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S06 E01 – Co-op Spirit

In this episode we talk to Micky Metts, a Cooperative Consultant and speaker, and Melissa Bingham, a privacy, security and ethical tech advocate. We discuss the overlap between the punk and the open source scenes, homeschooling, resisting Big Tech, what it means to be ‘cooperative’, and more!


  • Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983 by Jen B Larson
  • The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
  • What We Build with Power: The Fight for Economic Justice in Tech by David Delmar Sentíes

Find all of our guests’ reading recommendations at our The Tao of WAO book club.



Important note: this is a lightly-edited AI transcription of the conversation. If you require verbatim quotations, please double-check against the audio!

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:23] Welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Doug Belshaw.

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:33] And I am Laura Hilliger. This podcast season is currently partially unfunded. You can support this podcast and other. We are open projects and products at open slash. We are open.

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:45] So after a brief pause, we’re very happy to welcome you to episode one of our sixth season. Some people said it was never going to happen, but it is actually happening. Six seasons of listening to Laura and myself talk to interesting people about cool stuff.

Laura Hilliger: [00:01:01] That’s right. And today we are very pleased to have some time with Micky Metz, a cooperative consultant and speaker, and Melissa Bigham, a privacy, security and ethical tech advocate. Welcome to you both. Thanks.

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:16] So our first question to guests is always, What is your favourite book? And we’ve got two guests today, so maybe Micky, we can start with you. What’s your what’s your favourite book? What do you point people towards usually?

Micky Metts: [00:01:28] Well, it changes from day to day, but today I guess my favourite book is one that just came out. I’ve read parts of it. It’s called Hit Girls and it’s a compendium of women in the punk rock scene during the late 70s and 80s, and I’ve always been a cooperative person, so being in a punk rock thing made made sense to me.

Laura Hilliger: [00:01:56] Do you want to talk about that a little bit? Why do you why do you what do you think punk rockers are cooperative about or how are they cooperative?

Micky Metts: [00:02:03] Well, it was cooperative in the way that anyone can play anything, sing anything or do what they want. And it’s entertainment in a punk rock fashion. So we would have some shows where we would pull audience members on stage, shove an instrument in their hand and say, Join in play. And then we would have someone videotape it. And it’s like, Here, see, you’re a famous guitar player now. And so getting people into the spirit of helping other people do things that are challenging to them that they would never do, you know, in a in a regular club, you’re not going to go jump on stage with Bon Jovi, you know, or something. It was so it was a very cooperative thing. We would borrow equipment from each other and songs from each other, band members from each other, you know, it was just a very open and lovely scene. And I see a lot of that reflected in today’s cooperative movement.

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:00] Yeah, I think there’s a lot of that reflected in the open source community as well. Like a lot of old school open web folks are also old school punk rockers. It’s one of the thing that kind of hooked me into the open web community in the early days was like that. That spirit of, you know, we’re all in it together and that sort of solidarity.

Micky Metts: [00:03:22] And yes, I did a keynote at Libreplanet a few years ago, and when I ended it, I in my bio it had said punk rocker and metal bands and everyone was yelling, We want to hear your metal music. And I’m like, No, I’m talking about free software dudes. So this year, Libreplanet is coming up again this coming weekend. So I guess I’ll maybe play a song as we’re ending our conversation.

Micky Metts: [00:03:49] Nice, Excellent. Nice.

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:52] And Melissa, how about you?

Melissa Bingham: [00:03:56] So my probably favourite book is The Magic of Thinking Big. And I read this probably in my my 20s, and I just recall being very shocked that this isn’t one of the books that all students read in high school, like on our, you know, expected book list that you get from school. It really had a a big impact just on, I believe, like my psyche on how to approach things in the world. And I believe young people this would be beneficial. So that’s something that I recommend to to my young people is just understanding that really a lot of it is in your mind and as you know, as big as you can imagine it, you know, it’s important to imagine it so that you can really strive to to see it, visualise it and make things happen. So that’s one of my most important books. I feel like that impacted my life.

Laura Hilliger: [00:04:56] I don’t think that we mentioned when we were organising and getting you guys on the calendar, but we actually we have a book club on literal club where we put all of the books that people recommend, mainly so that I can remember them. And so, yeah, so that definitely both of those books sound like they’re going on my reading list.

Melissa Bingham: [00:05:19] Cool.

Micky Metts: [00:05:20] Awesome.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:22] Yeah, for sure. The Magic of Thinking Big. I started writing that down and saying, Oh, it was by Tony Robbins, but that was Awaken the Giant Within, which is a bit of a different kind of book, right?

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:36] I was just having a look David J. Schwartz about he said, Melissa, did you say you were like a teenager when you read this?

Melissa Bingham: [00:05:42] I was just out of college when I read it, and I started doing some business development. And so some mentorship in one of my mentors was like, the key to growing in anything is reading. And you know, when you’re at that stage, you’re like, I’m building a business. Like, I need to know some business strategies and like techniques and what are we going to do? And they’re handing me like all these books, you know, it was like, you know how to win Friends and influence people, right? What was the other one? There was another like staple at that time, some Joel Osteen, I think books. So just like getting your mind and spirit right to to be in a place to take on whatever business looks like for you.

Laura Hilliger: [00:06:26] So and how do you do you feel like the The Magic of Thinking Big was different from some of the other books you mentioned? Like, how did it stand out to you?

Melissa Bingham: [00:06:39] I believe it was like I was saying, the mind piece, just understanding that. I feel like we’re giving kind of some cultural, socialised ways of doing things and how we’re kind of supposed to be in life. And here’s some paths to success, right? Some ways our culture and society say are the best ways to, you know, get to the American dream or whatever it may be. And that really was just like, there’s so many more things that we can do, but we’ve not necessarily been trained to think big, right? We’ve kind of been able to think in these ways to be successful. So that was the like a mind changer for me.

Laura Hilliger: [00:07:20] Yeah, I’m I’m fascinated by the, the social and cultural norms that people just don’t think about, like the things that we don’t question and the, the the things that we strive for that maybe have nothing to do with what it is that we really want, which is, you know, this is like this is part of the reason that I’m so happy to be a member of a co op and to work with cooperatives in general, because I’ve found that in the cooperative space, people do think bigger, they think different. They bring their whole selves to work or to whatever it is that they’re doing. And that’s kind of a through line that I, you know, really enjoy in the in the cooperative space and in the punk scene and in the open web space, you know, that that like bring your full self and you know, really you we are not as constrained as we might think we are if we just have to think bigger. So I’m going to read the book.

Doug Belshaw: [00:08:18] No, me too. Me too.

Micky Metts: [00:08:21] Yeah, sounds great.

Doug Belshaw: [00:08:24] I think. I think it’s really sad, actually, when my daughter, who’s 12, came home from school and there was some kind of workshop thing, there was someone came from out, you know, into school. And even at that age, they’re kind of told not to do stuff in case their future employer finds out about it. And like, that’s self censorship at such a young age is so sad. And so of course, as soon as she told me this, I told her the exact opposite of like, yes, be careful out there, but also like be your full self, don’t like self-censor and things. And as Laura said, it’s wonderful to be part of a co-op where we don’t have a boss, for example. That’s another thing which I find odd when people keep talking about their boss all the time. Like, Yeah, no, Yeah. Where should we start with your kind of history of co-ops? Which one of you kind of wants to talk about your current and your past experience of co-ops and kind of the ups and downs and what you what you’re currently involved in?

Melissa Bingham: [00:09:27] Mm.

Melissa Bingham: [00:09:29] I can go. Micky.

Micky Metts: [00:09:31] Go ahead. Do it, Melissa.

Melissa Bingham: [00:09:33] So to your point, I feel like I’ve actually always kind of been cooperative. I grew up in intentional community in a religious kind of cult. And so. From an early age, I saw some of the pros of doing things cooperatively, sharing resources, working together and how we got to then share the rewards of having my family drove a company van the the, you know, so we all worked for this for the temple that we were a part of. And in return, lots of benefits. Got to stay in the local housing community. Housing went to a community school, home school and just yeah. Being like the family environment, always having people with similar values and goals, you know, young people to be in community with. And so and, you know, we didn’t call it a cooperative and have no idea what cooperative was. I also got to see some of the challenges of being in those kind of spaces of kind of being sheltered. And so some of the abuses that can go on when there’s not transparency and trust in community. So I think that kind of pulled me away from it and into, okay, I want to be a modern, you know, person in society and really follow this American dream.

Micky Metts: [00:11:11] When he got out of prison, we would start touring my bands. Whoops.

Micky Metts: [00:11:21] I’m so sorry.

Melissa Bingham: [00:11:23] That’s okay.

Melissa Bingham: [00:11:23] Went to prison.

Micky Metts: [00:11:25] So sorry. I sat on a button. I knew I should have closed that.

Doug Belshaw: [00:11:30] It’s fine. We can edit that part out. It’s all cool. Thank you.

Melissa Bingham: [00:11:35] Although I did. I lost my train of thought there for a minute.

Doug Belshaw: [00:11:38] So let’s just go from here. So, um, so, Melissa, you talked about kind of cooperativism as being something. It’s like a lived experience, just something that you. It’s almost like a fish swimming through water. You don’t recognise it until you’re out of the water maybe, and you’re on a different kind of situation. And I think that’s possibly the case for lots of people. And maybe, Mickey, we can bring you in here as well. Just the difference between you said that the community you were part of was very intentional, but then there’s kind of having a co-op, which is a it’s a form of an organisation. It’s it’s registered with the with the state in some kind of way. It has articles and corporation, it has rules, it has all this kind of stuff. And I wondered in both of your experiences, like what was the difference between the two and if there were benefits to kind of that more formal structure around things and whether what that brings to the table that makes sense.

Micky Metts: [00:12:34] Well, my parents were cooperative. It wasn’t an intentional community or anything like that. I’m pretty old. I’m 70. And so back in the 50s when I was being raised, it was more of my parents own doing to include every member of the family in everything. Like from the day I was born. I mean, I have pictures of my family standing around my crib talking to me and they never talked baby talk to me. And I was always included in decisions, even if I didn’t know what it was. And they would explain it like I’m amazed. And I always forget not everyone had this experience. It’s so normal to me to be cooperative with everyone that’s doing stuff with you, which is everyone. So it was just a thing, a lifestyle. And I guess I got confused when I got in to the work space, you know, like old enough to have a job and stuff. And I’m like, What is this, a boss? Someone’s acting like they’re better than me and they know more than me. What kind of craziness is that? You know, if I’m the one doing the work, I know more about it than that person does, but they’re trying to boss me around.

Micky Metts: [00:13:48] That doesn’t make sense, you know, and having good advice not taken by the boss, you know, like I’m on the floor here working and these boxes should be like this because it’s easier and. Oh, no, no, no, boss, boss. I just. I couldn’t stand that. So I got into a punk rock. But. And so then now I’m a worker owner in Agaric Technology Collective, and it’s an amazing life. I’ve been with them for many years now, and I don’t see any other way of working. As Laura was saying, you bring your whole self to work. I don’t have a division of, Oh, this is my work day. Now I’m going to put my tools away and I’m going to go home and act like a different person and put on different clothes and talk differently. That’s that’s I think that’s split personalities or something where we’re nurturing multi multiple personalities here in this world of work and go home and be a different person.

Laura Hilliger: [00:14:48] Yeah. And Melissa, you said you said that you kind of you grew up very cooperatively. You saw some of the the downfalls of that kind of community and the abuses and that you thought you were going to step away and go into the, quote unquote, modern world, normal world of work. Did you have a similar experience like Mickey was just talking about where you where you got in and got into tech, got into big tech, had a boss and were like, wait a second, I feel disempowered.

Melissa Bingham: [00:15:21] I don’t think I really had that, uh, strong like realisation. To me. It was just more like, Oh, okay, this is the way it needs to be done. If I want to be successful in this type of in corporate. And I thought, okay, this is what I need to do, right? So changing how I dressed and presenting myself and being polished right to show up was like, okay, this is kind of what social norms say we need to do. And my college was, you know, grooming me for that. You know, the mock interviews and the different programs they have at colleges to prepare you for the work world. So it was to me, it felt like this was okay. This is what I was supposed to do if I need to be successful. And finding out later on that was realising this was not even what my definition of success was. This was, you know, my family and the world said this was how I needed to move in order to be successful. And so I’ve been in the process of kind of reversing all that and tearing it all down and really burning it to the ground and starting over.

Laura Hilliger: [00:16:21] So nice. Well, I’m happy to hear it.

Doug Belshaw: [00:16:25] So it’s really it’s really interesting that you’ve you know, you’re you’re almost at different ends of the spectrum. You know, Mickey’s had this long history of working with at least one co-op and kind of bringing the full self. And you’re almost at the start of this new realisation and, and new way of thinking about stuff. And we’re doing some work at the moment with Workers Co-op, which is a brand new thing. We start the start of this year. Um, and this is all about trying to get more worker co-ops, especially in the UK. And what’s really interesting is there’s an assumption about what people need and one thing that people need is encouragement. And it sounds like Mickey’s given you some encouragement there, Melissa but it’d be interesting to know and it might. You might need a minute to think, but like what? What helps people who are brand new to, like, co-ops, like the co-op sector, like the way of doing running cooperatives as an organisation, as a business. Like is it just realisation of where the people are at? Like what is it that you would need to, to set up a co-op to, to get involved in that kind of that kind of lifestyle because is a bit different. On the usual 9 to 5 corporate kind of style of doing things.

Melissa Bingham: [00:17:39] Hmm. Yeah, good question. I feel like for for me, it’s been. I want two things, honestly. One is the folks having a lot of grace and peace and patience with me just kind of presenting it in. Even this in the open source space and in the cooperative space, just kind of giving people space to sort out where they may fit in this and not necessarily trying to shove anything down anybody’s throat. You know, so I’ve heard stories of, you know, people moving into trying to learn about the open source space or free software or cooperatives and very being bombarded or, you know, this you got to do this way. This is the best way, you know, kind of stuff. I haven’t had that experience. So I’m grateful that, you know, the folks have really been kind and bringing me along and just sharing their experiences. So the other piece I would say would be the really individual and human pieces that I’m understanding that this idea of cooperative sounds really good. However, when we talk about actually putting it into practice, there’s actually things that I’ve been instilled in me or I worked on for the past several years that I actually need to possibly reverse to be able to work in these spaces. So there’s a lot of personal, individual work that I feel folks may not be aware of to be successful in these spaces, skills that may be helpful in. So I’m in that space of like, okay, I say I want to do this and it looks really good on paper and what does that really mean to me as a person to be in that space and be what I believe is successful in it?

Laura Hilliger: [00:19:20] So I think that’s a really interesting thread too, that I want to grab onto. Do you have any specific examples of things that you have that you feel like you have to reverse? And in terms of like I can give an example, one of the things that I’ve been trying to well, not I guess it’s not in me personally, but like one of the things that I learned from the world of corporate is that you can just have meetings all day long and never actually get anything done. And so, you know, like for, for for me and, you know, for for our co op, one of the things that we’ve noticed is that a lot of organisations have meetings and they talk and talk and talk, but nothing is documented, nothing is, is prepared, you know, there’s no output. And so like one of the things is just so simple have a meeting agenda, take notes and follow up. That’s it. You know, and it’s, it seems like such a simple thing, but I think that there may be a lot of those. And I’d be curious if you’ve noticed any that are are there more personal ones or like mindsets that you’ve found where you thought, oh, I learned this in my world of corporate and I’ve got to get rid of it, clean it out. I’m putting you on the spot. Sorry.

Doug Belshaw: [00:20:41] No, I can think of another one as well, actually, from today. Laura. So. And it’s from workers comp. So when when you’re in the corporate world, a lot of it tends to be about pushing your promoting yourself, like, um, having there’s an ego side of it and like being seen to be the person who does the thing. And what I’ve noticed in the work that we’re doing with worker’s comp or any kind of federation or working with other co-ops is that there’s a real tension between pushing and having the drive to get things done, which is absolutely necessary. Otherwise there’s no energy in the initiative versus you swamping the space with just all of your energy and not letting any other other voices in. And as a middle aged white guy, that’s something I have to be very, very careful of, of like, just like trying. Not intentionally, but dominating spaces. And so I’ve been trying to kind of get that balance right. But it is quite peculiar to the kind of space that we’re in as opposed to a corporate space where that’s kind of the goal. That’s what you do. So.

Micky Metts: [00:21:45] Well, that kind of worked for me because I was raised in a very wealthy white area. So I was raised with like sons and daughters of governors and senators and things like that. So I have that dominate the space white guy thing in me, and no one expects it to pop out of me. And so that really, like before I was in a cooperative, I worked at a corporation that was funded with $100 million, and we were building an app like the Google chat thing, and it was just amazing how it got robbed and pilfered by people. But I would say the best advice I could give to anyone is don’t be afraid to be your weird self. Don’t be afraid to be weird. Like I got them to do so many weird things. Like I had all of them wearing black all the time. I mean, for my birthday, everyone wore black and they made a black cake because I always wore black. I don’t I don’t wear colourful clothes. That’s another story I got from Einstein about not putting any mental energy into your outfit. And it leaves me a lot of latitude to to think about things. But, you know, I would have them all skipping around the office, you know, doing child type things to open their minds and get them free again. And it was funny to see who would hang back. And I’m an adult. I’m not going to do that, you know, And then I catch them doing it.

Doug Belshaw: [00:23:13] But and it’s really interesting, isn’t it? I think Melissa made a great point earlier where you said something along the lines of not knowing what your definition of success was, yet you were being groomed by an institution or an organisation to be successful within a particular cultural norm. And I think that’s fascinating that at a at an age where we potentially don’t know what we want, other people assume that they know what we would want and therefore help us get to a destination that we don’t even know that we want to go to. It’s very, very strange.

Melissa Bingham: [00:23:47] Yes, that is our society and culture, which is in part why I’ve, you know, blessed to find the unschooling space. I feel like it’s very cooperative in the about our young people. Right. So decentralising power and understanding adult isms and how important it is for we say we striving to, you know, raise free people and liberated people. But are we actually, you know, sharing the power with our young people? Are we actually, you know, encouraging them and showing up for them in the ways that they, you know, need and believe, you know, is going to help them to be successful. So that types of things, I think, goes into your question on like the mindset of what has what I’ve kind of tried to undo. And part of this unschooling is that thought of because I’m older, I know you know more than my young people, but the same goes for the jobs, right? The possibly older people may know more in our companies, you know, and I too, came from some proximity to white privilege. So I feel like that benefited me in, you know, in big tech being that, hey, I’m I wasn’t necessarily taught to be so feminine and womanly and sit down and be quiet and and listen. So taking up space, you know, was something that was familiar with but also not necessarily comfortable with. Right. But I felt like, okay, this is how you need to be in these spaces to do that. But I’ve also enjoyed kind of undoing some of that too, that, you know, there’s in these movements and then community, there’s many ways, many roles and responsibilities that we can share. So kind of letting that just settle and see where I, where my skills and gifts kind of show up in the spaces has been a different way to kind of move.

Laura Hilliger: [00:25:45] Can you guys talk a little bit, you ladies, you talk a little bit about your relationship. So when when we were first speaking in a chat, Melissa said that she wanted to invite you, Mickey, her mentor, and use the word mentor. And I wanted to pick a little bit about about your guys’s relationship, how you met, why you got a tour mentor.

Micky Metts: [00:26:17] I was so amazed when I met Melissa. I was like, Oh my God, here is a wonderful brain inside a beautiful person that understands the need for Cooperativeness. But it looks like she’s been trapped in this corporate bubble world trying to meet some standard that’s constantly changing. You know, now that you’ve got this. Oh, it’s the witch’s broom chase, you know, go get the witch’s broom. Oh, but now you need her, you know, like robe. And now you need this. And and I was like, oh, my God, I’ve got to, like, pull her into the world of cooperatives that I know and introduce her to some developers because she’s smart as a whip and she’s just got it all. She knows the, the whole like packaging of what’s inside a cooperative and how it really benefits the inner person as well as the group. And so I was just so amazed when I met her and we started working on the privacy workshops on Community Bridge, which is, you know, where we teach people about how to protect their privacy, as Doug was saying about his daughter, you know, they’re teaching her not to be herself. You know, don’t be a person. You’ve got to hide this from your future boss. Oh, God. That was the first thing I thought of when I when this whole Internet cracked down. Well, it’s been happening. But when it became evident to us what they were doing, I belonged to a group at the UN that is about privacy. And they brought a great point to light, which is how do you construct your personality when you’re young without the benefit of privacy? How do you do that? You can’t go on stage when you’re six and construct your personality in front of the world. You know, you’ve got to try things alone in the mirror and, you know, wherever with your friends, your best friend, you have to try things. That’s that’s how we grow and learn what our boundaries are. And they’ve taken that away. I hate that, Doug. I’m just stuck on that.

Doug Belshaw: [00:28:28] Yeah, and, and it’s not, it’s not. Sometimes it’s parents, you know, sometimes it’s parents who have been so inculcated as well. So my son, my son’s 16 and of course, you know, in the early days of the web and people sharing things and whatever, there were loads of pictures of him, little blue eyed blonde boy on on the web. And of course, as soon as he becomes a teenager, that’s extremely embarrassing. Yeah. So he’s asking me to take those down. I’m mortified because I forget that these are still accessible for everyone to see. These are kind of private family photos, which in the past it was more normal to kind of just put online and yeah, so yeah, there’s all of this construction of identity as you’re absolutely right, like privacy allows you to construct that identity and play about with it before you’re ready to kind of go into the world and, and construct it there as well.

Micky Metts: [00:29:21] Yes. So I was so happy to meet Melissa, who was open to all these things and had learned all these things and had lived in a cooperative world as to how she was going to compile this into her dream existence. I won’t say dream job. I’ll say your dream existence where you are working on things you love, building, things you love with people you know and love. So yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:29:47] That’s. Are you are you both working together through Community Bridgecom or Melissa? Are you also is a community bridgecom Is that a project of Agaric or how does this all tie together? There’s also the conscious tech pivot, and I’m just crazy.

Micky Metts: [00:30:06] I’ve got lots of ideas. And just I wake up in the middle of the night and spin up a website now and then.

Laura Hilliger: [00:30:13] OK, Doug does that too.

Micky Metts: [00:30:15] I bought the URL or the domain like 30 years ago and figured, Hey, now that there’s this Zoom and Google and all these dangerous platforms, I’ve got to do something. Because I had heard about Big Blue Button and having it be open source free software, and I was like, I got to run that so people aren’t zoomed to death and Googled to death. But then came the challenge of getting them onto it, you know, like, Oh, no, I’m a. Zoom person, you know? Oh, no, wait, it’s too late. So I met Melissa through that, and we came up with an idea. I don’t know if it was hers or mine to do some privacy workshops. It was probably hers. She has better ideas. I’m too. I’m like, Oh, you know, an idea that a million of them go through and she actually thinks about stuff. So that’s why I love her.

Doug Belshaw: [00:31:11] Well, erm, just before I forget. So the CoTech, which I think, Melissa, you’re definitely a member of that forum there’s a thing Yes And I think at the moment they’re kind of figuring out the future of that. And it seems like I think that’s powered by Big Blue Button as well, right?

Micky Metts: [00:31:28] Yes, yes, yes. We’re a member Agaric. My co-op is a member of And actually Community Bridge is not a co-op because I’m always that person who is a bridge to getting somewhere because you can’t just throw someone in a co-op. They don’t get it. If they’re coming right from the corporate world. They try to do all these things that are like, No, you don’t have to hold back your ideas. No, come on, You know, you don’t have to do this. And it’s not structured, you know? And so Community Bridge is my idea to present people with an idea of cooperating where they don’t know they’re cooperating until we point it out like, oh, you’ve been you’ve been cooperating all along. See how easy it is Now you’re ready for a thing like Meet Co-op. Want to learn about it and they’re ready. Okay. So yeah, I think people get get too much when they go into a co-op not understanding and not feeling it inside, you know?

Melissa Bingham: [00:32:30] Yeah, it was a blessing. The universe aligned that I was looking for an alternative for Zoom, and I did an internet search and I found Community Bridge and Agaric and I reached out to to them and Mickey was just like, Yeah, let’s hop on. I’ll show you. My organisation. The non-profit I was working with was looking for alternatives. So that’s how it like I said, the universe works in beautiful, mysterious ways because I was on this blowing up my corporate tech life, and then I run into Micky and she’s like, Yeah, right. Like, that sounds like, great, let me help you, you know.

Melissa Bingham: [00:33:09] Yeah, I’m going to do some fun stuff, you know? So that’s where I started working on the Community Bridge, the privacy workshops with them. And I believe it was Stan actually, who kind of started gathering. One of our other collective members started gathering very cybersecurity, very private guy, started gathering information and kind of pulling us together and just started sharing with weekly sharing with folks, Hey, here’s some techniques on how to you know, I think we do like browsing safely during shopping season or more anonymously, doing shopping, receiving just like some basic stuff, using password managers instead of using your browser. So just sharing some basic things. That was where I was at was like, okay, I’m trying to figure out how to decouple from big tech. So here’s some, you know, important things to understand. So that’s just been, yeah, it’s been a blessing to have found them. And the conscious tech pivot was kind of a spin off of that for me is like, okay, how do I then do this for other people, organisations and individuals? Because I believe cooperatives and free, open and free software and open software, open source software like go together. To me my mind when I saw it, I’m like, But in reality I don’t see a lot of it. So I said, Let’s let me see how I can help people kind of be a champion for this. In the activism communities and the grassroots, you know, collectives and things that I’m a part of. So that’s what I’ve been kind of taking that project.

Laura Hilliger: [00:34:42] Cool and are the the Community bridge privacy workshops are these workshops that people can sign up for or are they sort of custom for for a Garrett clients or how does that how do how do people get to go to them?

Micky Metts: [00:34:57] Well, that’s the point. We can I can set up all the infrastructure. And Melissa and Stan, our friend and a few other developers can do all the, you know, making the the program, you know, for each thing. But the reach out is really hard. I don’t have a big reach out of mailing giant mailing lists to invite people. So that’s the part that’s missing. We really need someone in marketing and sales to We started doing the privacy workshops and we did them for, I don’t know, 4 to 6 months and we had really low turnout at a lot of them. But the people who did turn out were really thankful that we had done this and that we had taught them something and now they were teaching their family and their friends how to be safer online. So we sought a grant through the Calix Foundation and we’re still pursuing that angle to get a grant and do some things where we can hire someone to find places where people will, you know, be there to come to this thing because it’s a wonderful, wonderful, fun thing that we’re doing and more people need to know about it.

Micky Metts: [00:36:14] But yeah, and there’s a newsletter you can sign up so you can get notified when we when we were doing the workshops.

Laura Hilliger: [00:36:23] Cool. Well, we’ll definitely include links in the show notes, share them around. Do you want to tell us a little bit about this May First engagement that you mentioned? I, I just wrote it down. Ask about May 1st engagement. What are you guys doing for May First?

Melissa Bingham: [00:36:42] Well, I’ve been a board member for a few years. And Melissa, you’re a member?

Melissa Bingham: [00:36:47] Yes.

Micky Metts: [00:36:48] Yeah. And it’s been around for many years, like over, you know, decades, I guess. And what we do is we are a web host for your website, but we also offer a suite of free software tools for people to use that protect their privacy. But we also we’re based in New York City and Mexico City, so we’re bilingual. We have groups, working groups like I’m on the coordination team and on the engagement team, and these are teams that talk about stuff before we bring it to a vote with the board members. We do many on the ground things like going to conferences that are all over the world and having our being a part of the conference offering a session or something on privacy and how to how to protect yourself in the real world as opposed and online world. So it’s not a separate thing. They’re all kind of colliding with all the tools they have, like cameras everywhere, you know? And so we hold we hold webinars at different conferences. Like if we have a whole list of conferences and we figure out, well, at this conference, we could do a thing on on this, on privacy or on this one, we could do a thing on, you know, injustice in prisons and this. And so we have a bunch of knowledgeable people, older and younger, that speak two languages, that can speak at conferences or organise a session. And so what’s it like as a member? Melissa?

Melissa Bingham: [00:38:37] So it was again, Mickey put me on to this and it was a blessing to be able to go to one place and get, you know, as an ethical host and get a couple tools that I need. So alternatives to like, you know, Google Suite’s a project, they have Nextcloud. So I have I now have all the tools that I need ethically hosted and free and open source software for a minimal fee, right? Because cooperative, we’re all sharing in the cost and the benefits of this. And I have access to the people who actually are building these tools. And if I need support, right, I know them. We have monthly meetings and you have a vote on what features you’d like and what things you’d want the cooperative to to work on. So from a tech space, it’s very different. You know, for us, for me, you know, coming from somewhere where you whatever’s features making you the most money, right? That’s what you work on and it’s told by somebody else. So this is what you’re making for the tool, you know. So it’s it’s been a pretty unique experience.

Doug Belshaw: [00:39:41] Yeah, it’s interesting thinking about the difference between what people actually need and what, um, what I would call software with shareholders needs to do to satisfy people who have invested in it. I mean, I, for better or for worse, I used to work in like record shops and stuff and I had a huge CD collection, but I could see the way the world was going. And I, I sold all them and I funded a Spotify subscription from 2009. And it’s been fascinating to see how that platform in particular has developed because most recently they’re now pivoting into being like TikTok, which is not what I want or need. It’s not what I’ve asked for in any way, and nor have I asked for it to be very difficult to find albums as opposed to playlists. So I’m just using this as an example of something which I went into, what, now 14 years ago for a way of replacing my CDs albums, which is now some kind of weird music, social network that I didn’t ask for.

Micky Metts: [00:40:41] Bad company. Bad company. No Spotify.

Laura Hilliger: [00:40:46] It’s it’s I find it really sometimes quite difficult having like, as somebody who is an early Internet or I don’t know what we’re called, I think we call it like Ben uses the Internet for a very, very long time And another Internet. Exactly. You know I feel like in it’s it is getting harder and harder to extract from things that didn’t used to be bad, that are now bad and like the whole choke point capitalism. I don’t know if you guys have seen that book from Cory Doctorow, one of his most recent books.

Micky Metts: [00:41:29] Yes. I was just going to say that it’s the enshittification.

Laura Hilliger: [00:41:33] Exactly.

Micky Metts: [00:41:34] Of the Internet.

Laura Hilliger: [00:41:36] Yeah.

Micky Metts: [00:41:36] And it’s I love that.

Laura Hilliger: [00:41:38] Yeah. And I’m just like, I don’t know, in these conversations I start to get sad because I know how much effort I put into extracting or avoiding certain things and how much how difficult it is even for somebody like me who’s been, you know, an Internet nutter since I was very, very young, Um, you know, and, and works in tech and, you know, can do development and all of the things. Um, and it makes me sad because it’s like if, if someone like me has a tricky time extracting and getting into cooperative spaces and building a career in a life that can support me and my family and my needs while also supporting my whole authentic self, how on earth do we change the system so that other people, young people, Doug’s daughter, can actually, you know, get get to the place where we are all kind of struggling to stay, um, for lack of a better way of describing it. Yeah. How do we do it? What do we have to do?

Melissa Bingham: [00:42:54] This right. This right here, we’re sharing the word, right? Being living the cooperative. Right? Like they all the cliches, right? They say like, you want to see change in the world, change yourself. Right? So in our inner circles. Right. That’s why I feel like I’ve started, you know, the learning cooperative, because I’m just like, this school system does not work. I have an 18 year old. I took him out when he’s 14 and we homeschooled. And I actually came from a homeschool space. So I’m like, I don’t even know why he was in there again, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You know? And I’m like, I turned out great. So but it is challenging. So I’m like, I have a little one who’s four, so I’m like, We’re going to do this different from the beginning, right? So building a learning cooperative and being inspired by other folks who did this right. I remember my friend was started a learning co-op in Atlanta, and her kids were like, Yeah, my mom started a school for me. And you’re just like, What? And again, right, Thinking big, Why not? Like, the school’s not working, Start a damn thing, right? Like, this is not working. We’re starting a cooperative, you know? So. Yeah, keep it simple, right? Like, just grab the people, you know? And again, it sounds simple on paper, right? And I’m going through the cooperative development steps and striving to understand working in community and having patience and moving slow and bringing people along versus. Right. Like the individual. Go, go, go. Here’s your task and just run as fast as you can in that direction, you know? So yeah, it’s, uh, it takes a couple different orienting, different points of perspectives to get there.

Doug Belshaw: [00:44:30] Yeah. What’s that thing like? If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It’s kind of.

Micky Metts: [00:44:36] Yeah, it’s hard to do both. I kind of run. And slow down. Run and stop and slow down And yeah, it’s it’s a difficult chore, Laura, because so many people well, our society has been geared to not want to have any responsibilities. The responsibility is the company. If it breaks, I’ll take it to the company. They’ll fix it. If I have problems with it, I will call a number and the company will fix it because I pay for that, you know, And that’s what the what people have been used to and spoon fed. If you tell them there’s a software that protects your privacy that is better than this, but, you know, there’s no help desk, you have to actually get to know people or use a forum or use different ways of getting help email or something. And they’re like, Oh, that’s terrible. You know? It’s like, Oh my God, but you own it and you can help build it. You can make suggestions as to what it’s going to do and how it’s going to work. I wouldn’t know how to do that. What what, you don’t Well, how could you not do that?

Doug Belshaw: [00:45:44] I think I think one of the most dangerous questions which people ask all the time to do with co ops and open source and all of the work that we’ve been talking about so far today is. But how does this scale and just out of the mindset that something would have to scale to like planetary size for it to be useful and effective when, you know, we’ve existed for hundreds of thousands of years without everything scaling for everyone on the planet to use the same search engine and things. So it’s a mindset shift.

Melissa Bingham: [00:46:16] Yeah.

Micky Metts: [00:46:17] Yeah. That’s from the stockmarket. Is is it going to how is your business growing? You know, I don’t want to grow my business. I just it’s like I don’t need more people working in in my co-op. We need you to get your own co-op and do what you do and have as many people as you need, whether it’s five or 50 or 500. But the the point on focus on growing and how does it scale? Yes. Like no.

Doug Belshaw: [00:46:45] Well, someone I mean, it’s a it’s a not a great metaphor. But I remember someone once saying the only thing kind of in nature that keeps on growing unchecked is something that metastasises like a cancer, like everything else, has a limit to growth. Yeah.

Micky Metts: [00:47:00] So true. True. And look where we are now in a monetary cancer land. Yes, we’re talking billions. Did you ever hear that word when you were little? No one said billions.

Laura Hilliger: [00:47:15] Yeah, it’s true.

Doug Belshaw: [00:47:17] It’s true

Micky Metts: [00:47:17] No one. You thought they were lying whenever they said something like that.

Doug Belshaw: [00:47:25] Well, this has been a great conversation. Why don’t we finish by you telling us, first of all, if there’s anything that we haven’t covered that you wanted to talk about and maybe where people can find out more about you and the work that you do, who wants to go first?

Micky Metts: [00:47:43] Okay. I’ll go first this time, I guess. I’m Mickey of Agaric and that’s Agaric is a genus of mushrooms. And it’s also a mushrooms make a mycelium network. So we’re kind of the internet version of a mycelium network. You could reach me at Agaric, Coop. I also host Community Bridge. If you’d like to be free of spyware in your chat and have real private conversations with your friends, family and co-workers, come to community Bridgecom. It’s will always be free, but we appreciate a donation to help us running. I funded out of my pocket from my work at agaric and yeah, that’s. That’s really it. Buy my book. No, I don’t have one.

Micky Metts: [00:48:34] Just kidding.

Doug Belshaw: [00:48:35] Yeah. Buy Hit-girl’s instead. Yeah.

Micky Metts: [00:48:38] Oh, yes. Th e real book I wanted to mention though, which I really should, is called What Do We Do With Our Power and.. What Do We Build With… What We Build With Power: the fight for economic justice in tech. And it’s by David Delmar of Resilient Coders, which is a wonderful shop that teaches people to code.

Laura Hilliger: [00:49:06] Cool. I’ll put that in the show notes, too. What about you, Melissa? How can people follow your work? Get in touch with you, come to your privacy workshops.

Melissa Bingham: [00:49:16] Yeah. So you can find me at the conscious tech pivot on IG or if you want to email me? I also support my passion projects on The Melissa Experience, so my healing artist side can be found there. And just to Mickey’s point, you know, we were talking about free and open source software and Mickey was the first one who made me aware of that. It’s free as in freedom. It’s not free as in cost. And how about we are socialised that things should be free, right? But then we talk about how these companies aren’t paying their people well or whatnot. So there is that piece of people should be compensated fairly for their work. So even though the things are free, right, we we do look for some type of exchange. We feel like energy exchange is important when you’re in community together. So part of solidarity economics. Yeah. And thanks for having us.

Laura Hilliger: [00:50:25] Well, thank you so much for being here. I think we’re going to have to talk again. We have way more to talk about, but for now, I guess we’ll just say thanks. Thanks so much.

Micky Metts: [00:50:37] Thank you. Really fun.

Doug Belshaw: [00:50:39] Yeah. Thanks both.