Opensource software in Sociocracy: a concrete example

Why is this important?: Google is one of the biggest company in the world and it’s in the hand of the elites. There’s a risk that, in a planet facing collapse and heading to conflictual times, surveillance technology will increasingly be used for mass control . I cannot think of a more powerful technical tool to perpetrate the extractivist model and impede grassroots change. On the other hand privacy-friendly open-source softwares have been improving greatly in the past years. They will never be as “magic” as google, but they now contain all the essential functionalities.

I’m showing here a concrete example and I’d be grateful for your feedbacks.

What I call the circle’s master document is a shared document that can be used by a circle to run their meetings. It contains various sections such as: circle info/members/roles/useful links/ backlog/ past minutes/ agenda template. I’ve noticed that in SoFA we tend to use googledocs with an automatic summary of contents and (often) in pageless format.

I’ve created a document that has all the same basic functionalities using cryptpad (Open Source privacy friendly software).
I propose 2 possible agenda formats:

  • Template A (“table-less”): Here all the text is written directly in the document and NOT inside a table. Pros: such format is very easy to use (fast editing) and very compact. Cons: ugly to see.

  • Template B: Information is inserted into tables. Pros: Visually is more structured and more similar to the typical googledoc; cons: less user friendly (difficult to move text around).

What do you think about these documents? What would be the main barrier in adopting one of them? I’m grateful for any sort of feedback! Objections welcome:)

Editable version (for those who want to try it)


Dear Lino,

Thank you for bringing up this topic for discussion. I’m currently on a short holiday in the mountains, and I’ll be back on Monday, July 24th. I understand the concerns many people have about corporations that tend to monopolize information, so I will closely examine the issue when I return.

Regarding the document, can multiple people work with it simultaneously? I’ll be working on it from my desktop computer at home as I currently can only access it from my phone. Are there any guarantees that the producers of this software will prioritize information privacy? I’m not up to date with the latest developments and don’t know what goes on “behind the scenes.”

Also, are there any alternative open-source software options that we could use? And is there enough free storage space for the files? How much storage space is available, and is there a cost associated with it over time?

Since this is entirely new to me, I wonder how long it will take to learn how to use this new opportunity and its features. As someone who leans towards open-source solutions, I’m eager to explore it thoroughly.

I welcome any additional comments from others, as their input would be useful, at least for me.

Best wishes.

That’s awesome!

I also imported the template into OnlyOffice on NextCloud, which has a bit more functionality and is more easily cross-compatible. You can check it out here:

Honestly, NextCloud is probably a reasonable alternative to Google Workspaces on most elements.

I would say the main barriers to adopting an overall alternative would be:

  1. lack of key features, functionality or integrations - Google Workspaces is currently used by SoFA and has a huge set of key features, including localization, in-document bookmarks, etc, integration with a robust calendar that supports timezones, room scheduling. Also, open source tools are often under heavy and visible ongoing development in a way that may result in broken features on occasion depending on the maintenance schedule.
  2. ease of maintenance and/or cost - Google Workspaces is provided for free by nonprofits, whereas a robust enough service for nextcloud wouldn’t likely be free and would take more time to configure and manage that google workspaces.
  3. Tech inflexibility - getting less tech savvy people on new tech tools is alwasy a struggle.

These things are probably the main impediments to getting SoFA, or any larger and non-tech oriented Sociocratic organization onboard.

I am excited about getting circle within SoFA to experiment with Open Source tool instead, but it’s clear that it does take extra work.

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