Splintering a Pursuance

The primary goal of the Pursuance Project that differentiates it from any other group-based task-management software is the emphasis on organic collaboration, and the trivial creation of new Pursuances that allow complex information flow and rapid organization. That’s buzzwordy, so in a practical sense “it’s really easy to make new organizations and working groups, and split a working group off into a new organization”.

I’ve written in some previous posts about the proposed role system for Pursuance, and how to create collaborations between Pursuances built on top of the role system and using “tasks” as a basic unit that can have attached discussions and can be assigned and referenced between Pursuances. This post will center on ways to create Pursuances more organically than by creating a new blank Pursuance and inviting users in.

As a very quick review, most online collaboration works through shared membership, where one or more individuals are a part of two organizations (or an honorary part of one to facilitate collaboration), and “bridge the gap” between both groups:

This has a moderate startup cost - it’s easy to introduce the new person and add them to some group chats, but you need to bring them up to speed on how the organization operates, add them to Google Docs, Signal, wikis, Keybase, or whatever other infrastructure the group uses. This setup is also brittle, because if the “bridge” members become inactive or leave then the collaboration promptly falls apart. Adding a new user to replace the missing bridge requires repeating much of the same onboarding process, and as membership shifts in both organizations it is easy to lose touch over time.

In the Pursuance model we hope to create a link at an organizational level, that allows sharing tasks, messages, and documents together without sharing members:

More formally, a collaboration exists as a shared agreement between a role in each Pursuance, such that members within a role in one pursuance may assign tasks to a role in another pursuance:

This has the benefit of granting each Pursuance autonomy: Each group can have whatever internal structure they want, and whatever membership turnover works for them, and as long as the roles involved in collaboration still exist the groups can continue to interact in this shared context.

Sometimes, however, collaboration can turn into something more. A collaborative project may split into a Pursuance all on its own, that may even outlive the two parent groups. This is natural and acceptable, and the platform should support such shifting bureaucracy.

To enable this kind of growth, we need to expand our concept of how collaboration works. Imagine that two Pursuances (in this case, the Pursuance Project itself and Distributed Denial of Secrets, which worked together on #29Leaks) want to begin a large collaborative project. We know this project is going to get pretty complex and will involve collaboration with several outside individuals (like journalists) that aren’t part of either original group. This project sounds bigger than just a collaboration between two groups: It’s going to need roles and collaborative agreements of its own. This project sounds more like a Pursuance. So let’s create a new Pursuance with agreements with each of its parent pursuances:

organizer {
	assign tasks technical
	accept tasks 29leaks@ddosecrets
	invite journalist
}

technical {
	accept tasks organizer
	accept invite engineers@pursuance-project
	accept invite sysadmins@ddosecrets
}

journalist {
	accept invite relations@pursuance-project
	contact organizer
	contact technical
}

This looks something like the following:

This creates an interesting arrangement: 29Leaks is an independent Pursuance that can create its own rules and roles, and 29Leaks organizers can invite journalists directly into the project. However, the edges of this Pursuance are permeable in that technical staff from either the Pursuance Project or DDoSecrets can volunteer themselves and automatically join the technical role of 29Leaks, the facilitating “29leaks” role in DDoSecrets can assign tasks to the 29Leaks organizers, and the public relations group from the Pursuance Project can directly add relevant journalists to the journalists role within 29Leaks. This means that while 29Leaks is an independent entity with its own structure it is also trivial to communicate with the two original Pursuances.

Imagine a scenario where 29Leaks continues to operate long into the future. It has accumulated collaborations with several other groups, and it is no longer appropriate to consider this a “child project” of DDoSecrets and the Pursuance Project. Maybe 29Leaks continues to accept technical support from DDoSecrets, but is otherwise fully independent. The administrators of 29Leaks with the founders role may amend the rules to:

organizer {
	assign tasks technical
	invite journalist
}

technical {
	accept tasks organizer
	accept invite sysadmins@ddosecrets
}

journalist {
	contact organizer
	contact technical
}

And the organization now looks like:

In this way, Pursuances can grow and adapt over time, becoming independent entities or folding into other larger Pursuances. When a Pursuance no longer serves a useful purpose it can be discarded, and active members will have adopted new roles in other Pursuances. Thus, even as the people and groups involved shift, activism moves forward.

Posted 5/22/20