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The Constitution of Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective

This document describes the structure of the Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective. It develops the first draft of the document describing our formal structure (http://www.indymedia.ie/article/70147), published in June 2005. In particular this document recognises the reality that the Indymedia Ireland collective described in the older document (as distinct from the internet collective of that document) does not function as a decision making body despite attempts to encourage it to grow. Having identified the fact that the existing internet editorial collective is the sole effective decision making body in the structure, independent projects with a similar ethos will not be inclined to subject their projects to the unwieldy authority of a group whose activities are concentrated on the management of the indymedia.ie web-site. Therefore, in order to assist the growth of indymedia projects in other areas, we formally recognise the scope and limits of our collective and again renounce the idea that the internet collective has the right to decide what is indymedia in ireland. (October 2006)

Contents

  1. Preamble
  2. Aims & Principles
  3. Basic Structure – Working Groups
  4. Membership & Rights
  5. Procedure for Joining
  6. Separation of Duties / Rotation
  7. Mailing Lists & Internet Access Requirements
  8. Mandates, Instructions & Recalls
  9. Decision Making
  10. Indymedia Network
  11. The Transitional Programme

1. Preamble

1.1 The Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective is an autonomous non-hierarchical collective which is affiliated to the global indymedia network and follows by the network's global principles of unity. This document fleshes out those principles as used in the ongoing experiment in radical online participatory media production and distribution that is www.indymedia.ie

2. Aims and Principles

2.1 The Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective is an internet project which manages the open-publishing internet platform at www.indymedia.ie with the aim of facilitating the creation and distribution of radical, passionate tellings of truth to as wide as an audience as possible.

2.2. We attempt to operate in as participatory, transparent and democratic manner as is possible and in order to do so, we apply our editorial guidelines, in as objective and transparent manner as possible in order to manage the information that is distributed through our system.

2.3. We particularly focus on the distribution of media that is created by projects with a similar ethos to ourselves, especially those that follow the global Indymedia Principles of Unity.


3. Basic Structure – Working Groups

3.1. The Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective exists in order to do work. Membership of the collective requires an individual to donate their work to the group. In line with (global principle of untity 7), it is those who put work into the collective’s work who have a say in decisions, those who don’t do the work, don’t make decisions. This principle is summed up in our phrase "dictatorship of the doers" (although it’s really more of a democracy of the doers).

3.2 In order to organise our work, the collective is organised into working groups. The following are our working groups. The mandate of each group is described in detail in our Guide to Working Groups document.

  1. List Moderators (stasi)
  2. List Secretaries (bureaucrats)
  3. Newswire Moderators (daleks)
  4. Feature Preparation (talent)
  5. Technicians & Designers (techies)
  6. Outreach, documentation and contact (hello people)
  7. Reporters (hacks)

3.3. All members must join at least one of our working groups and contribute to the work and the achievement of the goals of that group.

3.4. Each working group operates through a publicly archived mailing list.

Note: The goals and basic guidelines for each working group are listed in the working groups guide


4. Membership & Rights

4.1 The Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective is committed to the principle of human equality and non-discrimination [Principle of unity 8]. Membership is open to all who agree with its goals and abide by its rules and are accepted as members by the collective.

4.2 The freedom to associate requires the freedom not to associate – therefore the Indymedia Ireland Collective reserves the right to refuse membership to any individual who the collective decides is not suitable to be a member.

4.3 All members are expected to actively participate in the work of at least one working group. Any member who has been inactive without notice for a consecutive period of more than two months will be deemed to have resigned.

4.4 Anybody can apply to join the collective by following our how do I join guide. The collective will consider their application in line with our Joining procedure

4.5 Anybody can put a formal proposal to the collective. The proposal should follow our How to make a formal proposal guide. The collective will take a decision on the proposal according to the Decision Making Rules

4.6 Anybody can put forward a proposal to expel a member from the collective. The collective will take a decision on the proposal according to the Decision Making Rules

4.7 All members will be given a login name and password and the required permissions for fulfilling their functions on the website. All members will have the right to view hidden material.


5. Procedure for Joining

5.1 In order to be accepted as a member of the Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective, applicant members must serve an apprenticeship in at least one working group and be accepted as a member by a decision of the collective.

5.2 Once a member has served an apprenticeship in a working group, a member of that working group can propose them as a full member of the Internet Collective, by making a formal proposal on the collective mailing list.

5.3 Once a member is formally proposed on the mailing list, the decision as to whether or not to accept the applicant member is made by following our standard decision making mechanism.

5.4 Applicants who are accepted as full members will be granted full voting rights and permissions appropriate to their working group immediately.

5.5 Applicants who are rejected can re-apply after a delay of one month.


6. Separation of Duties / Rotation

6.1 No member shall remain as a list moderator or a list secretary for a consecutive period of longer than 1 year.


7. Mailing Lists & Internet Access Requirements

7.1 As this is an Internet-based collective, where the vast majority of our work is carried out online, members are required to have a certain level of internet access in order to play a useful and active role in the collective’s work. This requires each member to have access to the internet and email preferably on a daily basis, and at least weekly.

7.2 All members are required to join the main general collective email list as well as the email lists related to their working groups.

7.3 A willingness and ability to learn some basic technical skills is a requirement for membership. Although working groups will provide technical support and training for apprentices, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual to learn the necessary skills.

7.4 If either internet access or technical skills present an insurmountable impediment to participation in the internet collective, we encourage applicants to get involved in indymedia real-world projects instead.

7.5 All subscribers to our list must follow our Email List Guidelines when posting to the lists.


8. Mandates, Instructions & Recalls

8.1 The overall collective can issue instructions to any working group or any individual within a working group, can issue rebukes, or can recall a member from a working group or even recall an entire working group. These are all carried out by putting a proposal to the collective’s decision making mechanism. These proposals should be clearly indicated as such by using standard subject lines: eg:

PROPOSAL: INSTRUCT working group X to do Y
PROPOSAL: REBUKE member x in working group y for abusing mandate z
PROPOSAL: RECALL member x from working group y for ignoring instruction

These proposals should otherwise follow the normal guide to writing proposals


9. Decision Making

9.1 The decision making process of the Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective is an application of (principle of unity 6), adapted to the specific context where decisions are generally made over the internet and real world meetings play a relatively minor role in decision making. Due to the constraints of the online medium, when the relative lack of expressiveness of a purely textual process is compared to the information rich environment of a real world meeting, it is necessary to precisely define the workings of the online decision making model in an unambiguous way. This decision making mechanism aims to allow for the emergence of a consensus through a process of debate, yet defines a precise way in which decisions can be made in situations where consensus is not possible.

Summary of Decision Process
A decision goes through the following stages, under the guidance of the list secretary:

  1. debate period with extensions
  2. final format and sponsorship
  3. closing arguments & blocks
  4. votes
  5. implementation & split / fork

9.2 Anybody can propose a decision by submitting a proposal by email to the general list. A proposal must be formatted according to the guide to writing a formal indymedia proposal. If the proposal is valid, the List Secretary will send an email to the list informing members of the deadline for debate about the proposal.

9.3 Once a formal proposal has been made. A debate period ensues in which the proposal can be debated on the list. At this stage, no votes are counted, although members are free to express their opinions, to suggest amendments and to seek consensus on the proposal.

9.4 At the end of the debate period, the list secretary sends an email to the list containing the text of the proposal, with any amendments that have been accepted by the proposer. The secretary first asks whether there is a member who is willing to sponsor the proposal (with any amendments that have been accepted by the proposer). If no member is willing to sponsor the proposal. the proposal dies.

9.5 The member or members who sponsor a proposal are responsible for organising its implementation. This means that they will either implement it themselves, or in a situation where they require members of other working groups to implement it, they will ensure that there is a member of the working group responsible for the implementation of the proposal who is willing and able to carry it out. This requirement stems from the 6th and 7th principles of unity. Everybody who is affected by a decision should have a say in it. If the people who you need to carry out your proposal lack the resources or ability to implement a proposal, or if they all deem the proposal to be impossible to implement, then there is little point in making the proposal. In general, we adopt a DIY culture where those who want proposals to be implemented are expected at the very least to coordinate the work.

9.6 If a member sponsors the proposal, a decision making process commences

  • the list secretary asks the list whether anybody seeks an extension (standard 1 week) to allow for more discussion of the proposal and the emergence of a consensus.
  • if at least 2 members support an extension, the decision is delayed and the free debate continues until the extension period has expired). Each member can only request a single extension for any particular proposal.

9.7 When all extensions have expired and the deadline has been reached, the secretary sends a mail to the list containing the text of the proposal, including any amendments / compromises that have been accepted by the proposer. The secretary invites any members to put forward their closing arguments in a single mail of not more than 500 words. This allows each party in the debate to summarise their position. During these closing arguments, any members who feel that the decision represents an existential threat towards their participation in the collective should indicate this clearly - this serves the function of the 'block' in a real world consensus decision making process. Rather than being a veto, a member can indicate that a positive or negative decision will jeopardise the individual's future contribution to the collective. It is then up to the collective to decide whether to allow the block(s) to prevail or whether they will take the risk of the collective splitting / forking.

9.8 Taking into account any existential problems that may arise due to blocks, each editor votes on the proposal - either for, against or abstains. For a proposal to pass, it must receive all of the following:

  1. a majority of the votes cast
  2. a quorum of positive votes - a quorum is 20% of the total number of members. That means that, if there are 20 members, at least 4 positive votes must be cast and more positive votes than negative votes.
  3. at least 3 votes
If a proposal does not meet all of these conditions, it is deemed to have failed. A failed proposal can be modified and resubmitted after a reasonable period.

9.9 If the collective votes to over-ride a block, an existential crisis is indicated. The person(s) who have blocked may now consider themselves outside of the collective. They may decide to split the project and to set up their own indymedia project. The collective will furnish any such people with a copy of the oscailt software, the indymedia archives and will not obstruct their use of them in an alternative indymedia website.


10. Indymedia Network

10.1 We will play a full part in the International Indymedia Network and participate in the work of the network.

10.2 We will work towards the creation of an indymedia network within ireland, bringing together all of the people and projects working in real world and internet projects that are consistent with our aims and principles.

10.3 We will provide email lists and web-space to irish projects that are consistent with our aims and principles. We will also consider allowing such projects to use sub-domains of indymedia.ie: eg video.indymedia.ie, cork.indymedia.ie, etc.


The following section relates to the initial implementation of this constitution

11. The Transitional Programme

11.1 Where possible, positions will be filled at the October 7th meeting, with current editors indicating which groups they wish to participate in. In the event of time constraints at the meeting rendering this impractical and/or it is impractical to set up functioning working groups straight away, then a volunteer from website collective shall act as a temporary co-ordinator of that working group. Their function will be to ensure that the correct mailing list is set up (in conjunction with techies) and to ensure that the working group is populated.

11.2 To facilitate the expansion of the internt collective, and to invigorate the working groups, we will compile a list of individuals who have consistently contributed constructively to indymedia in the past. We will write to each of them inviting them to join one of our working groups and to become full members with full voting rights immediately without having to serve an apprenticeship. Potential new members will be selected according to the process described in the election process document.

11.3 Each working group should be functioning by November 10th. The co-ordinator's position shall expire at that point. If a working group has not functioned by this date, it will be up to the website collective as a whole to deal with this situation.

11.4 The list guidelines will come into effect immediately upon notification to the various imc.ie lists of their acceptance by the collective. A link to the guidelines will be posted and a reminder issued every month.

11.5 The decision making process as detailed in this constitution will come into effect immediately upon its acceptance by the collective. This means that even if a secretary is not chosen at the October 7th meeting, the mechanism of extensions, votes, and blocks as detailed above will apply in any event. In the interim, prior to an appointment of list secretary, all of the website collective will take on responsibility for that role.

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