Loomio: democratic decision-making tool inspired by Occupy


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OK, where is the source code? How about using the GPL?

It’s a little hidden if you don’t know where to look, but not intentionally so, it seems. Right at the very top there’s a GitHub symbol.

And it does use the GPL.

Every sixth person at occupy was cooking up one of these tools, it’s great to see them maturing now.

The problem then is presumably still the problem now: in a primarily analog setting with people of varying levels of mobile-device-ownership and digital literacy, not all the people are excited about using an online tool. And if you only have some of the people participating, it doesn’t matter how good your features are or how smooth your user experience is, it’s still not democratic and using it will alienate some.

Still occupy was what it was, I imagine there are lots of other settings where a digital tool would be welcomed my most or all and could be used to good effect.


Does it have an NSA login that lets them “identify and exploit fracture points”, etc? Because I’m sure they’d find that handy…

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This is true. However, in-person meetings alienate some individuals as well. For instance, people with physical disabilities who can’t easily leave their home.

So really, the democratic process needs to include both in-person and online discussion.

Disclamer: I work on Loomio.

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Ay, there’s the rub. Where do you draw the circle and say “these are the people who are legitimately part of the community and need to have their voices heard, and others are not”? Because in practice it’s very difficult (impossible?) to include all the people in the circle and still have any voices actually heard.

At Occupy Vancouver there were lots of passionate folks who were participating primarily through on-line discussions on platforms like Facebook, and they felt frustrated that they weren’t being included in the vital decision making processes. On the other hand, the people on the ground (sometimes literally, or at least in tents) were creeped out and angry that some inaccessible floating cloud of internet-people were trying to silently, invisibly influence the community that they themselves were physically a part of.

Tricky tricky. The circle probably can’t be squared, but it probably can be rounded off an important amount. Good on you for taking that challenge.


Hey Hugh - I’m one of the folks working on Loomio too.

In some respects, defining “inclusive” is the hardest question in the world. At Occupy we tried to say “we include everyone”. It was a traumatic lesson to learn that is actually an impossible aim: when you include anyone, you include people who’s behaviour excludes others.

So if you can’t include everyone, how do you draw the boundary?

At Occupy the impossibility of that question proved fatal: almost all of the camps that were lucky enough to avoid the violent state suppression of jackbooted thugs eventually succumbed to that paradox.

I believe we can get closer to a solution if we reframe the question though. Instead of saying “let’s include everyone”, what happens if we say “let’s include everyone that is affected by this decision”?

You can add more nuance to that principle and agree that a person’s influence over a decision is in proportion to the degree to which it affects them.

If you can agree a set of interaction protocols that are a prerequisite to participation, and some high-level nonspecific aims, then you can actually start making progress.

Once you have that unifying banner agreed, you can keep decisions action-focussed. Personally, collective decision-making is infinitely more appealing to me when it is used to plan action, rather than trying to agree abstract theory!

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