An email to www-features

A better communications option?

Hi all,

We’d like to tell you all about a new organising tool that has appeared online, which we believe to be a good idea for the www-features collective to start using.

As most of you know, The Riseup Collective (based in Seattle with collective members world wide) provides a variety of services for activists around the world, including to a range of Indymedia collectives. They have, for some time know, been working on a new software web application called ‘Crabgrass’. It is specifically designed for group and network organizing, and tailored to the needs of the global justice movement. The long term goal of the Crabgrass project is to “provide the technical tools to facilitate active, confederal, and directly democratic social change networks”.

Its a social network created specifically for groups like us. Basically, its faster, better, more secure and more fun than what we’re currently using: an email list.

So, although it is another new thing and people generally are a bit reluctant to try new technology, we’re hoping that with this tool we can communicate more efficiently and securely. We believe this would prove to be an improvement to the way in which we’re doing things now.

To try it out, go to: (please note it is still in development)

  1. sign up here if you’re a new user
  2. login to crabgrass
  3. join the www-features group:

Hoping to hear peoples view on this,

undersigned 1
undersigned 3?

More information about Crabgrass, see:


- Why should we use 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

- What Crabgrass Does:

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

  • To get things done, Crabgrass provides tools like task list management, meeting scheduling, asset management, wiki, and decision making.
  • When it is time to get the word out, Crabgrass allows groups to create a customized home page where a group can list their event calendar, blog postings, and other public content.
  • To help collaborate, Crabgrass allows users to rate content, add keywords to content, comment on content, annotate content, alert others to content you need their feedback on, and track participation and revisions. Additionally, Crabgrass comes with many tools for democratic decision making.
  • Since no group is an island, Crabgrass allows groups to create networks with other independent groups. These networks provide a place to work together on shared content and make decisions. Alternately, you can share a single document if that is the extent of the cooperation.

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.

- Tools

  • Common to all pages: tags, attachments, access, personal flags (pending, starred, inbox, watched), global flags (starred, pending), notify people of changes to a page.
  • Personal Messages: email like messaging system
  • Discussions: discussion
  • Wikis: revisions, locking,
  • Tasklists: keep track of your jobs to do; private and within groups
  • Decision making tools: straw polls, ranked ballots
  • File management: upload files and manage files photo gallery
  • Events: (in progress)
  • Privacy: every user and group will have control over what information they choose to reveal about themselves. (not yet working)
  • Security: the first install of crabgrass, hosted at, is configured to only allow https connections and all data is stored in encrypted format.
  • Model organizational structure: Committees: working, Networks: not working yet!

- In the near future, we also hope to add:

  • Calendaring: group calendars, private calendars, public calendars, events, meeting scheduling, oh my!
  • Directory: a searchable and browseable directory of activist organizations.
  • Improved membership process: allow a group to be configured to allow for different types of (democratic) administration.
  • Job/skill share networks: offer and ask for skills within groups of housing cooperatives and social centres

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

  • Networks: associations among many groups in a federated structure, with spokescouncils and tools for network decision making.

- Who is creating crabgrass?

(note: these links won’t work until public profiles are working).

  • Mycelia Collective is a collective dedicated to the development of crabgrass.
  • Riseup Collective is an autonomous collective which provides alternative communications infrastructure. At last count, we had 15 thousand email users, 10 thousand lists, one million list subscribers, and 50 hosted servers.
  • Radical Designs is a full service web development group focused on the needs of non-profit and social change organizations.

- What does the name mean?

  • crabgrass is subversive: as the bane of suburban lawns everywhere, crabgrass is the ultimate in grassroots resistance.
  • crabgrass is diverse: there are 300 species native to tropical and warm temperate regions. crabgrass is native to north america, and an important source of food for many birds.
  • crabgrass is hard to kill: because of its networked nature, it is very difficult to pull out enough crabgrass roots to get rid of it. it is resistant to many herbicides.

thanks wietse, i think it’s really good, but i think we should clarify this proposal. we list the many resources offered by crabgrass, but can any of them replace the tools we are using now and what effect might this have on transparency? The email list is publicly archived, but here we must login to view communications. should we propose this space be used in addition to the current lists and IRC? I don’t think the chat room here is as versatile as an IRC client, though it is easier for a novice to use and better than the online chat interface for One idea is for us to decide which tool(s) currently offered by crabgrass would be most useful to www-features? I think it would be nice to prioritize changes to and have a task list so people know what is needed and can easily add new things. Also, I am not yet confident using all these tools. You may notice on the “Get involved building crabgrass!” page that there is a plan for crabgrass hack-nights in Santa Cruz, which is where I live, so hopefully I can learn these tools better really soon. What do you think about starting a tasks page and these other ideas?

Also, I think this part is too long: Why should we use Crabgrass?


you make some valid points, because the real question is, what could we gain from using crabgrass, and how it is going to work with existing resources. the one about the email list, is the fact that it is publicly archived. this makes me think. would it be possible to create a publicly archived output from certain thread? maybe there is a possiblity to create a special page within a group which is for this purpose and can be viewed by people outside of crabgrass. i really think that email lists are inefficient, less secure and take more time… if you agree, we’ll add it to the ‘request new features page.

then on the point of irc, i think you’re right in saying that using an irc client is a lot better, although if you don’t have one, using one in crabgrass will be a easier and more secure. i don’t think we should move away from using our clients, but what if it would be possible to get crabgrass chat and irc.indy connected? or is it run as an internal system? we could ask the crabgrass geeks…

yeah, it sounds like a good idea to use the task list for starting to look at the overhaul of and what needs doing for it. before that though, we need to get more people in here, so i’d say the first thing would be to finish the email to www-features and after sending it, we should chase up some people we know who are in www-features to encourage them to come in here and give it a try. people, as always, are very reluctant to use new stuff imho. anyhow, if you have more inspiration than me at the moment, please start cutting and rewriting the email. i just got a draft together…


it seems that we should wait since this resource is still in the early organizing phase. I think the proposal is maybe too formal for right now. that’s just my feeling at the moment, but also why i have not responded in a while. thanks, let’s keep in touch about this though.


yes, ok lets stay in touch. we could just send out a very short email saying: ” We’ve created this group, in this thing which the folks from riseup have been building. Although still in development, come and join us… “



that would be cool :)
there’s a crabgrass workshop this weekend in SF that i plan to be at.

Hackmeet This Weekend in SF