Sat 16 Sep 2023 2:58PM

Federated open source tools for community groups

OS Oli SB Public Seen by 207

Seeking feedback and collaborators


Oli SB Sat 16 Sep 2023 3:01PM

Hi All,

I've started a working doc to explore the topic of 'Federated open source tools for community groups' and would love your thoughts and feedback...

  • Is the idea viable?

  • How could it be improved?

In cooperation!



Yasuaki Kudo Sun 17 Sep 2023 5:23AM

@Oli SB Yes I think it is possible to have such systems and we should馃槃

I mentioned similar ideas numerous times in chat rooms of patio.ica.coop as well. I pointed out the need to find similar efforts (your post, for example!), establishing protocols or specifications for such systems, as well as starting with simple systems or components that can be composed later.

Springs and streams become rivers and they make canyons - the basic principle is the water pulled by gravity. We need this same principle mapped over what we are trying to do馃槃


Yasuaki Kudo Sun 17 Sep 2023 12:21PM

Also I think there is a huge potential demand for zero-middleman, zero-cost contractor matching system. For example, I have talked to many construction men in my neighborhood and they said they would love to serve the customers directly rather than through the primary contractors.

I think one viable way would be to have everyone - contractors, customers and system maintainers as all members of the same cooperative.

The key is to create a cohesive organization without anyone being or behaving like, or having any undertone of being "bosses".

This I think goes with the proposal here of a federated system.


Rob Visser Sun 17 Sep 2023 1:34PM

@Oli SB Interesting idea. It reminds me of something that might come quite near to it in its functions. Local communities in the Netherlands started to build a platform attending to the needs of civic initiatives. It a cooperative of end users commissioning app builders. It is not open source or federated though, nevertheless well aligned with the wishes of the members/end users. Here is a machine translated version to the site informing about the application. It might be an interesting example: https://gebiedonline-nl.translate.goog/ons-platform?_x_tr_sl=nl&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=nl&_x_tr_pto=wapp


mike_hales Sun 17 Sep 2023 7:09PM

Right now i haven鈥檛 headspace to be involved in an ongoing process of protocolling and specifying - and I never use a Google login, so couldn鈥檛 comment or sign up in your doc @Oli SB . Here鈥檚 three thoughts:

  1. It鈥檚 important to escape from the situation in which peer-to-peer degenerates into Admin-to-Admin. So the multi-member criterion per instance is a good one. Also simple sysadmin across multiple instances is good.

  2. Regarding admin skill requirement, wordpress as a standard might be ok? Can鈥檛 say, I don鈥檛 know wordpress. Perhaps distinguish between (tech) admin of the instance on the server, (community) admin of membership of the community, and admin of the UI/UX of the platform (which may mostly be about the plugin and platform configuration?). There鈥檚 also the moderation role too, of course. I am a (community) admin in an instance of Discourse, and much of what is offered to admins as options (for UI/UX, for example) is definitely over my head and beyond my pay grade (plugins, parameters, formats). So this is not a trivial distinction. The typical assumption seems to be that a (community) admin has (tech) admin-type skills and headspace. Like i say, i don鈥檛 know where Wordpress falls on this criterion. i imagine it may be a bit like Discourse - too geeky for someone more interested in content and UX than in code. I鈥檓 also admin of a wiki in Outline, and that鈥檚 not difficult. But the UI/UX config options are very limited, and community admin is mostly about membership and write-access. Anyway, some thought is needed, regarding what 鈥榓n admin鈥 does. And admin of plugins and UX does need to be radically simple? Certainly, the very popular workhorse app, Discourse, doesn鈥檛 meet this criterion. But I think sysadmins love it for some reason not visible to me.

  3. is there nothing in development in the ActivityPub sphere that might be a halfway there? Nothing that the @bonfire crew are working on?


Ivana Sun 17 Sep 2023 8:07PM

Hi all. Nice one, @Oli SB , thanks for taking the initiative. What I find with the groups is usually they are used for posting links to twitter, or newspaper articles or youtube videos.. At least the ones that I frequent seem to be for that, mainly.

My current interest in analysis of what exists is in establishing whether an existing platform could be adapted to serve as a CrowdEverything platform. This would be a kind of offers and needs platform, for people who want to 'do something' for the planet. My interest is specifically for that, although should a platform exist, it can probably be used for many other purposes too.

Crowd everything platform would be able to cater for Crowdsourcing physical items that somebody needs (material, furniture etc), Crowdsolving problems that somebody has, Sharing Knowledge, Crowddoing - helping somebody do something and it should also cater for Crowdfunding .. In a word - CrowdEverything. This would be for people who feel they want to do something, but cannot get a grant or bankloan and don't have a circle of friends or personal savings that can lift their idea up into the reality. People could offer their skills, knowledge, physical items, time, expertise, sponsorship, space, services etc... to those who need them.

To establish what exists is the first step, as you rightly say. We know that there are platforms that do only crowdfunding. Or they do only crowdsourcing. Or they do only crowddoing, or crowdsolving. But none offer everything (or at least none that I saw).

If a federated platform did exist, all those Crowd... things could become its plugins. And there could be many other plugins for it too...

So... if this project happens, then I would be willing to invest some time, energy and skills and experience that I have to help it along.


Yasuaki Kudo Mon 18 Sep 2023 1:22AM

If we take a minimalist and federalist approach, let me imagine something...

  • We have our FederalSystemX (FSX 馃槄) GitHub source code repository

  • There is VSCode devcontainer for FSX so anyone can immediately participate in development no matter which OS, in exactly the same environment

  • Implementations for protocols and specifications can be tested with overall test command from the terminal

  • Deprecated API usage will be flagged so community will help the last server using it to upgrade to the current version

  • Experimental API will be flagged as such and it can stop working without notice

  • Core services will include:

    Login/Logout Data Storagre

  • Privacy and Security Protection will be at bare minimum or already partially compromised 馃槄at least initially. Users will be told in advance

  • The API will be the central as we add new features and steer the software development.

  • Non-API matters, such as graphical user interface, can be more relaxed and rapid experiments can be made

  • Syncing between FSX nodes can be made and even of one FSX node dies, the service can be immediately resumed by another FSX node


Oli SB Mon 18 Sep 2023 10:31AM

@Rob Visser This is fascinating - thank you very much for the link. They have clearly been working on this for a long time and have huge experience and seemingly a very useful product... PLUS a working business model for a very viable co-op! Amazing...

It looks like a very similar business model to the way meet.coop started out, with a variable annual membership fee (currently $1000) for Members to get access to as many of the tools as they want/need... Plus, they're keen to develop for users additional needs.

Imagine if it was open source and federated too! I will try to make contact with them and see if that is something which they might be open to.... TBC


Ivana Mon 18 Sep 2023 11:06AM

Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to ask the groups mentioned in Matthew's doc what they need/want/dream of in terms of tech solutions? Or what problems do they have and could any of those problems be solved by a nice federated open source tools...

It can happen that a good tool is developed in the end, but (almost) nobody uses it as they stick to telegram, for example, because they are used to it and it's too complicated to change the tool used, as all their contacts are there too, etc...


Yasuaki Kudo Mon 18 Sep 2023 1:32PM

If I look at my own town, the roads are already laid, the train line is there, there is no free-for-all public posting wall so that we can start a new hobby group and tell everyone about it. It is very difficult to change anything.

And the if you go to the digital world, similar restrictions are in place - we are stuck with whatever that's available.

So one of the angles that I am looking at is, to have a tool that is designed to be reshaped into whatever the form as people see fit.

The grand design, if you will, is to allow redesign, in tandem with the growing community of the tool馃槃

Often we get notice on our "app" saying bla-blah-terms of use has changed - just accept it or don't use it anymore.

With the community oriented software, that will never happen and instead, people will be reminded to participate in the next meeting, suggest or try to add experimental features by yourself, etc馃槃

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