To work on the current consultation in Israel, we’ve launched a public mailing list. There’s one for Australia too since there’ll be work to do there very soon, and some others are being set up. Why public?
Benefits of private lists
On private lists, everyone can speak more freely and we don’t give information to our opponents.
However, this assumes that everyone on the list is known and trusted. In practice, we don’t have the luxury of getting to know everyone we might want to work with – especially when they’re on another continent.
As for hiding information from our opponents, I think this is overrated. Our opponents are usually vastly more experienced and better funded than we are, so they don’t have much to learn from us. While trying to hide information from our already-well-informed opponents, we’re also hiding information from our potential supporters who usually arrive with a need for information.
Benefits of public lists
With public lists, newcomers can read the archives and become educated on the situation, and outsiders can find information that was useful in one project which might be useful in their project. When a campaign is finished, a legacy of information is left for future campaigns.
The battle over the EU software patents directive was the largest ever campaign against software patents anywhere in the world. Even if we didn’t win outright, the intermediary victories and the final draw were monumental achievements. Obviously, our strategy was not too shabby.
But one thing that I think was a mistake is our reliance on private lists. For all our work, there’s surprisingly little documentation of exactly what happened – the reasons, the people, the rejected ideas. A lot of information and documents are difficult to find, and sadly, a lot has simply disappeared. (Rectifying this is a major goal of the swpat.org documentation wiki)
In the short term – the early phases, when everyone knew everyone else, and when everyone had been involved for a fairly similar length of time, private lists worked. As the campaign stretched on, and the number of people involved grew massively, and most of the people were then “new” people (who didn’t have access to the previous conversations), I think our movement would have been stronger if more information was public instead of private.
And when you look at that campaign as just one phase or sub-project of the larger global campaign, we have the situation where every new campaign has to educate itself without the benefit of much of the knowledge from that previous campaign.
That’s why I think public lists, or at least a preference for public over private, are the best bet for any given campaign, and why they’re best for the long term movement.