Crabgrass currently consists of a solid suite of group collaboration tools, such as private wikis, task lists, file repository, and decision making tools. We are currently working on a large user interface overhaul, better social networking tools, blogs, and event calendars, as well as better support for collaboration and decision making among independent groups. Crabgrass is written in Ruby using the Ruby on Rails framework. Riseup Labs coordinates Crabgrass development.
While social movements have grown more adept at using the web to communicate publicly, we are still mostly using inadequate tools to communicate amongst ourselves. Most groups rely heavily on email, lists, and wikis— but these tools are not suited for the complexity of relationships that activist organizations face in the real world.
There are many existing social networking websites out there. However, these offerings are geared toward the needs of advertisers or informal social groups. There are also many existing web services for group collaboration. These sites are typically designed for small businesses and do not match the needs of movement organizations.
Most importantly, Crabgrass is software libre. As such, it can be provided as a service by radical tech collectives such as riseup.net.
What Crabgrass Does
Crabgrass enables social change organizations to get things done, get the word out, collaborate and network.
- To get things done , Crabgrass provides tools like task list management, meeting scheduling, asset management, wiki, and decision making.
- When it is time to get the word out , Crabgrass allows groups to create a customized home page where a group can list their event calendar, blog postings, and other public content.
- To help collaborate , Crabgrass allows users to rate content, add keywords to content, comment on content, annotate content, alert others to content you need their feedback on, and track participation and revisions. Additionally, Crabgrass comes with many tools for democratic decision making.
- Since no group is an island, Crabgrass allows groups to create networks with other independent groups. These networks provide a place to work together on shared content and make decisions. Alternately, you can share a single document if that is the extent of the cooperation (in development).
All of these elements are implemented from a social networking perspective. Events, for example, will allow one to RSVP, see who is coming or watching, and send to your contact’s calendar.
- Share content with exactly the people and groups you want. You can grant access to view, edit, or administer content.
- All content is searchable using a super fast full text search engine.
- Every page can have tags, attachments, and ratings.
- You can choose to receive notification when a page is updated and you can send notices to people when you want to alert them to a change.
Types of content
- Personal Messages
- Discussions: public or private forums.
- Wikis: revision history, locking, automatically view changes since your last visit.
- Decision making tools: approval voting and ranked voting.
- File management: upload images, audio, and documents.
- Task lists
- Privacy: every user and group will have control over what information they choose to reveal about themselves.
- Security: the first install of crabgrass, hosted at we.riseup.net, is configured to only allow https connections and all data is stored in encrypted format.
Model organizational structure
- Groups: A group is the basic organizational unit of crabgrass. A group has many people who are members of the group and is a place for those members to share content.
- Committees: A committee is subgroup. Every person in the parent group has access to all the content of the committee, but committee members do not have access to the group’s content (unless they happen to be members of both). Committees are useful when a group has a working group or project that needs its own space, but everyone in the larger group should have access. Committees can also be used to bring outside people in to work on a project but you don’t want to give them access to all the parent group’s content.
- Councils: A council is an administrative subgroup – its users have special poweres. Suppose you have a collective with full members and provisional members. You can make the full members part of the council and this will reserve for them certain administrative functions.
- Networks: when many groups federate together they can form a Network. Networks are used for multiple groups to cooperate together on projects.
- Calendaring: group calendars, private calendars, public calendars, events, meeting scheduling, oh my!
- Directory: a searchable and browseable directory of activist organizations.
- Improved membership process: allow a group to be configured to allow for different types of (democratic) membership administration.
Who created crabgrass?
Crabgrass is the creation of the The Riseup Collective*. As an open source project it has benefited from both volunteer labor as well as from paid work from various clients. The future of crabgrass will be determined by the growing community of crabgrass developers, planners, UX engineers, designers, and users.
* The Riseup Collective is an autonomous collective of volunteer activist which provides alternative communications infrastructure. At last count, we had 20 thousand email users, 13 thousand lists, two million list subscribers, and 50 hosted servers.
What does the name mean?
- crabgrass is subversive: as the bane of suburban lawns everywhere, crabgrass is the ultimate in grassroots resistance.
- crabgrass is diverse: there are 300 species of native to tropical and warm temperate regions. crabgrass is native to north america, and in important source of food for many birds.
- crabgrass is hard to kill: because of its networked nature, it is very difficult to pull out enough crabgrass roots to get rid of it. it is resistant to many herbicides.