Flashing back to the fairly recent past I visited the ill-starred Indymedia site that so blighted my activity in Nova Scotia. (It was started by a small tight clique, quite contrary to Indymedia process; ours had all the problems of a pluralistic collective. With a bit of preferential help by a couple of friends in the elite group at the heart of the network that clique was up and running while we were still going through our collective process. The slander war that broke out gave rise to a lot of uncomfortable dissent; our site never came together ... theirs got dusty as the clique grew bored, once the "fame and glory" wore thin.) It struck me as salient and illuminative that the mail-list was down to 1 or 2 messages a month for the past 18 months and more. Revealing is that messages such as this one, "[imc-maritimes] A better way to arrange news", didn't even get a reply.
Here's the good fellows message, my reply, and a comment I sent him along with a forwarded copy:
Duane.Rousselle@unb.ca Fri Apr 28 19:06:02 PDT 2006 wrote:
> I was wondering who has access to the code for the site.
> I'd like to suggest that people are able to rank news according
> to unique ip's, and then use that as a counter so that the most
> popular news articles are placed in the top right section of the
> The way it is now, there needs to be somebody constantly picking
> and choosing which articles are worthy of higher attention.
> This would free up the load from whoever has the monotonous task of
> doing this daily, and it would more closely resemble the principles
> of social justice.
There are 2 or 3 suites that are used by almost all IMCs ... I can't say about this one.
Placement according to voting rank ... interesting idea. But I think maybe it should be optional, maybe a configurable preference; the design decision to have "river of news" has been time proven across the global network.
As for picking and choosing which items to promote, that's an ocasional task, unless someone's creating a feature.
Having items appear with newst first, the "river of news", is objective since it's mechanical ... and arbitrary. Features are usually the product of teamwork and since (in theory, usually in practice) IMCs are group processes this is actually very open.
You might be surprised by how much discussion is generated by tasks like this ... not only matters of Information Architecture but, as you point out, the justice aspects of process. You'll find more activity at the network level, on the other lists. (see http://lists.indymedia.org/ for the full list)
p.s. I'm sorry nobody bothered themselves to reply to you. Truly. The dynamic that gave rise to Indymedia in the spring/summer/fall of 1999 had everything to do with getting people involved in order to propagate technical skills and broaden the base for decision making. As indicated by Dru's "I (Dru Jay) am willing to fill both of these roles until other people are willing to take them over. (last update by Dru Jay, March 11, 2001)" one energized individual cannot replace that group dynamic, even when that one individual has supportive friends in key positions. The consequence is that motivated individuals such as yourself are left to twist in the wind ... being ignored has far more impact than being alone.
I hope you keep on keepin' on; despite appearances and events to the contrary, groups of well intentioned individuals is the way to go.
I just noticed that I had cut your email from the Cc: to paste it into the message body ... wanted you to get this. When I saw that a small clique had gotten a couple of friends in the Indy network to give them preferential treatment in starting maritimes.indy without there being a collective I said that not only was that a really obscene breach of principle but it doomed the site to an early death: well formed groups perpetuate themselves ... if they're really luck. Ill-founded groups never stand a chance ... so their projects are doomed.
In 2001 Dru took on most everything by himself ... and that got him something like fame. 5 years later the site is barely a blog, mail like yours doesn't even get replies, so what pretended to be an IMC becomes what it truly was all along: an empty shell.
Believe me: those who are motivated primarily by ego are toys to be manipulated by those with higher priorities; there's a significant group that consider it important that Indymedia fail. The surest way to have it fail is to damn it with faint praise and faint support ... maritimes.indy succumbed to that fate. Not merely sad: politically revealing.
Rereading what I had sent to the mail-list I second guessed myself, thinking it might be inflammatory. What I came up with after that compelled me to write to the list again.
After second guessing myself I went back through the past two years of the archives. What did I find?
Offer of technical assistance ... ignored; no reply.
Offer of editorial assistance ... as above.
Question concerning maritimes.indy ... likewise.
The author whose salient message I replied to ... he had written a few times in the previous 6 or 8 months. The one reply he received is significant: "There hasn't been any action since I joined in the summer, but there definietly should be, we need alternative media in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes."
Those of us who pointed to partiality and preferential treatment coming from the self-identified core group at the center of Indymedia pointed to the basic principles the entire collective had set out ... those principles had the well-being of the network as their reason ... we were marginalised while the elite went jet-setting to conferences such as the World Social Forum or to projects in Asia and South America. The elite has had its way, and now even the documentation and process channels are stone dead.
When I pointed to the partiality and preferential treatment that allowed a clique to start maritimes.indy the special friends who accorded that preferential treatment under cut the collective that had been forming to launch an IMC on strong foundations; it was the elite's way or no way. The clique had its way and now the site is less responsive than an individual's blog.
One thing for certain about dot-bomb types: the demands of ego gratification don't require actualities and realities and are quite hostile when those are pointed out; when someone is driven to do something for their own reasons they're likely to be defensive ... that's the cataclysm of foreign policy and diplomacy ... and just as likely is that their supporters will be defensive.
It isn't a project of propaganda ... and it's more than a game of social politics. It's more, even, than a war of ideas: it's the clash of those who subscribe to fundamental fascism (first and fore-most: loyalty to key figures and core group) and those who are open and inclusive. That consciousness is involved is clear from this: the high-minded who are unfortunately naive shudder and turn away when things become clear. It's easy to moan and weep about children's shattered bodies, but when it comes to grappling with the dysfunction of our social process, well, that's when we see the evidence of how sadly abused we've been.
This is likely to give ammunition to the clique and its supporters ... I hope the few good folk who've remained engaged against their passive-agression will stay steadfast. (It is, after all, a life-long engagement!) But I find I don't have the appetite for the snickering superiority and nae-saying ... suffering it brought nobody much good and it too often cost me.
Bear this in mind: maritimes.indy belongs to the community ... it can be run into the ground by the clique that formed it or the ground can run it. Those are the alternatives.
I'm going to leave this list now.