(An excerpt from Poor Richard’s full version)

This is an open invitation to participate in developing a crowdsourced design specification for a suite of integrated peer-to-peer applications to include (but not limited to) social networking, real-time project collaboration, content management, database management, voting, trust/reputation metrics, complementary currency, crowd funding, etc. This specification overlaps with several existing p2p infrastructure and social networking projects but also goes substantially beyond anything yet existing.

Members of other projects are encouraged to participate in further developing the open PeerPoint specs and to adopt any part of the specs that they can use. To participate, please join the Next Net Google Group and read the PeerPoint topic.

PeerPoint = Peer-to-Peer Everything

[This is a back-of-the-envelope first draft of top-level design specifications.]

PeerPoint is intended to be much more than a user-owned social networking platform to replace Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is imagined as a peer-to-peer (p2p) social  collaboration suite, developer’s tool kit, and security appliance in one cheap plug-n-play box.

The social tools provided by Facebook, Twitter, etc. have been fun and fairly useful, but if we think about how much serious collaborative work lies ahead of us over the next decade in order to shift an entire civilization onto a more principled, democratic, and sustainable footing, we are going to need better,  more collaborative, more functional digital work tools. Those tools need to belong to us and they need to meet the social and political needs of our time, not the needs of a few self-serving corporations or their shareholders.

With the PeerPoint approach, each user will retain ownership and custody of all the data and content they create. PeerPoints will communicate directly with each other over secure, anonymous internet connections. PeerPoint users may still connect to the internet via commercial internet service providers (ISPs), but those ISP’s will only act as blind, passive carriers of PeerPoint encrypted data.

The PeerPoint will be connected between the user’s pc, home network, or mobile device and the ISP connection. It will support phone lines, mobile devices, wifi, ethernet, etc. for maximum flexibility. It may be accessed by your remote mobile devices either over commercial cellular networks or p2p wireless mesh networks like those used by Occupy Wall Street.

The PeerPoint is designed to Occupy the Internet.

The need:

Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are proprietary, for-profit platforms that exploit users to create content and value. But they provide value as well, so a “Facebook killer” must provide greater user value (functionality, privacy, etc.) than Facebook. For numerous reasons the services provided by the commercial companies do not adequately meet the creative, social, political, and financial needs of the 99%. They are not up to the tasks that participatory democracy, non-violent social change, and sustainable economic systems will demand of our internet communications and our evolving cooperative methods of creating, working, organizing, negotiating, and decision-making together, in groups large and small, regardless of the geographical distances between us. This new kind of group interaction over distances is what allows self-selected individuals to coalesce into powerful workgroups, forums, and movements. It is also what will enable direct participation in the legislative process to function at a large scale for the first time in human history.

The corporate internet business model is based on surveillance of our online activity, our thought, and our expression. By data mining the vast amounts of our information in their custody, they identify our patterns of thought and behavior. They do this ostensibly to sell us stuff and to make money, and so far we have accepted this as the cost of our “free” use of corporatized internet services. But what other, less benign uses can this surveillance and data mining be put to?

I have been hoping for somebody like the Linux community to create an appliance-like p2p node that provides all the apps needed for secure (and when desired, anonymous) social networking, voting, trust/reputation metrics, database, content collaboration and management, workflow, complementary currency, crowd funding, etc.  I’m talking about something that comes complete, out of the box, with the apps pre-installed; that connects easily to your personal computer, home network, or mobile device.

For developers:

If a FreedomBox were used as a starting platform, the PeerPoint application package would be added on top of the FreedomBox security stack.

The PeerPoint apps don’t yet exist as an integrated package, or even as individual apps that are adequate to replace Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Earth, YouTube, Kick-Starter, etc. etc. All this functionality is envisioned for the PeerPoint eventually.

In the beginning it will be necessary to have interfaces/connectors to various proprietary client-server applications like Google until they can be re-engineered in  open source p2p versions.

Initially the project would consist of a first tier of essential apps that must be tightly integrated in their interfaces/connectors, protocols, and data structures. After deploying the first tier, development would continue on a second-tier of applications. Second tier development efforts could be much more distributed and parallel since the final specs for all the basic interfaces, protocols and data structures of the first tier modules would be available to all interested developers.

The common requirements for each PeerPoint app are:

  1. world class, best-of-breed
  2. open source
  3. p2p architecture
  4. consistent, granular, user-customizable security management and identity protection
  5. integrated with other apps in the suite via a common distributed database and/or “data bus” architecture.
  6. consistent, user-customizable large, medium, and small-screen (mobile device) user interfaces
  7. ability to interface with its corresponding major-market-share service (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  8. GPS enabled

First tier applications:

  1. security & anonymity (FreedomBox, Freenet, I2P or better)
  2. trust/reputation metrics
  3. distributed data store (Freenet or better)
  4. communication (email, voicemail, blogging, microblogging) (Syndie or better)
  5. social networking: list of distributed projects, Wikipedia: distributed social network apps,
  6. crowdsourcing: content collaboration & management  (wiki, Google Docs, Open Office, or better)
  7. project management/workflow
  8. data visualization (data sets, projects, networks, etc.)
  9. user-customizable complementary currency and barter exchange (Community Forge or better)
  10. crowd funding (
  11. voting (LiquidFeedback or better)
  12. universal search across all PeerPoint data/content and world wide web content
  13. Personal Health Records

Digital Commons

One contribution the PeerPoint can make to the digital commons and the ethics of sharing is to incorporate a computing resource sharing capability into its system design. Every personal computer, tablet, smart phone, etc. is idle or operating far below its capacity most of the time.

Added up, this unused capacity is equivalent to many supercomputers sitting idle. Those idle virtual supercomputers could be used in the public interest if the personal computing devices connected to the internet were designed to share their idle capacity for public purposes. Users might also be given the option to designate various percentages of their idle capacity to different uses, causes, groups, etc.

Peer Publica

Once PeerPoint is up and running with the first tier applications we may be able to organize the 99% well enough to begin rapid development of the more complex second-tier applications and to start building or buying alternative network infrastructure.

Our new public internet won’t be owned by corporations or by the state. It will be owned by the people, an instrument of the people to invoke the people’s will and help bring both government and corporations under civic control.


“We are not progressing from a primitive era of centralized social media to an emerging era of decentralized social media, the reverse is happening…. Surveillance and control of users is not some sort of unintended consequence of social media platforms, it is the reason they exist….Free, open systems, that neither surveil, nor control, nor exclude, will not be funded, as they do not provide the mechanisms required to capture profit….we do not have the social will nor capacity to bring these platforms to the masses, and given the dominance of capital in our society, it’s not clear where such capacity will come from. …Eliminating privilege is a political struggle, not a technical one.” (emphasis added) Dmytri Kleiner

I partly agree, but I think we have both a political struggle and a technical struggle rolled into one.

The integral tools I describe in PeerPoint are tools (maybe I should even call them weapons) that we need now to conduct our political struggle, not afterwards. The community that brought us Linux and Open Office (the integrated suite of open source applications that replaces Microsoft Office), is capable of bringing us a PeerPoint or something equivalent if it understands the need.

If anyone doubts this, look at Wikipedia’s impressive List of Open Source Software.

But free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) development is largely self-motivated and idiosyncratic, with many islands of genius and inspiration separated by vast seas of  minutia and trivia. The bulk of the hacker and FLOSS community does not yet appear to perceive its enlightened self-interest in our existential struggle for open source, p2p society and open source p2p government. Maybe the “digital libertarians” among them feel they can outwit Big Brother better on their own terms as individuals. Perhaps we need to help them open their “Doors of Perception” wider, even if that takes a little mescaline.

At the very least we need to offer something like an X-Prize and we need to be ready and willing to fund and provision projects that fall within PeerPoint’s conceptual scope. That should begin right now with FreedomBox, the most likely base on which a PeerPoint might be constructed.

So pony up, folks. Like the old auctioneer says, “What’s it worth? You tell me.”

Poor Richard

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.