Talking with people after they say they like commons...

me: so you think collectives should make their own decisions?

them: πŸ˜ƒ

me: and watch to make sure those decisions are followed?

them: πŸ€”

me: and take action on people that don't?

them: 😰

found rule monitoring and sanctioning of rule-breaking as properties of sustainable commons. But no one seems to wanna talk about that.

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@douginamug That only applies to cranky libertarians. anarcho-syndicalists, parents, long-time activists, herders, nuns, and anyone else who actually has to learn how to co-operate with others don't see any problem with rules and sanctions.

@yetiinabox i know a lot of younger, more idealistic-type activists who also struggle to accept this.

Even among the people who do accept this, it's often not factored in.

@douginamug Yep. And because there are often generational gaps in activist communities the painful lessons of free riders, false friends, and so on have to be learned over and over again in every exciting new movement. Grannie activists are *so* valuable.

@douginamug oh dear, did someone leave a wooden spoon soaking in water again? πŸ˜‰

joking aside, I agree πŸ‘

it's tough though, in "my culture" authentic speaking and listening is rare, instead people gossip, dominate, sulk, brood, rage, walk away...

... and personally I still want love to come first, and rules second.

@nicksellen ha ha! No, this time it was tea molding ;p MOLDDD!

The point is that most groups are happy to make rules, but then the hippy idea comes in that they will be magically followed.

When we factor in monitoring and enforcement, I think we come up with different rules in the first place. Indeed, one could consider monitoring g/enforcement as the cost of rules...

Love-governance preferable where possible πŸ‘

im guessing the molding tea problem is caused by the idea that the tea could be reused by another individual. I dont think implementing a rule to be "more conscious" can be enforced and is in some ways paradoxical.

i suggest removing the idea that tea can be collectively reused after one use and make it an individual decision if a single entity decides they will reuse the tea at a later stage.

@wolfi that's the conclusion I came to! Now only to be stored in personal space or not at all! πŸ˜†

@neil @douginamug
> rule monitoring and sanctioning of rule-breaking
It's stewarding aka lawgiving and sanctions that makes a commons - some bunch of resources isn't a commons unless it's brought under stewardship. Until then, it's an unregulated common pool. I think this falls out more obviously under Boller&Helfrich framing of commoning.
- Curating/contributing
- Enjoying/mobilising
- Stewarding/sanctioning
appear as three 'fields' in their pattern language of commoning @ FreeFair&Alive

@neil @douginamug
A Commons Court - elders, 'Thing', tradition-holders, Granny-activists, whatever, reaching way back - is a basic institution of a commons.
What's hard, in times of historical churn, is reaching way forward, with a well-founded sense of what lies way beneath? In dhamma tradition, it's called equanimity. Not a lot of it about?

@mike_hales @neil interesting, I was reading about such councils in a book about the history of collective decision making.

Even having such councils in purely advisory roles would be powerful: groups not forced to take outcomes, but they would be influenced any way.

Something I notice in 'younger activists' is that they 'don't know their history', and see their movement disconnected from the precedents. They don't ask older activists, and older ones don't seem to offer.

@mike_hales We have the guidance of Roshi Elinor Ostrom to carry us forward. @neil @douginamug

@mike_hales @neil thanks for the reference. Can you recommend the book?

I do like these re-interpretations, the Rules for Radicals one, and the Free, Fair and Alive one, but I do worry that people don't see the original set, the set based on a massive meta-study of 'empirical' evidence.

Tja, perhaps not to worry. Most important is examples, working, here and now, that others can copy. Action > Words, and all that ;p

I do very much recommend the book FreeFair&Alive. It's not a 'reinterpretation' but is founded on Bollier & Helfrich's own metastudies, across a decade or so.

Free downloads at
Patterns of commoning
The wealth of the commons

I love FFA bcos it's about common-ING - the production of 'new commons'. So much needed. Even 'old' commons must be made anew in a shifted world? Enclosure encroaches everywhere.

Not a reinterpretation - but a shifted orientation, yes. Subtitle of FFA is "the insurgent power of the commons". Ostrom is certainly not insurgent! Somewhat propertarian in her basic framing, akin to 'Austrian' economics (Hayek etc). Whereas FFA is counter-enclosure, counter-extractivism, post-propertarian. Hence common-ING as its pivot, the radical, situated practice, rather than commonS, the co-optable, abstract, political-economic form.

@mike_hales @douginamug I'm currently reading Free, Fair and Alive and absolutely loving it.

Partly for me as it's drawing threads between topics of great interest to me - commons, complexity science, commons-public partnerships, digital commons, it's even ticked my wiki box.

I haven't read GtC so can't draw a comparison. But I think Mike has put it fantastically there, that's certainly a framing I'll keep in mind as I read further.

@neil Oh nice chapter review! I didn't read Rules for Radicals - can you recommend it?

I read GtC at least twice now... it's a reference book for me, inspiring the constitution I wrote for the 'common house' I still reside in more than 3 years later

Have your thoughts about the non-sexy-side of collectiveness changed since your piece?

@douginamug Yeah, for sure. I recognised upon reading/discussion that I was being naive to assume everything will magically just work / everyone will get along.

Words such as monitoring, policing, sanctions, judiciary, etc, still rankle though. They are very loaded terms, but perhaps it is just how one interprets them. Stewarding sounds nicer - though I don't know if it is just hiding the truth.

I must read Governing the Commons, to get the full picture!

@douginamug From memory I recall enjoying Rules for Radicals, but I think much of that enjoyment was learning about Ostrom/commons/etc. Wall does add his own spin too, from an ecosocialist perspective, so that's interesting.

I think if you're already up to speed on the topics, it wouldn't bring as much. And I seem to remember it was a bit sloppily written/edited in places.

That said, I'd probably read it again if I had the time, to see what I'd get from it now.

Well that's human nature. It's hard to overcome the bonds of folk you may consider friends. Or paragons in your field. Even in professional relationships, there's the cooperation history. So fear of personal consequences of being judged to damage that bond may well be at play. Deliberate ignorance of wrong doing if you will. I watched a vid yesterday about that, well the ignorance part.

Aaron Wolf of Snowdrif.Coop gave a great presentation in 2019 on this in 2019 at SeaGL. It gave me a lot to think about.

@douginamug @onepict

For some reason the video recording failed too, but I had laryngitis, so my voice was half-gone and horrid, so oh well.

I took the time just now to get slides available at

Definitely not the same as the full talk, but it's something


@douginamug @onepict

Oh, and typo in Esther's post, it's (with a T) and we have an account here @snowdrift

Only just spotted that. Still, means I can follow both accounts on here. πŸ™‚
@douginamug @snowdrift

I remember you were saving your voice the night before in the were communicating with hand signals.

@onepict @douginamug

yeah, it was pretty bad, but I haven't had any sort of real sickness like that since, no colds or anything, been an interesting 18 months…

While I do miss Seattle and look forward to coming back, I think it will be at least another year. Looking forward to when the vaccine is available for my age group.

@onepict right! Sanctioning has a social cost for the sanctioner. But without effective sanctioning, the commons is at risk.

I'm part of a 'common house' I helped set up in Germany, and we know several others, and sanctioning is an issue.

A lot of time and attention spent on talking about decision-making systems, but next to nothing on keeping them... the sanctioning becomes a 'voluntary' activity which is just not sustainable.

It's a new focus area for me :)

It doesn't matter if it's a small household or an entire community. The emotional risk of damage can be the same. Plus judgement can be seen as humiliation, so humans tend to be resistant to that. Which is why I found Aaron's presentation so compelling. As his ideas account for that aspect and can help to heal a community or at least try to limit the damage.

Aaron's presentation? Did I miss part of that interesting thread?


There was a discussion on enforcement of social rules and @wolftune gave a really good presentation on restorative justice in communities at SeaGL in 2019. Which I mentioned.

Thanks a lot!

I understand the video recording failed, but I'll study the slides and imagine the talk...;-)

@wolftune @douginamug

Thanks again for the link to the slides.

@wolftune those were excellent!
I can imagine a great talk!

Also loved



Hard no to this framing. The worst thing about rules is that they gather inertia, combined with people's inability to predict the out come of their actions (some times referred to as the future) they can be really damaging. Add that to the fact they often calcify informal power structures. They can lock in disastrous tragectries for projects that might otherwise adapt and overcome difficulties.


Autonomy and flexibility combined with shared goals are far more valuable.

If you find yourself constantly having to create and enforce rules to hold a project together there are probably deeper problems that are going unaddressed.

@aaaaargZombies My framing was deliberately provocative, I get people might not like that.

That said, I didn't make any of it up. What I wrote is directly from 'Governing the Commons' by Elinor Ostrom. She did a massive meta-study and identified a set of features all sustainable commons exhibited 🀷 That said, a lot of these commons were socially very conservative.

I believe all groups make and enforce rules, the difference is just formality, re 'Tyranny of Structurelessness'


You might enjoy New Dark Age by James Bridle. Available at all good illicit book repositories.

"That which is gathered as data is modelled as the way things are, and then projected forward – with the implicit assumption that things will not radically change or diverge from previous experiences. In this way, computation does not merely govern our actions in the present, but constructs a future that best fits its parameters. "

@aaaaargZombies @douginamug Isn't the informal power structure what emerges and calcifies when some people transgress against the formal rules and nobody challenges them?

@clacke @douginamug I was referring to situations that begin without those structures so no. I've never encountered what you describe. Normally informal hierarchies look like; a long term member of a group who hordes institutional knowledge, romantic partners who always act as a bloc, members who bring external resources unattainable to others in the group, etc.


I've been interested in this grouping for a while & wonder how they operate & how it fits with Ostroms findings
Best info i've found about them

"Is the structure of the Longo maΓ― laid down in writing?
No it has evolved over 40 years and there is nothing on paper"

Met someone who has been to their oldest farm and suggested, I guess unsurprisingly, they are welcoming to visitors @douginamug @clacke @nicksellen @neil @bhaugen @mike_hales

So did you answer your wonder?

(But thanks for the link, very interesting, and new to me.)

@aaaaargZombies @douginamug @clacke @nicksellen @neil @mike_hales

@aaaaargZombies @douginamug
> The worst thing about rules

Yep. Ostrom's framing in terms of rules isn't helpful. She does sit in a rather conventional rule-oriented rationalist economic culture. Bollier&Helfrich's framing in terms of 'patterns', and 'governance' as an enacted practice in a community, helps more I think - middle section of FreeFairandAlive.

I begin to suspect that 'stewarding' might carry a whole bunch of different cues than 'governance'. With rules kinda marginal in this.


Well, in a society where most social ties have been destroyed, collective justice spontaneously is thought as justice exerted by a collective towards those who are not part of this collective (a.k.a mob rule) rather than remediation protocols...

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