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Wed 14 Dec 2016

#WeOwnTwitter: shareholder event Wednesday, and more

DS
Danny Spitzberg Public Seen by 454

30sec version~~~

I wrote about the #BuyTwitter campaign, the turning point on Friday, and a path forward. Read the event description at https://www.facebook.com/events/126476194510597/ (it has a link to the article I wrote). I'll setup a remote participation. RSVP and invite your Bay Area friends to that event!

5min version~~~~~

Hi all,

Proposal in-the-making: organizing shareholders and rally at the next shareholder meeting.

Why?

To start, I am filled with so much joy this week! The #BuyTwitter campaign has become a real thing, now that dozens of people are referencing it whenever a popular person proposes some kind of action (e.g., "@xyz, you should check out #BuyTwitter!").

There's more, of course Apologies for taking a week to get this message together, but rather than jot down a plan, I took time to check in with organizers and campaigns I knew who have succeeded in similar efforts.

Now, here's a fact: our original goal was NOT to "buy Twitter" outright. It was to influence Twitter, Inc. so it would make real steps towards a user-owned co-op.

We made some progress, and we learned a lot.

I see two dovetailing efforts going forward:
1 - Organize Twitter shareholders
2 - Connect with Twitter staff

A benefit of these efforts is we can channel interest into a purchasing co-op, whatever its vision and purpose.

We can use this thread to discuss the vision and find alignment.

Want more?

Below are details on what I see for those efforts, plus stories:

1 - Organize Twitter shareholders

Tomorrow in Oakland, I’m hosting a gathering about buying Twitter shares and organizing shareholders.

Why do this? It's been an idea ever since the original Action Network petition ("[_] I'm a Twitter shareholder, and I'm willing to commit my voting rights to this effort"). We got some 323 people who check that box!

Then, this morning, I talked with Sonja Trauss, a long-time activist in SF who has been pushing for more and better housing. Sonja also owns Twitter stock because Hey, we need get a seat at the table. She has also gone to Twitter shareholder meetings, too! She says only ≈40 people attend, it's easy to get items on the agenda, and Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams and many Twitter employees are all there. The next meeting some time in Spring 2017.

BOTTOM LINE: Jack has seriously considered ideas brought to him by shareholders. If we buy shares (at $19 eaach), we can do direct shareholder advocacy around making Twitter a user-owned co-op.

NEXT STEP: Check out https://www.facebook.com/events/126476194510597/ and invite your Bay Area friends!

2 - Connect with Twitter staff

It's been slow going finding Twitter staff who have enough sway to help the petition get delivered. After finding 6 promising contacts, 0 have stepped up.

Yesterday, I talked via email with my pal Bhavik, a digital organizer with jhatkaa.org. He recently got Unilever to pay compensation to 500 mercury-poisoned factory workers in India.

Here's what Bhavik says about bringing our petition directly to Twitter people:

"When I was at ColorOfChange, we worked with The RainbowPush Coalition to force Twitter and other tech companies to release their diversity data (see petition at https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/twitter_diversity/?sp_ref=49804219.176.8517.f.31583.2&referring_akid=.461502.j_OqLb&source=fb_sp). It worked. A key to our success was to have a robust inside game. We had people inside the company that we were having conversations with while ramping up outside pressure through petition signatures, tweets, media, etc. Essentially, for #BuyTwitter to happen, you need to convince someone (or some people) with the profile and power within Twitter to make it happen. I don't recall Twitter's corporate structure, but this would probably be some combination of Twitter's C-suite and Board. If you don't have an in, a great place to start is cold calls or by scheduling a petition delivery."

BOTTOM LINE: we need to deliver our petition signatures to Twitter HQ, and find a better way for people to engage (e.g., becoming shareholders and/or joining a purchasing co-op : ).

NEXT STEP: Change #WeAreTwitter #BuyTwitter to simply, "#WeOwnTwitter"

CW

Chad Whitacre Wed 14 Dec 2016

Now we're talkin'! Sounds like great advice from Sonja and Bavik—thanks for making those connections and sharing with us, Danny!

I've never bought stock before. How do I buy one share of Twitter? How can I go from being one of the 3,000+ signers to one of the 300+ owners?

DS

Danny Spitzberg Mon 19 Dec 2016

@whit537 Yes! Glad to get some positivity around progress! You can buy shares in 2 minutes via sites like https://www.robinhood.com/ or https://www.loyal3.com/. I can't speak to their ethics, however. Shares in TWTR are currently at $18.63.

CW

Chad Whitacre Mon 19 Dec 2016

Thanks, Danny! Robin Hood looks to be the more general-purpose of the two, but it requires a smart phone, so I went with Loyal 3. They asked for a lot of info (including my bank account numbers instead of a credit card), but overall it was pretty painless. Now I guess in a day or two I will be a co-owner of Twitter! 💃

This experience makes me wonder how co-owning Twitter today differs from what the experience would be like if Twitter were a cooperative. How is platform cooperativism different than shareholder activism?

JG

John Gieryn Wed 14 Dec 2016

TL;DR (Too Long; Didnt Read): curious about efficacy of shareholder strategies, especially in context of longer-term planning. My 2nd paragraph's off topic, on how decision-making process could help things like this move forward more quickly.


@dannyspitzberg thanks for this; I start to understand more about the shareholder strategy. I'm still understanding the plausibility of Twitter conversion to be very near 0, based on the panel discussion and previous threads in here. Can you outline further how this might be a SMART goal for folks here? (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)? The other thing on my mind is taking a slight step back (or up) to develop some strategic priorities, more on that in the Platform Acquisition Co-op subgroup's conversation on steps forward.

Because there's no decision-making structure in here, yet, and because practically anyone can come into this space, it seems hard to define who's really at the table and even harder to act on the "group's" behalf. I'm feeling that this will be more paralyzing than taking the time, in the short run, to establish this within those groups that feel like they have a solid shared vision/ mission. @samtoland mentioned an easy strategy towards this in the thread that initiated the Platform Acquisition Co-op subgroup.

JG

John Gieryn Wed 14 Dec 2016

TL;DR: still off topic (sry!) about process; gist is that i want to encourage conversation on this and open the space for potential collective action :)


If I was unclear: If you feel like you are moving forward with a mandate from #WeAreTwitter Collective, I don't mean to suggest this so as to paralyze your initiative. There may indeed be a core group of folks who wish to move forward organizing around the original mission "to turn Twitter into a platform co-op", and those folks should by all means pursue that worthy goal. I mostly mean to say this as the method here is already making it challenging to understand if consensus (or majority-rules, etc) is being obtained, as people are blocking various proposals but we're just ignoring them as we don't know who they are, what their commitment is, and (in the two cases I can think of) they haven't provided any reasonings - making it seem like they don't actually mean to block or know what that represents. cc @dannyspitzberg

ARK

Amelia Rose Khan Thu 15 Dec 2016

I agree with John on everything that was said. My question is for Danny is how does this move the twitter co-op forward? Would the shareholders meeting resolution be "turn twitter into a co-op"

DS

Danny Spitzberg Mon 19 Dec 2016

@ameliarosekhan, thank you for joining the call last Wednesday - would have loved to hear you participate! Also, am I correct in remembering you came along on a 2007 documentary film bike trip with me and ≈20 others "To The Tar Sands"?

And to answer your question: yes! Read the resolution I dropped off last Friday at bit.ly/buytwitterproposal2

ARK

Amelia Rose Khan Mon 19 Dec 2016

Yes you are right. I am reading the resolution. The two items I am not sure about are REI and Managed by Q, would people reading the resolution know what these are?

SJK

Stephanie Jo Kent Mon 19 Dec 2016

Hey, thanks @dannyspitzberg for tagging me, sorry for slow response.

Without reading (more apologies), #WeOwnTwitter isn't much different than #BuyTwitter, is it? Does the average tweeter think ownership of Twitter is a possibility? I doubt it? So can you re brand in a way that SPEAKS to the average tweeter?

That's what I was thinking when I proposed @TwitterCoop or #CooptTwitter (just came up with the latter variation, hehe).

DS

Danny Spitzberg Mon 19 Dec 2016

Hi all!

A quick update:

After the session in-person and online on Wednesday, we realized the window of opportunity to turn our petition into a proposal was only 48 hours. Happily, we made it.

Friday I dropped off a shareholder resolution requesting that Twitter do due diligence on alternative governance models – an "exit to democratic ownership." The outcome sets us up to make progress with Twitter and any other major, publicly traded company. You can read the 1-page proposal at https://bit.ly/buytwitterproposal2.

What next? As soon as Twitter confirms the resolution will appear at the next general meeting, we can start spreading awareness to other shareholders (who hold any amount of stock) about the campaign for Twitter to seriously explore cooperative ownership. So, @whit537 and everyone who wants to have a say - you pick up a share in TWTR for $18.63. I expect we'll hear something in 2–4 weeks from now.

Beyond that? I also believe this activity helps us along the path to create an asset acquisition co-op, although having a target in mind feels like an absolute necessity to get real, mobilize allies, and show something for our efforts.

Thoughts? Feedback? Wild ideas? Autonomous actions?

MB

Manuela Bosch Mon 19 Dec 2016

Pretty cool proposal you finally made. It is down to earth and includes a lot potential to fundamentally move things at the same time. I want to celebrate your work.
Was trying to buy stock, but I would have to have a US adress, which I don't and I did not find equivivalents to robinhood etc. in germany, where I am based.
That brings me also to the question of creating an asset acquisition co-op. @dannyspitzberg you are writing in your post "having a target in mind feels like an absolute necessity to get real, mobilize allies, and show something for our efforts." what do you mean by that? a target from whom regarding what?

MC

Matthew Cropp Mon 19 Dec 2016

@whit537 Distribution of power. Right now, your shareholding power is based on a $1/1 vote basis. In a co-op, it's 1 person, 1 vote, regardless of capital investment. Additionally, profits in a co-op are distributed on the basis of patronage/use rather than capital investment (with a limited carve-out for non-voting preferred stock).

This is a good overview of the key elements of the co-op difference: http://ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/co-operative-identity-values-principles

CW

Chad Whitacre Mon 19 Dec 2016

Sure, those are the formal differences. But how does it play out in the real world? How much do voting rights matter given the presence of significant informal power structures? Danny just did an end-run around voting structures by simply showing up at the meeting, for example.

What does a big co-op like REI feel like to an individual member? You'd probably have to be an "activist member" to get anything done over there as well. No?

MC

Matthew Cropp Mon 19 Dec 2016

@whit537 that's quite the rabbit hole; it very much depends on the age and stage of the co-op, and if the leadership sees internalizing social capital generation (which is what allows for effective membership) as something that requires investment. I've been involved in fights in co-ops with severely degenerated governance, and I know plenty of others that are doing it right, and experimenting with cool approaches.

One such approach I've been warming up to of late for larger co-ops: http://www.coopwatercooler.com/discussions//4m79q1m88fwktufew30pyeg3k4i9zh?rq=sortition

CW

Chad Whitacre Mon 19 Dec 2016

Alright, so sortition is no longer 1-member-1-vote, I'll note. And what about the profit-sharing piece? Aren't "shared by patronage/use" systems equally gameable by the rich to become richer? If I have $1,000,000 to spend at the co-op, and you only have $10 to spend, how is that functionally different than my having that capital to invest?

CW

Chad Whitacre Mon 19 Dec 2016

Sortition! We've been exploring random elements for Gratipay's governance, and now I know the name for it! Thank you! :D

MC

Matthew Cropp Tue 20 Dec 2016

Sortition can functionally maintain one member one vote, in that everyone's odds are the same.

On the patronage piece, the core idea is that the service is being delivered at cost. In the context of a consumer co-op, in which a higher total volume of business drives down the unit costs, the marginal gains by those buying $10 can be understood to received a greater proportional subsidy than the person spending $1MM gets from an extra $10 being added to the total scale of the purchase.

At the core of the idea is that capital beyond member equity is hired, vs. capital doing the hiring. This Swedish documentary (w/ english subtitles and some english interviews) unpacks the nature of this inversion of roles pretty well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfaFriFAz1k

CW

Chad Whitacre Thu 22 Dec 2016

Dredging the YouTube comments turned up this version narrated in English (by a robot, I'm almost positive). I spot-checked a couple parts and it appears to be a valid re-narration.