.

Why Crabgrass?

While social movements have grown more adept at using the web to communicate publicly, we are still mostly using inadequate tools to communicate amongst ourselves. Most groups rely heavily on email, lists, and wikis— but these tools are not suited for the complexity of relationships that activist organizations face in the real world.

There are many existing social networking websites out there. However, these offerings are geared toward the needs of advertisers or informal social groups. There are also many existing web services for group collaboration. These sites are typically designed for small businesses and do not match the needs of movement organizations.

Most importantly, Crabgrass is software libre. As such, it can be provided as a service by radical tech collectives such as riseup.net.

What Crabgrass Does

Crabgrass enables social change organizations to get things done, get the word out, collaborate and network.

All of these elements are implemented from a social networking perspective. Events, for example, allow one to RSVP, see who is coming or watching, and send to your contact’s calendar.


Types of content:

Model organizational structure:

In the near future, we also hope to add:

Who is creating crabgrass?

What does the name mean?


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last updated 21/Jun/07

Democratic decision-making: Our primary focus is to facilitate directly democratic decision making for groups and networks. We will create easy to use tools for different forms of democratic decision-making, including multiple mechanisms for concensus process, majoritarian voting, and proportional democracy.

Social networking: Although our focus is different, we will include many of the tools people use to connect in traditional social networking. This includes tagging, personal profiles, contacts, photo galleries, wiki-like notes, and simple blogging.

Group relationships: In social networking, the focus is on the individual and their relationship to other individuals. In organizing networks, the questions are very different. The application will make it clear how groups are related to one another and what human roles and responsibilities people have within a group. Rather than social networking, you could call it social organizing.

Security and privacy: Unfortunately, it still requires a high degree of tech savvy in order to communicate securely. By keeping communication enclosed on a single, high-security server and by making it clear who the authorized audience is for a particular message, we can achieve a very high degree of privacy and ease of use.

Messaging: Dialog is the lifeblood of democratic organizations, but many people find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of messages they receive. Our goal is to facilitate more discussion yet allow people to easily track and find just the content they are interested in.

Ease of use: Even the coolest features in the world are totally useless if people don’t use them. The sites that people actually use tend to be clean, simple, and attractive. At each step, our first priority must be usability.

Back to Page Index

Getting Started



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last updated 19/Aug/07

Breadcrumbs are the series of links below the banner. They show a path to the page that your on.

My Account

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last updated 02/Mar/12

My Profile

My Profile Tab

You can upload a photo
Add limited personal information
Change your password

Deleting Your Account

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last updated 04/May/10

Currently there is way to delete your account. However, this is planned for a future release. For more information, see this ticket.

My Dashboard

Dashboard Tab

The Dashboard is a preview into happenings in your groups. Here you can see a snapshot of all recent activity across your groups. The Dashboard is where you land when you first log in. To get back to it you click the Me link in the upper left hand side.

Inbox Tab

In your inbox you will find
- Your personal messages
- Pages that you create
- Pages that you specifically added to your inbox
- Pages that are starred
- Pages that you have been “notified” of by someone in one of your groups.

Inbox Filters

Tasks Tab

Clicking on the task tab will show you a list of all your pending tasks.
You can sort this view by


Page Types

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last updated 28/Jan/09

Asset Tool

You can upload assets (.doc, .png, .pdf, etc) to share with people in your groups.
There is currently a 3MB size limit per asset.

Decision Making Tools

Making decisions in an inclusive and transparent way can be an organization’s greatest challenge. Future Crabgrass development will focus on this problem. Currently we have one tool to aid decision-making.

Straw Poll: A series of options, where each option can be rated individually. The results are color coded. There is no winner, but you can visually see which options have garnered the most positive and least negative responses. Features include:

The Ballot: A ranked voting tool. It lets you create a series of possibilities and then people rank them in order or preference. It then finds the winnner(s) using Condorcet method with Cloneproof Schwartz Sequential Dropping—it is like instant running voting that doesn’t suck.


This is a simple, highly editable discussion board.


An event consists of a title, a location, a starts at time and date, an ends at time and date, a description of the event, and if the event repeats or not.

Private Messaging

Users can send private messages directly to other users.

Task List

A list of todo items. Features include:


A collaborative writing space. Features include:

more about wikis

Page Sidebar

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Here you can control your personal interaction with the page by starring it or marking it as pending. You can send the page to other users, destroy it, or remove it from your inbox view. The later only removes the page from your inbox view, it does Not destroy the page
By clicking the icon (not the user or group) you can grant or remove access to a page. You can also see who has participated (read and or contributed) in the page.
This one is fairly obvious. Contributing entails adding to the page. Reading the page does not list you as a contributor.
Here you modify, remove or add tags. Tags are a way to categorize pages based on user defined categories. You will be able to browse and search for pages based on their tags.

Groups, Committees, and Networks


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Homepage Layout

Group Settings

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If there’s no coordinating council in a group, everyone in it has admin permissions. They can

If there’s a coordinating council, only its members have these admin permissions.



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Group Permissions

The default is that everyone in a group has admin permissions. They can

Committee Permissions*

Page Permissions Coordinator Participant Viewer
Watch For Updates + + +
Add Star + + +
Share Wiki + + -
Public + - -
Delete Wiki + - -
Move Wiki + - -
Wiki Details – view + + +
Wiki Details – change + - -
Tags edit + + -
Attachments edit + + -
Add Comment + + +


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last updated 16/Oct/14

Committees are subgroups.

Members of a committee can be

Access (see chart below)

Coordinating council
Coordinating council is a unique special committee. When a group has coordinating council, then only a member of that council may administer the group. Otherwise, any member of the group may do so.



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In Development

things are changing very quickly. heres a loose list of whats being developed right now

Future Features

The long term goal is to provide the technical tools to facilitate active, confederal, and directly democratic social change networks. This phase will include


collaborative wiki
last updated 13/Mar/11

Unfortunately, it still requires a high degree of tech savvy in order to communicate securely. By keeping communication enclosed on a single, high-security server and by making it clear who the authorized audience is for a particular message, we can achieve a very high degree of privacy and ease of use.

The first install of crabgrass, hosted at we.riseup.net, is configured to only allow https connections and all data is stored on an encrypted harddrive.
In case of a server seizure the data on the harddrive would not be accessible because the keys are not stored on the server.

While running the server has access to the data. That’s how it can serve the data to you after all. If the server would get compromised while running the attacker could read out the data.

Another option is share.riseup.net – it encrypts the data on the fly in your browser before it is uploaded. The url for the data includes the key. So everyone who has the url can download the data. But the server never get’s to know the key as it’s in the part of the url that does not get send to the server (after the #).
Even for share.riseup.net – if the server is compromised it could send a malicious javascript alongside the shared document to get it or the key from the browser that is decrypting it. But – a malicious server could not read documents that are not accessed anymore.

All in all the web is still a bad environment for crypto. If you want to protect yourself from malicious servers better encrypt the data on your computer. (Hard drive encryption for yourself, pgp for sharing data).