Sat 1 Sep 2018

An open letter

Michele Kipiel Public Seen by 374

Dear fellow members,

the events that unfolded over the past few days have put our cooperative to the test, and we failed miserably.

Many voices calling for change were silenced in the past, be it by negligence or by sheer lack of commitment by those, whose position of privilege allowed to disregard such calls. By failing to listen, we became the people MLK warned us about: the white moderates who are more devoted to order than to justice.

We wasted precious time and energy in endless debates about trivial details, calling for the creation of ever new committees and processes, and we eventually lost sight of the only true reason our cooperative came to existence: to wrestle control of our social media out of the hands of the rich, white, capitalist elite.

I am writing this letter to extend my personal apologies to all the people who felt betrayed by our failure and to promise them I am here to put my energy, time, skills and reputation on the line to repair this institution and turn it into a place where they will be safe again. A place for them to call home.

But promises are not enough. Words, however strong or emotional, are but empty utterances if they are not followed by swift, honest, transparent action guided by total commitment. And, with your help, I intend to trigger a new course that will shake social.coop at the foundations and turn it into something we will be proud of for years to come.

First of all, I invite all those who revel in relativistic attitudes towards racism, sexism, homo/trans-phobia and any other form of bigotry to instantly leave the cooperative and never come back. You are not welcome, and you will never be.

Second, I propose we close down registrations for all the time it will take us to heal our cooperative. This might sound like an aggresive move, but I believe it’s the only reasonable thing to do in this diffucult moment. A joint statement will replace our homepage for the time the instance will be closed, to inform people about our struggle to improve.

Third, we will follow the advice of those fellow members who chose to weather the storm with us despite being part of those groups we failed to protect in the first place. I will not name names here, but if you have been involved in the chat, you know who I am talking about.

  1. We shall reboot the cooperative with a core group of collaborators, deliberately chosen, and not all white men. I invite all men, including myself, to take a back seat in this process unless explicitly asked by the core group.

  2. We shall make sure we have social infrastructure in place for handling conflict and abuse before launch, including a rock-solid code of conduct that will state our absolute rejection of any form of hate speech, racism, bigotry and *phobia front and center.

  3. We shall grow our core user base deliberately, in small groups, and attempt to tap more diverse networks, to combat the network effects that brought social.coop on the brink of collapse

  4. We shall make sure all the skills and resources needed to maintain the organization are in place from the start and focus on sustainability. We can never find ourselves again in the situation where a single member leaving or being overwhelmed with external responsibilities exposes the instance to the risk of downtime, poor performance or sluggish maintenance.

  5. We will make sure at least one of the core collaborators is an experienced community manager, with previous experience handling diverse, international communities across many timezones.

I chose to stay because I believe we can do much, much better than we did so far, and because I am deeply committed to the idea of platform cooperativism as a means to achieve liberation, justice and equality for all.

At the same time I am painfully aware that my position of absolute privilege, which I am granted under the current capitalist partiarchy, puts me at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to understading the needs of those who are oppressed by the same system.

My position in the new social.coop will therefore be that of an enthusiastic contributor and ally to those who will be part of the core group and nothing more, unless explicitly asked for, as intellectual honesty demands I give up any position in which I could wield even the slightest bit of power.

With respect, hope and unchanged enthusiasm,

EDIT 02/09/18: replaced "take the instance off-line" with "close down registrations" as many members reported it was misleading and suggested we were going to shut down completely.


Nadia B Sat 1 Sep 2018

Sorry to hear that you feel the need to take the instance offline. I'd just like to say as a non-white woman I did not see this place as bigoted at all and I'm surprised at this post.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018

I am glad to hear this, and I am personally convinced the cooperative isn't inherently a hostile place, but we failed to implement the fundamental safeguards needed to make marginalised members feel safe.


Sam Toland Tue 4 Sep 2018

I am completely mystified by all these allegations - and while I haven't delved into alleged comments etc. it seems like there is a lot of broad brushstrokes accusing a bunch of co-op enthusiasts with overwhelmingly progressive views of being bigoted.


Alan (@alanz) Sat 1 Sep 2018

Being squarely in the privileged demographic called out, I support this process, and will wait patiently for it to unfold. Good luck to those doing the work, I am committed to staying here, when it is reborn.

@h Sat 1 Sep 2018

Thank you for your letter, @michelekipiel. It's a pleasure and an honour to be a member alongside you.


[deactivated account] Sat 1 Sep 2018

@michelekipiel Thank you for taking the time and effort to articulate this.


muninn Sat 1 Sep 2018

As somebody not involved in the previous discussions, I'm not thrilled about potentially having the rug pulled out from under me by a server shutdown (apparently so we can all think about what we did?) which I assume would happen before the 1 month deadline to move which I saw elsewhere.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018

We will work towards not having to pull the rug from below anyone, it's in the interest of us all not to!


muninn Sat 1 Sep 2018

Thanks. It would be great if any elective shutdown could be put to a vote, or at the least, if whatever export tools there are in the current version could be made functional.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018

If it comes to it, we will make sure every member will be granted the opportunity and the means to migrate elswhere. But I am hopeful we will manage to migrate the instance to new servers in time, and no one will have to move.

I hope we will be able to still offer our service to all our users even in "shut down" mode.


Alan (@alanz) Sat 1 Sep 2018

Its funny, I got the email, and went to social.coop, and got a 404. And thought it was already a fait accompli. But it was just something transient, I presume.


Cathal Garvey Sat 1 Sep 2018

@muninn I'm raising the subject of data export on Riot with @wulee and I'm sure it'll be online shortly, if it's just a toggle.

If it's not a "toggle" I'm happy to help with manual tech ops if necessary as a one-time "clean-up operation" to separate people's account data at a database level (fair warning folks, I'm not a DBA), so we can be nice and GDPR compliant about the shutdown / migration.


muninn Sun 2 Sep 2018

I'm wondering if this isn't a language issue, in that American English, "shut down" mostly applies to things like machines and servers. I understood it to mean that the server would be temporarily taken offline, it appears that you meant that we'd stop taking new users for a while. @michelekipiel


Robert Benjamin Sat 1 Sep 2018

At this point with so much damage and mistrust built up both on and off the platform (coupled with a mountain of operational disfunction) not sure there is a better way forward for SC.

If the Membership votes to restructure I offer my support (as Michele outlined) to a diverse leadership group (as needed) to make SC function and serve the need of a diverse set of members.

My hope is that it be a place seen as and genuinely does welcome and value contributions from all its members regardless of their background.

Still believe in the power of user ownership to transform the caustic online world for the sake the planet and our physical and mental health but if care is not given from the very beggining to empower those who have historically been kept out of the decision making process achieving this will be impossible.

Thank you to all of you who have devoted time and energy to bringing SC to life and to those that will continue the endeavor of making it better.


[deactivated account] Sat 1 Sep 2018

I am glad this conversation has started and I really appreciate the things you've written. While I decided to move away from social coop, I dont know that things need to shut down for useful lessons to be learned. Whatever people choose to do, I want to say while things happened that weren't good, social coop has a lot going for it and I'm pretty sure will emerge for the better. The problems arent insurmountable, although I know when everyone is stressed and theres a lot of conflict it can seem like they are, but they really aren't. Best of luck with it all.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018

We will do our best to migrate to new servers before the time is up, hopefully no one will loose their handle. But we definitely need to put the instance on hold and stop accepting new members so we can take the time to reorganise.


Neville Park Sat 1 Sep 2018

Thank you very much for your work and your critiques. Thank you for pushing us to be better.


G I McGrew Sat 1 Sep 2018

I am seeing something very similar play out in my (soon to be former?) workplace, where being nonwhite, neurodivergent, and queer femme has meant being punished for speaking out, for not knowing my place in an organization where order and comfort are prioritized over justice and change. The "tranquilizing drug of gradualism" (MLK), indeed.

It has made what has unfolded lately particularly poignant and exhausting. I have wanted to have more energy to speak up, to dive in. And not had enough to give, was uncomfortable in speaking out.

With what I sincerely believe is a firm commitment by the membership to rise to this challenge going forward, I want to trust that we can indeed move forward.

These organizational wounds and future scars are real. I know we cannot necessarily make it up to the individuals we drove away or drained out, the relationships broken beyond repair. But. I am personally choosing to remain at social.coop because I want to be a part of this instance emerging as a place truly worth calling a home within the fediverse.

Thank you for this letter, MK. It means a lot to me.
I hope to work beside you and lend what skills and strength I can in order to effect positive change.


Joho Sat 1 Sep 2018

I'm new and missing context, but if the co-op hasn't been able to take a firm position against hate speech and abuse, then I can see why a reboot along the lines laid out is necessary. If anyone can fill me in I'd be grateful, although I don't want to cause an unneeded rehashing.


emi do Sat 1 Sep 2018

@michelekipiel first of all, thank you. I can see the heart and care that has gone into crafting this letter and I too look forward to the co-operative emerging stronger for having been through this process.

Recognizing that this probably isn't the place to debate the minutiae of your proposed actions, I'm wondering where it would be appropriate to address concerns? There are a lot of proposed actions so I can't imagine having a thread for each of them is feasible, and yet I feel uncomfortable with many of them though I agree wholeheartedly in the spirit behind them.


Neville Park Sun 2 Sep 2018

Thanks for writing this. I think you've put into words the dismay and frustration a lot of us have been feeling.

I wish I had spoken up louder and earlier about things that made me uncomfortable, and advocated more strongly for things I believed but thought were "too radical" for this community. I wish I had done a better job of supporting fellow members who became alienated.

I would like to try again as well.


Matthew Cropp Sun 2 Sep 2018

The Community Working Group has a call scheduled for today at 7:30pm EDT that was originally planned for the purpose of developing the selection process for the Community Working Group Ops Team.

In light of Michele's tentative proposals above, a key question is whether we should continue with trying to get the Ops Team in place in parallel to the re-foundation process, or if it should be put on hold until the "core group of collaborators" is established, and empower them to form the ops team.

My concern about the latter approach is that it will continue to leave me holding much of the role by default for an indefinite period of time, and I'm feeling urgency around getting a broad, diverse, and sustainable (due to being compensated) team to carry the work going forward. I'm willing to remain in a holding pattern if there is a strong feeling that we need to wait for the re-boot, but I think that, if we develop a process for team formation that is aligned with this proposal, the co-op will be better served by getting this group together ASAP.

To be discussed on the call, but the process that I'm thinking about right now, which might also work for the "core group of collaborators" formation is as follows:
- Elect a small group (~5) who are not interested in serving on the ops team as a "selection committee" that is charged with soliciting applications and assembling the founding team, with a strong diversity requirement (something with the effect of ensuring that the founding ops team must not have a majority of cis white guys).
- "Selection Committee" submits their recommended slate of founding members to the CWG for ratification.
- Upon ratification, Ops Team takes over essential scope of responsibilities for rotating moderation, on-boarding when it is re-opened, etc.


muninn Sun 2 Sep 2018

Please, no waiting to make an ops team, just keep the one that took so long to assemble. ><


Matthew Cropp Sun 2 Sep 2018

After some conversations, I've taken a first swing at some rough draft language for a proposal to implement this. Hoping to discuss on the call tonight, but also welcome any feedback here:

This proposal authorizes the creation of a team of [x] social co-op members that will be fully empowered to make unilateral decisions concerning all aspects of social.coop, including modifying or replacing its bylaws, for a six month period. The team is tasked overseeing operations and building out the necessary policies and infrastructure to put the co-op on sound footing in alignment with the Co-op Principles at the time of the expiration of its mandate.

The team shall be selected by an elected “selection committee” consisting of [x] co-op members who do not themselves intend to offer to serve on the “Reboot Team,” and who will be elected via approval voting. The selection committee will solicit candidates for seats on the Team, and will be empower to appoint its members. The selection committee is required to prioritize diversity in selection, and may not select a committee in which any constellation of two or more [is this the right approach? The right #?] of the following identity characteristics is in the majority: race, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality [others?].


Matthew Cropp Sun 2 Sep 2018

I'd also want to include some language on the compensation of the team - we don't have a large amount of resources, but this work is critical and deserves something. 7 members x $25/mo x 6 mo shakes out to $1025, which is a touch less than a quarter of our current reserve. Should we go higher? Should the team be smaller?


Matt Noyes Sun 2 Sep 2018

The new bylaws, etc. would be approved by the new membership, right?


Michele Kipiel Mon 3 Sep 2018

Totally with you on this one. I believe the mods and the tech team taking care of the instance should be the first to obtain regular compensation for their hard work!


Matt Noyes Sun 2 Sep 2018

We should always be ready to scrap what we have and regenerate it. Thanks, Michele and others for putting it on the table. It seems to me we could proceed on two fronts at the same time:
1) existing ops teams/moderator/working groups continue in minimal mode -- just keeping the lights on (including moving to new servers) -- while
2) the re-generation committee creates a new interim structure (bylaws, organization, membership, etc.). When the new organization is established -- its members will have to vote on the bylaws, structure, etc., just like in the formation of any democratic organization. As soon as the new organization is established, the old organization ceases to exist.


Edward L Platt Sun 2 Sep 2018

@michelekipiel Can you elaborate or give some examples of voices being silenced or relativist attitudes towards bigotry? I care very much about using mastodon for social justice rather than against it, so I'm trying to better understand the situation. I've spent a lot of time reading through loomio and the local timeline, and all of the discussion I've seen has been very abstract. What exactly happened?


Michele Kipiel Mon 3 Sep 2018

It would be too long and painful to recap all that happened, please forgive me if I don't feel like doing it now. Sorry!


Edward L Platt Mon 3 Sep 2018

Do you know anyone who could at least give me part of the story? I've since figured out that other instances are concerned that we haven't upgraded, which I totally understand and support fixing immediately. I do get the sense that's not what you're referring to in your letter though.

I've been literally in the woods for the past several days, so maybe I missed out on some context, but it seems like that as members, we're being asked to completely reboot the organizational structure we've been working on because of a vague "situation" that no one seems to be able to explain. This is not great for building a community.

If we want to be welcoming to marginalized groups, we need to be transparent about how we make decisions. I have the privilege and luxury of being able to spend all day sifting through loomio and the timeline to try to be able to figure out what's going on, and I still can't. If information is that hard to find, there's no hope that less privileged individuals will be able to feel informed and included.


Bob Haugen Mon 3 Sep 2018

@edwardlplatt social.coop is still up and running. You could probably get (or find) some stories there, but they might be like Rashomon.

I don't think I saw enuf of the details, nor am I shitpost-conventions-literate enuf to do it justice. But I know it was traumatic for the founders, and I do think that rethinking and reorganizing is the right thing to do now.


emi do Mon 3 Sep 2018

@edwardlplatt I can understand that finding a linear timeline of what has happened would be hard to locate.

Here's @fabianhjr's synopsis from social.coop

That being said, as @bobhaugen has alluded to, re-hashing things that have already happened don't feel productive at this point. I think folks continue to be happy to engage in explaining/clarifying any concerns pertaining to the open letter and why the next steps are being proposed. If you feel like knowing certain details is critical to understanding the current situation, you can DM me on social.coop and I am happy to try to fill you in to the best of my ability.


Ian Smith Tue 4 Sep 2018

@edwardlplatt this was my summary: https://social.coop/@protean/100628213425368248


Charles Stanhope Mon 3 Sep 2018

@michelekipiel Thank you for taking the lead on this to make it clear, to people both inside and outside, the values of social.coop. Most of the time, I can barely keep up with what is happening on social.coop. And this week was a bit of a whirlwind. I think I managed to piece together what happened recently to create our current crisis (although I still managed to miss the vote on the CoC). My only contribution is fiscal, and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future. However, I do want to say I fully support these reboot efforts even if it were to mean asking somebody like myself, who has trouble actively participating, to leave in order to make room for people who can better participate to achieve the goals you articulate above.


spudboy Mon 3 Sep 2018

support your proposal


[deactivated account] Wed 5 Sep 2018

Part of the problem is "people with overwhelmingly progressive views" is meaningless, the idea that progressives are not capable of making assumptions based on inherent biases is just not borne out by reality. In fact, it is a great example of a positive bias towards themselves and other people like them. "They can't surely mean us, we're progressives!" One of the effects is demanding minority populations keep explaining to people in majority groups why obvious bigotry is obvious bigotry, ultimately it drives people away from participating which becomes a process of gradual homogeonization of the group. It also gets you labelled aggressive and hostile if you get bored explaining the same things over and over again to different people all asking, in some cases demanding, you spend your time and energy rehearsing the same converations endlessly. Its why you will never see me engaging in conversations about the meaning of gender or whether or not transgender people's gender is valid. Which was the thrust of one of the conversations that got us here.


Josef Davies-Coates Thu 6 Sep 2018

Is anyone able to summarise what has actually happened? and/ or link to a summary/ example or something? I'm at a loss and to what exactly has prompted this open letter @michelekipiel ? (perhaps because I've not actually logged into social.coop for a while)


Robert Benjamin Fri 7 Sep 2018

Unfortunately members who have been following/engaging in real time have been reticent to attempt a recap due to the emotional drain from frantic pace of how things have devolved/evolved, not wanting to be caught in the cross fire of what may seem as either minimizing or sensationalizing, while also doing justice to context.

My sincere hope is that the SC Loomio governance space quiets for at least through the weekend to allow the membership to decompress and reflect ahead of finding the common ground needed to move forward.

Feel free to hit me up directly any time and I'll provide what info I have, albeit from one limited perspective.

I think next week will start seeing more accounts start coming out.


muninn Fri 7 Sep 2018

So, a considerable number of people have asked for an explanation of what is going on, and nothing comprehensive has ever been provided any place I can see. I understand that producing such an overview is emotional labor and also work labor. But the fact that the majority of people seem to still have no idea what is actually going on juuust might be playing a role in the failure of the first Regeneration Team proposal.


Bob Haugen Fri 7 Sep 2018

I understand that it will be difficult to write or tell a story of what happened. And I think it will be contentious: people will not agree. But I still think it needs to be done, otherwise nobody knows what problem needs to be solved.
Might be best to see if some people who will disagree would at least agree to write or tell their own story and then put them all in the same document or other presentation.
And then see if all of them can get together on the same resolution? Or not?

@h Sat 8 Sep 2018

It's been a ride, thank you all for the friendships and the good times.
Here's a little letter.

I'll be around in the fediverse at:



Josef Davies-Coates Wed 26 Sep 2018

Well, I read that, but I'm still none the wiser as to what actually happened. And I'd bet that remains true for the vast majority of social.coop users - indeed, I'd bet most users aren't even aware that something has happened, let alone what that something is!

It's a bit of a shame people here who have been in the midst of it all are unwilling to shed some light on this. The goodbye letter from @h above mentions the need for "radical transparency" and yet remains completely opaque about what has actually happened that prompted the letter. Oh well.


Ana Ulin Wed 26 Sep 2018

As a new-ish member that is trying to get more involved in social.coop, and willing to participate and help out, I'm finding it really hard to inform myself and figure out if/what help is needed.

That said, after spending way too much time reading this thread and following a bunch of links, the best summary I've been able to find is this toot:
TL;DR someone was arguing against muting of instances but did so alongsides antagonizing a marginalized member.

That member stone to leave and complaint, rightfully, about the burocratization and reluctance to take action on abusive instances.

Someone here, while all this was happening said that "Nazi is a catch all term" and we were suspended by some instances for not taking action. The user apologized and deleted the toot.
(source: https://social.coop/@fabianhjr/100652542340297032)

There is also a thread with slightly longer discussion that seems to agree with the summary toot above:

And finally, this is a blog post from the user that made the infamous "nazi is a catch-all term" toot, telling his story and apologizing: http://discours.es/2018/social-coop/


Bob Haugen Mon 10 Sep 2018

looks like social.coop is back up and running. How did that happen?


muninn Mon 10 Sep 2018

It's been up the whole time for the most part.


Bob Haugen Mon 10 Sep 2018

Hmmm. Been down for for at least two days, checked several times each day. Now up again. Might easily have been me...


Alan (@alanz) Mon 10 Sep 2018

It was a bit unstable for a few days after the upgrade, maybe you were unlucky enough to sample it when it was down each time.


Bob Haugen Mon 10 Sep 2018



Neville Park Mon 10 Sep 2018

I've been trying to work myself up to writing an account of What Went Down but honestly find it extremely demoralizing/intimidating. It also started a long time ago—a few members have left and obviously some have been put off and not joined. But two precipitating incidents were:

  • 1 member bringing up the tiresome "free speech" thing in a Loomio thread about silencing problematic instances and not recognizing another member's example of some straightforward transphobic hate speech as such
  • at least 1 instance silencing social.coop over another member's toot that (charitably read) nitpicked the use of "Nazis" as an example of groups to explicitly exclude in our policy

Basically a case of members publicly Not Getting It that gives the impression of the instance in general Not Getting It. It is not enough to be willing to learn; a lot of people only want to join/interact with an instance of people who genuinely do Get It.


Nick S Tue 11 Sep 2018

There were other simultaneous aspects:
- The straw poll for creating a steering committee, which some members objected to strongly, seeing it as a potential failure of the direct-democratic principle, and therefore a red line
- Our problems upgrading quickly to a recent version of Mastodon with the moderation features other site admins were requesting, resulted in blocks (or threats of blocks) from them
- The acrimonious atmosphere, assorted resignations, and hasty accusations of "not getting it" or "dragging feet" making some members feel unwelcome and/or unwilling to engage
- The enormously significant resignation of Mayel and his request to vacate his server space within a month (I infer this was partly because of the straw poll, but I suspect all the above contributed, and he had been trying to step away for some time.)


Edward L Platt Tue 11 Sep 2018

On "not getting it." Some of our members have experience in cooperatives, and some in intersectional feminist activism, but it seems that very few have experience in both. While the two are largely compatible, the language and assumptions of those communities can be quite different.


Matt Noyes Tue 11 Sep 2018

For me it started when I saw posts that seemed to come from a different SNS culture, more combative, judgmental, polemical. Lots of use of ALL CAPS to make points. Not having been a Twitter user, it may be unfair of me to see this as typical of twitter. In any case, I had to learn lots of new terms for bad behaviour (edgelord, for example).
At the same time, one person with whom I had some dialogue, trying to understand what seemed to me to be a belligerent mode of communication, seemed to assume SC was a traditionally run instance, with admins who ran everything and needed to be held accountable, and members not responsible for admin, operations, governance, etc.
So our delay in adopting a CoC (which was actually in the process of approval and ahead of the schedule we set for ourselves) was not seen charitably as a weakness of a highly collaborative and inclusive process with multiple revisions, but as careless disregard and failure to protect members.
The other major condition that favored a blow-up was our delay in making specific proposals for equity and inclusion in operations -- something that a few of us had discussed, drafted, and set aside temporarily in order to focus on Ops Teams and the CoC.
(Note: I do not like the practice of attributing actions and views to "people" or "some people" -- it can be wildly misleading, but I don't want to put people on the spot. Ask me if you want reference to specific toots.)


Leo Sammallahti Mon 10 Sep 2018

This is Doug Belshaws post about the controversy surrounding him:



Miloš Wed 12 Sep 2018

Many of these letters and messages are too long, and appear to me as a lot of first-world, white-people navel-gazing. They make it hard for people to get involved and are not really productive. It's a quiet "Tyranny of Structurelessness."

If we are a community and a cooperative, we have a responsibility towards others' time to be clear and to the point. I'm grateful to those who work hard at that and come up with viable solutions. Many of us work and organize AFK and are not online to follow all discussions.

After reading this whole thread, I still have no idea what all this drama is about.

I don't mean to say that the hurt is illegitimate (far from it), but just that it would be good to know what this is all about.


Matt Noyes Wed 12 Sep 2018

@nev, who is busy with IRL political stuff right now, is compiling a record of the various issues that led to the sense of crisis from which we are emerging.


Miloš Wed 12 Sep 2018

Thanks so much for the response! Looking forward to that work then, will be great to read to get a better idea.