Code report – a roadmap for the future of Loomio

loomio roadmap sketching Those of us working on Loomio all have big dreams for what we’d like the software to look like in future. We’re continuously inundated with helpful feedback, awesome ideas and suggestions for how Loomio could be improved. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of urgent little day-to-day tasks to keep the wheels in motion. So last week we took a day out to get away from the distractions of the office, and think big. As a result, we have a first sketch of a roadmap for the foreseeable future. As always, we’re making it up as we go along, but here’s a snapshot of our current thoughts:

Immediate priorities

  • Workflow improvements to make it easier to keep up to date with your Loomio activity: e.g. finishing the inbox; participating in discussions without leaving the comfort of your email inbox
  • Fixing the obvious pain-points that bug us everyday, like editing comments and uploading files
  • Lowering barriers to entry for new users and groups: e.g. streamlining the sign-up process, providing help at the right time

Next up

  • Architectural improvements: e.g. more flexible group structure to make it possible for groups to talk to each other, and let you invite people to a specific decision, rather than having to add them to a group
  • Rich javascript interface, i.e. live updates and much faster performance
  • Going mobile: starting by making the current app responsive (i.e. formatted to work on small screens), with native smartphone apps coming later.
  • New decision-making workflows, e.g. multi-choice proposals, and/or “ideas
  • Accessibility improvements e.g. for visually-impaired users
  • Moving beyond text to support rich content (images, video, audio, etc)
  • Making public content discoverable, i.e. allowing similar groups to find each other

Future

  • Distributed architecture: making it easy for anyone to host their own Loomio instance and communicate with other Loomions without the privacy & security compromises of a centralised service
  • Real-time communications: e.g. one-on-one and group chat, voice- and video-calling
  • Crowd sorting to enable discussions and decision-making with massive groups
  • Beautiful visualisations of your group activity
  • SMS-based system for use in developing countries
  • + lots of exciting next-level concepts we don’t have words for yet!

What do you think?

Phewf, that’s a long list! If you’ve got suggestions or would like to participate with us as we hammer out these plans, feel free to join the Loomio community!

Author: Richard D. Bartlett

Loomio co-founder; open source hardware and software hacker; activist;

10 thoughts on “Code report – a roadmap for the future of Loomio”

  1. Hi guys!
    I would love to help make Loomio all that it can be.
    I, and my dear friend Alex, have been working on a platform we called CreateVillage. Seems we have similar roots and values to Loomio and I think you should have a look. Loomio is much more polished and is already really flying!!

    We are not technologists, but we knew what we wanted and have had the blessing of being able to instruct a talented computer student. CreateVillage is the result (http://www.createvillage.net/Village)

    You will see that CreateVillage has the forum features like Loomio, but it also provides a planner & calendar to help people move from discussion to action.

    Regards
    Chris Baulman
    @landrights4all

  2. >> starting by making the current app responsive (i.e. formatted to work on small screens), with native smartphone apps coming later. <<

    Wouldn't making Loomio HTML5-compliant make it work just as well on small screens, without the maintenance pain of supporting the increasing proliferation of handheld platforms out there? Imagine if you had to design a slightly different version of Loomio for every browser, rather than using HTML and other web standards…

  3. I like the look of the roadmap. I particularly like the suggestion of multi-choice proposals (perhaps combined with the “ideas” or something like that). One problem I often see with decision-making even in smallish, relatively democratic organizations is a tendency for whoever sets the agenda to control and channel what can be decided just by virtue of framing the discussion. The expression “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done!” points to a very real pathology in decision-making.
    It seems to me that even in a system like Loomio, options can be narrowed if things are framed as an up-or-down vote on a single course of action. Sure, many decisions work fine that way–“Should we approve this loan?” can usually only be resolved with a “Yes” or “No”. But many questions are not so reductive–“How should we spend $X to reduce our energy use?”. Since the discussion in Loomio is already defined by an issue, a question, rather than by a single proposed course of action, I feel that it should be workable for multiple proposals to co-exist and be compared. And I think that would make it more open and flexible, letting a broader range of ideas in and .
    I would suggest that with such a structure a ranked ballot system would work well. Rather than just supporting one, if there were four proposals you’d rank them 1, 2, 3, 4 from most to least favourite.

    Another thing that occurred to me was an approach to improving existing proposals. A week or two ago I was looking over the site and watched the “how Loomio works” video. I was struck by the way, in a particular discussion, one proposal can be superseded by another. This moves the discussion along and allows the consideration of new, hopefully better, options.
    I was a little unclear about the details of under just what circumstances you can propose a new approach and have it replace the previous one. But it seemed to me that if you happened to have someone pushy in an organization, they could readily block decisions they didn’t like without ever picking the “block” option, just by proposing alternatives to existing proposals, thus unilaterally derailing consideration of any option they didn’t like. Now maybe it’s just that I have a nasty suspicious mind–but the thing is, right now Loomio is being used pretty much only by small groups of idealistic people of goodwill. I hope in the future it will be used by many many more groups, often less exceptional in their makeup. Having this feature work like this could be problematic. I suspect Loomio will evolve away from this, either going with something like the “Ideas” function where a new proposal is just an idea until it receives some threshold level of support, or allowing multiple concurrent proposals, or some other possibilities. There might be multiple options.
    But whatever is done could erode some of that feeling of sort of successive improvements getting closer to a solution that seems to be part of the spirit of the current Loomio. So I’m thinking that whatever else is done, it might be possible to preserve some of that by allowing a friendly change to replace a current proposal. So if there’s an existing proposal, and you think you have one that’s better but in the spirit of the original, a refinement in the light of some of the discussion that’s happened, you can send it to whoever proposed the current proposal–and if they give it the thumbs up, it replaces the existing one with no need for becoming an idea, getting votes or whatnot. This could work with multiple proposals, you’d just send it to the person who proposed the particular solution you’re proposing a change to and if they like it, it replaces that one but obviously not any others under discussion.

    Um, quite the wall of text, sorry. I’ve been interested in these issues for some time–Loomio is something I’ve really been wishing existed for years, and I consider it very impressive and hopefully, potentially, very very important, a solution to some of the biggest problems that progressives have, that have been hobbling our efforts since the Industrial Revolution or before.

    1. Thanks for the feedback PLG! It’s always nice to hear from people that are chewing on the same knotty issues as us.

      Personally, I think groups that collaborate successfully are exceptional not due to their make up, but due to their processes. We’ve chosen to start with groups that are working together well, learning from them how the software can support their good process. The hypothesis is that good process can help even the most dysfunctional group. A lot of this ‘good process’ I’m referring to is really simple stuff, it’s not some mystical recipe. Things like: bringing all the relevant information together and making it accessible, welcoming diverse opinions and encouraging people to change their minds, creating time for reflection and deep listening, etc…

      Thanks for your thoughts anyway (^_^)

  4. Have you guys heard of Spigit and their product Spigit Engage which I have seen being used in our public sector? It’s a big enterprise crowd-sourced platform not unlike your own for making innovative decisions and changes. However, as with Purple Library Guy’s comments, even this product can have its weaknesses with making sure each idea gets due consideration without it simply being silenced for whatever reason (made more complex as the organisation size grows). There are a bunch of other things both strong and weak about it, but I’ll just leave the URL for you guys to peruse and analyse freely:

    http://www.spigit.com/products/spigitengage/#prettyPhoto

    1. Yep, we’re familiar with Spigit, thanks Gordon :)

      These sorts of ‘innovation platforms’ seem to be designed for organisations that have a clear separation between the people generating the ideas, and the people making decisions.

      Personally I think that any crowd-sourcing process only delivers on its potential when the outcome is held in the public good (e.g. Wikipedia). Privatisation of peer-produced innovation seems like a sure-fire recipe for alienation and disengagement!

    2. Some of these people’s ideas might perhaps be interesting, but the outfit itself seems rather philosophically distant, kind of typical corporate/marketing bunch . . . there’s no way I could ever consider applying organization software to progressive efforts that wasn’t Free Software as Loomio is. I was very happy when I realized that Loomio uses the GPL. This is not just a matter of warm feels but of strategic thinking.

      1. Sorry for necro-posting, but I thought it was worth clarifying that Loomio uses the AGPL, a variant of the GPL also created by the GNU Project. It adds some clauses specific to the situation of running software on a server for remote users.

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