Re: Shared survey: what does your community use?
From: Tom Smyth (
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2017 05:59:00 -0700 (PDT)
I want to chime in here and elaborate on what Corey said so eloquently
about paid software.

Sassafras intends to offer Gather with an initial trial period followed by
a monthly, sliding scale subscription fee.

Currently Gather is a passion project just like Mosaic. I love working on
it -- it's my happy place. But I am also a dad and an active community
member and a worker-owner at a young co-op, and so as you can imagine it's
hard to find time to do 1. bug fixing, 2. support, and finally 3. new
feature development.

This is super frustrating because there are so many great features in the
backlog and roadmap that would add a lot of value to the community. I just
don't have time to build them.

And here's the thing: *cohousing needs and deserves its own software*. It's
a unique thing. Condo software or other off-the-shelf tools just won't cut
it. Condos don't have meals programs or shared work systems or consensus
decision making or lots of shared resources or etc. etc. These things are
what make cohousing great and they are all ripe for software support.

I would also argue that having good software available also makes it easier
for cohousing to grow. Obviously the biggest barrier is obtaining capital,
but having a lot of the logistics of running a community already taken care
of is a big hurdle out of the way. Do the next 1,000 cohousing communities
need to re-invent the wheel in figuring out how to run their meals program
and handle reservations for the common house and where to store their files
and how to communicate electronically? Is there any benefit in them doing
so? I think not. Their time is better spent on things that software can't
do, like building community cohesion and arguing over pet policies :)

And if you're with me so far, and if we're talking about that kind of
scale, I just don't think hobby-built software is going to be able to keep
up. Sorry Sean, I disagree with you here. You said yourself that you have
way more ideas than time. Well here's the thing: the cohousing world
deserves to see those ideas put into practice! That's what money is for!

You may be thinking of various famous software products that are zero-cost,
and those are great and there are lots of different economic models to
support free software, but none of them apply to the niche market of
cohousing. It's a fascinating subject, truly one of the great movements of
our time, and I'd be happy to discuss this further with those that are
interested but I don't want to digress too far here.

Please note that paid software doesn't have to be closed-source or
proprietary. Gather and Mosaic are both open source projects. If you ever
don't like where Gather is going you can fork it and do your own thing, and
your data won't be locked away. The Gather subscription fee will not be a
rent (i.e. free money based solely on ownership of intellectual property).
It will cover support and eventually, if enough people sign up, it will
begin to cover development time. (Fingers crossed!)

In fact, we'd like to eventually explore a cooperative ownership structure
where subscribers would be part owners of the business and have direct
input into the feature roadmap. This model is sometimes known as platform
cooperativism and is a really exciting new concept in the cooperative
movement. Check it out if you have some time to spare.

And for those curious about Gather, stay tuned. I'll be making an
announcement soon.

Thanks all for a great discussion!

On Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 11:51 PM, Corey <corey.birnbaum [at]> wrote:

> Thanks Sharon! I've been working on this survey with some people for a
> couple months already, but that only got me so far. I don't think there's
> such a thing as a completely unbiased survey that's 100% clear to everyone,
> but we tried our best. I agree that we can use these results to create a
> better iteration in the future.
> Your feedback is fantastic, I really appreciate the time you took to help
> me out with this! Those questions you mentioned have actually been serving
> their purpose pretty well, since I am aware of the issues you mentioned and
> it seems the people who have taken the survey also get the questions. I was
> careful to say "you personally" versus "your IC" and most people caught on
> to that. When I say "your IC" I mean the combined effort of all the members
> and I have no idea how to make that more clear--I'd appreciate any thoughts
> on how to improve that if it isn't clear to you.
> I'm incredibly interested in hearing more of your thoughts on Association
> Voice and more detailed info on how that works. I hope you don't mind a
> private email coming your way about that soon. I'm not sure how much I
> should flood this list...
> ---
> Hey Sean, thanks for chiming in! I'm really sorry if I came across as
> trying to put words into your mouth, that was not my intention. As a
> developer, I wanted everyone to know that any app and especially
> specialized services are not free precisely because of what you
> mentioned--time. We can't afford to work full-time while also
> sufficiently supporting our passion on the side. Hosting is pretty cheap
> (still not free!), but developing new features, fixing bugs, and answering
> support requests take an enormous amount of time (if we let it), and that's
> the main problem. I really want our apps to succeed, but the only way to
> give them the attention they deserve is to be paid to work on them
> full-time. That's my opinion at least! I understand situations differ.
> Regarding the name, keep in mind that "google-ability" is pretty important,
> so try to pick something that a) won't get you sued and b) is easy to find
> with a quick google (ie not much competition). I'm really impressed with
> the improvements you've been making to Mosaic and I look forward to
> watching it evolve further.
> //corey
> On Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 12:45 PM, Sean Davey <sean [at]>
> wrote:
> >
> > Hi Corey,
> >
> > thanks for the survey, it's interesting to see what others are using.
> > Personally, I would like to hear more about what people like and don't
> like
> > about the software they are currently using.
> >
> > I just wanted to respond that communities not wanting to pay for software
> > isn't tough for me personally. It's also not representative of the
> > communities I work with. Pretty much all of them have either assumed they
> > would need to pay for Mosaic or have generously offered to pay, although
> I
> > always decline. One of the great things about living in a community is
> that
> > there are opportunities to provide work and service to your neighbors.
> I'm
> > grateful that technology makes it easy for me to offer my software to
> > others outside my community. I've met many wonderful people
> electronically
> > and am very glad that they seem to find something that I've built to be
> > useful. There isn't much cost to hosting websites, time is the main
> issue.
> > I wish I had more time than I do to work on Mosaic. I have way more ideas
> > than time :-)
> >
> > As for the name, I've been wanting to changing it from the very
> beginning.
> > I'd be very happy to hear suggestions for a better name. My favorite one
> > that I've received so far is Contigo so I may end up switching to that at
> > some point.
> >
> > As with everything in community, there is a large spectrum of needs and
> > preferences when it comes to online tools. I very much enjoy working with
> > the communities that I host sites for when they ask me for changes or new
> > features that make the sites work better for them. A lot of the work I've
> > done over the last couple of years is to make Mosaic more modular and
> more
> > customizable by the communities. Currently I'm very excited to be working
> > on making Mosaic work with different languages as there is an interested
> > community that speaks French.
> >
> > Anyway, I always appreciate hearing more about how communities use
> > technology. If anyone has ideas for online functionality that doesn't
> seem
> > to exist yet, I'd love to hear from you.
> >
> > Sean
> >
> > > From: Corey <corey.birnbaum [at] <mailto:corey.birnbaum [at] 
> > >
> >>
> > > Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Shared survey: what does your community use?
> > > Date: August 5, 2017 at 9:42:19 PM MST
> > > To: cohousing-l [at] <mailto:cohousing-l [at]>
> > >
> > >
> > > Thanks for the feedback Fred. I view Mosaic as "custom software" which
> is
> > > an option, but in all other questions I provided an "other.." field
> where
> > > you can insert what you use if it wasn't mentioned (already there are a
> > lot
> > > of options that I felt could be too much). If there are questions that
> > > don't apply, I made many of them optional (ones without the red
> > asterisk).
> > >
> > > I want to mention that, besides Mosaic (by Sean Davey who is also on
> this
> > > list) there is also Gather by Tom Smyth ( <
> >>) that is an
> > > online tool for coordinating common meals, ledger, and reservation
> > system.
> > > Those are the only two custom-for-cohousing solutions I'm aware of, but
> > > would love to hear about any more out there.
> > >
> > > Thank you everyone for your answers so far! This is really fascinating
> > > stuff and I have to admit I'm mostly surprised by just how large these
> > > communities are (most answered 50+!). If you have suggestions on how I
> > can
> > > improve it too, please let me know.
> > >
> > > Some other insights I'd like to share:
> > > - Most communities use email as their primary medium for not just
> > > communication, but event coordination as well. However, a solid number
> of
> > > you do use shared online calendars.
> > > - People seem ambivalent towards their current solutions (seems very
> few
> > > are happy with email) with the only exception being their financial
> tool,
> > > which most people listed as QuickBooks. There's also satisfaction with
> > how
> > > consensus building is done in general.
> > > - Most of you use Google Drive, but only a few of you pay for cloud
> > > services, the most popular being Dropbox.
> > > - You're mostly iPhone users.
> > >
> > > Overall, everyone seems to want better solutions for most aspects of
> > > community life, but are unwilling to pay for them. That certainly makes
> > > things tough for those like Sean and Tom who have great solutions,
> > because
> > > nothing is free--the cost (hosting, time, skill, etc) has to be
> absorbed
> > by
> > > someone.
> > >
> > > Please continue to share this survey! For those of you who want to view
> > the
> > > results for yourselves, you can always see them at this address:
> > > <
> >>
> > > AANdnbSWT7pm7VA7b7yqmcpcex_cuWI1iV5DbA/viewanalytics
> > _________________________________________________________________
> > Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> _________________________________________________________________
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Tom Smyth

Worker-Owner, Sassafras Tech Collective
Specializing in innovative, usable tech for social change · @sassafrastech

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