Minutes:Mastodon Seed Council Initial Meeting

From neuromatch

Up to Mastodon/Meetings.

A Meeting of the Mastodon:Seed Council.

The purpose of this meeting is to determine the minimal decisions and structures that need to be in place for us to open registration.

Pre Meeting



Nick Halper

Natalie Steinemann

Ogul Can Yurdakul

Brad Wyble

Jordan Matelsky

Tim Verstynen

Jeremy Forest

Manisha Sinha

Jonny Saunders

Courtney Dean



  • Neuromatch overview
    • Build community and connect people across science
    • Neuromatch Open Publishing -- creating open source publishing
    • NM Data Analytics -- provide post-docs/grad students w/ a specific skill to smaller labs to provide their expertise
  • Neuromatch mission statement


Discussions are agenda items without a defined proposal to vote on. This meeting will be mostly discussions since we are still feeling out most of these things and will likely defer firm decisions to after launch.



Basic questions:

  • Who is this instance for? (#Membership)
  • What is the shared focus/vision?

For "Neuroscientists"

  • All neuroscientists?
  • Existing Neuromatch community?
  • Neuroscientists who share the goal of self-governance and collectivity?

Shared Vision. Do we intend to be an instance for...

  • Research or
  • General communication


  • What is our shared vision for who our target group is?
    • Jordan: In SfN there are 30k with super different ideas, but we can adhere to the same rules most the time. People define democratizing science differently.
    • Brad: Since we are ultimately working to extend the reach of NM, then we should be more broad. People who are interested in democratizing science should be included.
    • Jonny: Having the organizing notion as the belief/principle of what communication can and should look like -- open registrations initially
    • Nick: What is the purpose of NM being a part of this, what's the purpose for NM? Is it to create a space for people to talk with each other -- those exist. There is a community of people who have this shared vision for science, come join us. How people can be intro'd to community and values.
      • Can we separate the goal vs. the how -- how to grow ourselves to a large open community can happen in many ways
    • Manisha: w/ broader audience, there is more moderation -- it can be hard, and time consuming. Discord mod mod during academy was hard. Will need to mod content too - is this mis-info, is this illegal, is this hate speech? A larger territory that we have not tackled yet in the NM before.
      • To start could be helpful to start w/ smaller group, see how it goes, and then invite larger community.
      • Need to have answers for questions, FAQs for common questions
    • Ogul: Scope of the community -- if it's only comp neuro, then the mods have to check all folks for their background. If we just do scientist, would be an easier check. Can simplify moderation for enrollment. But having a small number of people at first would be easier and then grow.
    • Jonny: providing the notion that scientist can be part of running something, and not just taking what's given (ex. journals) -- invite the people who are interested in starting open governance join us -- it will be messy but we can figure stuff out in our smaller group and then continue to invite.
      • Brad: we can be clear about the phase we are at, and hopefully the folks who do come in at the start will be helpful is getting things started -- there is an urgency w/ interest in Masadon right now, can we set a timeline for ourselves
    • Jeremy: More people means more messy. Do we have an idea of how many people are going to join? If we are expecting high number, that will create more difficulty.
      • Manisha: guessing that if we announce on NM twitter (22k followers) + linkedin (7K) + email list (~27k)
      • Jordan: is there a waiting list mechanism or way to open and close registration? --- 3 types of registration: open / closed (require approval) / fill out a form why you want to join -- waitlist seems doable

Action Items:

  • Emails are holding us back right now -- Manisha will follow up w/ Kate
  • Also should expand server size (Jordan)

Decision: we want to slowly open instance



Who is allowed to join? What will be our registration policy?

  • Jonny: I'm going to suggest that we have registration be open without credentialing, at least at the start, and then we can move towards a more structured process if we want to. Coops need some form of "good standing" which typically includes being paid up in fees and caught up on any shared labor, but since both of those are so minimal on a masto instance in my experience this can be pretty lax.



How do we want to run this instance?

We don't need to decide on a fully realized governance system right now, but we should make some decisions about the high-level structure that will inform its development.

Some barebone options:

  • Cooperative Governance
    • Everyone gets an equal say, everyone contributes something back to the instance
    • Consensus-like decisionmaking: Rather than majoritarian votes, refine and adjust decisions until they meet the needs of all present members.
    • Decisions made collectively as an instance as well as within smaller working groups that are given a defined scope within which they can exercise discretion, but all members have means of making proposals with and through working groups and the whole organization.
      • Is there's a controversial decision made by small group, that can be brought up by larger group.
    • More people, means more labor to help support the governance
  • Board-like Governance
    • Members have some means of submitting requests/complaints, but all decisions ultimately rest with the "board." Board can call votes and typically majority wins.
    • Republic-ish decisionmaking: Members can elect people to the board who then make the decisions.
    • Board, committee members, and general members have distinct roles, and their having those roles is what allows them to make decisions.
    • This would involve:
      • External funding stream / paid mods

Connection with Neuromatch the organization

How do we maintain alignment with the mission of NM?


  • We could be a test case for Cooperative Gov
  • Jordan: NM is supportive of community driven governance structure -- the legal liability is owned by NM at the end of the day. The governing body could not go against NM as a nonprofit.
    • Our big burden -- moderation; we also have the issue of too many people wanting to join -- it could be true that the obligation is small (we ask folks to report bad content, engage respectfully)
    • Concern about bad actors causing harm
  • Nick: Like self managed structures, NM has been talking about implementing Holeacracy, there's a lot more self-ownership. This can sometimes create diffusion of responsibility, Holeacracy are given individual responsibilities and those folks are democratically elected.
  • Brad: Hearing from Jordan -- there could be different levels. Some folks are responsible for moding and others not (yes, Jordan agrees).
    • What are the specific things that could be down to ensure protection/alignment of NM
      • One option is separation from NM - there could be some technical challenges
  • Nick: How do we maintain alignment -- in Holeacracy provides connection to larger group. Even if Mastadon grows, there would be a person that sits in both NM and Mastadon and they would make sure Mastadon is aligned
  • Jonny: Working groups help distribute labor, if someone felt that a group wasn't doing their job there is an internal review process. One of the working groups could be a NM liaison team. Their responsibility would be ensuring alignment to NM.
    • One of the main issues w/ connection, having this be a separate entity w/ NM as a fiscal sponsor could diffuse legal liability (LLC) --- but also we would need to talk w/ some lawyers about passage of funds [#liability #finances]. Could we accept fundraising that then goes to Mastadon group.
    • Brad: Not just legal, but other ways this could come back to us. If NM is on the name, it will come back to NM.
    • Nick: Think that these aren't huge risks, but to be seen. ----- something important to think about, lobbying laws w/ 501c3s - would be need to make sure mods aren't posting things? #legal
      • Manisha: 501c3's can do a limited amount of lobbying. In a social media instance - would this be mitigated.
        • Nick: w/ shared mods this could still be an issue
  • Jordan: ensure that we keep it NOT pay to play environment -- someone could be a part of a working group/voting member but they don't gain access by proving money. (Topic can be deferred)


  • People are interested in open collective and distributed governance w/ smaller governance group that creates connection w/ NM

To be followed up on:

  • Legality on 501c3 and lobbying/politics -- does this matter?
    • Jonny to check to w/ legal working group



  • Code of Conduct: what will be allowed and importantly what will not be tolerated at any cost? #moderation  #code-of-conduct


  • Jonny: To start -- have a few folks who are willing to do mod shifts
    • + add more fields into registration list, are you willing to be a mod?, etc.
  • Brad: A good place for a few working groups
    • Jonny: immediate response team -- mods who are deleting stuff / addressing problematic user (beneficial w/ folks in so many time zones)
      • and async stuff -- conflict resolution, community opps
      • managing interactions w/ other instances
  • How does NM do this now:
    • CoC form that people can fill out -- this is what happened, sent to group who look at the issues
    • Whistle blower policy - if we think the governance is a bad actor. Can report the board to Nick or report Nick to the board
    • On discord - they had support tickets
  • Ogul: who is the person/people we turn to if there's something wrong w/ moderation -- a mega mod is not democracy (works w/ NM but this would not be in line w/ larger open collective governance), how could we bring this back to the people
    • Brad: if there are problems btwn people there could be issues that they don't want to be made public, this is why NM has a select group of people
    • Jonny: This is exactly why cooperative governance is great, it's always possible for people to make a proposal or to change mod practices. The bylaws are the only thing that govern what's possible/impossible. Would always be possible to raise an issue with the mods themselves or how complaints are handled in general.
  • Are we going to be a free speech instance ---
    • Jonny: No.... but there are academic instances that are free speech instances
      • Becomes an issue when someone takes a problematic post that's then boosted in NM instance, we then become bad actor.
      • It's very difficult to know what's loosely moderated, can be hard for mods
    • Manisha: Open Collective states they are not a neutral entity -- there are nonnegotiable

Decision: we are not interested in being Free Speech platform


  • De/federation
  • Daily moderation


  • Conflict Resolution

Division of Labor

Since this is the major sink of labor for an instance, how will be divide this among the members?


  • Nick: Is it volunteers? is there a working group? are people paid?
  • Jonny: Having required mod hours doesn't work well - hard to distribute, some folks cannot be exposed to a ton of triggering topics all the time
  • Manisha: could be a rotating working group, trying to mitigate burnout. When folks have done enough, can bring in a new set of mods.
  • Jordan: size will be variable, mods themselves will know that best. we aren't similar enough to existing instances to know
    • Nick: there's a bunch of factors to what makes it hard (pictures, etc.)
  • Natalie: is mods just breaks of CoC or are folks going through content and filtering stuff out?
    • Jonny: usually mods will just be getting the reports submitted and reviewing those.
    • Natalie: are there any AIs that can prefilter --
      • Manisha: there is some hast tags used between mods so if there's an instance that's acting in bad faith that can be shared quickly
      • Jonny: there are tools that can be built in the filter out -- could be cool to experiment with
  • Ogul: reports come into a list and mods pick and choose what they deal with?
    • Jonny: that could be one way to go about it -- is this just a post issue? is it a pattern? are multiple users in a similar group doing the same things?
    • Ogul: Open up all reports to all mods could be helpful -- mods can pick what they are able to do and then mark resolved by so and so
      • Could also be a limit to the number of issues solved per mod to avoid burnout and to help provide shared labor
      • It should be possible to link issues to one another -- usually not individual issues #moderation
        • Can repurpose notes section for this! Can also use wiki to share info.

Maintenance -- Tabled - we can handle for now and will have tech meeting later


I feel like these can be deferred to a Mastodon/Tech WG meeting after opening, but at least touching on it... (-jonny)

  • How will we keep the server running?
  • How can users report issues/bugs to us?
  • How will we handle opening issues on the repo fork?


10m 5 mins

  • How do we make this instance self-sustaining? #finance #budget
  • Shared costs with NM as fiscal sponsor?
    • Using OpenCollective, we might be able to designate NM as our fiscal sponsor...
    • Expenses transparent, allow donations, (ie. neuromatch could be one donor...), use remaining expenses to guide a very gentle 'pay what you can' sliding scale recommendation.
    • Would NM be able to donate to the OC as well? help nonprofit law oh no
  • or... ?


  • Jordan: if we are aiming to be available to everyone equally and we have a relatively large org associated (NM), then we should be carful asking for money.
    • We could ask for companies or well established PIs to pay, but not the general user.
    • Conferences could be expected to pay into using the instance (NM could use this instead of Discord)
  • Jonny: agree -- joining should not be a financial burden, but having the instance largely paid for by a single entity creates it's own risk. Even a nominal donation via a sliding scale can create a little more funding, good to have more funding that just the bare minimum. Everyone can feel like they own the instance.
    • Jordan: 2 or 3 users donating $5 a month is a surplus


Proposals are agenda items with a defined outcome that the meeting attendees vote on.

They have a

  • Sponsor
  • Time
  • Specific text of outcome
  • (Optionally) Cost

Communications Mediums

Sponsor: Jonny, 5m

Multiple communication mediums are needed to run an instance! Having many mediums is only really a problem when their use is not considered from a place of filling need as part of a governance system and instead they just get strapped on without organization. From my experience in digital/meatspace coops, I've seen the need for the following kinds of communication:

  • Chat-like: Linear-ish conversations that are relatively short and organized into a handful of channels. This is necessary for moment-to-moment discussion, question asking/answering, etc. while work is happening, but also necessary for building a sense of identity and cohesion in a group
  • Forum-like: For governance, discussions need to be organized into topic-driven threads (rather than serial threads in most chat-like interfaces) that can be longer, are more stable, and more discoverable. The separation between the "business-like" forum and the "social" chatroom helps both keep out of each other's way, keeping the joy of cooperation in the chatroom without getting bogged down in business while giving shitposts their place away from the forum.
  • Wiki-like: Long-term (yet plastic) document systems for collective memory. This is where your bylaws and policies get stored. Rather than using a strictly document-oriented system like google docs, a wiki lets you have a densely interlinked system of information where everything has a defined place (the document title is the URL), but also can be found through any number of different avenues. Wikis are good for collective sensemaking because they don't suffer from the same permissions nightmares that documents do. I could go on but I will spare u all my wiki sermons.

So from that I propose that we adopt the following mediums to run the instance:

  • Discord - This could also be slack if there are strong feelings, but Discord not requiring you to pay some absolutely preposterous amount to have a large chatroom that can see further than 90 days in the past is the main reason here. Ideally we would move to Matrix eventually, but for getting started, it's very easy to send every member a link to a discord to join.
  • Loomio - Loomio is a forum like medium with great support for voting and decisionmaking. It's built by co-opers for co-opers and we use it and love it over at social.coop. An alternative here might be Discourse but it doesn't have the same kind of support for decisionmaking in my experience, particularly when this is intended to be the governance board (rather than a general chat space).
  • Wiki - Here! This! Use this for the governing documents!

Each new member would be asked to make accounts on all three of these during onboarding :)


  • Nick: agree w/ the need for all of these. Comment to slack -- we get nonprofit discount so it's very cheap to have unlimited messages. It would be good to keep a closeness to NM mission.
    • Jonny: challenges to existing NM slack -- if we are expecting several thousand people in the instance, they would then have access to all channels. The onboarding/agreements will be different. The chat should be governed by the Mastason members as well.
      • Nick: yes, fair. we do have multiple workspaces. We can create new workspaces, could make it easier for people to move btwn them.
        • Jordan: agree we should try to keep tools consistent. if we think we do need a very separate tool, then we might need to ask the question again of if it should be separate from NM.
        • Jonny: focus is really to make sure we can run the instance
        • Manisha: -- likes the support tickets on discord

Decision: Lets bring this discussion back into the slack channel - no firm decision made

Bootstrapping Process

Sponsor: Jonny (and whoever else wants to edit this. Time: 10m

Sketch out and divide tasks for the work that needs to be done to open registration, and what happens between opening registration and proposing and affirming "Governance Structure v1.0"

  • In order to open registration
    • Import blocklists
    • Divide up first month mod duty
    • Create discord & loomio
    • Preliminary CoC -- let people know it will change!
  • In order to approve governance
    • Encourage proposals!
    • Find a time to have first all-instance meeting
      • Provide proposals/topics ahead of time so folks can add
    • Decide on governance structure v1.0


  • Jordan: time is important, if we can do it in 2 weeks instead of a month -- they would help adoption

GOAL: get baseline CoC this weekend and have folks invited by Monday or Tuesday -- need to check with other folks

Action Items

Assigned responsibilities to carry on the decisions made in the meeting :)

Jonny: Legality on 501c3 and lobbying/politics -- does this matter? - to check to w/ legal working group

Manisha: Emails are holding us back right now -- Manisha will follow up w/ Kate

Jordan: Should expand server size

Jonny & Manisha (to start): Identify first round of mods - Konrad might be helpful with this

Nick: look at legality of being a fiscal sponsor -- Jonny will connect Nick to social.coop

Future Discussions

  • Dev Instance - making evolving the medium part of basic instance operation

See Also