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Archive for 'Networks'

Greenstone, a powerful mesh extender for FireChat

photo of Guy James

Guy James
29th March 2015


GreenStone_by_Open_GardenFire Chat has already been mentioned here in the context of enabling peer-to-peer networking during the recent protests in Hong Kong, now I am glad to see that they are planning to produce a device which will further empower this mesh networking concept:

“Open Garden, the company behind FireChat, is taking mesh networking beyond our mobile devices. It’s working on GreenStone, a prototype piece of hardware that acts as a connectivity node and messaging beacon. It’s a dual-purpose piece of hardware: If someone walks in the vicinity of the beacon with FireChat installed, GreenStone picks up the most recent messages and stores them in its memory. When someone else with FireChat walks by, they will receive those messages. GreenStone stores up to 1,000 messages, and will update with the most recent chats from whoever walks by.

Not only does it send and store messages, but it also works to extend the connection in the mesh network.”

Read more here.

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Posted in Mobile Developments, Networks, Technology | No Comments »

How we got Here? #Greece has an immense network of organisations focused on social good

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Kevin Flanagan
21st March 2015


Greece has an immense network of organisations that are focused on improving the social good, with or without the support of the state or private foundations. In many cases, they are self-organised and autonomous

Months after the fall of Matera, some unMonasterians came to Athens on a brief “exploratory” excursion in December, 2014. During their visit they discovered this vibrant network of locals, which has similar aims as the unMonastery, so they quickly plugged into it.

Source: https://medium.com/@unmonastery/how-we-got-here-8f463dc81920

Rooftop meeting in Athens in late December.

Later, following the Transmediale extravaganza in January 2015, many people that were involved with the original unMonastery decided to plop down in Athens in February to see what else there was to discover in Greece. This “scoping period” was intended to have a duration of three months.

What the unMonasterians found went much deeper than was initially perceived. The more time that was spent connecting to existing networks, the more it became clear that the people living in Greece have a strong affinity to hacking of all sorts; be it with internet connectivity, food sharing, reactivating abandoned spaces, or just simply taking the metro.

The vision for the future of Greece is especially captivating when you speak with the people here that are involved with making the place more liveable. The group of unMonasterians was humbled by the amount of knowledge and experience there was to absorb here.

One such visionary project is SatNOGS that was created by our new neighbours, the Athens Hackerspace. It’s a global network of opensource satellite ground stations that recently won the Hackaday prize.

Continue to read the full article: https://medium.com/@unmonastery/how-we-got-here-8f463dc81920

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Movement, Networks | No Comments »

Map of #Grassroots groups in #Greece

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
20th March 2015


0dc8cfb0cb3c164e-OUZOMASTERsmallPresenting… our new grassroots map (June 2014)!

Source: http://omikronproject.gr/grassroots

Still think Greeks are sitting idle, the helpless victims of events in their country? Think again. In 2013, we carried out an extensive study to map all the grassroots movements in Greece who are stepping in where the system is failing, and produce the first edition of our grassroots map, titled ‘Coffee-drinking lazy Greeks?‘.

Now, we’ve released a second edition of the map – ‘Ouzo-drinking lazy Greeks?’ – fully updated and including over 60% more groups!

What is this?

The map is a poster showing all the grassroots groups that are currently active in Greece, split into ten categories from neighbourhood assemblies to education movements to alternative micro-economies, with information on each group and details of an example group in each category. We’ve also included a list of all these groups in text format, with links to their websites (below).

All the groups have been verified by us as grassroots, explicitly not-for-profit, Greece-based and active as of June 2014. By ‘grassroots’, we mean that the groups are open for others to join and that, at the time of their inception, they had no affiliation with a profit-making entity.

Like all our productions, the poster is made available under the Creative Commons license. Download it in high-resolution format and use it however you want.

What’s new in this version?

For this second edition of the map, there are 70% more groups, and a new category (Information Technology). We’ve provided English translations where appropriate, and we’ve removed all the groups that we found were no longer active. Thanks to all the groups who wrote to us to let us know of updates!

Help us keep this map up to date

This map is an ongoing project. If you notice any errors or omissions, let us know and we’ll make the necessary changes to the list below, as well as in the next version of the poster!

Continue to the full article: http://omikronproject.gr/grassroots

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Networks, Visualisations | No Comments »

Our Generation of Hackers

photo of Nathan Schneider

Nathan Schneider
17th March 2015


our-generation-of-hackers-111-1415708931-crop_lede

We are all hackers now, apparently—or are trying to be. Guilty as charged. I am writing these words, as I write most things, not with a pen and paper, or a commercial word processor, but on Emacs, a command-line text editor first developed in the 1970s for that early generation of free-software hackers. I had to hack it, so to speak, with a few crude lines of scripting code in order that it would properly serve my purposes as a writer. And it does so extremely well, with only simple text files, an integrated interpreter for the Markdown markup language, and as many split screens as I want. I get to feel clever and devious every time I sit down to use it.

Thus it seemed fitting that when I was asked to join a “philosophy incubator” with a few fellow restless young souls, I was told the group’s name—and that of the book we’d be publishing w?ith an internet startup—was Wisdom Hackers. Hacking is what this generation does, after all, or at least what we aspire to. The hacker archetype both celebrates the mythology of the dominant high-tech class and nods toward the specter of an unsettling and shifty subculture lurking in the dark. Edward Snowden is a hacker hero, but so is Bill Gates. The criminals and the CEOs occupied the same rungs on the high school social ladder, lurked in the same listservs, and now share our adulation.

To hack is to approach a problem as an outsider, to be unconfined by law or decorum, to find whatever back doors might lead the way to a solution or a fix. To hack is to seek simplicity, elegance, and coherence, but also to display one’s non-attachment—by way of gratuitous lulz, if necessary. Wisdom is not normally a feature of the hacker’s arsenal (they prefer cleverness), but evidently some of us have come to sense that even this generation of hackers will need to pick up some wisdom along the way.

But why hack in the first place? That is, why we should always need to use a back door?

For me this line of questioning began in 2011, the year of leaderless uprisings, starting with Tunis and Cairo and ending with police raids on Occupy camps, a civil war in Syria and a seemingly endless series of revelations spawned by Wikileaks. I followed these happenings as much as I could. I happened to be the first reporter allowed to? cover the planning meetings that led to Occupy Wall Street, and I stayed close to those early organizers as their illicit occupation became a global media fixation, then long after the fixation passed. Through them—and their sudden and surprising success—I tried to obtain some grasp of the spirit of 2011, which was elusive enough that it couldn’t be organized in some simple list of demands, but also intuitive enough that protesters around the world, in hugely different kinds of societies, found themselves saying and doing a lot of the same things.

I keep coming back to the slogan of Spain’s homegrown occupation movement of that year: “Real democracy now!” This had uncanny explanatory power from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park. Whether under Mubarak or Bush and Obama, young people around the world have grown up in societies they were always told were democracies despite repeated and undeniable signals that it was not: police brutality as a fact of life (whether by secret police or militarized regular ones), an unrelenting state of exception (whether by emergency law or the war on terror), and corruption (whether by outright graft or the mechanisms of campaign financing). When a system is broken, we resort to improvised solutions, jury-rigged workarounds, hacks. No wonder, then, that the mask of the amorphous hacktivist collective Anonymous became a symbol of the uprisings.

For 2011’s movements, however, the initial virality and the rhetoric of direct democracy turned out to mask a generation unprepared to deal with power—either wielding it or confronting it effectively. The young liberals in Tahrir may have created Facebook pages, but it was the Muslim Brotherhood’s decades of dangerous, underground, person-to-person organizing that won the country’s first fair elections. Even the Brotherhood would soon be massacred after a coup unseated them in favor of the military. “The army and the people are one hand,” Egyptians had chanted in Tahrir. With similar historical irony, the same might have been chanted about the internet.

In the Arab world, the 2011 endgame has included the rise of the Islamic State. Hacking every bit of social media it can get its hands on, the militants formerly known as ISIS emerged as a potent remix of al Qaeda’s guerrilla anti-colonialism and Tahrir Square’s utopian confidence, of Saudi-funded fundamentalism and hardened generals left over from Saddam’s secular regime. These disparate apps have been hacked together into one thanks to hashtags, an elusive leader, a black flag, and gruesome vigilantism.

I reject the often-uttered claim that the 2011 movements lacked purpose, or reason, or demands. Their fascination with hacking, and the vital fecundity that enchanted them, attest to the widely felt longing for a deeper, somehow realer global democracy. But what they share also had a hand in bringing them down. The allure of certain hacker delusions, I believe, played a part in keeping the noble aspirations of that year from taking hold, from meaningfully confronting the powers that now pretend to rule the world.

Ours is a generation of hackers because we sense that we aren’t being allowed in the front door. Most of us have never had the feeling that our supposed democracies are really listening to us; we spend our lives working for organizations that gobble up most of the value we produce for those at the top. We have to hack to get by. Maybe we can at least hack better than whoever is in charge—though that is increasingly doubtful. We become so used to hacking our way into the back door that we forget that there could be any other way.

I don’t want to hack forever. I want to open up the front door—to a society where “democracy” actually means democracy and technology does its part to help, where we can spend less time hacking and hustling and more time getting better at being human. Tech won’t do it for us, because it can’t. Hacking isn’t an end in itself—wisdom is.

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Free Software, Networks, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Movements, P2P Technology, Politics, Technology | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Rise of the Network Commons

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hartsellml
17th March 2015


  • Book (upcoming). The Rise of the Network Commons. By Armin Medosh.

URL = http://www.thenextlayer.org/node/1231

 

Description

Armin Medosh:

“The Rise of the Network Commons is the working title of a new book which I am currently writing. It returns to the topos of the wireless commons on which I worked during the early 2000s. In this new version, combining original research from my German book Freie Netze (2004) and new research conducted in the context of the EU funded project Confine, the exciting world of wireless community network projects such as Guifi.net and Freifunk, Berlin, gets interspersed with philosophical reflections on the relationship between technology, art, politics and history.”

Contents

So far .. (November 2014):

  • The Rise of the Network Commons, Chapter 1 (draft)
  • Network Commons: dawn of an idea (Chapter 1, part 2 – Draft) [1]
  • Consume the Net: The Internationalisation of an Idea (chapter 2, part 1, draft) [2]
  • Fly Freifunk Fly! (Chapter 2, part 2, draft) [3]

Excerpts

Technologies are socially produced

Armin Medosh:

“The relatively young discipline of Science Studies teaches us that the technical and the social cannot or should not be considered as categorically separated. Technologies are “socially produced” is one of the key phrases in the discourse of science studies. They are not existing outside the human world but are the product of specific societies which exist under specific conditions and circumstances. Technologies are hybrids between nature and society, as science studies author Bruno Latour puts it. Moreover, a specific school of science studies, the Social Construction of Technological Systems (SCTS) has studied the co-evolution of large technological systems and social structures. SCTS pioneer Thomas P. Hughes, who studied the building of the first nationwide electrical grid, has found that there are strong co-dependencies between technological and social systems. While there is undeniably a strong influence on the shaping of technologies exerted by business interests, Hughes’ work emphasizes co-dependencies between technologies and the people who build and maintain them, the technologists or techies – a term I will use from now on because it allows to refer to both academic computer scientists and researchers and autodidactic hackers, whereby I hope my use of the term is not seen as derisive in any way.

Engineers and skilled workers involved in large technological projects bring certain predispositions to projects; as projects evolve, the communities of techies develop certain habits and ways of working. The technological and social system build a unity which determines the ways how those technologies evolve in the future. What we can learn from science studies is that neither is science objective (in the strict sense of the word), nor is technology neutral. To believe the opposite would either constitute scientific objectivism – a rather outdated form of scientific positivism – and technological determinism, which is the belief that technology alone is the main factor shaping social developments.” (http://www.thenextlayer.org/node/1231)

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Posted in Featured Book, Networks, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

The Future of Protest

photo of Nathan Schneider

Nathan Schneider
14th March 2015


People gather during last year's Occupy Hong Kong protests. Photo via Flickr user johnlsl

People gather during last year’s Occupy Hong Kong protests. Photo via Flickr user johnlsl

During the fall of 2011, when Occupy Wall Street inhabited a chunk of New York’s Financial District, many of us reporters found ourselves especially fascinated with the media center on the northeast end, a huddle of laptops and generators surrounded (at first) by a phalanx of bikes. I spent a lot of time there myself. After the christening of Tahrir Square as a “Facebook revolution” a few months earlier, this was the place where one would expect to find The Story, the place where the hashtags were being concocted and the viral videos uploaded. From #OccupyWallStreet to #BlackLivesMatter, it has become customary to name our movements after hashtags, and to thank our smartphones for bringing us together and into the streets.

As Occupy blew up around me, and as I tried to figure out what to write about it, I was lucky to have the guidance of Mary Elizabeth King, who worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights era and went on to become a scholar of movements around the world. I was editing a column of hers then, which gave us an excuse to check in regularly.

“Social media alone are not causative,” she wrote in one of her columns around that time. “Nonviolent movements have always appropriated the most advanced technologies available in order to spread their message.” This was something she told me again and again. Which is to say: Don’t be distracted by the technology—it’s not as big a deal as everyone thinks. She helped me listen better to the people themselves, to their ideas and their choices. Such meatspace-centrism also helped me understand why much of Occupy’s momentum was lost when police destroyed the physical protest camps.

We’re often told, especially by those who profit from them, that the latest gizmos change everything, that they spread democracy as a byproduct of their built-in disruptiveness. But whenever a Facebook-driven protest fills Union Square, I think of the May Day photographs from a century ago, when the same place was just as filled, or more so, by protesters in ties and matching hats—no Facebook required.

2

Socialists in Union Square, New York City, on May Day, 1912. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Power is still power, and a lot of the techniques for building it and challenging it from the past aren’t going away—unless we let ourselves forget them. And I worry that the gizmos many of us depend on are too good at helping us forget.

What online social media excel at is getting an idea out to a large number of people really quickly—but only for a brief period of time. They’re great at spurring bursts of adrenaline, not so much at sustaining long-term movements. This shouldn’t be so surprising, because the developers of social media networks optimize them for rapid-fire advertising. A labor organizer working with low-wage workers recently lamented to me that many of those she works with are using Instagram—which is even worse on this front than some other popular networks.

“There’s only so much you can do by sharing photos,” she said.

The problems that viral media present are not entirely new. They’re akin to what happened in 1968 in France, when students and artists filled Paris with their slogans and provoked an uprising that nearly brought down the government. And then the unions stepped in—at first, they supported the students, but then, by negotiating with the government and wielding their economic power, the unions took the gains for themselves. A similar story unfolded in the wake of Egypt’s “Facebook revolution”: The young, tech-savvy liberals may have instigated the uprising’s early days, but when the fairest election in the country’s history came around, they didn’t stand a chance against the Muslim Brotherhood, who had spent decades organizing through neighborhood mosques and social services. The Muslim Brotherhood later fell to the US-funded Egyptian military. The liberal Facebookers still have a long way to go.

If a viral, revolutionary rupture were to happen in the United States right now, who would be best poised to benefit? Walmart? The military? I doubt it would be the self-styled radicals loosely organized across the country. Whenever I’m in a meeting of anarchists talking about how they’d be stronger if they provided childcare, I think of the evangelical megachurches I’ve been to that are actually doing it, big time.

3

Protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. Photo via Flickr user Ramy Raoof

Effective resistance movements depend on networks that are flexible, durable, and can adapt their strategies to changing conditions over time. They need to provide support to members and would-be members who want to ditch the institutions that prop up the current system. And they need to develop alternative institutions that build a new world in the shell of the old. None of these are things that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat do terribly well—though, in principle, they could.

DemocracyOS, built by Argentinian activists, and Loomio, built by Occupy veterans in New Zealand, are open-source tools that facilitate collective decision-making; both are already being put to use by a new generation of internet-based political parties. CoBudget, a new add-on for Loomio, helps groups allocate resources collaboratively. Another open-source project, Diaspora—a Facebook-like network that allows users to control their own data instead of entrusting it to a corporation—works well enough that the Islamic State has turned to it. CoWorker.org is a platform that helps workers connect with each other and mount campaigns to improve their conditions. Movement-friendly technologies like these, however, tend to be far less market-friendly than their competitors, and don’t attract the private investment that commercial platforms use to build a critical mass of users.

Smartphones, meanwhile, make it easier than ever before to document police abuse and blast the evidence out everywhere. Organizations like Witness are equipping activists to be even more sophisticated in putting mobile cameras to good use. But these phones also come at the cost of perpetual surveillance by increasingly sophisticated—and militarized—police forces; there are times when they are better left at home.

If you look beyond devices and apps, there are lots of reasons to be hopeful about the future of protest and activism. Never before has there been so much knowledge available about what makes protest effective, or so many opportunities for getting good training. Researchers like Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan have been sifting through data on past movements to determine what works and what doesn’t. Historians, meanwhile, are rediscovering forgotten stories of popular uprisings that shaped our world. The country’s first program in civil resistance, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, offers hope that someday schools teaching people power may be more plentiful than war colleges.

One thing that struck me over and over during my time among the Occupy encampments was the amnesia. The young activists’ familiarity with protest movements even a decade or two before theirs was scattered and piecemeal compared to their knowledge of celebrities, wars, and empires. Perhaps this is why so many participants succumbed to despair when the movement didn’t succeed quite as wildly as they’d hoped after just a few months. Perhaps, too, this is why so many people have given up on the Arab Spring after the horrors of Egyptian military rule and the Islamic State. We forget that the French Revolution underwent similar throes in its Reign of Terror and the rise of Napoleon; paradoxically, it was through Napoleon’s autocratic conquests that democratic ideas spread. In the United States, critics of Occupy fault it for not becoming more mixed up with electoral politics, like the Tea Party, but they rarely notice how it enabled the rise of progressive politicians like Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren.

That protest may be over, but the movement is not. I hope that those fighting the racist justice system today keep a longer view in mind than Occupiers generally did.

If there is one thing I have learned from covering protests, it is not to trust anyone’s predictions—including my own. Movements will always surprise us. But I think we know enough now to stop expecting some killer app to come along and change the world for us. That’s something we’ll have to do ourselves.

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Networks, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, Politics | No Comments »

An inevitable collision: Centralizing networks against personal autonomy

photo of Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega
13th March 2015


warm_bodies-wide

In recent years we have been through “a zombie attack” against the socialization and culture born in the Internet. This is known as the stage of recentralization, whose best-known proponent is the FbT-model. This is a socialization model that cut off conversations, wherever they took root, and the birth of new identities and the abundance of the Internet generally. There was no lack of strategies, and in fact, the distributed world worked for the creation of vaccine against the virus. But the response to this attack finally came from something much more basic and fundamental: Personal autonomy. Already, the debate on net topologies is a debate about the autonomy you have to participate in the creation of information, the definition of your agenda, and the possibilities you have to be authentic. The collision was inevitable, and — just like in the great movie “Warm Bodies,” something was alive in the zombies, they weren’t completely dead — our desire for personal autonomy was still alive. This explains the birth of, perhaps not numerous, but more and more islands in the net that are betting on a distributed world. The key words of the future are autonomy and sovereignty.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Esperanto)

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Culture & Ideas, Networks, Open Models, Original Content, Peer Property | No Comments »

Is GNU social decentralized or distributed?

photo of Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega
10th March 2015


Before giving an answer to the question of whether GNU social is decentralized or distributed, it would be interesting to give some definitions, because it is important to answer this question and understand its consequences. The distinction between network topologies is an old Indiano tool to understand the major social changes of the last decades.

This use of the distinction between network topologies helps us to understand how information flows through a network from one node to another, which nodes of the network are capable of retransmitting information to other nodes, whether there are nodes whose the survival the network depends on, and whether some of the nodes have the ability to filter and control the information that the others receive. In summary, the debate on network topologies addresses the autonomy of nodes and structures of power. Not coincidentally, one of the most famous slogans of the cyberpunk movement reminds us that

Under every information architecture there hides a power structure.

The search for and distinction between different network topologies played an important role in the birth of the Internet. In 1962, a nuclear confrontation seemed to be an imminent threat. So, Paul Baran received an important order. The Rand Corporation asked him to define a structure to use to set up communication systems that could survive a first strike of a nuclear attack. The main result of Baran’s work can be seen in the image shown above to the right.

Robustness and network topologies

baran_arpanetIn 1966, Paul Baran, in his famous report on Darpanet, presented three different network topologies and their characteristics. The main difference between the three network topologies is how robust they are during a nuclear attack or, in other words, to what extent can they tolerate disturbances without suffering a total collapse. We could have a long, drawn-out discussion on this topic and give a wide-ranging presentation on the measurement of the robustness of a network but, in summary, let’s just say that the more robust a network is, the fewer nodes are disconnected by extracting any given node.

This, plus a look at the image above, allow us easily figure out that the first two topologies, which is to say, centralized and decentralized networks, are highly dependent on the centralizing nodes — the centralized network at the global level, and the decentralized network at the local level. In the centralized network, the loss of the main node would result in the collapse of the whole network, and as a consequence, the surviving nodes would not be able to continue communicating between each other because of the lack of the node that interconnects them. In contrast, in distributed networks — the third topology that appears in the first image of this post — each node is independent and the fall of any node would not disconnect any another.

The social nature of distributed networks

socianaturo_distribuitajretojThe originality of the Indianos was to use network topologies to explain the major features of social evolution since the eighteenth century as a function of the dominant media in each era (the post, the telegraph, the Internet). In the book The Power of Networks, we can read a broad historical tour through the last centuries and easily understand how technological advances gave life to new information structures which, in turn, created social changes. The key to the historical tour that we can read in The Power of Networks is in seeing people and connections between people where Baran saw computers and cables.

But, if through Baran’s view of a network topologies, we can technically measure the robustness of networks, what emerges from the view that David proposed to us a decade ago now in The Power of Networks?

This view quickly makes it clear that in distributed networks, the non-existence of central nodes not only makes it possible to have a network that is much more robust, but hierarchies also disappear, autonomy is favored and the control over others becomes impossible.

As a result, the nature of distributed networks is completely different from that of decentralized ones. A distributed network is not a more decentralized network. This is why it’s very important to answer the question of whether GNU social has a distributed or decentralized structure.

What is GNU social and what is its structure?

On the net, there are several descriptions of GNU social. Most of them present it as an alternative to Twitter or, more generally, as a microblogging service. Certainly, the current functions and options that GNU social offers are mostly characteristic of microblogging services. But in practice, what we find is thatconversations quickly flourish once again, and that more and more new functions appear that reduce the validity of these descriptions.

What is GNU social?

goboardThis conversation and especially the message belowput us on the track of a broader and more appropriate answer.

All microblogging and social networking sites are using selectively flawed ideas and should be transformed. Nobody needs ‘microblogging,’ they want socialization.

The desire to socialize and connect with each other shows the fact that all these systems and sites are not social networks in themselves, but tools that, like instant messaging and mail services, are used by social networks, which is to say, networks of people.

So we see that GNU social is a free tool for interconnection and communication used by different social networks. What functions will it offer, and what we will exchange through GNU social? That depends on what the social networks that use it want.

GNU social also has a particular characteristic that interests us especially, and it has to do with its structure. So, we return to the question, What is GNU social’s structure?

Is GNU social decentralized or distributed?

gnusocial_distribuitajretojWe’ve already presented widely on this, because it is important to answer this question. What will help us distinguish clearly between the three basic network typologies is the interdependence of the nodes that are part of the networks. Interdependence tells us whether the individual nodes depend on others to be able to communicate with others, and therefore, defines how robust they are under attack.

The nodes in a network driven by GNU social are the different installations like (lamatriz.org, loadaverage.org, quitter.se, etc.). A quick look at the image next to this paragraph us clearly shows that the nodes of GNU social do not depend on each other to communicate, and that the fall of one of them does not endanger the survival of the network at all. As a consequence, GNU social has a distributed structure.

Conclusions

From all this, we can draw two important conclusions. First, we realize that it is not necessary to look for a strict definition for GNU social, because what can be done with it will depend on what its users want. Secondly, GNU social has a distributed structure. This is an important distinction, because thanks to it, we see the birth of a social nature in which autonomy, privacy, and conversations are paramount.

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Free Software, Networks, Open Access, Open Innovation, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Software, Social Media | 2 Comments »

Island in the net or an alternative to the net?

photo of Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega
8th March 2015


Could new free systems, thought of as alternatives to Facebook and Twitter, and with a distributed structure, create a different logic and dynamic from these born on centralized services?

Mar_de_floresAt the end of 2010, we published several posts on the nature and the consequences of the FbT-model, that is, socialization on Facebook + Twitter. The conversations that fed these posts were born of the question of whether new, free systems, thought of as alternatives to Facebook + Twitter and with a distributed structure, could create a different logic and dynamic from these born on centralized services.

We knew well the general dangers of centralized services, but beyond that, it became clear and obvious that the FbT-model had serious consequences for the culture that was born on the Internet. Little by little, it endangers the birth of conversational communities, and consequently limits the birth of new identities and social models.

Three years later

Not long ago, we installed two nodes of GNUsocial, one of these alternative systems. The two nodes are lamatriz.org and pluvio.net. In these first days of experience with GNUsocial, we learned a lot and begin discover interesting and important contributions to the above-mentioned conversation.

David: On the other quitter nodes, I think there is less sharing of links than on Twitter, and more characters and conversation.

Jacinto: How nice to have a space for calm conversation without all the noise.

First David and later Jacinto made reference to the existence of conversations in the nodes of GNUsocial. Reading their messages and rereading past posts, I believe I have found the key to understanding where this difference comes from.

It’s curious that when service is thought of for a real community and the software on which it is based is released… it loses its centralizing role (like Facebook’s), because it focuses on the building of an “island in the net,” provides tools for others, and distances itself from the totalitarian idea of making an alternative to the net.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Esperanto)

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Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Free Software, Networks, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Development, P2P Technology, Social Media | No Comments »

Full speed ahead with GNU-Social!!

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
25th February 2015


GNU-Social can become the basis of a whole new free software on distributed architectures, and we want to make our contribution.

la Matriz

Almost five years ago, thanks to the Garum Fundatio, we began the development of our first program based on a distributed server architecture: Bazar.

ficha empresa bazarThere were two objectives: on the one hand, to give a tool with free code and a distributed architecture to all those SMEs, cooperatives and communities that decide to take the leap into the market. On the other hand, to start on the path towards a global alternative to the centralized and misnamed “social networks” and their culture of adherence.

Learning from doing

But with Bazar, we made a mistake: developing it in Ruby assumed that groups that were interested in installing it in Spain, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil demanded an installation, administration and maintenance service that the Foundation couldn’t offer and that we should have avoided developing in PHP.

The next distributed development, Letxuga, was built on Python. The idea was to create a standard free program to manage networks of consumers of ecological products. Having been developed for the very concrete needs of a very concrete client, it was developed rapidly for functionality, specific needs, and detail, leaving aside things like the graphical interface, which were unnecessary for daily use, but very important for expanding its use.

Joshua de EnspiralAs we were starting discussions with our friends from Enspiralabout how to integrate Loomio into WordPress, we became aware that while all this was happening, “Status” had successfully been migrated to PHP and had become GNU-Social.

Why not turn Bazar and Letxuga into plugins for GNU-Social?

We’re on it. GNU-Social can become the basis of a whole new free software on distributed architectures. We’ve decided to make our contribution with new plug-ins that allow the new distributed architectures to find the direct economy.

Full speed ahead with GNU-Social

But to become familiar, we’ll begin with the most simple, most basic functionality: microblogging in 1000 characters, reviving an old Indiano site originally opened in 2007 as a first distributed response to Twitter: lamatriz.org.

On La Matriz [which translates into English as “head office,” “matrix,” or “womb”], because the GNU-Social server architecture is distributed, you’ll be able to connect with users and other GNU-Social servers, like quitter.is,BlogSoviet, quitter.se, quitter.no, quitter.is, Vinilox, gnusocial.of or gnusocial.no. So, we’re waiting for you to share in the daily conversation and organize your own networks!

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Free Software, Networks, Open Content, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Development, Sharing, Social Media | 1 Comment »