By Michael Albert at Apr 22, 2010
First, we apologize that ZGroups has taken so long to appear, in final form, online.
Programming, and the internet more generally, and computers as well for that matter, are - when you are maintaining them, or innovating them, or even just using them at a high level, a really big drag, including always taking far longer to get done and requiring far more to maintain than one desires. BUT - nonetheless - we have arrived at kick-off week for ZGroups.
Big deal, you say. What does it matter.
Well, a ZGroup will be a place that a set of people can engage one another and a viewing public about any topic or purpose that they share in common.
At the outset, we will immediately have nine groups that ZStaff have entered, partly testing the system and partly because these are clearly warranted Groups:
- A Reimagining Society Group including as members all Resoc participants (about 350 already in this Group) and whoever joins the group in the future
- A People for a Participatory Socialist International Group including all endorsers (about 1800 in this group) to date and whoever joins in the future
- A People for an International Organization for a Participatory Society Group including whoever joins in the future
- A Participatory Economics, a Participatory Politics, a Participatory Culture, and a Participatory Kinship Group, each of these four including whoever joins in the future
- A ZMI Grads Group, including graduates of ZMI who join the group
- A ZVolunteers Group, including Z volunteers and folks wanting to engage about ZCom possibilities
The ZGroup compendium page which you can reach from the tab menu at the top of every page in the site, always links to a list of all ZGroups including a brief description of each and a link to click to visit it. For the moment it has only the nine mentioned above though as time passes, it will also accrue links to all those added.
When you visit a group page by using the tab menu link, perhaps, or by way of the compendium page, or by other routes - each Group Page will display photos of members and have a left menu link to see lists of members.
Each group page will also have its own left menus, content boxes, graphics, videos, etc.
Each Group will also have one or more admins who maintain the page and who accept or reject requests to join.
In the future, not too far off, Group pages will also include a place for cumulative communications between members of the group as is typical with many social networking sites.
Group Pages will also feature, right off this week, group blogs, group members' articles on the group topic and on broader matters as well, art that admins select, comments, discussion, etc.
Very soon Group Page admins will also be able to edit the tab menu users see when viewing the Group Page.
But what will Groups actually be about?
The short answer is that they will be about whatever people want them to be about.
Thus there could be reading groups, and pretty soon we will put online some special features specifically for that purpose.
Or there could be groups of people from some country or city who create a ZGroup to keep track of each other, share ideas, work together, etc.
Or there could be groups with some shared interest they want to explore together, or groups of people with similar politics, or with similar activist agenda, and so on.
Even the first few groups that are already online, fledgling as they are at the outset, give a good indication, we hope, of what is possible. To see what I mean, take one of them as an example to consider: the PSI Group. This is many people - in fact, already nearly 1800 - who endorsed the Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International. We have placed them all in this group, by default, so to speak.
Now, to see the potential value of this particular Group, suppose that the desire for a new International that was unleashed by the Call from Caracas this past Fall revives and grows stronger heading into next Fall. Imagine, as well, that this Group takes itself seriously and thus uses its resources to explore ideas and even to hammer out more extensive shared views then the initial proposal regarding building a Participatory Socialist International.
You can see, I hope, that the PSI Group could, at the very least, inspire and facilitate valuable discussions which would already be a serious contribution. But, even beyond that, in this case one could imagine the PSI Group also becoming a kind of locus of organization and desire, advancing the creative and organizing process, contributing to it, and thus having a profound and perhaps even in some ways fundamental impact on any new International that actually comes into being.
Okay, now imagine as a second example, a Group seeking a new revolutionary Participatory Society organization - the IOPS Group that is currently in place, for example. This Group of course starts smaller, even though it is arguably in some sense even more ambitious. However, the thing to note is that it could have a similar trajectory. First it might spur thought and discussion and engender debates and refinements of its shared statement describing a desired new organization. Then it might propel growing participation and anticipation of such an organization, advocacy of it, and then active support, perhaps finally inspiring and even helping organize efforts to create and federate chapters, and facilitating each learning lessons from all the rest, etc.
Or, consider another possibility, still of the hugely ambitious sort. Imagine a Group that forms around some shared desire for a major campaign - perhaps ending third world debt, or nationalizing some major industry, or instituting a shorter workday, or adopting some approach to global warming, or to war, or a massive campaign about media, etc. Again, one could imagine such an effort first sparking interest in a possible effort and then congealing growing insights and refinements of ideas, sharing experiences, etc., in turn garnering still wider support and finally becoming more advocacy oriented, including, in the end, spawning a major international campaign or other endeavor of the sort the Group favors.
Or imagine, now at a more modest and smaller scale, Groups forming around relating to some political speaker or performer, etc. - and then assessing that person's work, suggesting ideas to the person for innovations and better work in the future, etc. Again, at the very least, it would be interesting and creative. At most, it would impact the performer in the future.
Or consider an organization, perhaps a media outfit like a publisher - creating a Group. It could have most or even all the publisher's writers in it, say, and it could promote discussion of their works, including promoting their works, debating them, and so on.
And one could also imagine very desirable Groups that would be about specific explorations, interests, or enjoyments, about specific aspects of vision, analysis, or strategy, or just about life and life only - really, it is up to you all.
So I not only want to use this blog to let you know it is all imminent, I want to urge you to get going with suggesting and joining and admin-ing ZGroups. They are now ready for you to start that level of involvement, even as we also patch up little problems and add some finishing touches during this coming week.
There is also, by the way, much more in the way of features and capacity that we want to add - but doing it is hard and expensive, and we cannot safely take the plunge, nor should we, unless there is a serious sign that people are willing, eager, and able to put some effort into accruing and sharing the benefits.
So come on. Show us the way!
For that matter, you might join the Volunteers Group and put forward ideas for innovations in blogs tagged for that Group, as long as you use the join and create options, meanwhile, to get things rolling.