If you’ve ever tried to make a tough decision with a group of people online, then you’ve most likely done one of two things. You may have had a discussion over email, in which case the conversation has gotten very messy and it becomes difficult to suss out exactly where everyone stands. Or, you could have tried a poll, which doesn’t give the opportunity for re-working proposals based on feedback.
Neither of these options really unleashes the creative power of individuals working collaboratively to solve a problem. And there are no existing online tools that really fit the bill. Now a group of New Zealand Occupy Wall Street activists-turned-software developers is trying to remedy the situation with an app called Loomio.
Loomio is an open-source app that allows people to propose their own solutions to questions raised by their community. It can be used by neighborhoods, friends, workplaces, or any other social group where people need to make decisions collectively.
If you participated in or paid any attention to the Occupy movement(s), you no doubt came across the hand signals used in the General Assemblies, those silly-looking but surprisingly effective gestures that quickly denoted how people are feeling about a topic of discussion. The most ubiquitous of these was no doubt the twinkle fingers, signaling that one agrees with a proposal.
The problem with those hand gestures is that they only really work in person. Loomio’s goal is to bring that General Assembly dynamic into the online world. Media theorist and advisor to Loomio Douglas Rushkoff described the app as “not much more than a pie graph with four buttons.” But the beauty of Loomio is in its simplicity. It does exactly what it needs to do and no more. Considering how straightforward the idea is, it’s a bit surprising no one has really come up with it until now.
The Loomio team is currently on the last stretch of a crowdfunding campaign so that they can create a 1.0 version of their design.