For the last eight years, we have been developing a web application called “Crabgrass,” running at https://we.riseup.net. For many people, this site has been quite useful, with tens of thousands of active users. However, we have never announced this service publicly, until now. We finally feel that the code is mature enough that we want to climb every mountain top and scream at the top of our collective lungs “Crabgrass is here!” Or maybe we should just tell all our Riseup users about it in a newsletter? Yeah, probably that last one.
In a nutshell, Crabgrass is a simple way for groups to edit shared wiki pages. Crabgrass, however, has a few features that make it unique in the world of collaborative web applications. In particular, Crabgrass is designed to allow people to privately collaborate within a group and with other groups. Uniquely, Crabgrass allows for powerful searches, including full text searching, across the entire universe of things you have access to.
At Riseup, we believe that all technology encodes systems of power. In the long run, the only way for us to use technology for good is to create or deploy technology that reflects the way we want to connect with each other, and not the way that the surveillance economy wants us to. Crabgrass was designed by and for people practicing bottom-up, democratic organizing.
Crabgrass has been our collective’s communication tool for internal organizing for the last eight years. We use it for everything: we have many internal committees set up, we document all our minutes and research, we upload files and images, we use it for group discussions for big issues we need to mull over, and we use polls and voting in order to find consensus and make decisions. There is no way our distracted brains would be able to keep track of everything otherwise. Riseup would not exist without it!
The collective member who primarily writes these newsletters, Feral Rock Pigeon, has this to say about Crabgrass: “I am the least technical of all the Riseup members, and I find myself constantly muddling through this technological world. I am required to use the Google stuff (drive, docs, etc.) for some non-Riseup work, and I am always lost navigating through the fog. Ugh. In contrast, I started using Crabgrass a long time ago, never got any training in it, and have always been able to track and see everything I needed in logical way.”
There you have it! We did not pay her anything for this endorsement!
Lots of people are using https://we.riseup.net to organize in their collectives and movements. That’s exactly what it is meant for–self organization of social movements. Crabgrass is driven by people who care about it becoming a better tool for themselves, their groups and everyone.
Maybe you’ve chopped vegetables or washed teargas from peoples eyes at a protest. Maybe you’ve helped setup a barricade or tidied up the space it was meant to protect. Let’s apply the same spirit of self-directed mutual help to the improvement of this collective space. If you have 15 minutes please join us in building the platform we all want in order to build the world we want.
And a big shout out to aliaksandrb who for the past couple months arose from the ether to send daily bug and feature patches that have already gone live. AMAZING. If you are a developer, it’s a great time to get involved.
We recognize that Crabgrass has some bugs, and we are actively working to fix those. We are excited about this new release, but recognize that it is not perfect, and we will continue to iron out problems, as well as adding new functionality. We know that many people want calendaring functionality, and etherpad/ethercalc integration.
Also, please realize that putting something in Crabgrass does not inherently mean it is secure. If somebody with access to a page makes it public, then that page is public to any human or robot on the internet. So, as with any communication tool, it is important that you talk about your security protocols, and have some understanding of how the tool works. Understand who has access to a page, and that those with certain access can share the information (inadvertently or not) with others, by directly sharing the page, inviting others to the group, or having their account compromised.
Crabgrass does not feature end-to-end encryption: like with email, the Riseup collective has access to all the information on Crabgrass. There is currently no good way to support client-side encryption for a web application in a manner that prevents the provider from gaining access to the data. Nevertheless, we do plan to support some limited forms of client-side encryption in the future.