Roller Derby and Open, Consensus Software

It seems that “What do you use to manage your league?” is one of the most repeated questions in Roller Derby circles. (We’ve seen at least three versions of this topic raised in the last couple of months…)

Sadly, one of the most common answers is: “we use Facebook because getting people to use something else is really hard”.
This is true, of course: Facebook’s entire raison d’etre is selling access to its community to advertisers, so it’s extremely good at finding ways to stop that community leaving it. The problem is that Facebook is also fairly terrible at being a system for managing a league – finding things which didn’t happen in the last few days is very hard, and there’s few good tools for decision making or project planning.  Additionally, Facebook’s policy decisions, in general, are at the whims of their management; the history of Facebook’s changes to its social content to improve the advertising revenue, at the cost of service to the user community, is telling.
Facebook Events are a pretty good solution for promoting public events – and they’re better than the features in most other social networking sites – but only if your target audience is also on Facebook.

And that’s the other part of the rub: despite Facebook’s best efforts, not everyone has an account on it. Increasingly, especially younger, people – the people your league wants to recruit to grow – are either using other social networks (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat), or not using social networks at all (just communication tools like WhatsApp). All social networking services “age out” after a while, and becoming dependant on a particular social network for running your league gives you a built-in sell-by date.

As we’ve previously noted, there’s a lot of ethical and philosophical overlap between Roller Derby culture – “For the X, by the X”, regardless of if “X” is “Skater”, “Member”, or otherwise – and the various open culture and consensus democracy movements on the Internet. Luckily, those movements also have built a lot of software for helping organise the various issues communities face…

We’re going to break down the (software) problems of managing a league (or an NGB, which is really a community of leagues) into a few sections:

Project Management (page 2) – the core aspect of running any community with goals – managing who is responsible for them, and how things are going.
Consensus decision making (page 3)  – making decisions that your community can own.
Real-time Communication (page 4) – bringing your community into contact with each other, transparently, in discussion.
Event Calendaring (page 5) – keeping track of time, especially to promote your events to the public.

We’re not going to talk about “sports club” specific software here, although it does exist. Mostly those tools cover the items on page 2 – Project Management – with a sports-themed emphasis.

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