Comradery Update November 2020

Video transcribed and condensed by Zolaire Arcade

We’re excited to share our progress on the work we have done to get Comradery closer to an alpha launch. In the following video each of the committee chairs check in with the latest updates (Runtime: 18 minutes). Below, the major points have been summarized and condensed into a blog post.

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Ty Underwood, Outreach Committee Chair (they/them):

We wanted to share an update this month so you could see where we're at, what milestones we've accomplished to get closer to alpha, and what milestones we still need to hit in the different major areas that we're working on right now. Let’s check in with each of the leadership committees for an update.

Good and Welfare Committee

What is:
This committee is in charge of defining the code of conduct, content moderation of the platform, managing conflict mediation, and overseeing the accountability process. Creator safety and accountability is the highest priority of Comradery, as creators we know that this area in particular is severely neglected on other platforms.

John Dorsey, Chair (they/them):

From day one, we’re creating something that is safe for everybody involved, and that people who typically don't have a say or are often ignored now have the avenues to address those concerns. Just because we have the platform set up a certain way doesn't mean everybody's going to follow the bylaws, so the Good and Welfare Committee is not only about inclusivity and safety, but also accountability and restorative justice.

Currently, we are revising our bylaws and defining the processes for how people can engage in the committees, as well as reworking the onboarding process and the vetting process. When people join Comradery, we’re making sure that there is training for them and clear expectations of how people engage with the platform as a creator and/or as a supporter of a creator’s projects--joining Comradery was never going to be as simple as clicking “accept” to the terms of service.

We’re making sure that the committee can take on the influx of requests that people may have. How do you mitigate between, say, two creators having a disagreement, versus actual harm that is being committed? And when harm is committed, what is the pathway to rectify that harm and to make amends? We’re making sure that expectations for engaging with the platform are clear, both in terms of being a creator and as well as being a supporter.

Steering Committee

What is:
This committee helps develop a future vision for Comradery by planning the roadmap and making proposals for community goals. The Steering Committee keeps an even hand on the keel to make sure that we are building our processes fairly.

Alana Lynch, Chair (they/them):

I am a labor organizer and musician in Seattle, and using my skills in parliamentary procedure to chair the Steering Committee. Here’s what I’m working on:

  • Reviewing the bylaws (with the Good and Welfare Committee)
  • Developing the code of conduct (with the Good and Welfare Committee)
  • Developing the democratic structure and process of the organization, such as: how meetings will be conducted, and how equitable decision-making will work

Some folks tend to see pure democracy as producing more conflict, but it actually produces a lot more equitable results in the long run by lifting everyone’s voice. Without a democratic structure, we’ll end up with people who have the loudest voices speaking the most.

My involvement in labor organizing has taught me how to make decisions effectively, how to make decisions equitably, and how to develop a decision-making structure that doesn't get mired in itself.

Coming towards alpha, the Steering Committee’s priority is ensuring that our bylaws work for every other area of the organization, as well as ensuring our code of conduct is not so loose as to be confusing and vague, but also not too tight that it encourages “rules lawyering.” If folks are nervous about stepping over the code of conduct just because there are so many things to trip over, it's not effective; so, my priorities are getting our rules, our guidelines, our process to be something that everyone is comfortable with, and also democratic.

Tech and Design Committee

What is:
This committee is responsible for developing, implementing and deploying all the technology for the site. The Outreach and Steering committees propose what features are the most important to the community, and the Tech and Design committee develops a roadmap and implements those features.

Majed Elass, Chair (he/him):

We’ve made the current Comradery site everyone has seen so far (what you’re reading this update on right now!).

Currently, we are working on a new version of the site that will launch in early 2021. We are creating an MVP (minimum viable product), ensuring that the features people want will appear in the next site update to create a (barebones, but functioning!) website. Our website will evolve from a pre-alpha version, to an alpha version, and then moving forward there will be far more robust features added to future site updates, based on Comradery members’ requests, that we will catalog and prioritize.

For the pre-alpha site: we are showing that we can take donations securely and efficiently. Comradery members should feel confident when we open that feature up to them in the alpha version of the site.

For the alpha site, these are the core features we will implement:

  • Let people create their own projects
  • Have multiple creators on projects
  • Ensure that projects can create blog posts
  • Allow those projects to have supporters
  • Allow supporters to donate money to a project

Treasury Committee

What is:
This committee handles finances, addresses any issues with site funding and longevity, and works with tax professionals for managing the taxes for the site. Sales tax compliance and payment processing are much cheaper and more efficient on a cooperative platform rather than each creator developing a payment stack on their own websites.

Cade Underwood, Chair (he/him):

My current responsibilities are to understand and then to create systems that will guide us through a whole host of different legal compliance and financial compliance issues Comradery will have to deal with, either now or later.

We're designing what our bookkeeping and accounting processes will look like--making them streamlined, and easy to teach and to operate in a cooperative setting as much as possible. At the same time, we’re trying to figure out what our legal, especially our tax liability, system is going to look like.

The response to our initial call for support for financial support was pretty awesome--it was a lot more than we expected! To this day we have gotten $3,820.11 (USD) from donations. All the donations we've received are going towards our normal operating costs. None of the member-owners are being paid, so all that money is going towards subscriptions for services that we need to operate. The other big expense is the sales tax compliance software for our organization (TaxJar).

In 2018, the Supreme Court case South Dakota v Wayfair created this instrumental change in how sales tax is done for marketplace facilitators in the United States. In a very general sense, most states have distinctions in how they tax donation revenue and how they tax sales revenue. Furthermore, a lot of states also have distinctions between whether they tax digital goods, physical goods, or both, and then some states will also tax services. Comradery is mostly going to be dealing with the taxation of digital goods--maybe eventually physical goods, and then also donations.

We, as the organization Comradery, are paying for sales tax compliance software, and part of the money that we'll be paying for that is coming out of dues, but there will be no added costs to creators that will be paying for any of this. Ultimately, using TaxJar will be the cheapest and most effective way for anyone to be part of the Treasury Committee. Our financial and legal system inside this cooperative needs to be easily understandable and accessible to everyone, and so we don’t want to give it all to an outside accountant to handle (who may not even be able to work within the confines of how a worker-run cooperative makes decisions). Accessibility also ensures that any financial responsibilities are taken care of promptly every month, keeping us out of legal trouble.

We currently do not have enough donations to cover the sales tax compliance software we're going to need to purchase upfront by the time that we launch as a platform, which we're hoping to be January 1st, 2021.

Very soon, we're going to set a specific goal to raise that money ahead of launch, and we're asking people to kick in a little bit more to get us to that specific goal. As a reminder, none of these donations are paying any salaries or stipends--they’re entirely going to the site upkeep costs (that are going to eventually be covered by dues). If you want to pitch in, we'd really appreciate it, and we're going to be communicating more about this donation drive in the near future to help us get to that goal.

What's happening next for Comradery?

  • We are reaching out to folks who signed up for the alpha in stages to talk about your needs and get feedback on our bylaws.
  • We are really excited that we're going to be able to show off a working prototype of the Comradery platform technology in the next few weeks.
  • Finally, we're raising some money to cover the tax software and some other services that we need in order to launch the alpha phase early in 2021. If you want to pitch in, you can see our live progress and donate below.

Stay tuned, keep an eye on the mailing list, and if you want to ask any questions, just reach out at [email protected].

-Ty Underwood
Outreach Committee Chair