Editorial: What is Zylum?

IssueOctober - November 2014
Comment by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

ImageHave you ever been in this situation?

You’re in a grassroots, very-low budget campaigning group. You have a group website.

Then the person who set the website up – and who has been maintaining it – moves away, or they move onto another issue, or they withdraw from activism completely.

Suddenly, you find out no one knows what the passwords are, and you can’t actually use your own website. Or, if you do know what the passwords are, no one else in the group is confident about working the technology.

Another scenario: you co-ordinate a local activist group. You’ve gradually realised that you need two email lists – a private one for internal discussions, and a public announcement list to tell your supporters (the people who don’t come to meetings) what you’re up to.

You don’t want to use corporate advertising-based email lists, but the other options look too complicated to use, so you just keep two lists of email addresses. The trouble is it’s hard to keep lists up to date, and people get annoyed when they get left off.


There are great ethical internet providers out there for campaigning groups who can afford to pay for them (like the wonderful GreenNet here in the UK), and there are several excellent free services for people who have the confidence and technical skills to navigate all the settings and controls (like the amazing Riseup in the US).

What we want to launch in the New Year is a donation-based bundle of services that is super-easy-to-use, activist-friendly, and committed to people’s privacy.

We want to offer discussion and announcement email lists, simple group websites, and basic online document writing and storage – the bottom line functions groups need to operate.

Simple but powerful

There will be a few special features that are hard to find elsewhere (the system is being designed by an award-winning design co-op, Wave), but even these special features will be as simple to operate as the tap in your kitchen.

The whole point of Zylum is that does what campaigners absolutely need to get done online (publicising what we’re doing to the world, and talking to each other), but in the most user-friendly way possible.

We are going to be testing the system in the next few months, and we’re also looking to organise a launch event for January.

We need help from technical and non-technical people.

We want to build something strong that lasts, that frees low- and no-budget groups from dependency on the small number of technical folk in grassroots movements (and relieves the technical folk of a lot of tedious work).

Oh, why ‘Zylum’? It’s a play on ‘xylem’, the water and nutrient transport system in plants.

Our appeal

We have a generous grant from Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to build Zylum, but we need support to help PN make this (and our other activities) as useful to grassroots activists as possible. We would be grateful for whatever you can contribute to our Christmas Appeal!

Topics: PN-related
See more of: Editorial