Coop-source: building decentralised open source with my tech co-op

Protozoa is a tech coop, and we write open source code. This is a little bit about what that means, and how open source is the foundation on which we’re building an aspirational future.

I recently published a new feature for Patchbay — an open source project I maintain. It allows you to easily @-mention people in the scuttleverse (a p2p social network). This isn’t straightforward because it’s a decentralized space where identity is subjective and many people have more than one use-name. (I gave a whole talk on subjectivity here).

I mention Mikey by a name that people in our coding context will be familiar with (dinosaur).

Why is this significant?

I’m proud of this feature, but the more important story is the open source cooperative culture making it possible.

Open Source

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to generalise this code into a module called patch-mentions. Then I’m going to propose changes to Patchbay, and its sister project, Patchwork, so that they can use this new module.

That way, everyone gets the new functionality, and when we find bugs we’ll all benefit from fixing them. I’ll also be able to use this feature in subsequent contracting work — a massive speed and reliability boost for myself and for clients.

I’ve actually already done this with a couple of other modules, patch-profile (an easy profile editor) and patch-settings (which manages client preference settings).

If you’re talking to a programmer about what excites them about open source, this is probably the heart of it. Every time someone generously shares their work, we save hours/days/weeks of work — time we can spend on things that matter, like making more accessible interfaces, or building a feature to flag abuse (next on my todo list).


Protozoa is a worker-owner cooperative. While I’m writing this, the other co-owners, Piet and Dominic, are hard at work on different things , like contract work and collaborations with other decentralised projects (we’re currently crushing on the Economic Space Agency).

For us, contributing to the commons is an important part of our work. It makes all our future work better, and helps build working relationships with other excellent humans.

Here’s an example:

TableFlip are a UK based tech coop. We met them through the scuttleverse and this is a calendar invite to plan more work in the future. By collaborating, we’re able to work on bigger and more exciting projects, with the confidence that we can expand to support each other.

The invite here is another tool we built called gatherings, a module Piet and I made to enable more community interaction. Other gatherings I’ve seen in the past week in include: “Art~Hack Wellington: decommodify your creativity”, “Westhaven Car Boot sale”, and “Bad Ukulele Club”.

It feels amazing to support more connections between people and do business in a values-aligned space that we all own, and communicate through the decentralised network we’ve built.

If you’re an excellent human with an rad project you’d like to collaborate on, we’d love to hear from you. I’m, or you can join the scuttleverse from