We’ve been migrating to the Borg since computers were invented — integrating our lives ever more deeply into our machines. It’s not a trend that can be stopped. Instead, as Kevin Kelly suggests, we have to ‘civilize’ it.

The immediate problem is one of alignment — the business models driving many of our machines are misaligned with our collective interests. The issue only becomes more pressing as we begin adopting AI-driven personal assistants. The more we rely on machines, the more certain we need to be that they are acting in our interests. With platform coops, we aim to align interests to foster that certainty.

Exhibit A — asymmetric data-tracking

The Migration began inside corporates. We started gluing resource-planning systems together in the 1970’s, and have long since moved to patching the entire enterprise into a coherent whole. Over the last decade, integration has begun to jump the corporate fence as it has pushed up the supply chain. But, while the ubiquity of the chip may promise interactive access to each of us, integrating with customers has proved elusive.

This is why Customer Relationship Management systems still offer about the same value as a library card — they are more archives than platforms to exchange value. Most corporates remain once removed from their customers.

The response to this problem has been to develop data-tracking. This is an attempt to better understand us by collecting our data exhaust and following our movements through the world, both virtual and real.

Tracking by corporates is asymmetric. Data is collected in the shadows, under conditions that are at best tacitly agreed to in never-read terms-of-use-tomes. Corporations know this, which why they hide their activities rather than being transparent.

In short, tracking creates a surveillance economy, not a sharing economy.

Transparency leads to choice

The crazy thing is that we humans are keen on sharing. We want customised interactions with business and government. We hate spam and poorly informed conversations. And we understand that a corporation must know who we are to give us what we want. The opposite is that we remain a statistic, a number that gravitates to the lowest common denominator as scale increases.

So there is another way corporates could respond to the problem. They could just ask — chances are we will be willing to share. It’s about being transparent. If it’s clear what you’d like us to share, then we can agree to it, even if it is tacitly.

This is the type of approach that the proponents of Vendor Relationship Management espouse. “VRM tools provide customers with both independence from vendors, and better ways of engaging with vendors.”

Aligning interests

Logically then, those that use tracking are worried that we won’t agree to share. If they hide their activities, they’ll get away with them. There is something fundamentally wrong with this proposition.

This is one of the reasons why platform coops are so important. Where the customers are the owners there is a self-regulating system to protect the interests of users. As our technologies are working for us, we can be confident that they are not leaking data we may not want to share. Conversely, we are motivated to develop tools that make sharing simpler and more effective — as that is what our customers want.

Our view is that the tipping point for shifting from surveillance to sharing will be relatively low. All it takes is a successful alternative to demonstrate its value and the tracking approach quickly becomes uneconomic for any type of enterprise.

So if we are to cross the final frontier, let’s do it on our terms. That way we can be confident that when we are rubbing virtual shoulders with a personalised corporate avatar, they aren’t fleecing our pockets too.

We are converting Geddup to a cooperative. It’s the ideal structure for a community action platform. Show your support by recommending below.

It could be messy. The end of a trend so often is. But we couldn’t keep making cake exclusively for a select few. Income and wealth inequality are at extremes. Generational equity is plumbing all time lows. Globalisation is being fractured. Brexit says that the weight of numbers is turning inwards.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing — if it becomes about building our communities not fighting over the cake. It’s why we think the time is right for the cooperative movement.

Why cooperatives?

Our society has thrived on the corporate. The invention of joint stock companies and limited liability gave birth to modern capitalism. They enabled the collectivisation of social power while allowing it to remain in private hands. The problem is that the power, and the wealth that often goes with it, has become concentrated in too few hands. Businesses have grown in scale while retaining ownership structures that were created for a less ‘global’ age. Social power has been disengaged from what it has created.

A cooperative is a business that is owned by its community members. It’s a simple change that can make a big difference. The objectives of the business change. No longer is it only about maximizing return to investors. As the shareholders are also the customers or employees, they also benefit from what the business does. They care about more than the bottom line.

By way of example, consider how our two megalith social networks compare to a cooperatively owned platform:

There are two fundamental differences:

Scale benefits — the owners of Twitter and Facebook got fabulously wealthy due to the scale benefits of their platforms. The more people that joined their platforms, the more money they could make as their operating costs were relatively fixed. But think about this. The bulk of the value that is created comes from the users — without them the platform is irrelevant. In a member-owned cooperative, these scale benefits accrue to members as they own the platform.

Revenue models — when the owner of the business is also the customer, they are unlikely to seek to extract value in ways that are at odds with their interests. Users of Facebook and Twitter must agree to have their participation monetised by the owners of these platforms. ‘It’s free to use cause our customers pay us to sell to you.’ In a cooperative, the only people seeking to monetize participation are the participants themselves. Being a cooperative doesn’t stop you creating third party revenue streams — in fact sponsorship models can become a lot more interesting and mutually beneficial. What it does is align interests, so that the revenue models are working for you not for someone else.

Why now?

It is not just Millenials that want more ‘community’. It’s an evolutionary reaction to the unwelcome concentration of social power in the hands of the few. As networked platforms have proliferated, so too has awareness grown that sharing has become assymetric in our economy.

We’re seeing the resurgence of the Cooperative party in the UK with calls for a cooperatively-owned People’s BBC. In the US, there is the rise of platform cooperativism — Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung has a good in-depth report. And then there’s the emergence of platforms such as Loconomics (freelancer owned coop), Fairmondo (a cooperative version of EBay in Germany), and Stocksy (stock photography that is cooperatively owned by photographers).

There is no reason why cooperatives can’t do everything from car-hire, to holiday rentals, to selling houses. For example, imagine a music industry where artists can own their own distribution channels, create their own ‘radio’ stations, and build their own brand. The technology infrastructure is not difficult to build. All it needs is the collective will and the startup capital.

We are converting Geddup to a cooperative. It’s the ideal structure for a community action platform. We’re interested in hearing from people that would like to participate. If you are interested, sign-up at geddup.com and join the Cooperative working group. Or simply click the “like” button below.

We’re exploring how to convert Geddup to a platform co-operative. Part of this is seeking to understand how co-ops can raise scale-up funding. Following is a dot point discussion of some of the key points. We’ve also drawn up draft term sheets for hybrid equity and ordinary equity Co-operative Capital Units that we’ll be seeking to road-test with investors. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to discuss.

The objective

To create a funding structure that is both:

  1. Attractive to non-member investors for investing startup capital in a platform coop; and,
  2. Enables scale benefits to be shared with members of the co-op rather than being channeled solely into equity investor returns.

The problem

To attract capital to fund activities, a business must be expected to earn sufficient profit to provide a return on capital commensurate with its risk, while preserving the base capital.

A cooperative structure creates a member interest where members are typically motivated to minimize the cost of using the platform’s services – as this is how they receive benefits for using it. As members also control the revenue model of the platform (via one-vote per member), they can manage the pricing of services to achieve this goal. As a result, a co-op will generally gravitate towards a break-even operating basis.

This arrangement is fundamentally at odds with a profit motive and makes it difficult for a co-op to attract non-member equity capital. In the absence of a credible profit motive, and explicit mechanisms to control the revenue model, non-member funding options are therefore limited to those that offer more predictable returns and rank ahead of member interests. This type of investment is not typically associated with start-up funding that requires very high returns on capital to warrant the inherent risks in a start-up business.

Possible solutions to attract equity investment

Given that member control of the revenue model is one of the key features of a co-op, the question is whether there are ways for members to either moderate their control, and/or align their interests to a profit motive, sufficiently to attract equity capital from non-member investors?

Some of the ways that a co-op can create an alignment of interests between stakeholders with respect to pricing and profits are:

  • Board representation for non-member stakeholders – while directors must always act in the interest of all stakeholders, it is not uncommon for Boards to include specialist expertise (for example, allowing non-member investors to elect a Board representative with relevant expertise);
  • Enabling staff to participate in profits – to motivate staff to optimise profits (for example, by creating a bonus pool from which staff may be rewarded);
  • Enabling members to participate in profits – as a counter-weight to minimizing pricing (for example, by paying dividends on member shares); and,
  • Creating Board directives around the profit objective – embedding objectives in the constitution to provide clarity for the Board in making decisions regarding the revenue model and payment of dividends (for example, by requiring the Board to pursue market competitive pricing or a return on equity benchmark).

These types of mechanisms in combination may be sufficient to entice non-member investors into equity start-up funding.

This year our first school has taken to Geddup with reckless abandon. Message volume has more than doubled and the number of regular users has exploded. More menacingly, it’s exposed weaknesses in our usability that were hidden before. But that’s a good thing, cause now we are madly iterating to get these things fixed. It’ll make for a better experience.

So what changed? Why the sudden surge?

The short answer is that we crossed the tipping point for the community. When enough people started using Geddup, then everyone got exposed.

From another perspective, the surge can be tied to the increased use of the Q&A function in Geddup. This has proven to be the quickest way to collect feedback from a community. Simpler to manage than comments. And people get it. Once they see the flexibility and ease-of-use of free text mini-forms, people want to send some themselves.

We wanted to map the change in the way the community was interacting, so we created a data visualisation that looks at a recent week’s messages. (Warning it’s been designed for desktops, though will work on an ipad if you open the link in landscape. Best not to try this on your mobile, it may spontaneously combust.)

You can access the data visualisation by clicking here.


A data visualisation of community messaging at Auburn South Primary School

We’ve been building out our integration with Google apps – and reveling in the many amazing things that you can build with a bit of code and a little string. In the following articles, we’ll take you through some of the things that we’ve been creating for communities that we are working with.

First up – how to create a public calendar with a google spreadsheet and then embed events in your Geddup messages.

Creating your Google calendar

For this you will need a Google account – and no surprise – a Google calendar. We’ll leave it to Google to take you through the steps to do this, you can create an account here and instructions for creating a google calendar are here. As you’d expect, the process is pretty smooth. You will need to remember two things as you do this:

  1. Make your calendar public (further instructions here if you need them)
  2. You will need your Calendar ID – ( and here are some directions to find this)

(Note that If you want to speed up the next steps, feel free to use the example spreadsheet here. It will open in ‘View only’ mode but you can copy it with all the code intact by clicking File – Make a copy and rename the new copy…then just follow the case study and ignore the bits that you now won’t need.)

Assuming you were creating your spreadsheet from scratch, you would then head over to Google apps to create a new Google spreadsheet (File – New – Spreadsheet) and give it a name.

Create spreadsheet


Then add some dummy events that will be added to our calendar. The following should do the trick – you may want to change the dates to something current as you copy and paste into your sheet:

Class Name StartDateTime EndDateTime Description
3A – Garden Week 1 18/11/2015 13:00:00 18/11/2015 14:00:00 Planting tomatoes
3B – Garden Week 1 19/11/2015 13:00:00 19/11/2015 14:00:00 Planting tomatoes
3C – Garden Week 1 20/11/2015 13:00:00 20/11/2015 14:00:00 Planting tomatoes
4A – Kitchen Week 1 21/11/2015 13:00:00 21/11/2015 14:00:00 Cooking Quiche
4B – Kitchen Week 2 22/11/2015 13:00:00 22/11/2015 14:00:00 Cooking Quiche
4C – Kitchen Week 2 23/11/2015 13:00:00 23/11/2015 14:00:00 Cooking Quiche

Then in the sheet menu, click on Tools and choose Script editor. This will open a window for managing Google apps script. You’re going to be using a little javascript code to do some pretty nifty things. Don’t worry if javascript is a foreign language to you, this really is a cut-and-paste job.

Script editor

Click on Untitled to change the document name to what makes sense to you. Then delete the default text in the window and copy-and-paste the following:

//Script to add events to your public Google calendar from a spreadsheet

//FUNCTION to add a custom menu when the spreadsheet is opened
function onOpen() {
 var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
 var menuEntries = []; 
 menuEntries.push({name: "Add Events", functionName: "addEvents"});
 sheet.addMenu("Events", menuEntries); 

//FUNCTION to push new events to calendar
function addEvents() {
 //spreadsheet variables
 var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSheet();
 var range = sheet.getDataRange();
 var values = range.getValues(); 
 //calendar variables
 var calendar = CalendarApp.getCalendarById('copy and paste your calendar ID between these quotation marks') //input your calendar ID 

 //add events to calendar
 for (var i = 1; i < values.length; i++) { 
 if (values[4] != 'Added') { 
 var eventTitle = 'GA Class: ' + values[i][0];
 var eventDescription = {description: values[i][3]};
 var start = values[i][1];
 var end = values[i][2];
 var event = calendar.createEvent(eventTitle, start, end, eventDescription);
 //get each event ID
 var eventId = event.getId();
 //mark as entered, and enter ID

Now you will have to get your fingers a little dirty for the next bit. In the code you will see some lines where there are “//” followed by descriptive text (anything after a “//” will not be read as part of the script, so they can be used for descriptive comments). Find the comment that says “input your calendar ID” – it should be around line 20. Now copy and paste your Google Calendar ID between the single quotation marks. It should something like this…

var calendar = CalendarApp.getCalendarById('h5f3b7v9vsah3vuq337on2311o@group.calendar.google.com')

If you now File – Save your code, you are almost ready to go. As a custom menu is created when you open the spreadsheet, you will have to File – Open your spreadsheet again. Once you do so, you will see a new menu item called ‘Events‘. Click this and, taking a deep breath, then click Add Events. You will be asked to authorise a connection between your calendar and your sheet – click Sure – and presto….your events in the spreadsheet will be pushed to your calendar!

Geddup integration

If you add your google public calendar URL to Geddup these calendar events will now flow straight through to your organisation. You can then see a list of upcoming events from the calendar button on your home page – it’ll look something like this:

calendar screen


And if you are writing a message as an admin, you will now see Select an Event in your message screen which will enable you to auto-populate your messages with the event data pulled directly from your calendar. Enter the data once – and you can share it with your entire community in many ways. Sweet!

event screen



We’ve kept this example very simple. In coming weeks, we’ll show you how to integrate a form to collect registrations for events and some more cool things. But if you want to explore the world of Google apps script further, I’d suggest heading to their developer pages (entry to the cave here). There’s a whole new world waiting there…


The white-pages directory may have been relegated to a museum, but it is still hard to beat the convenience of having a complete printed list of your community. With your walking-fingers you could find almost anyone’s home address and phone number. It was a very transparent, opt-out system. 

For schools, clubs and community groups, the emailed or printed member list has been a labour-intensive pre-requisite for community communication. Typically it is out of date as soon as it’s collated – and it’s not a simple matter to compile, segment and distribute. Replacing them with an interactive and personalised digital version is an attractive proposition – though it’s been hard to achieve. The following describes some strategies to create your own community directory using Geddup.

1) The opt-out Community Directory

Replicating the white pages opt-out system is blindingly easy on Geddup – all organisations have an ‘Everyone’ group which by default includes all members of that organisation. Administrators can choose to enable sharing of all contact data between members of that group. Each individual member can then choose whether to share their data with the organisation. That’s all there is to it.  This simple approach enables every member to have access to an automatically updating, interactive contact list for the entire community – but it is a little one-size-fits-all – and if someone stops sharing data then the administrators can’t see it either.

2) The opt-in Community Directory

An alternative strategy is to create a new “Community Directory” group – where anyone who opts to join the group understands that they will be sharing their contact details with everyone else on that list. The organisation can then use the Everyone group for administration purposes only – it can choose not to display it to members at all, or to only display administrators and managers of the group, or even to list all members of the organisation by their name only. This last option is an interesting permutation as while one member cannot see another’s details unless they have joined the Community Directory, they can see their name and send them a message via Geddup. 

3) The personalised Community Directory

But schools and clubs are more than a single member list. They are typically multi-roomed manors replete with guest wings, upstairs/downstairs, ballrooms, libraries and more. So while each member belongs to the organisation as a whole, they can also belong to teams, classes and special groups like staff, managers, and volunteers. Sometimes it is not appropriate to share contact data across the whole community. Sometimes it’s important that groups within the community can easily find and communicate with each other. In these circumstances, the organisation must be able to create new groups. And this is where it can get complex.

Geddup offers an incredibly flexible system for managing this complexity. To illustrate consider the following setup for a school.

Example #1 – your primary school

school setup

So if I am a parent of a child at the school…

  • I will be a member of the Everyone group – the school administration can send me messages and can see all my details (assuming I have shared them with the school).
  • I will be a member of the Class my child is in – I will see the names of all others in that class. I will be able to send them a message but I will not be able to see their details.
  • If I join the Community Directory, then I will see everyone else in that group. If there are members of my Class that are also part of that Community Directory, then I’ll be able to see all their details via the Class too.
  • If I join a volunteer group, like a Sports Team, I will be able to message and see the details of everyone else who joins that Sports team.
Example #2 – your basketball club

club setup

So if I am a parent of child playing in a team:

  • I will be a member of the Everyone group – the club administration can send me messages and can see all my details (assuming I have shared them with the club).
  • I will be a member of the Team my child is in – I will see all the details of all others in that team.
  • If I am also a Coach of my child’s team , then I will see everyone else in the Coaches group including all of their details.
  • If I were a Manager of my child’s team, then I would see the details of the clubs administrators for the managers group.

These are just two examples, the permutations are many – as determined by the options that the organisation has for each group:

  • Who can join – by invitation only or open to anyone
  • Who is displayed – everyone, managers and admins or no-one
  • What is displayed – all details or name only
What next?

Our challenge as we move to the virtual is achieving the same ease of access as the printed list offered. It’s made difficult as we now want more control – maximum flexibility with minimum fuss. In short, we’re looking for a single phone-book with our own personalised and interactive contact list with whom we can share as we see fit. 

This was not possible before as each community that we belonged to had their own member list. And then that member list could be divided again between teams, classes or interest groups. In reality each organisation had many phone-books rather than one big doorstop.

Geddup comes at this challenge from the perspective of enabling sharing with the communities to which we belong. We offer a way for organisations to more easily and effectively interact with their communities. We enable individuals to create a single, personalised and interactive contact list for organisations that are part of their community.

Today we begin contacting government schools in NSW to announce the arrival of SchoolBell. The aim is to work with schools to refine the services that are being developed specifically for them. We’re excited and very proud to be working on this apps4nsw Challenge for the NSW Department of Education & Communities. For more information, please contact us or call on 03 8899 7517.

Introducing SchoolBell


One small step for Geddup – One giant step for personal clouds…

Geddup won the apps4nsw Department of Education & Communities challange with our pitch that communication between schools and their communities can be deeper, interactive and responsive. It means that School Bell will become our flagship platform for the education sector.  We’ll be developing specific capabilities for the sector in early 2015, with the app being available in app stores in the first quarter of the year. Stay tuned for more details…

The concept of the ‘customer’ has changed greatly over recent years.

In the early 20th century when Harry Selfridge first coined the phrase, “The Customer is always right”, the transition from bespoke to mass markets was in its adolescence. Kodak had just captured its first moment and the Model T was freshly hatched from the production line. The customer was very much an individual to be served.


Today, the customer is a collective noun, a plural denoting the herd. The customer has become a data point. An abstraction to be tracked, analysed and interpolated.

The big data approach to customer engagement

“The ultimate search engine would understand everything in the world. It would understand everything you asked it and give you back the exact right thing – instantly.” – Larry Page (2006)

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the field of Big Data. What started in 2004 as “The Wisdom of Crowds” has morphed into the latest must-have corporate accoutrement. Companies everywhere hungrily eye their databases, curious as to what treasures they may hold. Social media promises to intuit customer’s desires even before they have them. Under this model, interactions with the customer are via algorithm, where we solve for colour, sex and creed by the pages we visit and the friends we like.

An advertiser’s dystopia

“The most stupid ideas can now in a moment be transferred into a thousand volumes and spread abroad” – Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494)

The idea that a business can divine customers’ needs and wants by tracking their digital exhaust is an attractive proposition. It promises that:

  • Business can predict and influence what customers want;
  • Business can tap directly into customer demand; and, even better,
  • Businesses can do all this without even ‘talking’ with them.

This is the dream that the peddlers of tracking algorithms are selling. They want companies to believe that advertising on their networks will enable them to mine rich veins of customer demand – that they ‘know your client’ perhaps even better than they know themselves.

The Customer Unbound

But it would be a mistake to view this cubic-splining of the customer as an Orwellian inevitability. Feedback from customers globally has been pretty clear that we don’t like being tracked. That there hasn’t been an uprising is more reflective of the lack of choice not that we don’t care.

Sure, we are creatures of the flock. We can be influenced by our friends, brands, a crowded restaurant window. But ultimately only I can know my needs and wants. It is my choice.

The key concept that the algo-advertisers have missed then is that there is only one source of truth for my individual needs, and that is me. The reason that the customer is always right is that only I can truly know what I want.

Wouldn’t it be far simpler to just ask the customer what they want? We think that the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

We believe we are on the cusp of a renaissance of the customer as an individual. The companies and organisations that rise to the top of their fields will be those that personalise their offers, tailor their products and services – all their interactions – for the benefit of the unique customer.


Sometimes it feels like we have come a long way. And at other times that we’re just starting out… Following is Geddup explained in 30 Seconds from late 2012 – click on the image to view quicktime movie.

Geddup explained in 30 seconds