"In his book "Tools for Conviviality" (1973), the late Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich argued that the nature of modern "tools", from machines to schools, had the effect of making people dependent and undermined their own natural abilities. What he called â€œconvivial toolsâ€ were those that encouraged people to think for themselves and be more socially engaged."
"Convivial tools are those which give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision"
Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (1973)
Now that you've learned about how we work together and care for each other, it's time to take a look at the tools we use to communicate and help us create a good atmosphere.
When we speak about "tools" we are specifically referring to digital collaboration tools. As a primarily online collective we use these to:
- Create a healthy communication atmosphere
- Ensure holoptism, transparency and modularity of tasks
- Increase our efficiency so we can concentrate on productive work and mutual support, not endless procedural tasks
- Implement a system that follows a certain logic and makes things easy to find.
In DisCO conviviality doesn't necessarily rely on the design of the tools themselves, but on our usage of them. Some of these are designed and licensed in accordance with DisCO's values, while others are not but, overall, they are structural enablers for the practice of our culture.
Our toolbox, as you will see below, is continually evolving, but in these sections you will learn about the logic that ties our workflow system together and how the tools reflect our governance model and structure. We will also take a closer look at each individual tool and will provide additional resources for you to get the most out of each one.
Intro: don't panic!
This section of the handbook focuses more on why we use these tools rather than how to use them. We especially want you to learn about our online collaboration system and its logic. We will be looking at each of the tools and what they are used for, but most of the learning will come from lived experience and practice. Here your DisCO Buddy will work with you through screencasts where you will use the tools first hand with their guidance. The following sections and the wiki also contain links to additional tutorials and resources.
We have carefully researched, tested and chosen these particular tools to handle our production, development and governance processes. You may also already be familiar with some of them; that will serve you in good stead, but also pay special attention to the particular practices we apply to each tool. It's important to ensure that we use the tools in ways which are recognizable to each other and don't create extra work — or cleaning someone else's mess. To achieve this we will take all the time that's needed to mentor you in the best usage of the tools. And this mentoring is, of course, ongoing.
Like learning to drive or cook, getting to grips with this system is an evolving process — no one expects you to get it all straight away. Our general approach to learning follows a sequence: start with the floodlight (general understanding of the logic underlying the system) and, only once you understand the big picture, turn to the spotlight (precise understanding of every component). Take things one step at a time, work with your DisCO Buddy and don't be too concerned about rote memorization. You will soon enough recognize how the system works and will begin to take steps on your own, unassisted. It's very hard to break things, so feel free to take an exploratory approach — we will give you feedback at every step of the way.
Our priority at the moment is to maintain both flexibility and resiliency, so we have chosen tools that we can rely on now, while keeping our options open for when change becomes necessary, or the change presents an improvement to our existing systems. We have also experimented with a wide selection of tools including open source and proprietary products.
These are the tools we are using right now: the tools themselves are subject to change, but the logic behind their use will not. We want to use more Open Source tools and are invested in co-creating our own tools with sympathetic allies to help deploy the technical/structural aspects of our governance model.
One thing we"re steadfastly avoiding is committing to an all-in-one tool. This is for a few important reasons, not the least of which is that it would obviously leave us vulnerable if the enterprise behind the tool suddenly folded. But more than that, we"re interested in learning more about, and getting involved with, the tools themselves and the people behind them.
One final word before we dive in: This list is not exhaustive, we also use email (although we hate it!), VOIP tools, tools for Social Media outreach, word processors etc. In particular, we also make heavy use of Wordpress for the blog where we publish our pro-bono work. This is all detailed in the Tao of the Guerrilla Translator (and is something your DisCO Buddy will walk you through) but, for now, we will be focusing on the suite used in our day to day communication and carework. Let's get started.
The DisCO Toolbox
As we've mentioned, the DisCO Toolbox is not a collection of isolated tools, but a system carefully designed to work together. As such the logic of the toolbox takes precedence over the tools themselves. You can also see it as a "collage" of tools, we (the artists) have pasted it together mindfully so each element can work together, reinforcing each other with an underlying logic. The result is a coherent picture built from separate components. The full picture may not be immediately apparent but, as you read these lines and experiment with these tools, it will begin to take shape and definition.
In the preceding sections we've often remarked on the particularities of working together within a digital/online space and our aim to make things feel as human and intimate as possible. The tools are no exception and, one way to overcome that digital/lived divide is by seeing the tools as an office or shared space — a place where we can talk to each other, find things easily and see what everyone is up to (while also maintaining safe spaces and privacy).
This Toolbox (or workflow system) is the result of ten years of work, experimentation and constant refinement. It has been shaped to mirror our governance model and the various types of tracked value (Love, Livelihood, Care) that we create. The system is divided into four main areas:
You will already be familiar with these, but let's enumerate them briefly:
- The Love area deals with Pro-bono work
- The Livelihood area deals with Agency/Paid work
- The Care area deals with caring for the health of the collective and its members
- The Projects area deals with large projects or ventures that require more detail and may combine elements from the other areas
We will not go into detail about the Projects area for now. Suffice to say that a project uses the same tools but usually merits a larger space to communicate and work together. Previous examples have been book translations, website development sprints, event organization etc. A task moves from the three other areas to the Project area when it becomes too large and complex. Projects are also generally time bound. Once the project is completed, the subgroup is considered archived.
Meanwhile, the Love and Livelihood areas deal with productive work, while the Care area, deals with reproductive work. As we've previously explained, care is at the core of how we work in DisCO. It also encompasses what in a mainstream organization would be termed as "admin". This includes things like how we seek and sustain paid work, how we develop the project and the conversations that we're having.
In the following sections we will be focusing on the Care area. The other areas use the exact same tools, so learning through Care will give you the needed familiarity to freely explore every other area.
Each area contains a set of topic-specific subgroups. These are very much related to Working Circles, please refer to that section to get a better idea of what each subgroup does. What follows is a list of each subgroup, nested under the four main areas with very brief descriptions.
Our Areas and Subgroups. Click here to access and navigate this mindmap.
- GT.ES (Pro-bono target Spanish work)
- GT.ORG (Pro-bono target English work)
- Target ES (Agency/paid target Spanish work)
- Target ENG (Agency/paid target Spanish work)
- Community (includes mentoring, mutual support, rhythms, tools and group culture)
- Sustainability (includes goals, structural and organizational development)
- Media Peers (includes networking and alliances, social media, campaigns, etc)
- Inbox (includes inbound projects and proposals which are then moved to other subareas)
- Websites/Tech (includes development and maintenance of GT"s site, front and back end)
- Finance (Includes legal structure, taxes, invoices, etc)
- Dating (Includes aptitude testing, buddy-system and mentoring)
- Lucas9000 Dev (Development for our DisCO backend software/ledger)
- Free, Fair and Alive (Book Translation and promotion project)
The four main areas and subgroups are reflected in our digital toolbox. What this means is that each area and subgroup has dedicated channels or categories within all of the tools. To see what this looks like you can access our interactive Mindmap (see image above), or our Spreadsheet. Both will allow you to click on links to access each of the tools under their respective Area/subgroup.
Your Toolbox '''is '''the browser
Remember what we said about all-in-one-tools? If you're longing for integration, we have a solution: see your web-browser as one integrated tool.
This approach assumes you will be working on a computer (ie: not phone or tablet) and is a particularly useful way to conceive of (and work with) the tool box. We have a name for this approach: Browser Tab Based Workspaces (or BTBWs). If you want more details on how to set one up, read this article in our wiki.
A BTBW is basically a set of web bookmarks compiled within a folder. When you want to work on something in particular, you use this folder to open all associated webpages together, giving you a set of tabs for your workspace. In GT we have BTBW "recipes" for Carework, Translation, Social Media etc, check out the wiki entry above for more info.
Focusing again on carework, the recommended BTBW follows a logical sequence, from left to right:
From L toR: Clockify, Mattermost, Loomio, Trello, G-Drive, Wiki
We will now introduce the tools by looking at the sequence. Click on the name of each tool to visit its specific section in the handbook:
- Backbeat: Time Tracking
- Mattermost: Synchronous Communication
- Loomio: Asynchronous Communication/Decision Making
- SpaceTime: Task and project management
- NextCloud: Collaborative writing/File storage
- MediaWiki: Documentation
So, in sequence, we use Clockify to time track our work, productive and, in particular, Care work hours. We use Slack to discuss things in real time, to ask questions or for quick consultations. When we want to make sure that important things don't get lost in the chatter, we hold conversations in Loomio; these conversations also incorporate decision making. Once we've decided to do something, we keep track of the task (or project) progress and to-dos in Trello. When we need to store large files, images or collaborate on a written document, we use G-Drive. Once the process is over and we have learned something, we use the Wiki to document and open source this knowledge.
To see it another way, let's go back to the office analogy we used earlier. In the office Clockify would be the punch clock, Slack is the cafeteria, where we talk informally, or the equivalent of going over to someone else's desk for a chat. Loomio is the boardroom, where we take decisions, Trello is the whiteboard and planner, G Drive is the file cabinet and the Wiki is our public report.
To learn more about the GT Toolbox, watch the following screencast tutorial. It covers much of the same ground, but includes onscreen examples of how the tools relate to each other.
INSERT AM's TUTORIAL
Learning more about each tool
The following sections cover the basics of each tool in the GT toolbox. We have ordered them following the sequence described above. These are not in-depth tutorials. The best way to learn is to play with the tools and, yes, to make lots of mistakes in the process! Don't worry, your GT Buddy is there to guide you. Each section links to the corresponding Wiki page on each tool, where you will find additional resources. Also, all of the following entries present a similar structure:
- A description of the tool
- What we use the tool for
- What the tool is and isn't for
- How we use it
- Additional Resources and Tutorials
- Video tutorials produced by the makers of the tools
- GT video tutorial
- Links and resources