Topos is born from noticing that Twitter Spaces (a competitor to Clubhouse) lacked basic functions for organizing the debates.
Topos is a work-in-progress standalone chat tool for plenums and assemblies organization: it takes care of moderation for turn-taking for speaking, adding motions and voting on them.
Its democratic features also allow using Topos’ vote system to change a parameter of the group, and be involved for moderation (hiding content, banning a member).
Given a todo list of topics to decide upon (and sane democratic defaults), it creates ballots and a schedule for members to organize a debate, or an association’s general meetings.
These are features that require a specialized interface but are still generic enough to be useful in multiple scenarios:
- organizers setting up a meeting plan that is displayed to everyone, indicating at what point in the meeting you are currently in
- a text editor for collaborative note-taking
- organize turn-taking
- be able to join the conversation queue (there should be two queues, for immediate responses and for less urgent questions)
- limiting the speaker's time (with a soft limit that simply tells them their turn is over, and perhaps a hard limit)
- several text chats, for different levels of discussion
- a system to show the audience's reactions to the speaker without interrupting them
- and a voting mechanism, for both planned and naturally occurring points.
So the idea is to have a public instance of Topos, where people could quickly create or join a reunion (without registering, in the case of public reunions). If they wish to be identified, they could login using their Matrix account if they have one.
Users that are using other clients could also join, as those are classic Matrix rooms, but they would only have access to features that their clients implements (probably text and VoIP, which is actually not so bad). For other features, Matrix actually has a “graceful degradation/fallback” mechanisms, so that we can provide a text fallback for our new/custom events.
Topos implements a decision-making system for collectives. Text production, moderation and any other decision are associated in a "control table" with a particular decision protocol (and its modalities): oligarchy, democracy, consensus, do-ocracy (the modification of the table itself constitutes one of these decision protocols).
In the case of democracy, the use of a modern crypto-system (the Helios-C protocol) makes it possible to set up secure ballots, including advanced forms of voting systems (majority judgment, Condorcet/Schulze method).
When Twitter released Twitter Spaces (as a competitor to Clubhouse), it got massively used by the French militant community. Multiple times a week, until late at night, you could see hundreds of people sharing experiences, learning political philosophy, organizing social struggles, etc. Those uses where nice, bringing together experienced militants, workers, philosophers and sociologists. Many people are not so comfortable writing. It was also pretty bad, not only for privacy, but also because of a poor user experience: you’d have to install the proprietary mobile app to actively participate (and be on Twitter to passively participate), there was no text chat, an awful interface, it was tied to a single person who created the Space (yes the space was destroyed if this person left…). It was a buggy, half-baked feature.
While thinking about how we could build a better solution, it became apparent that most of the needed features would also be very useful for another use: organizing reunions or general assemblies for existing collectives. Whether it’s because of health restrictions or, at any time of the year, to include people who can’t attend a physical meeting, it may be necessary to set it up online.
Another Matrix project, Imago, has a networked organization of groups that allows for liquid democracy, where voting can also be delegated to a whole group (for example, to delegate certain technical decisions to the relevant subgroup of technicians in a collective).
Topos operates in an ecosystem composed of the following projects: