Conversation with Steve Phillips, lead developer and Project Manager of The Pursuance Project edited by The Doctor. Also, thanks to Barrett Brown for reviewing the transcript for errors and to Lisa Rein for final proofs.
This article and its sequels constitute a somewhat edited and condensed transcript of a discussion between Barrett Brown and Steve Phillips at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon in 2017. We’ve tried to trade off informality for clarity, and refer the curious reader to the original source material in the spirit of transparency. Any emphasis and hyperlink references are ours.
In 2012, Barrett Brown was arrested for his role in the Anonymous hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence company that serves corporate and government interests around the world. The hack revealed an apparent insider trading relationship between the company and Goldman Sachs, among other dubious business activities. Brown won the National Magazine Award for his work while in solitary confinement. While in prison, Barrett had some ideas for a software project, the democracy-building project called Pursuance.
From the Pursuance homepage
“Pursuance exists to amplify the efforts of activists, journalists, and non-profits by (1) creating open source collaboration software and (2) building a powerful network of talented, reasonable individuals around it…
“Our free, open source, and secure Pursuance System software enables participants to: create action-oriented groups called “pursuances”, discuss how best to achieve their mission, rapidly record exciting strategies and ideas in an actionable form… receive social recognition for their contributions, and to delegate tasks to other pursuances in this ecosystem in order to harness its collective intelligence, passion, and expertise.”
Read the full statement
STEVE PHILLIPS: I read a Wired Magazine article that said that Barrett Brown was out of jail and doing awesome stuff again, an encrypted environment where you can collaborate with other activists and journalists and people who are trying to change the world, and I thought that sounded ultra-compelling. So, I immediately reached out to him in several different ways — snail mail and Twitter and email, like all in parallel, and got through, and then I jumped on a plane and flew to Texas to meet Barrett.
[Barrett Brown], let’s talk a little bit about your background. You won a National Magazine Award, but let’s go back to 2010. You had the sense that we should be using the Internet for activist-type things. Even if it’s just a small percentage of people who really care about issues, there are billions of people online so that could be quite the force. Take me back to some of your thinking around that time, right before you started doing work with Anonymous.