Sat 28 Dec 2019

Loomio free tier coming to an end

RobJN Public Seen by 153

I have a message from Loomio saying that they are closing the free tier and that we will need to start paying.

The reason we set up Loomio was for it's decision making tools. My own experience had been that talk-gb discussions often go off topic and are hard to determine whether any consensus was ever found. There is also a question about whether mailing lists are the right forum to reach the wider audience that we should aspire to (although I note that asking people to sign up to Loomio is another hurdle).

We've had some success with Loomio's decision making tools, for example in picking AGM locations, Quarterly Projects and our annual strategy. Use has not been as extensive as I had hoped.

We have some options here:

  1. Continue to use Loomio at a cost of USD 107 per year (USD 1 per member as we get the volunteer group discount). I am writing to Loomio to ask for further discounts given that we don't have 107 active members.

  2. Investigate a self host solution - after all Loomio is open source. I looked at this and is not something I can personally do. We need root access to a server, something which we don't currently have. https://github.com/loomio/loomio-deploy

  3. Club together with OSMF. We know they use Loomio for just their board members. I have sent an email to find out what their plans are.

  4. Call it quits and leave Loomio for something else.

As an aside, there is some early work to get more features added to the core openstreemap.org website. I cannot see this being complete by the end of January. See https://github.com/openstreetmap/openstreetmap-website/pull/2390


Adam Hoyle Sat 28 Dec 2019

I’d be up for installing Loomio on a private server - but we’d need a private server to install on. Digital Ocean do cloud servers from $5pcm but that’s still $60 a year. We’d also need a mail server. Also - if we install it ourselves then we’d be responsible for updates (less fun to do).

Getting the foundation to own either cloud or private version and then getting them to let local chapters use it would be a great solution.

I looked at the Microcosm PR but I didn’t understand how it would work for us instead of Loomio - is there an overview of it anywhere?




Jon Harley Sun 29 Dec 2019

$5/month only gets you a server with 1GB of RAM and 25GB of disk - can Loomio run on such a small footprint?

$107/year is a trivial sum of money for even a small company with a couple of employees. Surely we know someone who would be able to sponsor OSMUK's Loomio account in return for a logo credit?


RobJN Sat 28 Dec 2019

Hi Adam,

We currently use WebFaction's hosting but I don't think that gives us the root access. It may be possible to build from source but way beyond my capabilities.

Of note: we probably have all we need for the email server - we already have that on Webfaction and it seems to integrate fine with other systems (CiviCRM).

The microcosm PR is very basic compared to Loomio, but it does at least introduce the concept of groups into OSM. Over time it could expand.


RobJN Sun 29 Dec 2019

Hi @Jon Harley, we have some funds but not a lot as our members voted against the proposal to increase the small corporate membership fee from £50 to £100 per year. We therefore need to pick very carefully where we spend our money.

The idea of sponsorship specifically for Loomio is an interesting one but would then lead us down a path of not all corporate sponsors being equal.

@ALL: What are your thoughts on this proposal?

P.S. I got an email back from Loomio team. They cannot offer anything else and just suggested passing the cost back to our Loomio users. Some of our Loomio members are paid up OSM UK members, but not all are.


RobJN Sun 29 Dec 2019

For a history of how we selected Loomio in the first place, and a run down of all the other options, please see this google doc. (cc: @Adam Hoyle (Director) )


Brian Prangle Mon 30 Dec 2019

Bite the bullet and take the paid version, fund it by by putting up the subs next year by £1 for people, £10 for small orgs and £100 for large orgs. We'd waste too much time researching and deciding alternatives and probably lose our decision record archive too in any migration. Hosting it ourselves takes up more time too - there are better ways to spend our time. Might be worthwhile suggesting to OSMF they make an automatic microgrant to all chapters to use Loomio.


Robert Whittaker Mon 30 Dec 2019

Personally, I'm not that attracted to Loomio. I don't think the interface / features are that good, and I dislike having yet another communication channel to have to check. I think the only part I would really miss for OSMUK is the voting on specific proposals. (In general voting might not be a good way to make decisions, but I think the way it's been used here, has been good -- usually a curated set of options from the Board -- and then leads to a clear decision to implement in a set length of time.) Having threads for discussion is useful, but you could get that (with a much better interface IMO) with any free web forum software. You could probably also get polls in that for voting too. I wouldn't want to see OSMUK spending money on Loomio for something that I don't value too much to start with, and in any case could be got for free with some self-hosted forum software.


Edward Bainton Fri 3 Jan 2020

I do like Loomio, but agree that the same functionality could be achieved by a forum elsewhere.

I also think increasing subs by 20% just to cover Loomio (am I right @Brian Prangle? £5 -> £6?) makes Loomio not worth the candle. It's a good absolute price ($1/user), but terrible looked at as a proportion of the joining fee: if we're that hard pressed for funds, I'd say lets weather suboptimal performance from a free solution.

What I do appreciate about Loomio is the 'Yesterday on Loomio' email I get when there's been activity. If that could be replicated I'd be entirely happy.


Harry Wood Fri 3 Jan 2020

I agree with Robert about Loomio. The votes feature is vaguely interesting but not worth it.

We do have a forum, mailing list, and IRC channel (I thought these were the most obvious options, but it was up to me to add those to the google doc list, so maybe not)

"yet another communication channel" is a problem. I've spoken to at least one other UK OSMer who basically dismissed the idea of participating in OSMUK at all, because they thought it was silly to be asked to sign up on loomio. Probably applies to a few people. But I sense part of the attraction of switching to different channels is to ditch all those curmudgeonly old-timers hey? 🙂

The other attraction is just something a bit more shiny and modern looking. I think there's some best-of-both-worlds technical solutions we should explore. It would take a bit of tinkering, but all three of the channels I linked there could be syndicated/embedded onto pages on the https://osmuk.org website, where they could be spruced up a bit. For example imagine if you could click around the talk-gb mailing list archive on "our" website, with our logo in the corner, and (the most revolutionary improvement) not in that ancient looking times/courier font combo!


Gareth L Mon 6 Jan 2020

Loomio is pretty good at decision making and recording, but I really agree with the comment from @Harry Wood as to view Loomio it says 'join our loomio' - which my first response is ugh, more credentials!? That said, I find the fact that the GB community primarily using an e-mail mailing list must be kinda archaic to a lot of contributors.

The pricing from Loomio seems okay, but i don't know how this works with people who make an account and then never log in again, or go dormant etc. Anyone can make an account at the moment, not just osm-uk members, right?

I had a gander at slack, in which their paid tiers could be handy to incorporate monthly meetings, but is very expensive if we wanted to make that much use of the extended features because of their pricing.

Reluctant to go the forum route. Maintenance, spammers, moderation etc.

With the amount of notice we have, I'm inclined to keep with Loomio at least in the short term.


Edward Bainton Tue 7 Jan 2020

Reluctant to go the forum route. Maintenance, spammers, moderation etc.

Is there some kind of programming magic that could give us a forum on openstreetmap that was just for OSM-UK? I'm thinking some kind of permissions system so our current logins are given permission to post to a UK-only section. That deals with the spammers, hopefully, and maybe wouldn't need more moderation than here. But yes, maintenance by someone admitting people.

With the amount of notice we have, I'm inclined to keep with Loomio at least in the short term.

Makes sense. Perhaps we need a self-imposed deadline to find the alternative. Even though I like Loomio, I'm definitely in favour of reducing the number of OSM channels: it reaches comic proportions.


Harry Wood Wed 8 Jan 2020

Just to repeat, there is a UK forum on forum.openstreetmap.org

It's fairly quiet. Nobody posted in 2020 yet. ... let me fix that ... There we go. A message for you :-)


Edward Bainton Mon 13 Jan 2020

Having read Rob's message below I should clarify that by OSM-UK here I meant members of the OSM-UK org, rather than all OSMers based in the UK.

So same qn re perhaps having a closed space on the existing forum.


RobJN Sun 12 Jan 2020

I sense part of the attraction of switching to different channels is to ditch all those curmudgeonly old-timers hey?

Not at all. We wanted to avoid "taking over" an existing channel as whilst setting up OSM UK was reasonably popular it wasn't universally popular. There is also a benefit of having a separate area for OSM UK at is is clearer what topics people want OSM UK (the organisation) to look at versus the topics people are happy for UK OSMers (the community) to progress.

As noted, we recognise that "yet another portal" creates problems, but without the occasional review you risk missing out as things change. I think the 15 years of OSM is a sufficient period to have a review (which is what we did). Whilst we are not bowled over by Loomio, we do like the fact that it is open source, developed by a social enterprise and has a strong focus on decision making tools. This last bit is a way for us to test ideas with the community beyond just written responses. We don't use it all the time but when we do it is very helpful.

As for a way froward, we chatted about this at January's meeting and decided that we would continue with Loomio for another year and fund this out of our current reserves. Time pressure was a major factor at play - it takes time to assess, agree and communicate an alternative (even longer if changes are needed first) and we felt it was better to give ourselves ample time to do this rather than rush a decision in the next few days.

As for what we do in the during these 12 months, it feels like a good place to start is to re-assess the needs of our users. I can share my wishes (open, enables effective decision making, slow - i.e. people have time to read and respond when ready versus the feeling of needing to be available all the time in some instant chat services) but worth checking with others too.

FWIW I would like to see more features rolled in to openstreetmap.org in general. In my view any communication channel outside of osm.org will be harder for people to find and raises the barrier to wider participation.