Loomio
Wed 26 Feb

Please restore posting functionality on groups created before compulsory subscriptions

DS
Danyl Strype Public Seen by 254

I have started seeing this message on numerous groups:

Your free plan has now expired. Your group has been using Loomio for free since 14th May 2015. We are unable to continue providing a free service. Please upgrade to continue using Loomio

These communities created their groups on Loomio.org on the understanding that it was a pay-what-you-can service. Many people involved in bringing their communities to Loomio, have used these groups partly to contribute to Loomio, in the form of unpaid beta testing, bug hunting, features discussion, and so on. The Loomio team have every right to change that deal for new groups, but preventing communities from using existing Loomio groups created under the previous pricing plan, is not cool. Please restore the functionality of all groups created before the change in pricing policy that made paid subscriptions mandatory.

MB

Midi Berry Wed 26 Feb

Hi Strypey. Thanks for voicing your concern. As one who joined Loomio some years ago as a pay if you can service, I feel sad to see the erosion of that position through financial imperatives, and I think you make an important suggestion. I have a lot of empathy too for the Loomio organisation who need to eat. They do a great deal to be responsive to clients and typically offer us outstanding service.

My organisation Gene Keys was in its infancy when we joined. It then moved to a place where it could afford to pay the basic. Our own organisation is going through a process of change where financial issues have flavoured recent decisions. It does feel like an erosion too at a time when the world is in imbalance and we pioneers for a different way of organising need to stand together and stand firm.

I do think it would be very helpful if those of us who have been in Loomio from early on can be acknowledged somehow and even perhaps allowed to continue on original terms. I have not seen the notice you mention but I did see that we in Gene Keys can invite another 54 members before we are obliged to 'upgrade'. I would have liked for us to have some kind of acknowledgement as perhaps of 'grandparent' status.

ME

Michael Elwood-Smith Thu 27 Feb

Hi Midi, thanks for your support. You won't have seen that message because your group is on an active subscription plan. Without the financial support of organizations like yours we would not be here today - it is critical for sustainability and growth, and means everything to us.

For clarity, Gene Keys is on one of our earlier 'Gold' subscription plans that had a 100 member limit. In the pricing changes we've made since then, we have not required earlier customers to change and have 'grand parented' plans.

We are focused on building Loomio into a financially successful business with an ethical revenue model based on fair exchange for value. We are regularly reviewing pricing to meet varying customer needs, and there will be more changes ahead.

I do hope we can restore a general free offer for community groups in future - for now we invite a conversation with any specific group in need via contact.

MB

Midi Berry Fri 28 Feb

Hi Michael and thanks for the clarity. I did not remember our Gold subscription having any member limit at the time when we signed up. 😄

ME

Michael Elwood-Smith Thu 27 Feb

Thanks for raising this Strypey. As you've been part of our journey from the beginning you'll appreciate our need to insure Loomio is sustainable now and for the future.

We have progressively attempted to find a model that can support a small (at times skeleton) team while continuing to develop. This is absolutely necessary for Loomio to survive and grow and continue to support community groups around the world.

The specific message on old 'free' group plans links to a letter where we described plan changes and invite a conversation.

We introduced a special plan for unfunded community groups at just $1 per person per year. Most community groups that have a problem contributing financially have contacted us and we have been generous in our response and dealing with specific situations.

I invite you and any community members to contact us about specific groups.

DS

Danyl Strype Mon 2 Mar

Thanks for the prompt reply. A few points:

The core point I'm making is that the Loomio Cooperative made a mutually beneficial agreement with the groups who joined on a pay-what-you-can plan. Gratis usage for them, testing and feedback (and tolerance of hiccups and bugs) on an in-development service for you. IMHO you have a moral obligation, if not a legal contract, to honour that agreement. Just as you have with groups that joined on a paid plan, under previous pricing regimes.

Over the years, I've asked a number of times whether to advise groups wanting to use Loomio to self-host, reducing the drain on the Loomio.org hosting. Every time, I've been discouraged from doing that, because the bulk of your costs are not those of hosting, but of paying staff. So having a bunch of groups leave the service would not save you much money, if any. Chances are it wouldn't make you any money either. Most groups who can afford to pay for their use of Loomio already do, so the vast majority of of those kicked off the pay-what-you-can plan will have no choice but to go elsewhere.

What this would cost you is a great deal of goodwill. I, for one, would feel disinclined to help with any further beta testing or UX feedback, or with promotion of Loomio in the software freedom and platform cooperative movements. I would be unwilling to encourage anyone to enter into a paid agreement for the use of Loomio.org, when previous agreements about pay-what-you-can usage have not been honoured. In fact, there's a good chance. I doubt I'm alone in feeling this way.

I encourage all the members of the Loomio Cooperative to rethink this decision. The potential benefits seem low, and the potential costs seem high.

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Mon 2 Mar

Hey Strypey, I'm one of the founding members of the Loomio co-op but I'm not involved in the day-to-day decisions these days, so I participate in this conversation with one foot in and one foot out.

I do feel a sense of "moral obligation" to people like you who have supported me personally and us collectively for many years. That sense of obligation means I want to have this conversation openly with you and other members of the coop. It's not clear in my mind that anyone was explicitly promised lifetime free use of the hosted version of Loomio though.

I hear that this decision risks a loss of goodwill. I'm wondering if @Rob Guthrie or @Michael Elwood-Smith could provide some extra data & input. Are you open to the idea of having some of the very old free groups "grandfathered"? I'm not sure what that would involve technically. E.g. how many active non-paying groups are there that started say, earlier than 2015?

RG

Rob Guthrie Mon 2 Mar

This is a terrible time to need my response. I'm the primary caregiver for my mum who only has days remaining.

This is my personel view not that of Loomio.

I feel like Loomio should not be forced to stay in an unhealthy relationship. The code is still free, your data is your data. The hosting charge is a dollar per person per year. Weve been saying people need to pay for 5+ years to meaningfully contribute to the relationship.

we have been trying our best but we simply can't find a way to give hosted service away for free and survive. i feel our first obligation is to ensure the survival of Loomio

Relationships change and that's ok -we're not extorting you.

MB

Midi Berry Mon 2 Mar

Hi Rob. I feel your first obligation is to your Mum and yourself. Loomio and we will still be here when you again have space for other things. Sending you and her loving wishes for this extraordinary time in your life together and beyond...

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 5 Mar

Kia ora Rob, really sorry to hear that you are losing your Mum. I remember the loss of my grandmother - who I was as close to as my parents - forced me to drop everything for a few months. Kia manawanui e hoa.

DB

David Best Mon 2 Mar

I can appreciate the need for a revenue stream to maintain sustainability, but usability must be a key priority to create a good user experience. Over the past couple of years there has been a steady decrease in the keyboard functionality, and those groups with assistive technology members are at a disadvantage. It is disappointing, as Loomio at one time was a leader in accessibility. Standard keyboard functionality, and standard user interface like WCAG, is critical for nonmouse users. Buttons lack text labels, images lack alternative text, tab panels lack keyboard controls, and general keyboard navigation has become frustrating. So, groups that are serious about including disabled members, will count the cost of usability. I appreciate the challenges of a small development group, but success in a competitive digital world does depend upon user satisfaction. Accessibility standards do not have to be expensive, if maintained as an ongoing skill set.

ME

Michael Elwood-Smith Tue 3 Mar

Hi David, thanks for raising your concerns about Loomio accessibility. We respect your concerns and thank you for holding us to account. This touches on a core value for us.

Please bear with us as we continue to work on this. We will reach out for support in testing and improving Loomio 2.0 for use by people with assistive technologies, and hope you'll be available when that time comes. In the meantime please know that we are very grateful for all of your support over the years and hope that we can deliver a user experience that serves everyone well.

ME

Michael Elwood-Smith Tue 3 Mar

Thanks @Strypey for the further points. I have engaged the cooperative in an advice process decision regarding old groups and will report back in a few days.

In the meantime we do want to maintain goodwill and invite anyone in need to contact us so we can figure out how to help each other.

We are generous in our response collaborating on specific groups, and can usually find a non-monetary exchange of value including; a use-case story we can publish and you can share with your network, language translation, beta testing and usability testing, published article or blog post, links back to boost SEO...

More soon 🙂

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 5 Mar

Thanks @Michael Elwood-Smith my faith in the Loomio Community has been restored :)

I'm sure that any group who are still actively using Loomio, but can't afford to pay, has either already made significant contributions of the type you mention, or would be more than willing to do so in exchange for continued gratis hosting. One option could be for group functionality to be restored, with the "your free plan has now expired" message replaced with something along the lines of "how would you like to contribute to Loomio in exchange for ongoing hosting", with a list of examples like the one you've offered here, and contact information? I would be willing to join a team of volunteers who individually follow up with such groups, and document their contributions, to take that weight off the Loomio staff.

Some communities may be in a position to self-host, especially those who already hosts other infrastructure for their own use. They could then offer gratis hosting to other groups with common interests and/or overlapping membership. An automated export system that allowed groups on Loomio.org to be moved to another Loomio instance would help a lot with that.

Is it possible to use the SSO system in Loomio in such a way that users with account on Loomio.org would still be able to participate in groups that move to another instance, without having to set up accounts for each one? If so, a blog piece explaining how to do that would also help tremendously.

ME

Michael Elwood-Smith Tue 10 Mar

Hi Strypey, Our internal advice process has closed and I have support from the cooperative to restore full use of old Loomio groups 🎉

We're just working through some details and I'll report back when complete - it may be a few days more.

Thanks for your suggestions and willingness to follow up with groups, they're really helpful.

We need to keep the work overhead with free groups to a minimum, so a passive call as you suggest, with a message inviting groups on gratis hosting to contribute, will probably work best. We'll look into this.

I don't think we will actively try to help gratis groups move off loomio.org, as the time cost will be greater than hosting cost, as you noted earlier - and simplest for everyone to stay on loomio.org.

DS

Danyl Strype Tue 10 Mar

Michael Elwood-Smith wrote:

I have support from the cooperative to restore full use of old Loomio groups 🎉

That's great news, thanks heaps for being so responsive to community
needs My faith in the Loomio kaupapa is now totally restored :)

I don't think we will actively try to help gratis groups move off loomio.org, as the time cost will be greater than hosting cost

Understood. AFAIK having an automated export tool for user data is a
necessity for GDPR compliance if you have any users in the EU. IMHO this
is a minimum standard for an ethical network service. It would make
sense for that data export to be in a format that can be easily imported
into another Loomio instance, since this would also facilitate groups to
move from self-hosting to a paid plan on Loomio.org, if they find that
self-hosting is more work/ cost than they anticipated ;)

RG

Rob Guthrie Thu 12 Mar

FYI: We already support automatic data export and import

https://help.loomio.org/en/user_manual/groups/data_export/#export-group-data-as-json

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 12 Mar

Rob Guthrie wrote:

FYI: We already support automatic data export and import

Awesome! :)

https://help.loomio.org/en/user_manual/groups/data_export/#export-group-data-as-json

It would be great to build out the UI around this, so that group
coordinators can migrate their group from one instance to another
without needing server access. This would mainly benefit groups
migrating off Loomio.org, since groups migrating to a paid plan can
probably count on a bit of sysadmin hand-holding ;) I wonder if anyone
in the community would be willing to do some work on this?

As a side note, I see that page mentions JSON. The ActivityPub
federation standard is built around passing around chunks of JSON using
ActivityStreams vocabulary. Since Loomio already speaks JSON, it may not
be too much work to implement ActivitySteams and allow full federation
between Loomio instances. Mastodon also uses Ruby-on-Rails, so it may be
useful to borrow some components from them, or at least study their AP
implementation.

ME

Michael Elwood-Smith Sun 15 Mar

Outcome: We have restored non-paying groups started before 1 January 2018 to 'free'

Thanks again for raising this. We have now restored full posting functionality to non-paying Loomio group started before 1 January 2018 to a 'free' status.

Now, more than ever, we need to communicate and collaborate safely online, and I encourage our community to share how Loomio can help people continue good work.

For new unfunded community groups on Loomio we have introduced special rates at just $US 1 per person per year.

And we can always find a way to collaborate with any groups that cannot contribute financially, just contact us. 🙂