Tue 25 Apr 2017 11:34AM

Commons harmonization, interoperability, standards

SG Simon Grant Public Seen by 747

Several people here understand that interoperability, harmonization or standardization are vital aspects of commons collaboration, both in general, and in particular in the building of IT infrastructure. We invite ourselves and other interested people to tell us about their knowledge, experience and opinions about how to the commons can be helped towards better interoperability; and to work collaboratively together, first, to explore what agreements we can come to about actions that would be helpful; and second, where possible, to coordinate taking those actions.

There are cultural and behavioural dimensions to standardization, as there are to "commoning". We are open to exploring and sharing ideas on the attitudes, values, knowledge, skills and competence of people who wish to collaborate constructively on harmonization or standardization of the commons, and how to embody those values in our processes, which need to be transparent and open.

We welcome people with less experience of standardization, to ask questions about how these topics fit in with commons transition; about what has worked or could work; and to contribute their ideas around these topics.


Simon Grant Tue 25 Apr 2017 11:45AM

One way to start this thread would be for the people who have participated under the "IT infrastructure" thread to summarise their own thoughts...


Bob Haugen Tue 25 Apr 2017 11:59AM

https://www.valueflo.ws/ is working on vocabulary and protocols for economic networks.

Some of the participants have previously worked on standards projects in UN/CEFACT, W3C, and ISO. The vocabulary itself borrows heavily from the REA (Resource, Event, Agent) model, which is also the ISO Accounting and Economic Ontology

You can see our status here: https://www.valueflo.ws/introduction/status.html
Short version: release 0.1.

The model behind the vocabulary is being actively used by http://www.sensorica.co/ and https://freedomcoop.eu/ . A new software infrastructure project based on the model and (maybe) vocabulary is in motion at http://rea-project.readthedocs.io/en/latest/intro.html

All of those projects welcome new participants.


Danyl Strype Mon 1 May 2017 7:49AM

Just out of curiosity, is anyone from the CommunityForge team involved in #ValueFlows work? They are one of the few (the only?) web platforms for local currency exchanges that use only free code.


Bob Haugen Mon 1 May 2017 11:33AM

@matthewslater stops in and comments now and then. For example, in this thread:

The rest of the VF team wants to support mutual credit as Matthew envisions it, and the Mutual Aid Networks, one of our collaborating organizations, use CommuniftyForge software.


Danyl Strype Tue 2 May 2017 4:42AM

What about the folks from OpenCollective? I'm just listening to Pia Mancini from OC (and DemocracyOS and the NetParty) interviewed by @douglasrushkoff on the Team Human podcast. BTW Sorry if these questions are kind of hijacking the commons harmonization discussion. If there is a better place to ask questions about the ValueFlows development project, please link me.


Bob Haugen Tue 2 May 2017 10:36AM

Are you asking about what groups have been involved in ValueFlows? OpenCollective has not been involved at all. The whole effort spun off from the Enspiral Open Apps Ecosystem. @lynnfoster and I bring learnings from some food networks, Sensorica, the Guerilla Translators (not much involvement, but we learned about translation workflows from them), the Driftless Herbal Network, and FairCoop and FreedomCoop. @elfpavlik has worked with many different groups, including food networks in Europe and the Vientos network in Mexico. @stevebosserman has worked with time banks and local business ecosystems in the US midwest. Transformaps has been involved a bit via @jonrichter. Likewise the Mutual Aid Networks. GoPacifia in Argentina might use the vocab in a new software project.

I might have forgotten somebody, but those are the main groups that come to mind.

@gregorycassel keeps communing (or commoning) with VF and we hope to interconnect with his evolving agreement-based org and P2P digital networking models.

I wouldn't say @matthewslater has been involved, but he does stop in and answer questions about mutual credit.

[edit] Almost forgot, we did some use cases with @danhassan of the Robin Hood group.

[another edit] Lynn reminds me of @paulmackay of circular economy projects, and says I should mention Kalin Maldzhanski who doesn't come in as a rep of any particular group, but who is doing a lot of that hard work...

I am aware that other groups are working on similar or intersecting projects. We'd love to collaborate, but as you noted above, this stuff is hard work and we are not doing a lot of outreach right now. Trying to get more of the vocab nailed down so it might be usable for the new software project I mentioned above.

In terms of existing standards orgs, we plan to publish our work in W3C, and have ongoing conversations with people in ISO.


Vinicius Braz Rocha Tue 25 Apr 2017 6:16PM

" There are cultural and behavioural dimensions to standardization, as there are to "commoning". We are open to exploring and sharing ideas on the attitudes, values, knowledge, skills and competence of people who wish to collaborate constructively on harmonization or standardization of the commons, and how to embody those values in our processes, which need to be transparent and open. "

yep, count on me too Simon !

very little time utimately for loomio forum discussions, but this topic indeed needs to be nurtured with a lot of conversations and experiences =) !


Greg Cassel Tue 25 Apr 2017 9:45PM

I don't have time to comprehensively review my experience of the IT infrastructure thread, but I'll share a few thoughts.

One of the main challenges has been whether to work with existing standards bodies or not. That's not a simple yes/no question, however, because there's a difference between collaborating on one project and coordinating two or more projects. Some of us, including me, see room for developing new standards while coordinating or harmonizing with existing standards bodies.

Anyway, these issues are all close to my core work in social technology. For instance, my Agreement-Based Organization can be described as a prototype standard for the generation of consent-based agreements, potentially including other standards. It should be noted, however, that Agreement-Based Organization is mainly intended for use by mutually accountable teammates, especially in the case of ambitious agreements. Such consent-based teamwork typically occurs only in small groups which work closely together, including--sometimes-- gatherings of other groups' appointed leaders. Ultimately, I hope to help reduce such hierarchical social process and the IMO excessively crude, lengthy delegation (or even surrender) of each person's decision-making agency.


Danyl Strype Mon 1 May 2017 6:11AM

I think its worth pointing out right from the get-go that without the standards work of the people working within bodies like the IETF and W3C, we couldn't be having this conversation here. Unlike some of the older standards organisations (eg ISO, IEEE), the organisations for internet standards (of which web standards are a major subset) tend to develop standards in an open source manner, with documentation of proposed standards freely available from the first draft (RFC or "Request For Comment"). This makes Internet standards living documents evolved through shared governance, rather than dry pronouncements at the end of secretive, top down processes, which makes them a sort of commons.

The second things I want to point out is that like a lot of open source development, a lot of standards work is done by volunteers, and it can be a gruelling, under-appreciated job. Amelia Bellamy-Royds' experience working on version 2 of the SVG standards is a good example. Again, without people doing similar ongoing work on core internet and web standards, we couldn't have this conversation, just as we couldn't without the ongoing work on the free code libraries and components that Loomio builds on. Standards, and the protocols they standardize are essential, shared infrastructure, even more so in open networks like the internet and the web.

If we - both as end users of the net and as developers/ sysadmins/ webweavers - engage as constructively as we can with open standardization efforts, one day there may be people saying the same about our pioneering work. Otherwise, despite our best intentions, we are building walled gardens, and eventually the open network will hack around us and leave us behind.


Greg Cassel Tue 2 May 2017 12:24PM

If we - both as end users of the net and as developers/ sysadmins/ webweavers - engage as constructively as we can with open standardization efforts, one day there may be people saying the same about our pioneering work.

You may be generally right, but the concept of engaging "as constructively as we can" with existing efforts is subject to widely varying interpretation.

If possible, I'd engage deeply (quite time consuming!) with all efforts to create for global social technology commons. As is, I'm deeply called to work on some things which others don't seem to be working on at all. It will be purely "on me" to demonstrate to others whether such time is well-spent-- and, to hopefully connect more and more dots in the future.

The only walled gardens I'm personally trying to create are the ones where I maintain personal agency regarding works which list me as an author or editor. However, such work is openly licensed for free distribution and modification.

I appreciate the perspective you've given here, for the sake of any readers who may actually be trying or hoping to capitalize on walled garden efforts.


Danyl Strype Wed 3 May 2017 6:16AM

If possible, I'd engage deeply (quite time consuming!) with all efforts to create for global social technology commons.

Obviously nobody can do that :) What I mean is to avoid reinventing the wheel wherever possible (with all the fragmentation of effort and confusion that creates), especially when it comes to interoperability protocols. As AK-47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov puts it:

"one thing is clear: before attempting to create something new, it is vital to have a good appreciation of everything that already exists in this field. "

One of the most epics fails in this respect was Tent. They were trying to build a decentralized hosting standard as a walled garden. According to others working in that space (specifically I've been chatting with Sean Tilley of Diaspora*), they were totally disinterested in making use of existing protocols, and seemed to believe they could convince everyone to switch to their completely novel set of protocol. A textbook case of totally avoidable standards proliferation.

All the other projects in the space were either using their own protocols, or engaged in harmonization efforts through hubs like the W3C Social Web WG and the IndieWeb. Not surprisingly, Tent's expectation that everyone else would conform to their brand new roll-your-own standard went down like a cup of cold sick. The Tent hompeage (and the Cupcake demo site) are still on the web, but nobody has done any active development on them in years.


Simon Grant Wed 3 May 2017 9:15AM

Hi @strypey and many thanks for your contributions here. I particularly appreciate the link to

Amelia Bellamy-Royds' experience working on version 2 of the SVG standards is a good example.

It's stirring stuff. Bits like ...

Meanwhile, the W3C's process meant that they needed their member companies to agree to a new charter for the SVG Working Group by January 2017, and that was looking less and less likely


Administration at the W3C is still trying to revive the SVG working group, but they are doing it via quiet negotiations with browser reps.

... in particular ring true to me. The W3C is controlled by its member companies, who pay a lot of money to be in the game. In case anyone hadn't noticed, they are capitalist companies. And, naturally enough, if a particular track of standards development doesn't suit their interests, they won't back it, pulling the plug from the passionately dedicated folk like Amelia.

And, I guess, for browser-related standards like SVG, it is the browser companies that matter (OK, except for Firefox).

Amelia herself says, in a comment reply (on April 21, 2017):

I never saw a tutorial "how to dive your hands in the web foundations and how to help building a better web". I wish I could help you (and I guess you are not the only one in such case).

I think this is one of the biggest problems with the web standards process. It is very difficult for individual devs and small companies to contribute, without getting sucked in overboard like I did.

There have been some efforts to open it up.


But it isn't easy. Managing a large community is job unto itself, one that gets even less respect than building open source software and open standards. You need someone to moderate and review all submissions. And you need good systems and structures and styleguides and planning documents in order for the work to be divisible into small pieces while still adding up to an effective whole.

What seems to happen (Web Platform Tests is an example) is that the people who have the time and expertise to do those things end up doing the work themselves, instead of trying to herd a community of cats into doing it.

It is these kinds of issue, highlighted by Amelia, that I would principally like to address, in discussing Commons Harmonization.

I reckon, @strypey, I agree with you on much of what you say. Let us, indeed, take heed of the projects that simply didn't work out, discuss and note the reasons, and make serious efforts neither to reinvent the wheel nor to repeat the same old mistakes. You go on to say:

If we - both as end users of the net and as developers/ sysadmins/ webweavers - engage as constructively as we can with open standardization efforts, one day there may be people saying the same about our pioneering work. Otherwise, despite our best intentions, we are building walled gardens, and eventually the open network will hack around us and leave us behind.

I don't exactly agree with this analysis. The Amelia example demonstrates what can happen in W3C. Sure, we can hope that Amelia's noble volunteer work will bear fruit, but equally we have ample grounds to fear that things that really threaten the status quo will not pass through W3C, leading to wasted time and burnout of good commoners with good ideas.

When I am advocating fixing the process, I certainly don't mean "set up an alternative to W3C that ignores everything that isn't 'the one true way'". That would indeed be utterly wrong-headed and futile. But let's look at the "cultural and behavioural dimensions to standardization" (as I said in the header) to work out a constructive approach to harmonization / interoperability that is not at the mercy of capitalist interests -- rather, that is a true knowledge commons, not just in the sense of the standards being open and free, but in the sense of being governed by a community of commoners, in the interests of the commons and everyone.

I would be really interested to hear of other people's proposals for action in that direction.


Bob Haugen Wed 3 May 2017 10:30AM

What we've done is to work outside the existing standards orgs, but collaborate with them where it fits. We can't be stopped by them, but our vocabulary and protocols mesh with both W3C and ISO standards, and we work directly with people in both standards orgs whose interests intersect with ours. Will that work? We don't know yet. Should find out this year.

To expand a bit re "will that work?":
* Will the valueflows vocab and protocols get finished?
* Will they be used?
* Will they be effective in connecting commons economic orgs into larger networks?
* Will we be able to effectively collaborate with both W3C and ISO?

The first 3 are more important than the last one. Especially the 3rd.

Re "governed by a community of commoners": we are not. We are a small group, I think by necessity. It is difficult unpaid work and requires dedication and focus. We follow consensus principles internally, but informally. We take direction from all of the various commons-oriented economic organizations that we work with, that we think might use our work when it's baked. We have not tried to set up any kind of new umbrella commons standards org, which seems to be what you have in mind.


Simon Grant Wed 3 May 2017 11:12AM

Thanks for the comments, @bobhaugen

Completely agree, what matters is whether your standards will be "effective in connecting commons economic orgs into larger networks"; or more generally, whether any approach to interoperability / harmonization will be effective in connecting commons-oriented organisations and helping them to work together effectively and efficiently (the latter: in their own eyes, not imposing any metric!) And your first two points are also essential preconditions to that. Nicely put.

And I'm glad that you are self-consciously independent of W3C and ISO approval. Again, it's all to the good if W3C or ISO take up and promote commons-oriented standards.

Now, about "governed by a community of commoners"...

In the end, I believe that governance, whether formal or informal, is of vital concern to these processes. I imagine it is working well for you, with a small group of collaborators who are experienced, and have the appropriate skills and competence (or attitudes, values) to work together constructively. And it's great that there are significant things that can be done at this scale.

What happens, though, when either many more commoners have proper interests in interoperability? How can we avoid many small groups all coming up with their own solutions to similar problems? That's one of the places I think we need better coordination, and we need to think how.

You surmise that I have in mind "a new umbrella commons standards org". Well, the answer depends on what kind of org. I don't think that we need something that imitates W3C, ISO, etc. I would think that we need, perhaps not so much an organization as such, but a way of coordination that really works for the benefit of the commons. What kind of higher-level organizing do you think is needed?

I guess it's a bit like governance of more traditional commons. For small, local commons, maybe the informal face-to-face approach works. Great, if it does! But how are larger commons actually governed effectively (or, how could they be?) We have Ostrom and others to help us here, and we can apply her principles to our work.

Maybe we (those with an interest) could start exploring some examples of where harmonization / interoperability / standards have worked, or have not worked, to the benefit of the commons. We could agree that for some things, e.g. the IETF has worked well, and we would be best continuing. Maybe your current VF process is just fine as well. And we can start building the processes and coordinating structures that will allow us to tackle the larger-scale challenges.

What do you think?


Bob Haugen Wed 3 May 2017 12:21PM

We're going at this process pretty much bottom-up. VF is obviously insufficient. I expect the next stage will be federations of existing commons-oriented economic groups. This is happening now on a discussion level, and also in software collaboration. The software collaboration is actually economic work, but so far, I don't see it happening as a common economic network. Instead, each collaborating org sends a programmer or two to work on the software. Those people get together and tend to form their own small network as a project team, loosening (but not discarding) their identities as members of their "home" group. But their subsistence is either dependent on their home group or often a day job. So there is not a shared systematic economic context for the software work. Yet. It may come.

The groups will interact economically beyond the software project when they have some reason to do so. So far, not much happening there. I suspect it might happen first around food.

[edit] So I don't expect any larger standards org to be effective until several individual orgs are federated into an economic network. That network will require governance on the network level, and a larger standards org will evolve from it.

That's what I expect, but I could easily be wrong.


Greg Cassel Wed 3 May 2017 2:29PM

I mostly agree, and greatly appreciate the nuanced perspective.

I believe deeply in consent-based project management and community development which emphasizes personal autonomy and freedom of expression at each level of responsible participation. These principles prevent me from (literally) paying attention to most projects, including extractively managed walled gardens. These principles also limit the energy I give to projects which seem responsibly managed but structurally vulnerable to being destructively redirected without my consent.

Those concerns aren't very applicable to some standards networks which have clear pathways to open participation, and which I may interact increasingly with as time goes by. As work progresses, connections become clearer.


Danyl Strype Thu 4 May 2017 3:31PM

The groups will interact economically beyond the software project when they have some reason to do so.

I think this is a critical point. Enjoyable as it is to chew the fat with like minds, none of us have infinite time for talkshops. Work at the federation level only tends to persist where there is a critical mass of benefits for the groups federating.

The way the federated Indymedia network (Global Network of Independent Media Centres) fell apart is a classic example. After the initial wave of exponential growth and enthusiasm, some IMC groups either imploded, were excommunicated, or their key volunteers moved on to other projects. As more and more group exchanged dependence on globally shared infrastructure (webhosting, email lists, docs wiki) for more localized self-hosting, the benefits of federation were eroding, at the same time as the time and energy required of each group to sustain the network grew, creating a vicious cycle.

The economic benefits of federation can be non-monetary, but people can't sustain fulltime volunteer work for organisations that can't at least house and feed them (and in the case of tech work, supply computers and network connections). There were some tech cooperatives established at the time by Indymedia geeks, a few of which may still survive (would be fascinating to research). At the time I was a messianic champion of volunteerism, but in hindsight, Indymedia would have probably thrived, rather than becoming the zombie project it is now, if setting up workers cooperatives to pay geeks, researchers, and writers, had been core part of our network strategy. The emergence of groups like Loomio/ Enspiral, OpenCollectives, an the North American Technology Worker Cooperatives is a hopeful sign that the current generation of indymediatistas have learned from our mistakes ;)

To bring this back to the issue of standards harmonization, standards cannot and never are handed down from on-high, printed on stone tablets (or CD-ROMs). They emerge from the real needs and desires of real projects to achieve interoperation. IETF and W3C are examples of hubs where people try to achieve broad consensus, so they don't need to negotiate ad-hoc interoperation treaties with every other project (the ad-hoc approach obviously doesn't scale).

Those hubs are only dominated by corporations at present because the majority of the economic actors in the relevant fields are corporations, eg the makers of all the currently popular browsers (except Firefox). If and when that changes, eg more people start using free code browsers made by not-for-profits or platform cooperatives, then the way IETF or W3C processes work will change with it. Trying to change standards processes by changing the standards organisations, is like trying to make something that isn't mincemeat by putting the same meat into a different kind of mincer.

To reiterate the point I made on the other thread, that's not to say that standards work can only be done in the formal standards orgs. On the contrary, what passes through the IETF and W3C is usually just the final documentation and rubber stamping of tech that's either developed inside one company (eg Jabber > XMPP, or StatusNet > OStatus) or a more informal incubator like the WhatWG or ValueFlows.


Bob Haugen Thu 4 May 2017 3:35PM

what passes through the IETF and W3C is usually just the final documentation and rubber stamping of tech that's either developed inside one company (eg Jabber > XMPP, or StatusNet > OStatus) or a more informal incubator like the WhatWG or ValueFlows.

That's what we want to be when we grow up: an informal incubator!


Lynn Foster Thu 4 May 2017 3:51PM

@strypey thanks for that useful historical summary, I didn't know that. And I appreciate your perspective also, on both standards and group federation.


Greg Cassel Thu 4 May 2017 5:14PM

To bring this back to the issue of standards harmonization, standards cannot and never are handed down from on-high, printed on stone tablets (or CD-ROMs).

I love most of your last long comment, and I certainly agree with this declarative statement per se-- but, not with some potentially related assumptions.

Perhaps we can agree on this: standards can only emerge through inclusive dialogue?


Simon Grant Sat 6 May 2017 3:13AM

Perhaps we can agree on this: standards can only emerge through inclusive dialogue?

Can, or should? What about e.g. OOXML? So, do we mean "good, valuable standards only emerge through inclusive dialogue"?

Same question to @strypey -- whose contributions I am enjoying and appreciating very much -- "standards ... are never handed down from on high" -- but is this not the case with regulatory standards?

I'd say we need to be careful to distinguish what actually happens from what we believe is good.


Greg Cassel Sat 6 May 2017 1:50PM

So, do we mean "good, valuable standards only emerge through inclusive dialogue"?

That may be a more generally accurate statement. In fact I'd simply say that inclusive standards can only emerge through inclusive dialogue.

Standards have historically emerged via dialogue between specialists with varied attachments to academic communities and organizations, sometimes including for-profit corporations. We need not vilify the (unchangeable) past, and we also don't need to repeat it.

Having said that: I think that existing communications tools and techniques -- including discussion topics like this-- scale poorly to large diverse groups which have genuine common interests but also have many conflicting interests. So, I focus mostly on the nuts and bolts of how we communicate, while trying to participate usefully in a few of these discussions.


Paul B. Hartzog Wed 3 May 2017 2:15PM

Just want to share this. AVL Futures and UniteWNC are doing a lot of work around regional commons coordination these days. We discussed various examples (like OpenCollective, Enspiral, etc.) at our latest meeting.



Rich and Nati from Enspiral/Loomio will be in Asheville at the end of May, so if anyone wants to come to our events, please let me know!



Bob Haugen Wed 3 May 2017 3:09PM

Looks like great things are happening in your neighborhood. Good that Greg will be there. Wish we could, too.


Paul B. Hartzog Thu 4 May 2017 3:09PM

No worries, I am meeting with some folks today to plan a futures conference for in the fall. Maybe you can come down then :-)


Greg Cassel Wed 3 May 2017 2:32PM

I expect to be at most (Wed-Fri) of the May 31-June 3 AVL Futures gathering which @paulbhartzog linked above.


Bob Haugen Sat 6 May 2017 6:31PM

I think standards will emerge from different organizations wanting to collaborate with one another. It is already happening. In those cases, for technical standards, I think the IETF motto fits: "rough consensus and running code".


Simon Grant Mon 8 May 2017 8:36AM

I think many of us realise that the IETF (sometimes referred to as the Internet Society, its parent body) is one of the best players in technical standardization.

As a consequence, maybe we should be looking carefully at IETF process, and checking that it provides what we need. If it does, can we broaden it to non-internet related standards; and if not, can it be tweaked, either internally be persuasion or externally by setting up an even better body to deal with non-internet standards?

I'd really like to see a serious analysis of the IETF from a commons perspective. Is there one? Or do we have any academics who could suggest it as a student project?


Danyl Strype Wed 31 May 2017 1:39PM

"standards ... are never handed down from on high" -- but is this not the case with regulatory standards?

I think we need to be careful about how we define our terms here. I'm talking about technical standards for inter-operational systems, not social standards, not aesthetic standards etc. Also, I assume "standard" to mean "documentation of best practice according to a rough consensus of active practitioners", and not "legislation enforcing best practice", which is what I presume you mean by "regulatory standards".

Regulatory bodies (states and others) can certainly enforce technical standards, and in some cases it's seen as part of their core purpose (eg building standards, land use standards). But only the most naive or monomaniacal bureaucrat would have the hubris to think they could sit in their office and weave a technical standard from whole cloth, without consulting the technicians and organisations who will be asked to implement the standards.

While regulators can sometimes play a role in punishing rogue actors who refuse to take parts in public standards processes (eg anti-trust cases), technical standards usually emerge from a mutually beneficial desire to grow a sector (eg Elon Musk "opening" his electric car patents to grow that sector), and regulators normally limit themselves to enforcing aspects of the standards developed by practitioners, which relate to issues of public safety etc.

If it does, can we broaden it to non-internet related standards; and if not, can it be tweaked, either internally be persuasion or externally by setting up an even better body to deal with non-internet standards?

I favour the latter. Mission creep over-extends and kills good organisations, and is the raison d'être of bad ones. I look at organisations as a special case of software (complex instruction sets cluster processed by human computers), in which case how do we "open source" organisational code to increase "organisation freedom"? How do we spin up many instances of the "source code" of the IETF (or Open Source Ecology, or...) to create similar bodies for non-internet areas of technical standards?

EDIT: Typo. Edited paragraph 3 for clarity.


Bob Haugen Wed 31 May 2017 1:50PM

I'm talking about technical standards for inter-operational systems, not social standards,

A Commons is a form of social-economic organization. Interoperability between commons-oriented organizations will require standards for social-economic interactions that go pretty far beyond the purely technical. Those standards can take the form of agreements among collaborating organizations at first. If no collaborating commons-oriented organizations, then the standards don't matter anyway. Or if they are just collaborating in totally social ways (e.g. chat about ideas), standards still don't matter very much, unless they want to chat using some of the decentralized protocols that @strypey has been writing about.


Greg Cassel Fri 2 Jun 2017 6:38PM

Really interesting discussion.

Here's my current, intentionally generic specification of standard:

A standard is a specification which agents use to coordinate activities.

This specification can certainly be applied to both technical standards and to social standards.

I think it's super important for people to differentiate technical standards from social standards, and to seek sustainable development on both fronts.


Danyl Strype Sat 3 Jun 2017 3:29PM

A standard is a specification which agents use to coordinate activities.

This is good definition. Along similar lines I would define laws/ regulations/ legislation as specification that authorities use to coordinate agents. One spreads by adoption, the other by fiat and enforcement. One is fundamentally horizontal, although it can be manipulated for hierarchical ends (eg EME at the W3C, OpenOffice XML at the IEC/ISO), the other is fundamentally hierarchical , although it can be manipulated for horizontal ends (eg "single-payer" public health systems, food labelling regulations).


Greg Cassel Sat 3 Jun 2017 3:48PM

Thanks; that's fertile material for me to potentially develop definitions for "law", "regulation" etcetera. "Authority" as a noun seems tricky to pinpoint, but it'd probably respond well to continued reflection. I'll make notes.


Draft Sat 17 Jun 2017 10:29PM

It would be great to make a resume of your discussion and put it in the first message, so when there is new commers they can contribute really easily.

For me, what would be great would be to put all our knowledges about how to run a common in wikiversity : https://en.wikiversity.org . What do you think about it ?


Bob Haugen Sat 17 Jun 2017 10:45PM

@draft are you a good summarizer? Got time and motivation to make a first draft of that resume?

Re all our knowledges, I think we are all struggling to to learn. I agree it would be good to do more documenting of what we are learning. Wikiversity is new to me, thanks for the tip.


Draft Sat 17 Jun 2017 11:00PM

Well I was being selfish for the resume of this thread cause I've just arrived here, and I was like "it would be great to have a resume so I could contribute to this discussion which seems nice". But yeah, let's do it tomorrow (I mean, I'm in UK now, (I don't know where you are actually ?)) if it's fine for you ? Maybe use the wiki for that kind of thing, to put all the good things into one ?

Yeah, wikiversity seems to be at the begining of it, but it seems having a really go policy like : "Hey ! You know things and I do to, why don't we share our knowledge to the world so we could learn about each other ?".

I'm going to write a thread about it cause it would be great to get in touch with the wikiversity's community and have the advise of everyone about this subject. Well in fact, I'm gonna make a lot of threads cause I need to know a lot of things since I've just arrived ;) !


Bob Haugen Sat 17 Jun 2017 11:09PM

I'm in the midwest USA. Lots of other participants in this conversation are probably closer to you. I'm also writing something else on another topic as we speak and need to build a living roof tomorrow. But if you start, wherever, I will pitch in somehow, and hope the other people here will do the same. Summarization is good. I'm with it.


Simon Grant Mon 19 Jun 2017 5:20AM

@draft quite by chance also this morning came across Fabian Tompsett -- see e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQb61A1S3uo where he talks (5 years ago) about Wikiversity. The discussion points to interesting challenges.

Certainly I would see commons harmonization as proceeding in a Wiki-like way. The question to me is, what technological features can enable what vital social features that can enable effective collaboration on interoperability and standards?

I'm aware of swimming against quite a backlash against standardization seen as top-down imposed conformity. I'd like to rescue the essential goodness here, and work out what we (or at least most of us) can agree on in terms of the commons-friendly interoperability and standardization aims, then on how we can work towards those. To me, it is a fascinatingly broad-ranging interdisciplinary task.


Bob Haugen Mon 19 Jun 2017 10:42AM

I continue to think that the way this will work is by different groups who want to interoperate working out standards for whatever they want to interoperate about between themselves, and publish them somewhere, and then get together with other groups who may have their own standards on that same or different topic areas and adapt those standards to each other, so now they got three or more groups and more topic areas somewhat standardized.

I think 3 groups using the same standards would be an attractor for more. And by working this way, I expect we will see some areas where two different groups-of-groups evolve incompatible standards that neither of them are willing to change to adopt the other standard. I don't know what to do about this, but I am pretty sure it will happen. Maybe some mappings between standards? That's what happened with the European and US EDI standards back in the day. Or like most of the world uses metric measurements except some holdouts like the US.

I'm not saying it should work out that way, just making a prediction.

I also think efforts like valueflows where people from different groups come together to summarize and unify their experiences will help, but that remains to be proven. We're not finished, and nobody's using the work yet in real life, although real-life uses are in progress,


Draft Mon 19 Jun 2017 1:12PM

I didn't quite understand the point of your post ;) What did you mean by that ?


Simon Grant Mon 19 Jun 2017 1:24PM

What I understand @bobhaugen to mean is that -- despite the hopes and/or beliefs that some of us may have, hoping that some kind of commons co-ordination will help to avoid what he is pointing out -- nevertheless what Bob predicts is what seems to happen in practice, at least for the most part: that very small groups (starting with two) tend to get together to sort out interoperability issues between them. If this happens, it is likely (and I agree with this second point) that incompatible small groupings will form, and someone will lose out.

I am more optimistic. Why? Because I really think that commoners have better (from my perspective) values and intentions, not that they are necessarily smarter. All I am saying is that (a) I would like the chance for some of us to try this forward coordination and (b) that pessimists either say clearly why it can't work (with reasons, gratefully received) or please stop detracting, and sowing, if not fear, then surely uncertainty and doubt.

Give us a break, in short, please!


Draft Mon 19 Jun 2017 1:34PM

@bobhaugen @asimong What I believe in is : having clear organisationnal system so anyone can contribute. Then there will be cooperation. One of my work is : to share my knowledge about organisationnal systems and learn from other so I have more knowledge and I do a better job in spreading the knowledges.

Am I answering well to the subject ? I'm quite confused.


Draft Mon 19 Jun 2017 1:23PM

@asimong We are creating a platform to manage our local projects, it's called : (communecter)https://vimeo.com/133636468.

The goal of the platform is to enable anyone to know what's happening in his city (organisations, projects, events) and easily contribute to it with an open source project management tool based on loomio, wekan, wiki, rocketchat, etc... But I'm goind to open a thread for communecter. For now the website is in french but we're gonna translate it soon.

Does it answer to your post ? (I'm not actually sure)


Simon Grant Mon 19 Jun 2017 1:42PM

@draft yes you answer to the point. My interest is not in dictating organisational systems, but in finding a good enough organisational system for harmonization, interoperability, and standards so that standards (etc.) can work better for the benefit of the commons, with less of the sad waste that @bobhaugen quite rightly points out.

In my mind, it is not enough to allow everyone to participate and contribute. That is vital, but alone it does not guarantee a good organisation.

Do you understand the principle I am suggesting here -- that we do not try to standardize anything centrally in advance (particularly, not in advance of implementation) but we attempt to set up better organisation so that standardisation can happen better for the benefit of the commons, alongside implementation of real systems on the ground -- as seems to be widely recognised as good practice.


Draft Mon 19 Jun 2017 2:15PM

@asimong Yeah definitely ! I am totally on the same page than you ! Let's make an artcile about that in the wiki !

What about that :

These are the questions you need to answer when you are a common :

The first two questions would be :

  • What are the objectives of the common ?
  • What are the ressources of the common ?

Which are for me the simplest way to know if this common can interest me.

Then it would be theorical questions :

  • What are the actions of the common (to achieve the objectives) ?
  • What are the rules of the common ?
  • * How do you add an action ?
  • * How do you take decisions ?
  • * How can you use the ressources ?
  • What digital tools do you use ?

And to finish, specific questions because it's a common :

  • Contribution : How do you facilitate the contribution ?
  • Partnership : What are the links you created with other organisation ?
  • Financing : Do you earn money ? How it it visible by everyone ?
  • Retribution : Is there any retribution for the contributors of the common ?
  • Sharing : How the common has been thought to facilitate the sharing of his ressources ?

This comes from another thread I opened : https://www.loomio.org/d/SkTLXIns/documentation-about-the-organisationnal-system-of-this-common


Bob Haugen Mon 19 Jun 2017 2:31PM

Wow! I see I failed to communicate clearly again. I am very optimistic. I think groups will find ways to interoperate when they need to, when they have something they want to collaborate on that requires it, and when 3 such groups agree on some standards, lots of other groups will notice that and join them.

I also expect more than one of these groups-of-groups to happen, but that is how bottom-up organization works. It's not necessarily bad. If the groups-of-groups want to work together, they will find a way.

And I also expect summarization and rationalization and still more standardization groups to form, and I hope they would pay attention to what the actual interoperators are doing and not start pushing their own good ideas.

Otherwise, what? Everybody needs to agree on some central place to work? Whose place? I'm not opposed, but everybody also seems to want these standards to be developed bottom-up and not by the great standards committee in the sky.


Simon Grant Tue 20 Jun 2017 12:57PM

Dear @bobhaugen :-) So sorry to have misread you as pessimistic. I was taking my cue from

I'm not saying it should work out that way, just making a prediction.

which I read to mean, it will probably work out in a way that it should best not.

But thanks in any case for your continued clarification. I like the questions:

Otherwise, what?


Everybody needs to agree on some central place to work?

Certainly not!

everybody also seems to want these standards to be developed bottom-up and not by the great standards committee in the sky.

Sure, we have all agreed (ad nauseam?) that standards development by central bodies independent of ground-level implementation is unlikely to work well. That standards imposed are often standards rebelled against. That standardization and implementation really should go hand in hand...

But I count myself more optimistic that what I read of your position, because
* the IETF seems to make it happen in good ways, and I doubt it's always a group of 2 or 3 that start it
* that we do (much) better to avoid conflicts between "groups-of-groups" by listening to each other better, earlier on
* that a more coherent and widely adopted process could help in several ways, including
* to alert people to others wanting to interoperate in related fields
* and thus to spark the process of standardization earlier on, when it might be more helpful
* to promote the interests of the commons over and above the interests of capital
* and that we could explore the possibility of devising such a process

Perhaps I've read you wrong again? If so, apologies.


Bob Haugen Tue 20 Jun 2017 1:27PM

I'm good with all of those ideas, but to maybe try to explain myself a bit more, I see convergences happening all over the place, alongside many group standardization projects like valueflows. I just tried to list all of the projects that have been represented in valueflows yesterday, in response to some questions from @draft , and ran out of brain cells trying to remember them all. I could do even a less adequate job of listing all the standardization projects, but for example, http://transformap.co/, http://coopdata.org/, http://datacommons.coop/vision/, https://www.communecter.org/ ...

I would also like to see more, and have more of them come together. How do you think "such a process" could help? Where would it come from? How would it interact with the other processes that are already trying to do the same thing? Would it be promoted by some organization? Who has credible standing? How would you get the various efforts that are already underway to use it, instead of what they are already doing?

The various groups we have met tend to have their own focuses and leaders and methods of work and standards of practice. Like, we tried to collaborate with one group and got told basically that we didn't know what we were doing, were using terms incorrectly, and had no academic credentials. Ok, whatever...they still could be doing important work and will come together with others at some time in the future. Or not.

One aspect of the problem is that creating viable standards is a lot of work. Requires patience and dedication. So at this stage, which I think is like the 100 flowers stage, I'm happy with all the wonderful work going on. More convergence would be better.


Simon Grant Wed 21 Jun 2017 1:13PM

Great to see us getting better at our communication, @bobhaugen !

"One aspect of the problem is that creating viable standards is a lot of work. Requires patience and dedication."

Very much so! And I guess this is one of the reasons why I am so concerned about wastage of time, energy and good will. Thanks for the raft of good questions, too...

How do you think "such a process" could help?

Mainly through better communication of more appropriate and timely information. Yes, of course that begs questions...

Where would it come from?

... from the best putting together of several people, like you and me, that have experience in these areas.

How would it interact with the other processes that are already trying to do the same thing?

I haven't noticed any other process trying to do exactly the same thing -- I'd like to know of any! Interactions with other processes doing related things -- well, I'd say that applying the same basic values would be a start. Listen, carefully and with empathy, for what they are trying to do. Bring the other related processes to their attention -- too often, people don't have awareness even of other initiatives that are quite similar. Appeal to the co-operative commoner in people -- let's do this for the common good, by doing it better together.

Would it be promoted by some organization?

We would have to take great care about the form of organization we need for this. Yes, it does need organizing. But not by a corporate entity with its own agenda for self-preservation.

Who has credible standing?

I guess credibility is in the eyes of the beholders. Anyone can start this kind of initiative, but I would certainly agree that to gain traction, you need credibility. Part of that is by bringing on board as many other people with community credibility as one can. But, I would say, because we are aiming at the commons, the credibility needs to be with commoners, not with big businesses.

How would you get the various efforts that are already underway to use it, instead of what they are already doing?

Here's an initial guess: by pointing out the common threads of what they are already doing, and persuading them that it is both more efficient and more effective to do that part of what they are already doing in collaboration with others who share the same common threads.

But let's step back to see the bigger picture. The point -- or should I say my point -- is not to work everything out on this Loomio thread, but to use any forum to gather a bunch of people who "get it", and can work out better answers than I have suggested above. Because I have great faith that answers given by myself alone will not be as good as ones where I am collaborating positively with a peer group!


Bob Haugen Wed 21 Jun 2017 1:44PM

How would you get the various efforts that are already underway to use it, instead of what they are already doing?

Here's an initial guess: by pointing out the common threads of what they are already doing, and persuading them that it is both more efficient and more effective to do that part of what they are already doing in collaboration with others who share the same common threads.

All of the various groups that I mentioned upthread - VF, Transformap, CoopData, DataCommons, and Communector - are reaching out and talking to each other and in many cases trying to collaborate. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. Most of the time when I see it happen it's because they have something mutually useful to collaborate about.

We've been collaborating with a bunch of people in the Fair Coop ecosystem around software projects, for example. We've been talking for a couple of years with another group that I won't name about the same sort of topics, but nothing has happened, because they are not really working on those topics, just talking about them. In Fair Coop, several people are actively working. I think because they want to use the results for other material work, while for the other group, they don't really need the results yet, it just seems like a good idea. I don't want to mention the other group because I don't want to seem like I am criticizing them. I'm not. They don't need the work we keep talking about yet. It will come.

Shorter version of what I am trying to say: I think part of the process needs to be to define a concrete focus of actual work to create something that the collaborators will use in the very near future. And get something going in real life ASAP that they do actually start to use. Otherwise, yet again, it's just talk.


Draft Mon 19 Jun 2017 8:15PM

As soon as I have the time, I'm gonna summarize this thread which seem very interesting and full of ressources !


Bob Haugen Tue 20 Jun 2017 1:42PM

And yes, it is just difficult to communicate well about this set of ideas.


Draft Tue 20 Jun 2017 1:47PM

@bobhaugen What do you think about IETF ? Do you work with them with valueflows ?


Bob Haugen Tue 20 Jun 2017 2:25PM

I like them a lot, but we have not worked with them. Some of the valueflows gang has worked with some w3c committees, I think mostly because we are using RDF-related standards that came out of w3c.


Draft Tue 20 Jun 2017 2:54PM

Why don't you work with them ? What are your divergences ?


Simon Grant Tue 20 Jun 2017 3:16PM

A general guess is that it's more about opportunity than alignment of values. Speaking for myself, I've worked at the edges of W3C, but more with CEN and BSI. Much of my earlier work was in educational technology with IMS. None of that means I agree with their policies and practices. It was just opportunity.


Bob Haugen Tue 20 Jun 2017 4:53PM

No divergencies that I know of. Just natural overlaps with w3c, and some of the VF members were already working with their committees, and only so many hours in the day.


Bob Haugen Wed 21 Jun 2017 1:32PM

Oh ick, one more clarification, just to make sure nobody gets the wrong idea. Value flows is independent of w3c. Some VF members participate in w3c committees. We use the RDF family of semantic web standards that came from w3c, but we also use just plain json and UML and sooner or later CSVs. We aim to be ecumenical. If somebody in VF wanted to work in an IETF context, I am pretty sure we all would be delighted.


Simon Grant Tue 20 Jun 2017 3:21PM

Which leads me to reflect ... What I'm seeking in a new organisation is better opportunities to collaborate on commons-friendly terms. I think that is feasible.


Simon Grant Wed 21 Jun 2017 2:35PM

Bob @bobhaugen I agree there is a lot to be said for concrete focuses (or indeed foci) for standards work. You could see my focus as less concrete, but actually I would argue the point. It's less focused on particular standardization work, and more concretely focused on agreeing the methods and processes that can enhance better communication of information leading to better collaboration between commoners in the areas of harmonization, interoperability and standards. It won't be just talk. It will, I hope, be enhanced practice, enacted by all those who agree.


Draft Wed 21 Jun 2017 2:54PM

I agree with you all, but I think there are some importants points for me that haven't been mentionned yet :

  • Create links is a job. It's like every orther jobs on the planet, you need skills and knowledge to create links between things. So it takes time and will to learn it.
  • Make a more collaborative-friendly world is a fight. As veganism, feminism, or whatever, you can be an activist of collaborativism ;) . What you can do is to plant seeds in people minds and let them grow (maybe they wont, but at least you tried).

My first point is : you can be a professional of the creation of link between entities of the world. In fact I consider myself as a linker. And I think we need people to do it.

My second point is : When you try to create links (if you do it with benevolence), it's always for the good because you share your knowledge about new things, and you learn new things too on the way.

Conclusion : Let's create links, always for the good ! :D


Bob Haugen Wed 21 Jun 2017 3:31PM

Concrete example, starting now:
Read to the end of that thread.

This is a case where valueflows is too generic and abstract, they need something more focused on the food domain. We'll have a conversation about how to bridge those different levels of abstraction. It's a very common problem in developing common vocabularies.


Simon Grant Wed 21 Jun 2017 8:41PM

Very interesting, thanks Bob @bobhaugen

As I see you implying in that github thread, people with a concrete interoperability task just want the level of abstraction that makes their software work, which also makes sense in terms of the way they are thinking. Often, people outside that specific field like to see things more abstractly, perhaps sometimes losing needed precision. It takes someone with more insight (as you clearly have) to be able and willing to work at different levels of abstraction at once, and to relate the different levels coherently.

I'd be quick to agree also that what we are looking for, in the participants in interoperability exercises, is openness of mind to other perspectives. This doesn't seem to be a natural trait in everyone, shall we say :) And then, I'd guess you also agree that to benefit from that openness, the openminded people need to spend time with those others with different perspectives, to actually get the other one's picture. This needs a certain degree of basic communication skills, and perhaps benefits from an empathy-rich approach.

I would say that these can be seen as skills that can be learned or improved. One function that I would love to see as part of the "process" etc. is one for peer learning of these skills, and maybe some kind of peer-assessed accreditation process, to give people confidence that the people who engage in commons harmonization aren't wasting their or other people's time. Yes, that could look rather authoritarian, but I'm trying to emphasise that the authority is meant to be firmly in the hands of commoners, as it should be for any true commons.

How interesting it would be to take that kind of challenge on board! That is, if (and only if) the participants would want help in reaching some useful consensus, one could help them develop the requisite skills and attitudes. Note that this does not imply taking the standardization process itself out of their hands, or professionalising it, or centralising it. Rather, it would mean helping those at the grass roots to recognise and be confident how to manage the process well themselves.


Bob Haugen Wed 21 Jun 2017 8:46PM

to be able and willing to work at different levels of abstraction at once, and to relate the different levels coherently.

We'll see if we can do that or not. 'Twill be a challenge.


Bob Haugen Sat 24 Jun 2017 6:16PM

Here's another tidbit about what happens in the real life of a commons-oriented "standards" project: https://github.com/valueflows/valueflows/wiki/ValueFlows-spiral-apps

What I mean by "spiral apps" is that these projects are taking ideas and influences from VF into new experiences, and then they will bring back what they learn from those experiences, and they will improve VF. And then the next spiraling out from VF will be better.


Danyl Strype Fri 13 Oct 2017 3:49AM

Having such caught up with this thread after a period of spending very little time online, I wonder if we are all talking past each other to some degree? Most of us seem to be talking about technical standards as they relate to software inter-operation over the internet. In contrast, @asimong seems to be talking about defining social standards for creating a decentralized federation(s) of commons-orientated projects and organisations.

Insights from one domain can shed new light on problems in another, for example I've found the internet/ web a useful analogy for explaining anarchist theories of large-scale organisation. But we need to be very careful not to take analogies like this too literally. Talking about "standards" as if this term has one, universal meaning, can only lead to confusion.

The main benefit of a technical standard for inter-operation between software systems is that it allows that inter-operation to be trustless, rather than being based on a mesh of one-to-one or group-to-group trust relationships. My email server doesn't have to trust your email server, it just has to know how to send email to it, and how to receive replies. The main advantage is that it scales much more effectively. If I set up a new email server, I don't have to negotiate a one-to-one inter-operation agreement with each server that already exists, I only have to implement the standard (effectively).

Social systems are a different story. BlockChain-bugs are obsesses with building building trustless networks of cooperation between social systems. IMHO this is a totally wrong-headed goal, based on a failure to recognise fundamental differences between technical and social networks.

To illustrate why, let's imagine I invite 20 friends to a party at my house. I have a trust relationship with each of these friends, and I trust them to make sensible decisions about whether or not to ask me first if they want to invite more people. I act as the primary gatekeeper of who comes to my party, and I deputize my friends as secondary gatekeepers, who can make decision on the basis of an established relationship with me. A trustless social network could certainly be used to distribute party invites, for example a public-facing FarceBook event, and yes, this scales up much more effectively than my trust-based gatekeeper system. But you can see how this is not an advantage, when hundreds of people show up to my party, trash the place, and prevent me enjoying the companies of my trusted friends and a few of their trusted friends. Sensible social networks require relationships of trust in ways internet software networks do not.

To be clear, I'm not saying that defining standards for decentralized federations of commons projects is a bad idea. On the contrary, I can see huge potential benefits. But we need to be clear that the issues involved in developing standards and protocols for social cooperation are fundamentally different from those involved in technical standards. This might even go some way to explaining why @asimong found his attempts to commons-orientated work within the W3C or IETF so unsatisfying.


Greg Cassel Fri 13 Oct 2017 2:23PM

Talking about "standards" as if this term has one, universal meaning, can only lead to confusion.

Standard doesn't have one universal meaning-- no term really does-- but it is very generic, and flexibly useful (and used) in both technical and social contexts.

I agree that it's very important to distinguish technical standards from social (or cultural) standards. At times, conversations will need to focus upon one of those specialized concepts. With that in mind, it would be fine by me if someone tries to create a conversation in which standard implies technical standard. It would be problematic for me, however, if anyone tried to "universally" exclude people from using the term standard to describe social or cultural distinctions.

For example, social guidelines and rules are types of standard. FWIW, I'm building formal language based on that in Modular Organization Terminology.

@strypey I appreciate your deep consideration of concepts here, and your efforts to improve the effectiveness & efficiency of discussion within this limited format!


Danyl Strype Thu 9 Nov 2017 7:47AM

It would be problematic for me, however, if anyone tried to "universally" exclude people from using the term standard to describe social or cultural distinctions.

For sure. As I said,

Talking about "standards" as if this term has one, universal meaning, can only lead to confusion.

I'm open to any usage, as long as everyone in the room understands the term can have several meanings, and we are all on the same page about which one is in play in the current discussion.


Simon Grant Fri 10 Nov 2017 8:34PM

Very nice question, thank you @strypey . (Though I admit to being a semi-paid-up tech standards geek as well.) Not sure how to start answering, or if this will do to start with, but I'm drawn first to thinking of competence standards.

There are very many occupational standards of skill / competence / competency etc. I don't know any that exactly fit what I envisage, but I'm thinking of ones particularly for some soft skills. I'd love to see standards in listening; in being open-minded; in respect (including awareness of power or rank differentials and how not to abuse them); in consensus-building skills, and competence in managing consensus-oriented decision-making processes. Etc. Those are just the ones that come to mind on the spur of the moment. If we had sets of these, frameworks if you like, we could set expectations, requirements, guidelines for participants in collaborative ventures, and higher standards for leaders in collaboration. Instead of people getting entrenched in competitive and oppositional plays, they could use the time and energy they have to get much further, and with much broader impact.

I think not only of collaborative work processes, but also of the distributed care in organisations that I see currently as the hallmark of Enspiral, as spoken to particularly by @richarddbartlett -- I've heard him now on several occasions make the very convincing case that caring is work, and that the work of care needs to be distributed with care.

We could go further (it's amazing how far CEN or ISO standards venture, by the way) to having a go at defining standards for caring organisations, or caring online forums, in the sense of, perhaps, dealing with conflict, restorative justice, non-violence culture, including dealing for well-intentioned transgressors in restorative ways that bring them back in rather than exclude them permanently.

Part of the value in having these standards is to enable freedom of movement around the commons. If we could have reasonable confidence that someone who is trustworthy in one commons is likely to be trustworthy in another, because their two trust systems, though diverse they may be, are both in line with a common standard, that would make integration into a new group much easier. And think, here: I'm trying hard to wave positively at the ideal of diversity, of pluralism, of variety in local culture, with great richness in local differences, while having the standards only in the essentials or fundamentals; and that what constitute those essentials needs to be very clearly a commons, managed by commoners. The standards themselves constitute a vital knowledge commons.

Hope I haven't rambled too much. It's not easy to concisely describe concepts that are not mainstream. If anyone can do a tl;dr then be my guest!


Bob Haugen Fri 13 Oct 2017 11:15AM

In ValueFlows (for example) we are not trying to develop standards for trustless organizations, but more like what @gregorycassel calls Agreement-based organizations, where the people make the decisions, and their systems know how to talk to each other about them.


Danyl Strype Fri 10 Nov 2017 2:42AM

I'd like to ground this discussion somewhat, and perhaps make it more relevant to those in the room who are not tech standards geeks like me, by inviting @asimong (and others) to describe a practical situation in which a common social standard would aid collaboration between two commons projects. If we can get some clarity on the problems we're trying to solve, we're at least 50% of the way to workable solutions.


Bob Haugen Fri 10 Nov 2017 1:29PM

Here are two practical situations where a common economic-resource-flow (not purely social) standard would aid collaboration:

*Local food systems: *

We have around us a bunch of cooperative (and if not legal cooperatives are at least friendly to the co-ops) food organizations that could be interconnected into more of a local food system. They include CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture farms) and other friendly farms, food distribution networks, food buying clubs, retail food co-ops, restaurants, and institutions like schools and hospitals.

Mutual Aid Networks:
* Map of HUMANs around the world
* Potential resource flow diagram for the Madison WI network

Both of those situations are also practical in the sense that we know the people and are working with many of them. And I'm in touch with similar food system situations in other places.


Bob Haugen Fri 10 Nov 2017 1:31PM

P.S. here's a group that is already creating a food system standard: http://datafoodconsortium.org/blog/building-a-common-language-our-semantic-business-concepts-model


Danyl Strype Mon 9 Apr 2018 2:22PM

Folks following this thread may be interested in reading about the Token Commons Foundation, a project to develop standards around crypto-currencies as a commons (not a free-for-all market). One goal of this work is to address compliance with regulations like the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation):

"By providing selective interoperability with existing global regulatory frameworks, the Commons Protocol can limit the liability of legacy enterprises and governments to participate."


Simon Grant Tue 4 Sep 2018 11:53AM

Some of us have had a rough ride recently regarding standards of behaviour and communication on social media. I wondered if anyone would like to revisit this thread, with an eye on that topical issue? How can we go about setting ourselves standards for communicative behaviour? How can we monitor those? What kinds of considerations do we need to take into account, to create a long-term consensus on standards of interpersonal relationships?

I see these questions as vital to the commons in two ways. First, we need them in order to be able to constitute an effective self-governing system, without resorting to violence. Second, how do we create and manage such standards themselves as intellectual commons?


Sophie Varlow Tue 4 Sep 2018 2:24PM

Hi Simon! Good to see you here.
I'm always interested in this topic, and happy to chat here about it or offline.


Francisco Santos Wed 5 Sep 2018 11:34AM

Hello everyone. If anyone is interesting in working on this topic for digital commons, I am very happy to either discuss the topic or have the person join the team. Us at WeOU (WeOU.Org) are involved in a couple of "ecosystem" initiatives which, as I see it, would benefit greatly from developing standards. Also, I take standards as defining points for the evolution of technology. We are hopeful we can do it for the better with the right stakeholders.
Our new initiative is on energy and blockchain. Let me know if you are happy to contribute, or if it would make sense to share more materials here.


Bob Haugen Wed 5 Sep 2018 12:00PM

@0042 thanks for the link and info. We're working on a vocabulary for economic networks that might do you some good. Or not. See https://www.valueflo.ws/

It's not quite finished but is now being used in a few projects.

The way we work is we take use cases or examples and do a treatment of that use case using the vocabulary to see if it fits, or if the vocab might need some changes, or maybe it doesn't fit at all.

You can pop in here if you want: https://gitter.im/valueflows/welcome

Or just raise an issue here: https://github.com/valueflows/valueflows/issues


Simon Grant Wed 5 Sep 2018 12:26PM

Hi Francisco @0042 good to see you here. I wasn't clear whether you are interested in standards and interoperability for energy and blockchain (in which case what @bobhaugen recommends is likely to be a good bet) or standards for interpersonal behaviour and communication, which is where I am seeking collaborators right now, or both?


Francisco Santos Wed 5 Sep 2018 12:43PM

@bobhaugen , ValueFlows seems phenomenal. Honestly, I need much more time to explore it properly. I understand, however, that it can be of good use for WeOU as an organisation as we have been hoping on tokenizing our contribuitions. Will there be any software or practical tools coming out of it?

@asimong , I am more interested in technical standards as facilitators of cooperation amongst different software projects. These would in principle, both be able to leverage emerging innovations for hopefully more positive outcomes in the development of the technology or system (as these same projects would have similar core values) as well as foster cooperation and the emergence of alternative niches and regimes.
Whilst working procedures in relation to the development of technical standards could very much relate to interpersonal behaviour and communication, I have to admit it is not a topic I have been much focused on. We are having our own internal debate at the moment, though.


Bob Haugen Wed 5 Sep 2018 12:50PM

Will there be any software or practical tools coming out of it?

Now in use in https://docs.opencoopecosystem.net/ in FairCoop and in https://learndeep.org/ for a highschool fablab network.
https://vientos.coop/ was developed by a participant in ValueFlows but I don't know how much of the vocab they used.
I'm speccing out a flock of apps for decentralized architectures here: https://github.com/valueflows/vf-apps
That might be another good place to connect by raising an issue in one of the vf-apps repos.


Bob Haugen Wed 5 Sep 2018 1:10PM

There's also an ISO group working up a blockchain standard that will be based on REA which is also one of the sources for ValueFlows. But I have not seen any publications and only get hints of news, so I think they are really working on it, but have no direct evidence other than participants saying so in emails.


Francisco Santos Wed 5 Sep 2018 1:43PM

This is really impressive, Bob. Thank you for sharing. I'll be sharing it back to the group. How did it all get pulled together? People contributing across the web or did you have some sort of core platform? As cool and useful as it is, I am rather interested in the process of achieving such coordination and cooperation across platforms.


Bob Haugen Wed 5 Sep 2018 2:56PM

It's a long story. Started in the Open App Ecosystem Loomio group a few years ago. https://www.loomio.org/g/exAKrBUp/open-app-ecosystem

A bunch of people from different projects and groups: Enspiral, Sensorica, TransforMaps, Hackers4Peace, the Personal Profile project, and Communecter, started to talk about flocks of apps for organizations that would all work together, and pretty soon the idea of a vocabulary came up, which started the ValueFlows project.

It has always been people who work on different projects to try out the ideas and then come back and summarize it all in VF. So it's always had this spiral of practical work and then vocab development.


Bob Haugen Wed 5 Sep 2018 2:58PM

It's also developed unevenly in ebbs and flows of action. Pretty spotty the last year, when most of the people were busy with their separate projects.


Simon Grant Wed 5 Sep 2018 12:30PM

In case it is of interest, as a start to considering principles for interpersonal relationships, which might provide some grounding for standards, I've tried adapting the ICA co-operative values and principles, as Adapting the ICA co-operative values and principles for interpersonal relationships. Might at least be a stimulus for discussion?


Simon Grant Fri 7 Sep 2018 8:31AM

Browsing around this again, and following e-mail exchange with @miguelnovik my attention fell on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_9000#ISO_9000_series_Quality_Management_Principles
Now interested by the fact there are 7 principles here and in ICA, and wondering if I can adapt these ISO quality principles to interpersonal relationships as well?


mike_hales Sat 8 Sep 2018 8:39AM

@asimong I haven't followed this thread but (designer, ex-engineer, ex-supply chain action-researcher) I recognise the value of the discussion around standards. However, it beats me why anybody would think that a set of principles for 'quality', developed by engineers and supply-chain managers as part of control and coordination culture in corporate-competitive organisations, would have anything much to do with quality as something apprehended by and sought by persons in their generative and nurturing relationships with each other and the world, or with ethical frames. Different discourse, different ends. I'm not saying, don't check out the TQM principles - any more than I would say to members of Enspiral, say, don't cherry-pick the working principles of agile development. But treat them as a mere tech/operational subset of things that commoners must engage with in the world of emotional, aesthetic and mutualist/empathic action?