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We need to work on our image

edited March 2016 in General
As this deserves its own thread I have split it from: Leadership.
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  • Good evening all,

    I appreciate that I've not posted for a while and that I've had some things to do for the party which haven't been done (apologies) but I too find the parties position a little distressing and want to add some of my own thoughts on the topic.

    I came to the party directly from the Regional ranks of YNL in UKIP, where my time was spent building websites for the party, campaigning on foot, aiding counsellors and MEP candidates in their efforts. Interestingly, this included Godfrey Bloom, Jane Collins and Mike Hookem. Nevertheless, I joined PPUK because UKIP was, and still is full of arguments and dissent, there is no order from top to bottom and beyond that, hate is prolific. The one thing UKIP has going for it - and this is true of other parties I'll mention soon - is that it has a plentiful supply of money from its membership.

    I know this is true because I've seen the amounts of money thrown around by UKIP and I've seen the bank statements for the party. I am also currently working with company who processes payments for the liberal democrats and the SNP. I can reassure everyone that the Liberal Democrats have received in excess of £24,000 of donations THIS WEEK and they will recieve similar amounts next week, and the week after and so on. The SNP also have MILLIONS of direct debit records in their system, they somewhat outclass the Liberal Democrats but are not yet live.

    The point is though, I've seen the data, I work with it on a daily basis. These parties have their shit together and I'm not seeing that from the Pirate Party. It's been mentioned before that this is down to not having enough members or not having the right policies or this or that. But I genuinely believe it is because we're trying too much to be a fringe party. The general public do not understand us. They do not understand a 'open source manifesto' and they do not understand what we're telling them.

    We need to work on our image. We need to establish branches in a proper and effective manner which the UK electorate is somewhat used too and then begin switching to the digital stuff. The same goes for our manifesto. The whole thing needs bulldozing and a committee needs assigning to make policies, with thought out and researched background.

    I don't mean to seem overly critical, especially since there are those who work hard and dedicate a lot of time to the party - and I have the utmost respect for them. I simply think that the party could be much bigger and funded a lot more if we were to work in a unified direction and figure out what is actually going on within the party.

    I'll keep an eye out for any replies.

    Ed. x

  • I must strongly disagree with your assertion that the manifesto should be created by a committee. To stop crowdsourcing our manifesto would be to lose one of our unique attributes that attracts members to us: we use the internet, we listen to people on a fair basis for what they want us to focus on and it's at the core of our democratic principles.
    Big funding certainly looks nice on paper, and would help us in some ways of course. But it's not about how much money you have, it's about what you do with it. You can have billions behind you, but if you don't engage with the people it counts for so much disconnected aloofness and waste. I'd rather have a shoestring budget and actually connect with people, given that choice.
  • I'm with Dan on this one.
  • I can understand the concerns of crowdsourcing from the wider public. You get ideas that aren't what this Party stands for.

    But that's what the subsequent member vote is for.

    The issue we have had is disengagement from members which means they don't really get involved with the policy discussion and aren't then able to cast a well informed vote - if they even bother to vote.

    Putting every idea up for vote means you can then end up with conflicting policies.

    We should continue to crowdsource policy. We should then have rigorous member discussion. But we should also have a very open and transparent means to cull/amend suggestions that conflict with our core principles or even each other.

    Also we should make it clear that as we do not have a whip our candidates are able to add/remove whatever they want from their own platform when they stand for election.

    Thinking it through to the next step - a manifesto for election:

    When we're crowdsourcing for a particular campaign what is the point of allowing a suggestion to go to member vote if every candidate would refuse to include it in their manifesto? This would be a strong argument for a panel of all candidates to cull away suggestions that none of them would support - would need to be transparent.
  • I think notwithstanding the continuous interraction online there should also be, at least once a year, a physical conference to iron out some of these issues. It should of course also have a live webcast with a facility for those unable to attend in person to contribute and vote.
  • There is/was a regular Pirate conference in Manchester, not sure what happened to that.
  • ThyPirateDaveThyPirateDave South Wales
    edited March 2016
    @edvardio I completely disagree.

    I've received complaints that PPUK is too much of a fringe party while simultaneously receving complaints that PPUK isn't focusing enough on its core policies.

    The problem with PPUK was never membership numbers or our policies, it's with the number of ACTIVE members.

    We have far too many people complaining from the sidelines and not enough people actively working towards solving the problem - this was specifically mentioned in my resignation as Deputy Leader.

    The single biggest strain on the party is the active membership reduction. The party has enjoyed fully dedicated people in the past and does not have that any more. This means you need EVEN MORE active members as they will be part-time. I called and called and called for people to step forward or the party will be in really bad shape - but again plenty of people came forward to say "I think this is the problem..." but never actually did anything about it.

    If you think our policies are the problem then you should really be suggesting new policies, not just saying "I think policies are the problem".
  • What was especially annoying for me was a great deal of the "Generation Loz" leadership and active people resigned and left the party because the party moved to the left and they were more right leaning.

    However, this was their own invention. They were the leadership and controlled the crowd-source process and had just as much ability to suggest policies and argue points as anyone else.

    It was absolutely baffling to me to see the people who put the party where it is, resign because they don't like where it is.
  • @DanFoxDavies I must agree we cannot rule out the crowd-source element in at least some degree. It does need a lot of refining however.

    I will make the point that some local policies were added by me just prior to my resignation from the NEC as absolutely no one in the entire party contested or discussed their implementation. Board confirmed some time ago policy stuff is operational, so curation, removal and addition is an NEC matter - there isn't actually any requirement to crowd-source or put it to a vote.
  • I can second @Drowz0r's comments, for the most part.

    As for conferences, I don't think a physical conference is particularly feasible until the party is back on its feet, or at least on its knees. The only experience I have of conferences is that they're non-trivial to set up, expensive, and hard to get people to turn up to. You're unlikely to get people turning up without a name on the flyer that will get people interested (if we could get Cory Doctorow to speak at a London conference, for instance...) then they're barely worth the cost of setting up.

    I'd sooner have some kind of online conference, but I'm not sure how helpful that would be either.
  • Folks,

    I appreciate all of the comments you've put forward but the point I was trying to make was that most of the public in the UK is at least 10 years behind the times when it comes to the internet. Joining our community, voting for policies etc does not appeal to them because ... why should it?

    I want to keep the core ideas of internet and civil liberties, but take them offline to where people actually are so that we can inform and educate them. It's great being able to type into this little box and have my message appear in the forums, but it does very little other wise. Having an established branch in Hull, York, London, Manchester, Glasgow etc which is run by local representatives, fighting local issues and banding together nationally makes sense.

    There's a saying, and I think it's quite toxic - 'that's the way we've always done it' - and I think that's quite possibly what is being applied here.
  • "That's the way we've always done it" would also be how reverting to an older fashioned political model in the name of populism would be seen. I'd much rather put our efforts into being the party that makes sure people all get fair internet access and then through it, the chance to participate in the modern, participatory and distributed democratic ideas we have to offer. I'd rather that than step away from the chance to be the example we want to see.
  • I should point out that we've had these branches already for a while, some of which have contested local and general elections. Running a branch on the ground requires a reasonable amount of time investment though, something the party has been historically bad at, with a few exceptions.
  • "That's the way we've always done it" would also be how reverting to an older fashioned political model in the name of populism would be seen.
    Not if it works.. I think the point is, with low member interaction, low funds, no leaders etc etc... the current approach isn't working.
  • I should point out that we've had these branches already for a while, some of which have contested local and general elections. Running a branch on the ground requires a reasonable amount of time investment though, something the party has been historically bad at, with a few exceptions.
    Whilst we may technically have had branches, I don't believe that there's really been a focus on supporting them. Maybe I'm wrong with being here on my own in Hull, but for definite I haven't seen much encouragement in the forums and I haven't actively heard about meetings.

    Running a branch can take time, I admit that. But what are we doing here if we're not spending time?
  • Hi Ed,

    I agree with you that Branches should be the root of renewal in some ways - but different branches require different levels and different sorts of support, and need to be created in the location with support from the centre, rather than being imposed on a location from the centre.

    What do you need in terms of support to enable a 'Hull' branch to get going? One of the things that made a bit of difference in London was having a candidate (and thus an electoral focus) Would you be willing to stand in the local elections in May in Hull to use as a 'base' to build a branch around? What else can be done to practically and effectively support branches?
  • Historically a problem with branches is, someone says "I want a branch here - I want central party to let membership know, support us with A, B, C and then etc etc" which just isn't possible as the central party is mostly struggling to even do central party stuff.

    We need everyone working on the central party, make that strong, volunteer here before the centre will be in a position to support the branches.
  • I agree. There's going to be an uphill battle to get a local branch going without the support from the central party to help make stuff happen.

    But if you're living in a reasonably central location where it's easy to get people to meet up, you can do that relatively easily. Find a venue (a pub will do, but if you have a place that caters to ad hoc meetings that doesn't charge that's possibly better), make a social media post about it, then do it. If you actually get someone else to turn up to a meeting, that's a start. Finally, the most important thing is to keep doing it once you've started, or you risk losing interest and momentum.

    I can't say it's worked perfectly in London, but we're still having people turn up to most meets, and occasionally getting new faces too.
  • Hi all,

    Apologies for the delay in my response.

    @Lennon
    I agree with you that Branches should be the root of renewal in some ways - but different branches require different levels and different sorts of support, and need to be created in the location with support from the centre, rather than being imposed on a location from the centre.
    I agree, but the point of branches is exactly what you've just said - to provide different levels and sorts of support to their local / regional population. A very good example which I can provide is the Liberal Democrats in York. I'm friends with one of their councillors and I constantly see him out and about within the community and referring people to their local branches for support with a variety of issues. Everything from dog waste, setting up events, support for the elderly, dispute advice (where to go etc) etc etc etc. As a result, he has a very good reputation, not just with his voters but cross party. He wouldn't have been able to gain this without the branch team and being entrenched in local affairs. Branches are in some ways, the customer service of political parties and like I've noted before, whilst the pirate party are trying to bring that online - only a margin of people will be able to fully appreciate that and understand how to take advantage of the service.
    What do you need in terms of support to enable a 'Hull' branch to get going? One of the things that made a bit of difference in London was having a candidate (and thus an electoral focus)
    Would you be willing to stand in the local elections in May in Hull to use as a 'base' to build a branch around?
    To answer the first question. There is already a branch in Hull because I asked to set one up a while back. I've held a couple of meetings since but the fact is, people have said they'll turn up and subsequently haven't. I suspect it's because a political meeting isn't very fun - and that's something we definitely could change. I know that other parties have the vicar of dibley style, dull and drab meetings, but there is no reason whatsoever that we cannot switch things up a little bit - for example, we could incorporate talks, hackathons, debates, citizens advice etc.

    As for the second. At this point in time, I would not be willing to stand for the party. It seems farcical to me the situation which we find ourselves in presently and I couldn't in all honesty stand for election when considering all the facts which come with that. For example, if I was to be asked 'Who leads the pirate party?' or 'How do you backup your policies?' the answers to both of those questions are simply... 'I don't know'.
    What else can be done to practically and effectively support branches?
    Listing all of the branches on the website and ensuring that everyone who is actually a branch head is introduced would be a good start.

    @Drowz0r
    Historically a problem with branches is, someone says "I want a branch here - I want central party to let membership know, support us with A, B, C and then etc etc" which just isn't possible as the central party is mostly struggling to even do central party stuff.
    It's not hard to add a branch to website navigation, put out social media posts, a blog post and include it in a newsletter (if there is one). In fact, I would imagine that's the very basic of requirements, literally the minimum. As for other support, perhaps its monetarily, which would make sense for some leaflets or posters - which can be printed for as little as £20, so a budget of £40 per new branch for some leaflets, a branch head t-shirt or a roll up banner is more than adequate.
    We need everyone working on the central party, make that strong, volunteer here before the centre will be in a position to support the branches.
    How do you envision that working? You can't possibly work from the top, downwards. You've got to work from the bottom, upwards.

  • >It's not hard to add a branch to website navigation, put out social media posts, a blog post and include it in a newsletter (if there is one).

    Actually it is. We are struggling to get people to do these functions right now and those with the permissions to grant are struggling to find the time to verify offers. Lots of people say it isn't hard to do it but aren't volunteering themselves to actually do it - unless you are, in which case send me an e-mail and I'll put you in touch with the powers that be. d.elston@pirateparty.org.uk

    You might have to badger the powers that be though, because they are super busy.

    >How do you envision that working? You can't possibly work from the top, downwards. You've got to work from the bottom, upwards.

    Considering I effectively don't have a local branch but have contributed huge amounts of man-hours to the central party it seems to work just fine for me. I also have a seat in local government without having a single pirate party member in that ward. I'm doing fine locally without having a branch but I'm going to need central party for guidance on a lot of stuff like policy decisions, evidence gathering, nomination papers... all sorts. The benefit here is the central party can help all branches but the London branch can't really help me in South Wales. De-centralisation and grass-roots movements do work... but they aren't something you should _always_ use.
  • Good morning all, my first post here as a member but I hope to write an introduction soon. Perhaps one of those '1 month of being a pirate posts' I see around. I don't fully understand where PPUK stands on things beyond the manifesto. I came here through a personal search for what I want in my government after much disappointment with the lack of progressive talk about future governance within the countries I live in, and also having an interest in blockchains and Ethereum and more recently bitnation.co. From reading this thread it seems there is uncertainty about where we are and where we're going and I'd like to be part of that discussion. I think my views are aligned with PPUK but I'm sure someone will let me know if they're not. In a nutshell, I favour direct democracy and open and transparent governance as the framework I would wish to live in. Whether my personal ideologies fall left or right of where the UK population stands right now is pretty much irrelevant once I have those things. With that said I'm just here to comment on the OP (with perhaps a lack of knowledge of the history) and a few subsequent posts.

    The general theme seems to be "what do we do about our image?", "should we focus on branches, or work as a central effort?" and "where's all the pirates?".

    Given that the last part of the journey I mention above is that I only recently found out the Swedish Pirate party had actually spread beyond Sweden to Iceland, AND they were actually getting (a ridiculous amount of) attention, I thought you would be experiencing an uptick in funding and pirates. I was surprised to see so little forum activity to reflect these new members so I'm not sure how true this is but would be interested to know. So, where are all the Pirates? Internet communities are filled with people who share views held by pirates.

    To get new pirates branches are vital. Online people are, I imagine, hard to persuade to get involved with political movements, even if those movements are centred on the networked devices they love. The 'message' needs to reach everyone and I agree with a comment here that these branches do not need to be fixed spaces, but can be entirely online and possibly supported by ad-hoc meetings. And why just have one branch added to the website at a time? Why not add all possible branches in one go and switch them on as pirates take residence? This will get more branches open in a shorter amount of time than repeatedly writing to 'the powers that be'. On that note, if the powers that be are so busy, why aren't there more of them? Can't the NEC open up more positions? Anyway, this kind of job can be logged as a 'to-do' and done when the time presents itself to an active pirate. Do we use Trello or some such? We should.

    So what is the message? Surely it's not "we really believe you should have super-duper internet for all your porn and video watching needs"?. That is what I read from nearly all of the current campaign points (except TTIP and possibly Care Data). That is nonsense and very fringe-worthy. No one cares - that's Virgin's job. My message, at least, is the one I stated above. Which is why I was disappointed to read the Twitter message today Do we need to be like the old parties and bicker with each other? No, we're about more than that. I personally think DC opening his income to the public was a big move and actually in-line with our policies. The fact that there's more tax dodging revealed, and he hasn't released it fully is very disappointing. However, if he had done this a couple of years ago I might well have shook his hand. But we can be a positive party with positive messages, backed by our campaign objectives. Tell the public that the old boy did good, but not good enough. What do we advocate? Personally, it's all tax info for elected public officials and public offices and DC has taken a very small step in that direction. If he's "toast", with the pirate party, it's because the law or the people voted him "toast".

    Having read, "active people resigned and left the party because the party moved to the left and they were more right leaning" I was even more disappointed. Why are people leaving this party because of its left-right tendencies? Perhaps those pirates didn't agree with the same direct governance and open-democracy ideals I believe in. Perhaps this pirate party doesn't hold the same ideals as me anyway and it genuinely does want to move to the left. But shouldn't we sell the better idea that we can provide a mechanism and framework to enable people to choose there own politics? Yes that's a complicated set of new information, but it's so very sell-able. Much more than "vote for better porn, sorry, internet".

    Anyway, like I said, first post so I've not got all the facts. I know I haven't really proposed anything and certainly made no progress but I hope to learn and contribute. You have my small annual fee and I'm here for the duration. Unfortunately I'm a full-time lecturer so like most people here, my time is limited. At least until I quit and refocus my efforts somewhere else.
  • >On that note, if the powers that be are so busy, why aren't there more of them?
    > Can't the NEC open up more positions?

    The problem isn't number of elected voting positions in the NEC - (i) we find it hard to fill them anyway, (ii) the NEC have the power to appoint as many non-voting members to the NEC as they wish, (iii) the NEC are able to create new voting positions on the NEC relatively easily (those positions would need an election to fill), and (iv) you don't even need to be on the NEC to do vital important Party work.

    > Anyway, this kind of job can be logged as a 'to-do' and done when the time presents itself to an active pirate.
    > Do we use Trello or some such? We should.

    Some of us do use Trello for some things, and piratenpads for other things. But you are absolutely right. We need to collate the jobs that need doing (there's a job in itself!!) and we need to find a way to make it easy for members to find that list and do stuff.

    Please tell me you're volunteering to manage the to-do list, volunteer tasking, and or both? :smiley: :smiley:
  • I have no idea what needs doing, and can't move quickly (due to said lecturing) but yes I'm here to help. If I can access and start reading relevant material to get informed, or even talk to some pirates, I could provide a platform to organise to-dos. Volunteer tasking would ideally be built into that I imagine.
  • There'll be a Board/NEC meeting next week. The meetings are open to the public and take place on our Mumble server:

    mumble.pirateparty.org.uk:64738

    The meeting will be on Wednesday 13th starting at approximately 8:30PM (2030 UTC+1)
  • Hi @kcar,

    I wrote the tweet you quoted.

    I certainly hope we can do more than bicker with other parties but that doesn't mean we should shy away from criticism where appropriate.

    The key issue in the Cameron story is transparency and accountability. The implication is that one should lead to the other but often it doesn't. We should applaud people in principle for being transparent, but credit for that is very much diminished in this case given how long Cameron has taken to deliver on his promise of publishing his tax returns, and even more importantly, what they actually show.

    So transparency is only a virtue if it's proactive rather than forced, and if what's revealed is a clean record. That's not the case with Cameron here. It's not "good but not good enough". It's, in my view, significantly below the standard that people should expect from politicians. Cameron has been promising to publish this info for years. It's only come out this week because he's on the ropes and had no realistic prospect of withholding it any longer.

    So while Pirates do have a positive message in that we have (hopefully) a better way of doing politics, the context is a system that's horribly broken. We need to point that out often and channel the discontent of the many people who see that and want to find a way forward. While it's a mistake to be fixated with negativity, it's also a mistake to be fixated with positivity.

  • I'd like to pick up on the general topic of the thread. As I see it, the question is: How can PPUK thrive and grow?

    I don't think PPUK's problem is "image", or funding per se, or the branch/membership structure, or a lack of ambition, or a desire to remain a fringe party. And it's not our politics, which may or may not appeal to a (much) wider population but they're ours and that's the point of the party in the first place.

    Right now the party has approx 750 members. And what we need to do is to get really good at running a party with 750 members. If we don't get really good at that we won't grow. And if we can't even do that we'll shrink.

    Growth only comes after consolidation. Consolidation means running an incredibly tight ship so that we have the competence and capacity to take future opportunities for growth where we can find and create them. It means getting all our internal systems down so that they can effectively support the people doing the publicly-visible political work. It means the political people getting better at doing politics, and attracting other people who can work at that level or take it to the next level.

    In short, it's as simple as everyone in the party who's active getting a lot better building and running operational teams. Once everything's running smoothly at the current scale we can look for specific ways to expand. But "How can we expand?" actually isn't our immediate problem.

    To give a very concrete example, this week our website was effectively down for two days. This required a firefighting response from our IT people and had a knock-on effect on our political/public operations. We're not an ecommerce business so it's harder to quantify the impact of this outage but it's definitely real.

    This isn't about the competence of individuals. It's about a being at a certain level of competence and capacity as an organisation. Right now we're at the level where things like this happen, not least because almost all our operations rely on the good performance of single, specific individuals, and very often, the same individuals performing several roles at once. That's a broken structure.

    So if we're going to stay at our current level of membership and impact rather than decline, we need effective teams of at least two people in each of our operational areas: finance, nominations/candidates, politics/press/campaigns, IT, etc. Those teams need to fight the fires and move onto smooth everyday operations before the party can even think about taking on bigger challenges.

    Some people would call this "professionalism" but that's often confused with suit wearing and not swearing in speeches/interviews so I'll just call it competence instead.

  • @kcar

    >Do we need to be like the old parties and bicker with each other? No, we're about more than that.

    As far back as I know of, PPUK has attacked other parties. Some posters/leaflets are still on the website.

    Personally I welcome the odd one-liner and joke tweet or whatever. Politics can be dry, boring and humourless. Adding a bit of humour shouldn't be underestimated. One of our biggest selling points is we're activists/politicians and still human beings.

    As to "what needs doing?":

    Appoint-able vacancies:
    https://pirateparty.org.uk/leaders_office/office-vacancies

    Electable vacancies (currently all NEC roles):
    https://www.pirateparty.org.uk/nec-code-practice
  • @adrianshort thanks for your tweet and response. i wasn't disappointed in the criticism launched at Cameron (he deserves it) but I felt we could put out the message that DC "did good, but not good enough". I only really picked it out to highlight my feeling that we should try and remain as neutral as possible (to avoid lurking so far on the fringe). I'm not good at social media publicity so I don't know what this would look like (or even if this method gets better attention) but highlighting what the PM did which was in line with our politics (is it?) whilst pointing out that he is still 'toast' because of his lies and deceit, and having only half completed the job (what happened before 20XX, Osborne etc.). I think it speaks to a different crowd than we would normally appeal to as well. There are so many ppl who genuinely think that what Cameron did is exactly what they would have done (and who here can say for sure they wouldn't if it was, as it is, legal?). I guess I wanted to speak to them, not least because I know so many of them.

    This is a personal feeling though that our left/right politics should remain as neutral as we can allow, while ensuring the policy agenda we have is understood. I do think attacking other parties is a necessary evil, but it can be done while appealing to those who sit on the fences between the labour/tory yards.

    Also you said: "it's harder to quantify the impact of this outage but it's definitely real". FYI, I came here after learning there was a UK Pirate Party through the #PanamaPapers (I imagine there would be many more like me). It took me two days to figure out how to become a member and I very nearly gave up. At one point I had my tinfoil hat on wondering why the site would be down at this critical point.

    "effective teams of at least two people in each of our operational areas": i don't know if this is currently done, but I believe building in redundancy when there is clearly a lack of time available to our members is important.

    @Drowz0r I think humour should be a core part of our message and I would like to see that continue in our outreach (I did love "bread exposed to radiant heat" bit). We've got a lot to work with - just look at our squabbling government, they are easy pickings for a thousand one-liners!



    I guess these vacancies and how to fill them will be discussed at the meeting on Wednesday night.
  • Forgive me (I'm a northerner at heart) but I can't really see myself praising David Cameron and his legacy on the whole. Whilst it is clear here that you were referring to the Panama Papers and pointing out that he was not good enough at being transparent sooner about his taxes, the press love anything they can grab and take out of context. It worries me when I see Pirate members here referring to the Tories in such a way as leaves any potential to insinuate that we might actually support them. I don't want to demonise every last Tory, some of them seem to have consciences, however small and misapplied. I request that care is taken not to get too friendly with them, whilst at the same time I recognise that we should indeed focus not on the negatives of our opponents but on why we are the ones with the better way to do things.
  • i would like to assure you that, while I am a southerner at heart, my vitriol for that man is at devastating levels right now. on a personal note, tory immigration policies have split me and my wife for 6 months now and our first anniversary is tomorrow.

    i agree that we should not allow the press to flip our messages. but what i want for PPUK is positive attention.

    my personal feeling is that i don't think we should worry about supporting a move that is different and in-line with what we want to achieve. to highlight it brings us the attention we need and following it up with something that clearly points out he has failed, brings our message stronger. (i should point out i do not have experience in politics).
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