With 19 votes in the "Yes" categories, I assumed 19 emails would be registered on https://mailchi.mp/f77b1728b46b/migrating_googleplus_buddhism … but only 8 have been.
Even if you plan to stay until the end of g+, don't assume I will… so register your email to stay in contact, please.
And with 5 "I'm ready to help", I assumed 5 emails would be sent to email@example.com (precising how, in what ways, people would be happy to do so)… but I received none. Sure, you have time, but don't forget about it either, or some opportunities to help will gradually pass.
by Denis Wallez:
There's a direction, in the midst of the storm; isn't there?
First, we face a problem: anyone interested in what follows is at risk of losing contact with others interested too… because oneself and others are (gradually or abruptly) leaving g+! For example, I feel Paul Lockey should be involved here, as he authored many trusting in buddha articles shared in the "Buddhism and Meditation” and the “Buddhism Corner” communities, but he deleted his g+ account (and therefore all posts are gone, and it’s hard to keep him in the loop). And it’s clear that people disagree on a common platform as our base: from FB to MeWe to whatever, not everyone is ready to create an account on untrusted platforms for the sake of staying in contact. But people will thus drift apart (people who are interested in this conversation might not stay on g+ solely for the sake of this conversation!). So… I'm creating a small temporary mailing list, for people to simply provide their e-mails and I’ll keep them posted on milestones and major developments. No advertising of course, and this mailing list will be destroyed at the end of the ‘migration’, it is solely for the sake of staying in contact while g+ winds down: join at https://mailchi.mp/f77b1728b46b/migrating_googleplus_buddhism
By now, a majority of members have voted for the creation of our own platform, instead of letting the community scatter to the wind — http://gplus.wallez.name/Z5htcvs5hi8
a large majority of members voted against deleting the "Buddhism and Meditation" community before the end of g+ itself — http://gplus.wallez.name/6hVoDK331vx — which has the benefit of giving us significant time to create our own platform,
and, conditional to who the authors are, a majority of members would consider subscribing to a newsletter magazine — http://gplus.wallez.name/FDhqXjBLTWm — and some authors have also expressed interest in participating, some people could help on the technical side…
Of course, there always are a few, who would just confuse "things are impermanent" with apathy… or who would accuse those who are not indifferent of 'clinging'. So, let me respond to this, quickly but seriously:
Things are impermanent, yes… that's precisely why wise engagement is called for, wise functioning is called for, adaptation is called for! "Right effort", one of the spokes of the eightfold path, is defined as « (1) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (2) for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (3) for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (4) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort. » (SN 45.8)
Letting go doesn't equate ignoring a possible iteration; letting go doesn't reject cultivation! A heavenly being once made this mistake, stating « From whatever one reins in the mind, from that no suffering comes to one. Should one rein in the mind from everything, one is freed from all suffering », thus advocating total suppression… to which the Buddha replied « One need not rein in the mind from everything when the mind has come under control. From whatever it is that evil comes, from this one should rein in the mind » (SN 1.24). The path requires the cultivation of wholesome selfless phenomena just as much as relinquishing individual biases, personal preferences and agendas, etc.
Equanimity is called for; not indifference! Perseverance/effort and patience are perfectible qualities (paramitas), when combined with wisdom of course, not stubbornness. Thinking about the benefits for others as much as the benefits for oneself is called for, beyond "this is what I personally want/demand." The fourfold saṅgha thrives when members don't obsess about 'me, myself and mine’.
So, now come the million dollars questions:
• what format for the magazine?
• which funding / whose participation (if funding via one's work)?
• what features?
I think only an online magazine is doable at this stage, both to keep the costs down (we're talking printing + international postage otherwise, without volume discount) and to recreate some useful features from g+ (interactivity impossible to replicate on paper).
I think dāna should be 'strongly' encouraged, as this is the first pāramī/paramita, as this relates to a wholesome understanding of causality and of inter-dependence, as this is a practice in and of itself toward relinquishing 'mine'.
Not having a fixed price would allow even the poorer to access the magazine; not having a fixed price would allow the curious to check it out without further commitment; and yet… I think the magazine should probably not be 'free' (as in "it's OK to be a blindness, greedy consumer of Dharma-related info, taking no responsibility to sustain the source of info"): greediness and spiritual materialism are unwholesome. A Buddhist mag is not Buddhist if it's profit-making (bye bye, Tricycle and co.), but it's not Buddhist either if it encourages irresponsible behaviours! Entire Buddhist traditions have died, when too little dāna was offered (e.g. due to local but lengthy famine). The monastics and teachers shouldn't 'sell' the Dhamma, yet they live off donations. Money is the sinews of war, but also of social action, of education, etc. and if we're to keep Buddhism as live traditions, then 'support' ought to go beyond clicking 'like'.
To quote Stewart Brand, « On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other. » Well, dāna as a socially responsible gift —within one's own means— toward what one feels supportive, constructive, wholesome (for oneself and/or for others) might be the way to solve the fight… so this should be encouraged (neither left as an after-thought, nor compensated by mindless adverts —or other exploitation of personal data— if absent).
A key question for all services is sustainability (and g+ is closing because it's not sustainable… so this is a serious question, we wouldn't be having the current conversation if sustainability was a non-issue), so let's not lie to ourselves about, or avoid/suppress, this delicate question and balance to find. How dāna would be distributed among authors, and participants, remains to be organised.
Advertising is a serious contention point. My personal approach would be based on dāna (again): I'd happily allow some advertising (about Buddhist-related stuff, be it events, services or objects —art, cushions…) in exchange of serious contributions to the magazine!
E.g. if someone posts some serious article about meditation, (s)he can also add an advert for some meditation-related retreat; or if one writes a serious description about a particular mudra or a particular bodhisattva, one can add an advert for a related statue for sale; a serious 'gist' of a book would allow to add an advert for said book…
Not only, this would enrich the magazine but it would also offer a much better opportunity for the targeted audience to assess where the promoter "comes from": if the content is poor, it's unlikely e.g. the retreat will be outstanding… if the description is poor, it's unlikely e.g. the knowledge of art history is sufficient to give credibility to the claimed value…
I think useful features include the ability to discuss in —and follow— threads attached to articles… which, to avoid conversations dying quickly, means:
(0) accounts, so that people can be filtered / banned (sorry, but trolls are a waste of time for everyone… Even if they have tathāgatagarbha and are not icchantika, some engagement is better kept 'postponed' until more appropriate circumstances arise —cf. "right speech”);
(0bis) and a possibility to post meaningful content… hence (a) attach an image (subject to size?), (b) attach a link to external image/article/video, (c) format the text with slanted font (good typographic practice for words in foreign language, as well as for emphasis), with bold font (good typographic practice for titles, sections, etc. and possibly but rarely for emphasis), (d) a pro-readability stylesheet (paragraphs appearing as such…);
(0ter) and a capability to search (general? or keywords/hashtags only?);
(0quater) do we need an ability to ‘follow’ ? specific people ? specific topics ? or do we assume that, like a magazine, it comes out as a block?
(1) for people to feel free to debate Buddhism (without automatically exposing themselves to neighbours, employers, etc.), some level of privacy must be selectable. It could be a default behaviour (e.g. original posts are 'public' at large, visible to all; but comment threads are only visible to subscribers?), or it could be post-specific;
(2) a notification system, which does notify all those who previously commented (not just the original poster, cf. reddit) when new comments come… It would also be nice to be able to 'subscribe' to a thread, without commenting, for those who want to follow a conversation but do not have (yet?) much to contribute to it. Buddhism has no problem with "free speech", but it doesn't dissociate freedom from responsibility;
(2bis) the ability to 'mute' a post that one no longer wants to follow;
(3) hierarchical comments (instead of g+'s 'flat' list) ?
(3bis) and/or ability to 'tag' someone (in particular threads remain flat) ?
(4) an ability to link to other posts/conversations (too bad, MeWe!) —to avoid repeats, or to link two apparently-separate topics, or to provide extra info on a sub-topic without distracting from the main one…
(4bis, linked to 3 and 3bis) an ability to link to comments ?
(5) a dream of mine would include an ability to flag specific sentences (of a post, or even of a comment) as logical fallacies (with a drop-down to select which formal fallacy, specifically, and an ability to explain why it is considered so)… To avoid trashing the original text or comment, this could appear as a particular 'type' of comment (necessarily with a quote of/link to a specific sentence) in the discussion thread. Analysis is key in Buddhism, so tools which would support analysis would probably participate in making a platform 'Buddhist' without discriminating against others: just promoting "valid cognition"!
(6) on data protection, GDPR —giving rights to amend, and delete personal data— provisions should be implemented, so that only ultra minimal personal data is kept, of which the visibility should be set by the owner, and data is editable / deletable by owners;
(6bis) "data protection by design and by default" should be such that there's no need for a lengthy, unreadable, small-print, unhelpful ToS;
(6ter) it's likely this will never become big enough to be at risk vis-à-vis recent copyright laws in Europe (notably the infamous, recently voted "article 13") but we might nonetheless need to prepare for copyright infringement reporting;
(7) the combination of (4) links and (6) possible deletion requires handling broken links gracefully (in particular, if (4bis) links to comments exist, then a deleted comment should turn the broken link into a link to the associated post?)
(7bis) an interesting possibility would be to offer a complementary capability to anonymise an old post (complementary to / instead of, simple deletion). This would allow someone to no longer be named in a conversation, replacing the poster with ‘anonymous#’ (for the OP and in related comments), but leave the conversation thread in place, if the poster who no longer want to be associated with a thread nonetheless felt the discussion was valuable for others. This has been one of my key issues on g+, that people seeking to leave something, couldn’t actually leave it behind: either it stays associated to the author, or it’s deleted. Much information (in posts or in subsequent threads) has been lost on g+ because people deleted posts or profiles. A solution to this would be nice, and fit the general feeling that many currently have, that the end of g+ equates a massive loss of (accessible) information. Possibly, ‘anonymise’ would leave a post public, ‘deletion’ would not only anonymise the poster but also make the post visible only to those previously involved in the thread (so that they don’t loose data on a whim of the OP, e.g. a long answer they gave which they could copy-paste for elsewhere… but not link to, given that others wouldn’t be given visibility on it!), and a special request (GDPR-like) would be necessary for utter complete deletion. As the platform would not care for ‘real identity’ / ‘real name’ data harvesting mantra (cf. (6) and (6bis)), it’s unclear how valuable such a possibility would be, but I feel it might be a good option to have.
I think we need decision-makers… I believe much in collaborative work, but I've also seen too many collegial processes die: when people collaborate, disagreements are bound to appear, and decisions must nonetheless be made to keep moving. So, some arbitration mechanism is needed; the easiest and cheapest is to designate some people as 'lead' onto specific areas (the 'technical lead' doesn't have to be the same person as the 'editorial lead'…). Just like a board has a chairman. A good leader empowers others and refrains from micro-management, yet is critical to maintain a pace, to motivate, to resolve issues.
The editorial lead —selecting articles, ensuring a balance; contacting authors for improvements/edits if needed; possibly devising "special issues" and coordinating authors around themes (while avoiding all authors ending up saying the same basic thing)— should hopefully be non-sectarian (open to all traditions), as I believe this was a strength of the "Buddhism and Meditation", "Buddhism Q&A" and "Buddhist art" communities.
The advertising lead should be informed enough to assess the 'seriousness' of articles submitted in exchange for the ad space. This would be a tricky role, with many 'judgement calls' to make (with the goal of promoting good content, and of encouraging the author of a rejected article to improve on it, not to drop it).
The technical lead should hopefully have technical knowledge enough not to systematically resort to easy answers! Features mentioned above are not necessarily found on available platforms… Even if they are, other or future features might not be… Potential migration issues and sustainability should be key considerations. We do this seriously, or we don't at all!
Anyway, long story short, these are my thoughts, at this stage… But I’m greatly interested in reading yours, so please comment !
PS: if you're ready to help, please not only join the mailing list (https://mailchi.mp/f77b1728b46b/migrating_googleplus_buddhism), but also send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org (precising how, in what ways, you'd be happy to do so).