Commons transition: what about the IT infrastructure?
there's a great deal of debate in the P2P community about the ways the commons transition will take shape in fields as diverse as energy production, farming, housing, industrial production and so on. Almost all proposed solutions take the IT ifrastructure as a given: the internet is assumed to always be there for us to use, no matter what. This seems to me like a naive and dangerous assumption, as it greatly downplays the importance of ISPs (which are private companies) as both gateways and gatekeepers of our access to the internet. There are many ways both governments and private institutions could get in the way of the commons transition by disrupting our communication channels.
Has this been debated here before? Are there any resources/articles/papers around this problem I should be aware of?
Graham Thu 23 Feb 2017 11:40AM
what's your blog address Nicolas? I'd be interested to see how running it off a Pi impacts performance. Also you'll need to be on a connection with a decent upload speed.
Graham Thu 23 Feb 2017 11:39AM
Community ownership of infrastructure is surely a key piece of the jigsaw. Initiatives like guifi.net and b4rn.org.uk are part of the solution, and put users in control of more of the supply chain, but things like these are a drop in the ocean currently. The big internet pipes are I think largely under corporate control, but I would hope there is also strong governmental input into these assets given their strategic importance. Interesting to note that major peering points (where the big pipes exchange traffic) are often run as not-for-profit mutuals (e.g. https://www.linx.net) and commercially focused exchanges are often much less successful. The cooperative model works! See also http://bdx.coop and http://shaunfensom.com
Nicolas Stampf Thu 23 Feb 2017 11:57AM
http://blog.appreciatingsystems.com/. I have a poor DSL connection, but I find it enough for a blog (and descending email later or to upload files I find at work onto my personal cloud instance - also on the Pi).
The latency is due to the DSL line, not the Pi, really. When I browse the Pi from home, it's just... fast.
Graham Thu 23 Feb 2017 12:07PM
That's not bad at all. I tried running Wordpress on a first generation Pi and it is painful. This looks much more useful. As an aside I'm seeing the seeing three errors on your home page:
404 error with http://blog.appreciatingsystems.com/resources/images/article_assets/2016/08/R1609C_ALMQUIST_VALUEPYRAMID-850x1169.png
400 error with
and a JS error with http://blog.appreciatingsystems.com/wp-content/plugins/googlecards/js/googleCards.min.js?ver=4.7.2
Nicolas Stampf Thu 23 Feb 2017 3:58PM
well, I have not migrated all the DNS entries, and some might still be pointing to the US provider. Until then, errors are expected :)
But really, the Raspberry Pi3 is really powerful (even when connected to a TV with a keyboard and graphic interface, it's usuable even for Office work (with Libre Office for instance). It's a bit slow but in an energetic degrowth posture, it's acceptable for me. (It's headless for now, running below my home desk, slurping only 2W at most).
My future work is to have it run out of a solar powered battery (I have one for a play house for the kids in the garden, with LED lights, which isn't used, and the battery has USB power outputs :)
Jake Hansen Fri 24 Feb 2017 7:29PM
There is also a grassroots initiative here in The Netherlads, in the city of Leiden: https://www.wirelessleiden.nl/en
Graham Wed 1 Mar 2017 11:00AM
The Dutch project in Neunen (http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Nuenen.html) going back to 2008-ish was inspirational for many in the UK when looking at community owned solutions. these types of project are the way to go in terms of creating infrastructure under community control between home/office and a local hub/exchange. The bdx.coop approach can be used to create new digital exchanges (a currently under-considered element in the network where as I see it there is a lot of scope for cooperative ownership/control). The much bigger challenge is the backhaul – the core fibre infrastructure that connects these exchanges together and provides the central transit services that we all rely on. There's nothing to stop communities (of place and/or interest) from building their own infrastructure (other than the financial barriers and the vested corporate and political interests, of course).
In terms of building a knowledge base, don't start from scratch. http://www.beyondbroadband.coop was built by INCA (inca.coop) a few years ago. Somewhat out of date now, there's still a lot of good information there, albeit largely UK-specific (disclosure: Im part of the INCA team). Shaun Fensom (referenced earlier in this thread) and others have been working on these issues for many years. Interested parties should talk to them and learn from their work before duplicating that effort.
Simon Grant Wed 1 Mar 2017 11:24AM
Brilliant, thanks @graham2 just the kind of information I was hoping for. Totally agree about not duplicating effort.
If there is a resource that is out of date, can we either get access to update it, or clone it and build on that?
Graham Wed 1 Mar 2017 2:42PM
The http://www.beyondbroadband.coop site has really been mothballed now by INCA. Only last week we were talking about whether to take it offline altogether. However, if there was a committed group willing to take it on, bring it up to date and nurture it, I'm sure the INCA team would be very open to talks about how we could make it available.
The site is built in Drupal 6, and as originally established was designed to act like a wiki, where a community of interested users could contribute to the knowledgebase.
Josef Davies-Coates Wed 1 Mar 2017 5:37PM
if there was a committed group willing to take it on, bring it up to date and nurture it, I'm sure the INCA team would be very open to talks about how we could make it available.
Maybe one for CoTech?
I had a very quick look at the site and immediately though "wtf are 'NGA projects'?"
Michele Kipiel Mon 27 Feb 2017 2:35PM
Thank you all for sharing your knowledge on this topic! I'll look up all the shared resources and try to figure out what's the status-quo regarding commons-based IT infrastructure, which in my opinion is a vital topic for the movement.
Simon Grant Mon 27 Feb 2017 3:03PM
The vision of a complete user-owned and co-op run infrastructure is beautiful to think about!
In case anyone is interested more in https://b4rn.org.uk/ I have personal experience of helping build the network, and this message is sent through them!
Michele Kipiel Tue 28 Feb 2017 8:38AM
that's exaclty what I have in mind: co-op infrastructure to serve as the IT backbone of the commons transition. Are there any legal frameworks available for this kind of co-op ?
Simon Grant Tue 28 Feb 2017 9:44AM
For the official position of B4RN, see https://b4rn.org.uk/about-us/ as you see in the UK it's a community benefit society, but I haven't looked deeply into the legal framework. What I know more about is the practical aspect of building the physical network.
Danyl Strype Wed 1 Mar 2017 1:01AM
The big issue threatening non-corporate use of the internet at present is the person Trump has put in charge of the US FCC, who is busy undoing a lot of the good work his Obama appointed predecessor did towards protecting net neutrality. Especially important is the classification of broadband as a public utility, like water, electricity, or telephone, which is now under threat in the US.
Of course, if all the critical internet infrastructure around the world was owned by for-benefit cooperative bodies, rather than for-profit corporations, the role of regulators like the FCC would likely be much less important.
Nicolas Stampf Wed 1 Mar 2017 7:58AM
Then maybe we should rely less on government controlled (in one way or the other) big infrastructures, and more on ourselves and commons-managed ones.
I'd say that for everything not natural (ie, humanly built) we should build the comm-unity at the same time of building the commons.
Simon Carter Wed 1 Mar 2017 8:33AM
So hypothetically, if someone had the means to build a big on-line community, how might that community go about building it's own IT infrastructure?
Simon Grant Wed 1 Mar 2017 10:25AM
Great reply from @nicolasstampf -- to add to that, I'd say, let's start by listing all the components (a wiki would be great for doing this, then we can have a tree-structured breakdown of what is needed) and look at each component in turn. We need to know what the easier parts are, and the harder parts, then we can take forward the easier parts, and make a start on thinking creatively about the more difficult parts.
Let's investigate: has anyone started this kind of wiki-style planning resource? Fragmentation would be really unhelpful.
Nicolas Stampf Wed 1 Mar 2017 10:11AM
I'd say that it should be in a P2P way ? Either small pieces connected to small pieces.
However it there only way is a big one, then, although difficult, it should be build with all peer stakeholders.
Now, putting optical fiber cables down the ocean is another problem (or launching a telecommunication satellite), but maybe there are other ways?
If all that's left is turning big corporate corporations in charge of the internet biggest infrastructure into cooperatives, then it means we've achieved a lot IMHO.
Meanwhile, I'd think the best way is a middle one: pursue both path of pushing for more commoning and building/Rebuilding commons from the ground up where transforation of private assets into commons is too difficult and slow.
"Don't fight a broken system, create a new one and let the old die" (Buckminster Fuller is I recall correctly). If people start to use a commons instead of a capitalistic resource, then it's a form of boycot and non-violent action, then the capitalistic enterprise might consider switching gear (after all, if its stakeholders and employees want to survive, it would turn out as a "best then nothing" alternative).
Unlimited growth won't last long, so employees will come to other form of economy sooner or later. The sooner we build alternative, the more prepared they (we !) will be.
Nicolas Stampf Wed 1 Mar 2017 12:28PM
Maybe the P2P Foundation wiki has a place to collate the dispersed information for a starter? @michelbauwens1 might know an entry point ? Or a place where this work (or similar) happens already?
Nicolas Stampf Wed 1 Mar 2017 12:30PM
http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Technology looks promising, including section 8.1 (though a bit short in content IMHO)
Simon Grant Wed 1 Mar 2017 3:13PM
or perhaps even more focused on the topic, https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastructure which leads also to https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Alternative_Internet_Projects
Michel Bauwens Wed 1 Mar 2017 2:31PM
You mean basic info about the p2p and the p2p foundation ?
Nicolas Stampf Wed 1 Mar 2017 2:57PM
@michelbauwens1 : we are looking for a place to gather links to initiatives aimed at building IT commons, and maybe co-organized in order to further grow relations between those initiatives (ultimate non-realistic goal: build an alternative Internet infrastructure ;)
@Others: did I summarize properly?
Simon Grant Wed 1 Mar 2017 3:10PM
@nicolasstampf yes that is certainly one aspect of our vision! I would enjoy other reflections on what we are trying to do. My personal perspective is that it would be a good start to build a coherent knowledge commons -- e.g. on a wiki -- where we can separate and relate all the various components of an IT infrastructure, and then (a) where we already have workable commons solutions, disseminate the knowledge and encourage their implementation; (b) where we don't, bring that up in our awareness so that we can apply our creativity to thinking through and experimenting.
Simon Carter Wed 1 Mar 2017 3:39PM
Obviously we all pay a fortune for our internet connection collectively. All we need do is redirect that spend, buy what we need, & run it as a public utility. . . . . simple ,. . . . . maybe it is. Frankly, that's all we need to do with anything that is currently controlled for profit. I'm not sure why we put up with it.
Simon Grant Wed 1 Mar 2017 4:17PM
Actually, B4RN https://b4rn.org.uk/about-us/ is not particularly cheaper than other providers. Every household pays £30 per month, for a very fast service (upload particularly is awesome, as the bandwidth is symmetric). Very few people do this, but it means that it is feasible to run a web server from home, which few other services make practical. That's the real peer potential of an arrangement like ours.
The income stream goes to (a) the admin and technical team (b) will be towards paying off investors, then in the long run (c) community benefit. Barry Forde has often said that when the initial investment is paid off, he hopes we will continue paying our £30 per month, with the surplus going to benefit the community. There may be an alternative option to reduce the cost.
Graham Wed 1 Mar 2017 4:09PM
Well I guess you answer your own question @simoncarter - we buy rather than build because it is easier that way, even if it costs us more in the long run.
Graham Wed 1 Mar 2017 4:24PM
For the performance that you get, the price you pay for the B4RN service is pretty keen I'd say. Take a look at the stats a thttp://www.thinkbroadband.com, which put B4RN customers right up there as one of the three top performing services in terms of download/upload speed - not bad at all for a very rural connection. Plus with the fibre to the premises infrastructure that you've built up there, you have plenty of capacity to increase that performance over time, subject to backhaul.
Chris Croome (Webarchitects Co-operative) Wed 1 Mar 2017 9:28PM
This is slightly off the topic of a commons based ISP but there have been some early discussions between people in CoTech regarding a future Co-op Cloud and Webarchitects is soon going to be setting up a GitLab CE site for co-operators at git.coop and I came here following this thread being mentioned on the Autonomous Infrastructure thread on the Co-operative Technologists Loomio group.
Danyl Strype Thu 2 Mar 2017 1:25AM
I think avoiding reinvention of the wheel is essential, and learning from the successes and failures of cooperative network projects to date. The Free Network Foundation comes to mind as one which seemed really promising but seems to have gone dormant. I started a list of similar network projects on the Disintermedia wiki, but as with a lot of the content there, I intend to merge this into the P2PF wiki.
@graham2 if the beyondbroadband.cooop site is out-of-date (both the content and the infostructure - Drupal 6 is no longer supported), maybe the content could also be merged into relevant/ new articles ont he P2PF wiki?
Graham Thu 2 Mar 2017 10:15AM
As far as I recall the content is CC-BY-SA so as long as those terms are complied with, content can be re-used.
As I said earlier, if people want to make use of that asset, then I'm sure INCA would be open to an approach, and I'm happy to act as the front door for that approach. We could then potentially provide a login to that site or a database dump to facilitate content migration.
Michel Bauwens Thu 2 Mar 2017 5:17AM
do have a look already at http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastrucrure, which contains links to initiatives like the Collaborative Tech Alliance, indie web, the counter-anti-disintermedation group and others
Bob Haugen Thu 2 Mar 2017 12:22PM
typo alert: https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastructure
(also mentioned upthread)
Greg Cassel Thu 2 Mar 2017 2:43PM
As I recall, Nethood co-founder Panayotis Antoniadis has a particular focus on developing DIY networking community and capacity. So, I think Nethood is a highly relevant information resource.
I've written a short free digital book on how P2P digital networking can and IMO should work. However, that book's ideas (or similar ideas) could only be fully realized through the development of low-cost and DIY networking infrastructure, per projects like Nethood.
Michele Kipiel Mon 6 Mar 2017 11:05AM
Crazy (stupid?) question: how can communities with interests so different and facing such diverse challenges be effectively networked into one coherent organism? What are the tools that could be used to achieve that? The common movement lacks banks, which are a tool to divert unused financial assets to where they are more needed, and defies the exogenous motivation mechanism (Benkler, 2006) which in turn is used to divert unused labor. Are there ways we can outgrow the extremely local scope of these projects? Is there a way we could create a true network of networks which could sidestep and then overcome the current ISP based model?
Bob Haugen Mon 6 Mar 2017 12:05PM
Good question! Several projects from various parts of the world are now converging in one combined software project. Here's the intro:
That does not make them a real economic network of networks yet, but it's a step on the way.
I'm also hearing talk in a couple of projects about starting a bank or a cooperative credit union.
Danyl Strype Tue 7 Mar 2017 7:46AM
The simple answer is "standards and protocols". The internet is made up of billions of people, organisations, and moving parts, "effectively networked into one coherent organism" through the standardization of the internet protocols (TCP/IP), web standards (HTTP/ HTML), and so on.
"Is there a way we could create a true network of networks which could sidestep and then overcome the current ISP based model?"
The short version:
I think this has to be an emergent process, although having bodies that work towards identifying what interoperation requires and filling in any missing pieces would likely help (the Free Network Foundation attempted this but seems to have gone dormant around the end of 2014).
The longer version:
I think we can learn from internet history here. What became the internet emerged from a number of competing networks, each established by different network developers, funded by different organisations, for different reasons. Ultimately, the reason TCP/IP and other internet protocols became the standards is that the largest number of network nodes implemented them, but the process of clarifying how protocols work and deciding which ones to use was helped along by the activities of standards bodies like the Internet Engineering TaskForce.
Simon Grant Tue 7 Mar 2017 9:20AM
Very much agree with you, @strypey on the essential nature of standards and protocols. Personally, I hope that we can (eventually) do better than developing many standards, letting them "compete" in a "market" and then going with the "winner". Though that may be effective enough in the long run, it strikes me as very wasteful of time, effort, energy and good will.
Equally, I have no trust in standards imposed by a centralised body run hierarchically.
What I'm hoping and looking for is some third way, by which we can apply a commons governance approach to commoners developing the standards in collaboration, resulting in solidarity.
Michele Kipiel Wed 8 Mar 2017 9:40AM
I see your point, and I very much agree with you on the protocols and standards part. What bugs me though, is not the technical aspect of the question, but rather the legal and economic ones. Maybe it's just me, but the sheer scale of the economic, legal and social hurdles to overcome if one wanted to kickstart a "people run ISP" is frightening, to put it mildly (at least in Italy, where achieving even the smallest goal means facing countless levels of stiff bureaucracy). We have the standards and the protocols, but getting from users to owners of the IT infrastructure takes more than just plugging the right cable into the right socket, if so I might say.
Danyl Strype Wed 15 Mar 2017 2:21AM
Again, I stress looking at the history of how things actually happen in practice, rather than imposing models from pure theory. In practice, the formalization of internet and web standards has been neither blindly competitive nor hierarchical. Instead, groups of engineers come together in voluntary standards bodies and propose protocols based on existing technology. Where more than one protocol is in use, the two are used in parallel until either one emerges as the most effective and is universally adopted ("de facto standard" eg BitTorrent for P2P file-sharing), or, consensus is reached by engineers working through a standards body like the IETF or W3C that one of the protocols is technically superior and should become standard practice (a formal standard eg XMPP for instant messaging and presence). Although corporations have always tried to get their own protocols, file formats etc to become de facto standards (eg MS Office document formats), or pushed them through standards bodies (eg the EME crippleware Google, Netflix and others want to insert into the HTML5 standard), they have had limited success, and the "third way" you hint at is the way things have traditionally been done in internet engineering.
Simon Grant Mon 20 Mar 2017 1:35PM
Thanks, @strypey, I like this as a useful contribution to widening the discussion about standards generally. One of the challenges is that (IMHO) there are too many standards bodies, and plenty of them are compromised in one way or another. If we standardised on a standardisation body -- indeed, if there was one that truly stood by commons principles -- we would save so much time, energy and good will, as well as making better standards, in my opinion. And that represents value, whichever way you look at it.
And how much more time and effort we would all save compared to the unstandardised, independent approaches to doing things?
I would guess that together, we have sufficient understanding, knowledge, skills, competence and experience to found an effective standards body for the whole global commons community. Perhaps we just need to make the "business" case, and crowdfund the minimal amount of resource that is needed to get started? Personally, the idea is close to my heart, so I'd be OK volunteering some time to start up. Great care at the start can save all kinds of difficulties later!
Any other takers? Or, more realistically, do you know of anyone else not here that would be interested?
Bob Haugen Mon 20 Mar 2017 2:21PM
At https://valueflo.ws/ we are working on a common vocabulary and protocols for solidarity/cooperative/mutual-coordination economic networks. We will probably try to run them through w3.org, but we're not quite done yet.
This is based on a lot of collaborative work with ISO, Sensorica, Fair Coop, Mutual Aid Networks, GoPacifia, and Vientos (and the collaborative work is not finished yet, either, and more collaborators may be engaging).
I have worked with several different standards orgs, and they all have problems, but are you sure we need to create a new one? And if so, how will it avoid the problems with the existing ones?
One of the problems with the existing ones is corporate agendas, but that's capitalism for you, and every "alternative" org I have ever worked with is populated by people who were enculturated by capitalism and have internalized the ideologies.
Simon Grant Tue 21 Mar 2017 12:03PM
Good questions, thank you Bob.
Yes, I do believe it is very worthwhile doing our best to create a new standards body, but a relatively low-profile (for the moment) and humble one to begin with. If it were to grow, it would be by grass-roots usefulness, not by top-down promotion.
I believe it is worth trying to avoid the problems that existing standards bodies have, not by trying to reform those bodies (they are remarkably resistant to reform) but by doing our best to create, from the beginning, a culture that acts immediately as a corrective to the capitalist values into which we have all been subject to enculturation -- or in simpler terms, which we have all grown up with. We could do this in either or both of two ways: to look at the imperfections of current bodies, and design a culture to correct those; or to look at our own core shared values, and to embed these in the culture, as well as the formal processes and practices, of the new body.
I see this as in some ways part of, and in other ways complementary to, the IT infrastructure. I'd say we need a critical but realist awareness of how the infrastructure works, and be ready to replace any parts that work against, or compromise, our values.
I am awkwardly aware, too, that the way I am writing, and the general way that these discussions proceed, does not itself, so far, tally with what I think our shared core values are. This is what I was saying with the Open 2017 people: there seems to me a tendency to overrepresent masculine-style structural and "fix-it" mentality, and to underrepresent a more feminine-style emphasis on personal care, needs, and well-being. To me, this kind of consideration is vital to co-create a more wholesome and healthy culture, along with the infrastructure.
I really don't know how to avoid this imbalance in the context of web-mediated discussion, but I would welcome any help offered.
Bob Haugen Tue 21 Mar 2017 12:47PM
I'll reply to the standards topic, not so much on the communication style topic, which would be a good discussion thread of its own.
I have no objection to a new standards body, but think it is still worth working with the existing standards orgs. Standards themselves are a development of capitalism, that is necessary for capitalism, but also deviates from capitalist logic, and is one of the seeds of a new system emerging from within the dying corpse.
We meet a lot of people doing standards work who understand where we are trying to go, and can go along with us, and help.
Moreover, somewhat to your point about communication styles, we will not escape from capitalist ideologies by setting up our own new organization. The people within will still have been stamped by the old system. Requires constant struggle, both with ourselves and with each other.
Simon Grant Tue 21 Mar 2017 1:38PM
I'm all in favour of some of us doing "what we can" with existing standards bodies, if that's what those of us like, or if that's where we feel we can make a positive difference.
Personally, I've tried it, I've "been there, done that" or if not done, at least seen being attempted, and (again, personally) I have tired of that. I would be greatly filled with renewed purpose were I to find some collaborators willing to work with me towards (at the same time as the other actions) the idea of how we could set up a new body.
"Escape" isn't the kind of word I would be working with. I'm all into the "constant struggle" -- yes -- but my intention is to build positive alternatives. The fact that we will still need constant struggle should not prevent us from trying to make the conditions more favourable.
I'm totally happy with you, Bob, or anyone else, preferring to work through existing organisations. I'm just asking to see if there are some of us who would prefer something different.
Bob Haugen Tue 21 Mar 2017 1:47PM
We are also doing something different (e.g. the Value Flows project is itself a standards org), and are very willing to collaborate with anybody else who wants to do something different. It's not either-or, it's both-and. (I won't be the person from VF working with W3C, but somebody who is already engaged there will do it. Same for ISO.)
Danyl Strype Fri 24 Mar 2017 4:51AM
TL;DR standards bodies are already part of a commons, they are participatory governance mechanisms for shared technical commons. To propose a new, commons-specific, standards body, is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of standards, what they are, and how they come about. All new work on future standards starts somewhere, often inside an organisation or group of organisations working on the bleeding edge of a new area of technology, but to be widely adopted, a new standard must be approved by a standards body that already has buy-in from a broad range of relevant actors.
@asimong there's a classic XKCD comic on standards proliferation that sums up the problem nicely. The same logic applies to the proliferation of standards bodies, and really any other case of reinventing the wheel. Let's keep in mind here we are talking about engineering standards. Such standards, and the bodies through which they are developed and formalized, have to do their best to be ideologically neutral, and focus on provable technical criteria, because the whole point of them is to coordinate activity across a the broadest possible cross-section of the actors who trying to implement a common (inter-operable) system.
This is easier to understand if we ground it in a specific real world example, so let's talk about the electricity system. Large scale use of mass-manufactured electronics, using electricity supplied by an inter-connected grid, requires all the electric engineers and designers who want to work on that inter-connected system to agree on standard ways of doing things (ie "standards") to make the system work, and to make it safe. Things like:
* the physical shape of electrical sockets
* the number of volts, amps, and ohms, used in the wiring of buildings, in local transmission, in long distance transmission
* the protocols by which power plants (whether coal burning, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal or otherwise) supply power to the grid
* the protocols by which long distance lines are stepped down to local transmission voltages at substations
* etc etc etc
There are a number of ways such standards could be decided:
* the corporatist way: standardization could be "left to the market", with all the companies involved in the electricity sector doing everything in their power to get their competitors to adopt their preferred ways of doing things, thus giving them a first-mover advantage. But this tends to result in competing systems that don't inter-operate for years or decades, resulting in uncertainty and inconvenience for both businesses and end users.
* the statist way: standards could be dictated by government, obliging any company operating in that government's jurisdiction to follow one set of standards. But this doesn't solve any problems involving inter-operation of systems across state borders, and government couldn't do a good job of it without doing extensive consultation with engineers and designers anyway.
* the commons way: non-governmental and non-commercial standards bodies are set up as independent organisations, inviting participation by engineers from as many different organisations as possible, who proceed towards consensus through discussions focused on measurable technical criteria (eg does it work? Is it safe? Is it efficient?). Once these cross-industry consultations reach consensus on a standard, most industry actors will implement it voluntarily, understanding that the benefits of inter-operability outweigh the those of sticking to their preferred way of doing things, and knowing that their engineers can continue to make their case in discussions on the next version of the standard, or a new standard that might one day displace it. However, governments may also make some parts of the standards compulsory in their jurisdiction for public safety reasons (eg standard voltage for household wiring and appliance to prevent house fires from non-standard voltages clashing).
One way to think of standards is as peace treaties between businesses competing in the same industry. Standards bodies play a role analogous to the role played by inter-state treaty bodies like he UN or the WTO. There would be very little point in group with a shared political-economic ideology sitting down and defining their own standards for electrical systems, because there's absolutely no reason for anyone outside their group to implement such standards. It would be a bit like all the Buddhists in anglophone countries sitting down together to negotiate treaties between their countries. In both cases, either they would be ignored, or if they came up with something useful, it would have to be run through the relevant standards bodies/ treaty organisations anyway before anyone outside their group would take it seriously.
(EDIT: added clarification that the commons route to standards is usually based on voluntary implementation)
Danyl Strype Fri 24 Mar 2017 10:21AM
BTW I'm not saying it's not worth gathering people in a new forum to discuss possible new standards (or new treaties), indeed nothing new would be possible if nobody did. What I am saying is that it would be a mistake to see this as something fundamentally new, rather than one of the traditional ways of participating in the standards process. I think this is an important topic so I have tweaked my comment here for a blog post.
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 11:35AM
Thanks, @strypey -- for the time being anyone can see my initial reply on your site (when moderated). I'd be delighted if you were to be able to join me to work out a consensus on a better way forward. I'll be hoping to put a more coherent and persuasive argument in favour of a new commons harmonization body in my own blog, and I'll flag that here when do it.
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:28PM
For ease of reference, here's what I replied to @strypey on his blog...
Great that you have opened up these issues further. I see your post here as a very useful summary of thinking to date.
I’m well aware of that well-known XKCD comic — I often quote it myself to people. What the cartoon characters failed to do was to get any kind of buy-in from the users of the many competing existing standards. So, naturally, they have no buy-in to their end product. If the same logic applies, then we need to take care to gain support for a new body before it starts using up a lot of time and energy.
I’m not sure we are talking about “engineering standards” quite that simply. Perhaps, sometimes, or often, we are talking about choice and combining of existing standards. I took a little time out this morning to look at IPv4 and IPv6. Nice little microcosm. Which would suit the long-term purposes of the commons better, as they are not mutually compatible? But, sure, as no doubt we all agree, it would be mad for us to try to invent a different version of IP.
Corporatist / statist / commons approaches. Yes, understood, good outline. How would you classify existing bodies on this dimension? ISO (and national member bodies)? W3C? IETF? or, to mention one more specialist one, IMS Global? There are tales of all these…
Yet, I wonder if your view of “the commons way” is, well, rather idealist? Sure, they should work that way, but do they actually work in a way that benefits the rest of the commons? The culture I have too often seen is not conducive to genuine, durable consensus that works for the commons. Thus, the need to build in processes, practices, and the related technology, that makes interacting in a commons-friendly way easier and more natural.
Your peace treaty analogy is nice. They have a mixed record. How do we prevent a re-run of Versailles? What about Yalta? (though that wasn’t exactly a peace treaty)
I hope to make several other new points in my blog post — not today ;) — as I hope to make a more thorough and convincing case for the creation of a new kind of body.
Your last point is sound — we’re not talking about something radically new, but rather a revitalisation of an ideal that has gone astray, of a genuine consensus-based standardization process. What I am saying is that the current standards bodies and institutions cannot (as far as I can see) serve the needs of the commons transition effectively.
Bob Haugen Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:42PM
What would "a genuine consensus-based standardization process" look like? How would it work?
I saw several mentions of the CTA upthread. It appears to be dead, for all practical purposes. Did it accomplish anything? (Other than a lot of getting-acquainted among different projects, and a lot of conversation, both of which were useful. And a lot of improvements to Hylo, from Connor Turland...)
But creating actual standards that will be adopted and used widely is hard work. And as I mentioned a couple of times before, do not assume that all of the political-economic-ideological problems of the existing standards orgs will magically disappear from a new one.
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:50PM
What would "a genuine consensus-based standardization process" look like? How would it work?
Answering those questions in any detail will need substantial work. Many of us probably have our own images, but answers need to emerge from a consensus of those engaged with the questions, not from one or two individuals. But before even that, how about we try to formulate the question in a way that everyone relates to? That's only my phrase: could you formulate a better question?
do not assume that all of the political-economic-ideological problems of the existing standards orgs will magically disappear from a new one.
As you repeat this, Bob, could I ask, who do you think might be assuming this?
We can accept, I hope, that nothing will be perfect, and still strive for a better world than we have at present.
Bob Haugen Fri 24 Mar 2017 1:03PM
As you repeat this, Bob, could I ask, who do you think might be assuming this?
I'm not pointing at anybody here, but I thought I saw a lot of that in the CTA, for example. And we have had ongoing problems in every commons-oriented project I have ever worked on. And I am sure I have a lot of bad habits myself...
 My point is that if a commons-oriented project does not consciously deal with those kinds of problems in some effective way, they will defeat the purpose, partly or totally.
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 1:25PM
My point is that if a commons-oriented project does not consciously deal with those kinds of problems in some effective way, they will defeat the purpose, partly or totally.
Couldn't agree more! How would you try to deal with those kinds of problem? I have a genuine interest here, and it goes along with my concern about organisational culture, in contrast to (and complementing) the formal structure.
Personally, I would greatly welcome us addressing the "infrastructure" (harking back to thread title) and the culture of our organisations hand in hand.
Danyl Strype Sun 26 Mar 2017 5:26AM
I wonder if this discussion about standards (and standards organisations) needs its own thread, so we can return to the discussion of building ICT infrastructure commons? @asimong you've alluded a few times to specific problems you've had trying to advance a commons perspective inside existing standards processes. Perhaps you could start us off on a new thread by telling us a few stories about your experiences of these problems, and why you don't think existing standards bodies can be reformed to address them?
Simon Grant Sun 26 Mar 2017 5:34PM
I wonder if this discussion about standards (and standards organisations) needs its own thread
Indeed. Personally I see it as very much part of the infrastructure, in its own way. Could I ask for any contrary opinions? If no objection, I'll start a new thread in the coming days.
I haven't had any clear opportunities to advance the commons perspective with standards bodies: more like just the appreciation of why I don't think they will work that way. But sure, let's start a separate thread on this.
Nicolas Stampf Mon 6 Mar 2017 4:18PM
That's IMHO why I think we need an initiative where we would imagine what a truly P2P ecosystem might look like :
- agriculture (or anything related to natural commons)
- production (creation of un-natural widgets)
- economy / banking system (if any)
- art (that which does not "produce" something but which is useful anyway)
- information (including IT and internet infrastructures)
I've advocated elsewhere (P2P facegroup group maybe, or here on Loomio) about thinking how to build a vision of what such a P2P world might look like.
I've given hints at that myself in http://bit.ly/UP-draft.
It's not an easy task, but I feel like we have all these marvelous initatives scattered that we could 1) identify (of which the P2PF wiki does of a great job) 2) help interrelate to build a bigget (eco) system.
Fortunately, the method to do that exist, it's called "Syntegration" by Stafford Beer (cf. my link http://bit.ly/UP-draft). It's complex, it will take some time, but it can be done for sure. And such a great initiative in cocreation can only do wonders for those involved and others to learn from. I have absolutely no about about this!
Lynn Foster Mon 6 Mar 2017 5:12PM
@nicolasstampf I appreciate your vision, and of course there is definitely a need for vision, as well as a place for experimentation and practice. And they need to proceed in cycles of knowledge, the scientific method basically. And sometimes people can contribute better in different places in the spiral, although we need to keep all of this connected up.
Just so you understand, for me personally, I am contributing to more efforts on the ground than I can handle right now. So I see your posts, but don't see that it is the best use of my time to be part of very general discussion on the topic. Some of the things I work on are in fact looking at moving from the particular to the general (like ValueFlows vocabulary https://valueflo.ws/), but in a much more targeted way than you are picturing. (In this case working on how to help connect up different economic experiments into an ecosystem using a standard vocabulary.) Another aspect I think needs some study is the habits of people (often ideology inherited from capitalism, if you will) that hold back these efforts and sometimes destroy them, I have seen a lot but haven't made much progress on making this into something useful.
But in general I have a feeling, which could of course be wrong, that right now in history we are in a place in the cycle of knowledge where working experimentally on organizing economic alternatives on the ground is critically important, for people who can and like to do that. We so much need more of these experiments so we can actively learn from them. There is a lot of theory to draw from, although of course it can always be organized and synthesized in more helpful ways, such as P2PF and others do.
Anyhow, I have felt bad ignoring your posts, wanted to let you know I appreciate your thoughts, but to also give a little perspective from the worker bee side. :)
And +1 for Stafford Beer's work!
Graham Mon 6 Mar 2017 6:07PM
I tend to agree with you Lynn. We need more practical stuff happening on the ground, especially in the current climate. I'm thinking and working now to get something moving in my locality, and although there's lots of theory out there, there seems to be precious little in the way of practical experience that I can learn from and which can accelerate my pathway.
Michel Bauwens Wed 8 Mar 2017 9:54AM
so something like Guifi.net would be impossible in italy ? and extending the widespread cooperative model to technology as well ?
seems unlikely to me, difficult, for sure, but impossible ?
Michele Kipiel Wed 8 Mar 2017 10:47AM
If one wanted to do something like guifi.net in Italy, there would be at least three layers of difficulty to overcome, as far as I can see:
- The deeply un-cooperative mentality of people (what Banfield called "amoral familism")
- The entrenched business interests (in Italy there are "guilds" in even the smallest business areas, fiercely defending the status quo against any potential innovation)
- Heavy rules and limitations regarding co-ops (which stem from co-ops being historically used by various mafia families and/or by regular businesses to massively avoid taxes)
On top of that, there's an economic problem: youth unemployment is close to 50%, which sharply reduces the number of people who can invest in the hardware needed to run a distributed ISP.
Sorry for being so negative :)
Michel Bauwens Mon 20 Mar 2017 2:24PM
Dear Simon, you are probably aware of the efforts of the Collaborative Technology Alliance, which may have hit some snag in its development, and Edward can perhaps give an update.
An interesting methodology is the social-charter base strategy of the inter-mapping projects coordination, in which Silke is involved, she's in cc as well,
Simon Grant Tue 21 Mar 2017 11:48AM
Thanks, Michel -- yes I've recently joined up to the CTA, and have engaged with the The Open App Ecosystem discussion, but am not yet clear about the clarity and unity of ways forward. I hope that more good sense and direction can emerge.
I could certainly envisage something like a Collaborative Standards Alliance, more of that in reply to Bob
Greg Cassel Tue 21 Mar 2017 4:01PM
The idea of working with existing standards orgs or creating new ones depends on how you define "working with". Coordination and collaboration are closely related but IMO deeply different types of activity.
Here are my relevant work in progress Modular Organization Glossary definitions:
Collaboration is the type of cooperative activity which is oriented towards creating a shared result. The shared result may be complex and heterogenous, but collaborators perceive shared value in pursuing it.
Collaboration often occurs informally, but agents can assign collaborative work to specific agents.
Coordination is the type of cooperative activity which modifies or arranges separate activities to support one or more mutually shared goals. Such mutually shared goals may include the reduction of recognizable harm(s). (For instance, the actions of two groups may be intentionally differentiated to reduce conflict or unnecessary competition.)
Coordination often occurs informally, but group agents may assign coordination responsibility to individuals or to subgroup agents. Note: a coordination function (or any other function) which is assigned to a subgroup becomes a collaborative work within the subgroup.
I'm sure that those descriptions need work (and are endlessly debatable), but the point is to distinguish the pursuit of a shared activity from the coordination of separate activities.
In my view, Value Flows is trying to internally collaborate on the development of a new standard while coordinating as constructively as possible with existing standards. Note: I'm only lightly involved in that collaboration function, and practically absent from the coordination function. However, I think that coordination will become increasingly important.
Simon Grant Wed 22 Mar 2017 10:15AM
Thanks @gregorycassel for clarifying this very helpful distinction.
To start with coordination ...
I suspect it will become increasingly difficult to coordinate with standards bodies, the more they sink into the pocket of the interests of capital.
However, it may be possible to collaborate with them, creating a shared result, for diverse reasons, when there is the possibility of shared standards that truly meet the needs both of capital and of commons. That would indeed be worth working for -- it may even be a form of "transvestment" -- and good luck to VF along that road.
The kind of coordination in which I am personally most interested is the coordination that to me seems implicit in this whole thread: of building an IT infrastructure that truly serves the commons. I say coordination, because I don't see building a whole IT infrastructure as one task on which people can directly collaborate: it's much too large. And I have read so much confirming that capital-driven IT infrastructure serves us well increasingly rarely -- I hope there is no need to spell that out here.
For this coordination, on building an IT infrastructure for the commons, I sense the need for collaboration with other IT commoners, rather than other standards bodies, on the sub-task of creating standards to help the components of that infrastructure to interoperate. And it is not simply the existing infrastructure: having well thought-out standards can help us in the task of building new parts of the infrastructure as well.
Hard as it may be to coordinate with existing standards bodies on this kind of goal, there are of course good people working in existing bodies, and we can always ask for their collaboration, expecting them to bring the insights that they have gained with the other bodies.
To try to focus this, could we start working together on getting advice, thinking through, and creating common documentation of just what are the coordination needs of building an IT infrastructure for the commons, e.g. for interoperability, with the aim of formulating a way forward for standardization -- or what I prefer to call "commons harmonization"?
Bob Haugen Wed 22 Mar 2017 10:54AM
To be clear (if it isn't), VF is not waiting for other standards bodies to do anything, but we plan to share what we are doing with w3c, if they want it. If they don't, so be it.
The reason we want to do that is we think that Linked Open Data can be part of the common infrastructure, and that's one of the places where LOD happens. See also
We also think that the common infrastructure should be a protocol, not a platform, if the distinction is clear. If not, here's a quick and inadequate explanation:
* The World Wide Web is a protocol. Anybody can put up a Web page if they can get space on a server and obey the protocol, which has been done by millions of people, without needing anybody's permission.
* Facebook is a platform. You need to register with them and get their permission, you can only post what they allow, and they will harvest everything you do.
Bob Haugen Wed 22 Mar 2017 10:55AM
By the way, I know the intelligence services will harvest everything you do on the Web, too, but that's a different problem.
Simon Grant Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:11AM
Thanks, Bob -- more clarification from me this time:
* LOD = great; yes I'm a believer in this, too ;)
* I'd completely agree on the vital place of protocols, or open APIs not tied to any one particular platform -- and much harmonization and interoperability may result from adopting common ones
There is also much talk in these circles of "platform cooperatives", and I would support this, too. I see this as related to, rather than different from, the issue of big data harvesting. It's also related to building "generative" rather than "extractive" infrastructure. So I'm suggesting "both, and" rather than "either, or" in terms of protocols and platforms. Just that the platforms need to be owned in common, run by co-operatives, and using the open protocols and APIs as above.
Bob Haugen Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:24AM
I agree that platform cooperatives are much much better than platform capitalists. The problem becomes that platforms do not tend to interoperate.
Simon Grant Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:35AM
I'm guessing -- maybe people can help here? -- that one of the main reasons that platforms tend not to interoperate is that they are owned by businesses that run on capitalist principles.
If co-operatively run platforms do not interoperate, we could gently remind them of Principle 6, and work with them towards interoperability.
It seems to me that having a thought-through framework of harmonization, built collaboratively and open to growth as the needs of the commons evolve, would be a good basis for working towards interoperability when it isn't there, and even more helpfully, guiding the platform coop builders to build in interoperability from the ground up.
Greg Cassel Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:40AM
Another challenge here is that cooperatively run (and, presumably, "owned") platforms need to make group decisions, and our tools & techniques for decision-making in large groups are IMO terribly deficient. So that's one of my main personal focus points.
It doesn't do much good to be cooperatively owned if the cooperative doesn't develop genuinely inclusive decision-making and collective intelligence. (I bet you already perceive this Simon.) Otherwise, the cooperative can easily come to behave according to the sum of the personal biases of its members, instead of subtracting those biases from group decisions.
Greg Cassel Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:41AM
The nice thing about a well-defined protocol is that it doesn't require any regulation. People either use it or they don't. If they don't observe the requirements, they can't interact with others who do.
Graham Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:41AM
Platform coop builders can only build in interoperability where there are clearly understood and commonly agreed ways about how to do so (protocols and open APIs, I guess).
They will only build in interoperability where there is a good business case to do so, otherwise it simply represents a cost without a benefit.
Simon Grant Wed 22 Mar 2017 11:52AM
Indeed, Graham, I've seen this often. What we might be aiming at, or hoping for, is that, for the businesses / organisations / collectives involved in building platform coops, a "business case" does not just mean "profits", but also serving at least the co-operative principles, and hopefully also the needs of the commoners and the commons. Or, for another way of putting it, profit is not the only "benefit".
So how would you go about agreeing the protocols / APIs (or whatever, in your own terms) that you rightly point out are needed to build in interoperability from the ground?
Graham Wed 22 Mar 2017 12:08PM
I've no idea what these protocols would look like - perhaps Bob and the work he's involved in has answers on that. And that's sort of what I'm getting at. I'm sure that the builders of these platform cooperatives will be open to the notion of contributing to the commons and to interoperability, but what does that mean in practice? And what does the cost benefit analysis look like. Getting away from the abstract and conceptual and towards the tangible and code-able seems to be important.
Bob Haugen Wed 22 Mar 2017 12:29PM
This is also a reply to Simon upthread. I think this is all happening, bit by bit, with different groups and projects starting to converge toward something.
The value flows vocabulary and protocols are not quite codable in total, but some early code is emerging. In the meantime, this project, which I think I mentioned in this or some other related Loomio discussion, has at least 3 different groups and projects coming together to work on software they can all use, and which will all interoperate.
Simon Grant Wed 22 Mar 2017 1:11PM
As Bob has referred to upthread material, perhaps I could say a word on the VF work -- https://valueflo.ws/ (OK, actually I'm saying much more than that...)
I very much like the simplicity of the VF vocabularies. This really helps towards understanding and use by non-experts.
VF is highly general purpose. Nothing I can see is particular to commons or P2P (or any other name for new) economics.
The questions I would ask of this kind of standard (and I imagine the questions have been well answered in the case of VF, though I have not personally looked for answers) include
* what about other existing models? Are there mappings? What is lost in each mapping, and does that matter?
* for a broad range of the kind of real world scenarios we (as Commons Transition, in this case) are concerned with, how are they mapped onto this model? Does this mapping make sense to the participants in the real world?
It may be that there is nothing special about modelling the commons, in which case, as far as I can see, it's all to the good to share an ontology with the establishment. It's got me wondering, though. If I were doing this kind of work for areas that VF hasn't covered, this is where I would be inclined to start -- looking at real world scenarios, and engaging the participants in the effort to map their processes, practices, etc. to a common model. The common model is clearly then part of our intellectual commons. It can take a lot of insight -- wherever that insight comes from -- to achieve such a common model that sufficiently represents those aspects of the real world that are of interest.
And often, because of how people come from their own established ways of thinking, it can feel uncomfortable to engage in a process that may seem like complicating matters. And partly because of that discomfort, it is essential that people treat each other with respect, kindness and understanding. This is where the culture is so important.
It's these kinds of model, vocabulary or ontology that form the bedrock of interoperability. So I guess what I am saying is that a good IT infrastructure is based firmly on a good interpersonal culture, via these intermediate common models.
Bob Haugen Wed 22 Mar 2017 1:32PM
VF is highly general purpose. Nothing I can see is particular to commons or P2P (or any other name for new) economics.
Mostly accurate. If you look at our principles, we want it to work for organizations in transition from capitalism to something new, which is often experimental at this stage.
for a broad range of the kind of real world scenarios we (as Commons Transition, in this case) are concerned with, how are they mapped onto this model? Does this mapping make sense to the participants in the real world?
Some test mappings here: https://github.com/valueflows/valueflows/tree/master/use-cases
But the precursors to valueflows have been used in a lot of real-world organizations, all of which are compatible with VF, because that's where the vocabulary came from. The groups in that other project I mentioned upthread are among them. Here are some others: http://mikorizal.org/groups.html
Several more in Europe, collected around Fair Coop. Another couple are starting up now, in Mexico and Argentina.
Bob Haugen Wed 22 Mar 2017 1:13PM
By the way, everybody should be aware that valueflows is only working on common economic interactions. For a whole common ecosystem, we will also need social and governance interactions, some of which @gregorycassel is working on. I'll let him point us to his latest work on those problems, when he's ready. Greg is also watching valueflows and I think those sets of ideas can come together.
Greg Cassel Fri 24 Mar 2017 11:40AM
To propose a new, commons-specific, standards body, is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of standards, what they are, and how they come about.
I doubt that you meant it this way, @strypey , but that's a harsh accusation regarding the unseen thought processes in other minds.
Your long comment seems generally accurate, but I doubt that many (if any) people reading this thread lack general knowledge of how standards bodies come to exist.
There would be very little point in group with a shared political-economic ideology sitting down and defining their own standards for electrical systems.
I may have missed something, but I don't remember anyone suggesting here that we need a new standard which is defined without any coordination or compromise with what you call " relevant players".
I'm not sure what your point was. Do you believe that there must be one or more existing standards bodies which we need to accept as an ultimate authority? Or do you think that the only way to practically influence future standards is by working directly with one or more existing standards bodies?
I'm probably missing something significant, Strypey, because I doubt that you'd give all negotiations and treaties between power players the same deference you seem to accord here to the work of existing technical standards bodies.
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:09PM
Glad so say that I'm not going to take to heart the idea that I might "fundamentally misunderstand the nature of standards" :)
I'm with @bobhaugen in a sense of pragmatism vis-a-vis ISO or W3C. Good to hear that Bob has experience of working with ISO. But it's not the (unquestioned) fact that some ISO standards are useful, and others not, that I am straining against. It's the fact that ISO (and other 'de jure' national standards bodies) generally work in a way that is way out of synch with commoner culture. Yes, there is a nominal
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:14PM
(sorry, pressed enter at the wrong time)
Yes, there is a nominal acceptance of the norm of consensus. But drafting committees are constrained to proceed in confidence; and the resulting standards, while being probably free of patent restrictions, cannot be reproduced, as the copyright is restricted, and copies have to be paid for.
W3C looked great in its early days. But look where it is now in terms of dominance by large economic players.
I'll say again, so as not to be misunderstood, that some W3C, ISO, etc. standards are very useful and worthwhile abiding by. But the standards themselves in no way form an intellectual commons.
Bob Haugen Fri 24 Mar 2017 11:58AM
Hmm, I agree with both @strypey and @gregorycassel, while they seem to be disagreeing with each other. This ain't the first time this has happened to me in loomio conversations. I must be wishy-washy.
In VF, we have people who have worked and are continuing to work with both W3C and ISO. I think both of those orgs have made some good decisions and bad decisions. Our economic vocabulary was heavily influenced by an ISO standard (that I helped to define back in the day), although I haven't seen a lot of evidence that being an ISO standard is accepted as an authority by anybody in our project. If they don't like something, which happens often, the fact that the ISO standard says so does not matter. The W3C LOD vocabularies are often more persuasive, since that is where we want our vocabulary to live. And I think our vocab will influence some upcoming ISO work, too.
Those are all fairly pragmatic decisions and relationships, as far as I can see.
Bob Haugen Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:12PM
Do we generally agree in this conversation that it's both-and, not either-or, re setting up commons-oriented standardization projects and working with existing standards orgs where they fit?
Simon Grant Fri 24 Mar 2017 12:17PM
Do we generally agree in this conversation that it's both-and, not either-or, re setting up commons-oriented standardization projects and working with existing standards orgs where they fit?
Yes. What we may want more clarity on, to my mind, is
1. how to tell whether collaboration with existing bodies will serve the needs of the commons
2. whether we want the higher-level coordination of commons-oriented standardization (or, as I prefer, harmonization) that could be provided by some kind of organization -- maybe in the spirit of the Collaborative Technology Alliance
Danyl Strype Sun 26 Mar 2017 7:01AM
Coming back to the challenges of ICT infrastructure commons, a fully free network would itself be a commons only in a very abstract sense, ie in the same way that the planet is a commons. In the sense that Elinor Ostrom uses the word commons (a shared resource with a shared governance structure), a free network would in practice be a federation of commons, each operating at one or more network layers. To illustrate, here are some commons (existing and potential) operating at different layers:
device (hardware and software of the computers used to access networks)
- free digital (or "open source") hardware design projects (where the design patterns for computer hardware are released under a license allowing it to be freely used, modified, and redisitributed)
- customer-owned and/or worker-owned hardware manufacture and distribution cooperatives
- projects developing and distributing free code software that runs on end user devices (eg the projects that maintain the various software components used in GNU/Linux distributions)
standards (defining how computers will interact productively across networks)
- formal standards bodies (eg IETF, ISO, W3C)
- informal standards incubators (eg W3C Working Groups, ValueFlows, Indie.Web, Collaborative Technology Alliance, Open Web Foundation)
connections (cables, wireless access points, and routers, allowing data to flow from computer to computer across the networks):
- community mesh networks (P2P wireless between PCs or mobiles)
- community access wireless networks (collectively-owned wireless tower)
- open wireless (voluntary sharing of private wireless networks by customers with uncapped upstream internet connections)
- customer-owned and/or worker-owned ISP cooperatives (collectively-owned cable and router infrastructure, at any scale from neighbourhood to country to world)
hosting (servers providing access to databases over the networks):
- projects developing and distributing free code software that runs services (whether on end user computers or dedicated server hardware)
- P2P networks (eg BitTorrent clients, trackers, and search engines, or BitCoin and other blockchains)
- home of office servers (consumer grade PCs running free code server packages, or combinations of them eg FreedomBone)
- server colocation (or "colos", small data centres run collectively by a group of server operators who provide and maintain their own hardware, eg RiseUp.net and MayFirst/ PeopleLink have their servers in a colo)
- customer-owned and/or worker-owned ISP cooperatives (collectively-owned datacentres leasing the use of "bare metal" servers, virtual servers, or use of shared servers) EDIT: fixed formatting
Bob Haugen Sun 26 Mar 2017 11:24AM
@strypey great overview! We had a recent discussion about this kind of topic in value flows: networks of networks, or one big network? Where I think most of us came down on the side of networks of networks, as in (a) better, and (b) how it's happening and will happen anyway.
Danyl Strype Thu 30 Mar 2017 7:15AM
The Wikipedia page on 'wireless community networks' has a list of some examples and a good breakdown of the types of community wireless project. Is there currently a page on the P2P or CT wikis where such projects are listed and categorized?
EDIT: forgot to link!
Steve Sun 26 Mar 2017 12:27PM
Essentially as I understand it, the premise is to re-create an IT infrastructure with an ownership model that meshes with commons needs and goals and to avoid downtime, censorship or exclusion (ISP throttling ports)? Perhaps the Pareto 20/80 rule would be useful:
"The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. "
Identify in the list that @Strypey provided, the 20% that would be responsible for 80% of potential problems.
EDIT: what I am suggesting is to pragmatically consider existing infra-structure/protocols as a resource. An example: in laying out water infrastructure, does it matter or relevant to discuss the piping standards sizing protocols or treat it as an existing off the shelf resource?
Danyl Strype Thu 30 Mar 2017 7:19AM
Good points Steve. I agree that it would be good to do some movement-wide strategic thinking about where that 20% lies. That said, we have to keep in mind that each person/ group will have their own priorities about what to work on, for example I'm pretty happy to treat existing standards as basic plumbing, whereas @asimong believes there's a need to bring a more consciously commons-orientated approach to standards processes.
Michele Kipiel Thu 30 Mar 2017 8:24AM
In my (admittedly very limited) opinion we can't expect ISPs/Telcos to give away their infrastructure for free, so we're left with two options:
- we collectively buy them out and run them as coops (VERY unlikely)
- we deploy a parallel ad-hoc infrastructure to sidestep ISPs completely (much more affrodable)
I might be wrong, but option two seems to me like the only viable idea at the moment...
Simon Carter Thu 30 Mar 2017 8:44AM
'we collectively buy them out and run them as coops (VERY unlikely)'
This is a very long thread that I have been following vaguely, but this comment caught my attention. Ultimately is this not the only real power we have within a dominant system?. If we can coordinate our collective spend, we can quite simply buy the commons back from enclosure, in all it's diversity.
Michele Kipiel Thu 30 Mar 2017 9:02AM
At a very high level I agree with your position, but then we need to factor in the harsh economic realities of our age: 30+ years of massive capital hoarding have left the youngest (ie. the most liberal, educated and tech savvy) generation with no surplus capital to spend. We can't expect people who struggle daily just to make ends meet to buy in the idea of spending a possibly inordinate amount of cash (from their point of view) to buy out something as far from their personal experience as an ISP. What do you think?
Simon Carter Thu 30 Mar 2017 9:25AM
How about if we initiate a new kind of business venture to compete against the for profit model, with the express intention of paying a living wage, with all surplus invested in the commons?. As a youngster, would you not wish to both work for & buy from such a company, or indeed start one?.
Greg Cassel Thu 30 Mar 2017 11:51AM
Whether or not someone may buy in to the idea of buying an ISP depends entirely on the per-person cost. Also, it's possible for coops to give discounts to identifiable types of potential members, including low-income people.
Michele Kipiel Thu 30 Mar 2017 3:09PM
100% with you on this, per-person price is king. One possible solution could be to run a "fundraiser" that instead of asking for a fixed per-person contribution would calculate it based on the number of backers at any given moment. Such a fundraiser could potentially ignite a landslide effect in which the number of backers would grow in a circular fashion: the more the subscribers, the lower the price, the more the subscribers etc... until it reached a price so low everyone on the planet could potentially join (say: 0.10$).
Greg Cassel Thu 30 Mar 2017 10:53PM
I think that's a great idea, as long as early subscribers don't have to commit to pay until the price comes down to some reasonable (and perhaps predetermined) point.
Whether or not it could or should scale to global membership depends greatly on developing inclusive organizational structure and decision- making.
Danyl Strype Fri 31 Mar 2017 1:18PM
I think @michelekipiel has hit the nail on the head with her breakdown of two basic strategies; buyout or replicate and replace. I have tended to favour the latter because it intuitively feels more achievable, and there are plenty of examples where groups have achieved working substitutes (if not total replacements); eg desktop GNU/Linux replicating and replacing Windows and MacOS, Android replicating iOS, Replicant replicating Android to get rid of the proprietary bits etc. @simoncarter mentions two quite different models in his comments, both of which look more like replacements than buyouts to me.
The first is consumer coops. If 100 people in my neighbourhood pledge the money they are already spending on internet access to a group buying effort, we might be able to get a better deal from the existing suppliers, but once we get enough people committed and get sufficiently organised, we can guarantee a minimum of regular business to a new supplier operating on commons principles. Its the Community Supported Agriculture model applied to internet access.
The second model Simon alludes to is social enterprises like the Enspiral businesses (including Loomio). This involves setting up a new business from scratch, with the goals of being of service and making a living, rather than dominating an industry or making a fortune. They are usually run as some kind of democratic cooperative/ collective, rather than a command and control heirarchy, and with all the workers sharing ownership. Setting up an internet access business is fairly capital-intensive, but if you could convince enough people to pre-buy a year's worth of services in advance, you might be able to afford it, especially if a credit union or ethical investment fund is willing to match what you can raise from future customers. The tech equivalent of the restaurant @douglasrushkoff mentions in 'Throwing Rocks...' selling vouchers for meals to raise the capital for expanding their business, and getting an ethical lender to match the funds raised dollar-for-dollar.
I think the ideal strategy would be to do both, so that when social enterprises are looking for those future customers to help them get off the ground, or expand, a consumer coop with matching values can step in and make it happen much more quickly.
Steve Tue 4 Apr 2017 1:08AM
Here is a thought experiment:
There is a third option; it's counter intuitive but may be the most accessible and provide better guarantee of 0% downtime/censorship with fully decentralized infrastructure. --> Web3 .. Decentralized Apps.. on ethereum (heresy?). As you may know ethereum runs on nodes in P2P, it is not owned' in the classic sense. It is an agnostic technology: it's Turing Complete smart contract language can be programmed to record, resolve and compute value exchange -of any type- An OVN can be implemented on a smart contract blockchain. Yes on the surface it looks like ethereum is only for banking and big biz. But that is your guarantee of a censor proof web... when billion$ traffic will use the blockchain, authorities will not shut it down.. It is more akin to a public utility, like a highway.
If I extend the analogy further, choice one is buying the highway outright or choice two: reconstructing a highway network from scratch: because that what the McDs of the world appear to have done. They haven't , they are using it without really paying for the utility. The Telcos, internet and satellites are paid by its users with Telcos acting as middle men. Exactly as /SimonCarter said somewhat in context
*what we are discussing here is public utilities as a commons as opposed to the old top down hierarchical ... industries. *
The third choice: don't avoid using the highway just because McD Corp uses it too. Let opencoops re-appropriate a common and enjoy the same protection and privilege as predatory extractive capitalism.
Caveats: Im not an ethereum .expert. and not 'hooked on it' and using it has its own risks and challenges. Im open minded to consider the other avenues. I'm also favorable to what /Strypey describes as
Community Supported Agriculture model applied to internet access.
But the third choice premise is that by appropriating and using an emerging new infrastructure, commons transition would advance by an order of magnitude, by focusing on deploying implementations immediately rather than re-constructing the web.
Simon Carter Tue 4 Apr 2017 7:42AM
Thoughts?. . . . . It would seem to me that any proposal that is radical & outside of the vast majority of people's experience, i.e. 'which for profit operation should I passively pay for a service?', will depend upon a certain critical mass willing to contemplate an alternative.
Could any of the proposed alternatives be taken up, 'slowly but surely', or would it need some kind of mass migration?. If so how might that work, & how many would need to be involved from the outset?.
I have to say this topic fascinates me as it generally applies to the question of how we can take folk out of the capitalist model. Once enough realise that there are alternatives that can be initiated bottom up, everything changes.
Danyl Strype Wed 5 Apr 2017 2:43AM
Steve, I always like it when people look for third options. However...
choice one is buying the highway outright or choice two: reconstructing a highway network from scratch: because that what the McDs of the world appear to have done.
I presume by "McDs" here you're referring to the telecomms corporations? A lot of them actually got started by choice one. They bought the information highways when they were privatized by governments captured by neo-liberalism, eg NZ Telecom here in Aotearoa, Telstra in Oz British Telecom in the UK etc. In some cases there have been wrong-headed attempts to lay parallels cable networks (eg Telstra laid co-ax in some parts of Aotearoa) but as they discovered, cable networks (for data or for electricity) are a natural monopoly. In the end, the cables infrastructure was separated and de-privatized as Chorus, and NZ Telecom's retail business was rebranded as Spark.
No, I don't think transition projects trying to lay cable where it already exists are viable due to the massive capital cost and red tape involved. That energy would be better spent lobbying for de-privatization of existing cable infrastructure, to ensure all comers get access to the network. Where cooperatives could work is in running networks and retail businesses across the existing cables, as I described above.
Ethereum is a commons, and potentially very useful, depending on whether either of the recent forks survive. But if you have a look at the stack I laid out in an earlier comment, it works at the 'hosting' level. It doesn't address any of the layers that hosting depends on.
The Telcos, internet and satellites are paid by its users with Telcos acting as middle men.
Right, which is why in theory, we don't need the corporate telecos at all. Which are why we are talking about the potential to building cooperatives or other commons structures to replace them at the 'connections' level, for example, or the 'devices' level.
Steve Wed 5 Apr 2017 10:19AM
Yes, of course I'd rather pay my coop for my network access services than a TelCo monopoly. I was referring rather to censorship and throttling (restricting speed or blocking some users based on arbitrary rules eg.restrict P2P ports). Web3.0 avoids these issues by being decentralized AND used by large entities (in ethereum's case) = harder to 'shut down'.
In other words, why wait to drive the Opencoop school bus on that highway? . Eventually it would be desirable and cost effective to own your own infrastructure until then why wait to implement your stuff?
Steve Wed 5 Apr 2017 10:38AM
See my reply to Simon above. As I was saying to him: I was discussing ethereum as a censorship proof network. However, it's true paying big Telcos monopolies ISPs for base network access is not desirable feature.
Where I am, most regions there at best only 2-3 three TeleCos who price fix. Bell privatized a public telephone network, the others are private cable TV providers (eg. Shaw). Same with cellphone towers :3 providers in most markets and massive price gouging/fixing.
That energy would be better spent lobbying for de-privatization of existing cable infrastructure, to ensure all comers get access to the network.
Not sure how that can happen: would require massive lobbying. Re-appropriating when these TelCos can prove they upgraded the network over the years with their 'hard earned' money. Not easy.
Another notion would be to bypass the wired network entirely as has been done in developing countries. There are few landline phones in Africa, they bypassed all that and went wireless. So Choice 2( building a parallel network ) with a twist: (newer and cheaper technology. ) seems more and more plausible.
But for the next revolution in commerce, governance and social interaction we need to look up – about 100 miles up, into the low Earth orbit. There, falling prices for communication and earth monitoring satellites, along with blockchain-enabled security, will make everything from broadband communication to crop monitoring available not just to technology elites, but to the most remote farm, village or machine. CubeSats
Simon Grant Wed 5 Apr 2017 4:05PM
What resonates in me most strongly from Steve @sm1 two days ago is the idea of using the channels, means, or techniques that are essential to the current incumbents, who have power.
One way of doing this, for instance, is to use sophisticated company ownership structure to the advantage of the commoners, rather than to their disadvantage.
Another thing that is essential to the current competitive business model is that (most) businesses can fail. If we can find a telco that is about to fail, its infrastructure could be ripe for a buyout.
Or, we could do a deal with a telco. "We [large group of commons-oriented folk] are going to leave your service unless you give us these special terms...." If (nearly) all the subscribers in a particular small geographical area were to opt out of a telco service, what point would there be in the telco hanging on to the infrastructure relevant to that area? (In situations where that is appropriate -- obviously it might be only in a few places.)
Good that these ideas are opening up.
Danyl Strype Wed 5 Apr 2017 5:12PM
Not sure how that [de-privatization of cable infrastructure] can happen: would require massive lobbying
I can describe in brief how it happened here in Aotearoa. My understanding is that due to complaints from both customers and smaller ISPS, a telecoms Ombudsmen was set up. My suspicion is that this resulted in so much documentation of Telecom's anti-competitive practices, that they would have been facing some kind of anti-trust action from the rest of the industry, if the government hadn't stepped in and broken Telecom up as I described (as they did also with the railways, the tracks are now publicly owned again under one organisation, the freight and passenger business under a separate one). I can go into more detail on exactly how it happened if everyone is curious, but if you web search "Telecom", "Chorus", and "New Zealand", that's pretty much where I'd be starting ;)
Steve Sat 8 Apr 2017 12:12PM
sophisticated company ownership structure to the advantage of the commoners, rather than to their disadvantage.
Indeed, it could start small: a neighborhood drycleaners, bakery or digibank could become coop owned OVN with benefits to members and eventual buy bigger for-profits firms then entire telcos converted into opencoop ovn format. Existing on the mainnet rather than marginal walled gardens would help scale alot.
Simon Grant Sun 9 Apr 2017 8:31AM
This brings up three related questions in my mind:
1. Could we integrate and extend knowledge commons around these kinds of topic?
2. How can anyone interested find knowledgeable commoners to share their knowledge?
3. Would people with some knowledge of this kind of topic like to collaborate by pooling and discussing their knowledge and experience, and curating knowledge commons in these spaces?
Discussions are great for feeling one's way initially, but we can't expect everyone to trawl through voluminous discussions to find the small nuggets of knowledge that they need. And I would have thought that people would find integrated, well cross-referenced knowledge sources more useful than silos...
What are we all doing to meet the need for reliable, findable information and knowledge relating to Commons Transition? To me, this is part of the IT infrastructure.
Michel Bauwens Thu 30 Mar 2017 8:23AM
not sure if we have that, there are the files dealing with wireless matters,
and our overall category is http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastructure,
Michel Bauwens Thu 30 Mar 2017 8:26AM
by the way, do you see a difference between WCN's and CWN's (community wireless networks) ?
Danyl Strype Fri 31 Mar 2017 10:50AM
As far as I know, "wireless community network" and "community wireless network" are just two different phrases for the same category.
Simon Carter Fri 31 Mar 2017 7:35PM
In the UK, there is an army of early retired BT engineers. Aren't they 'a commons'?. Just a thought.
it would seem to me that what we are discussing here is public utilities as a commons as opposed to the old top down hierarchical UK nationalised industries. Their problem always was that people were still customers, all too eager to complain, & often with good reason.
We need a culture whereby when people complain, the answer comes back, 'okay, what are you going to do about it/how are you going to contribute to make it better?'
At the end of the day the capitalist model is the customer or the client model. No customers or customer mentality, no business.
The post capitalist model would be we get things done by contribution. If we want an IT infrastructure for communication & education, as a utility & not a business, in other words as a commons, we are going to have to remove the business component, for profit or not for profit.
Same applies to everything else.
Simon Carter Sun 9 Apr 2017 9:53AM
That's why I am working with Mat Dowle, responsible for this https://www.coeo.cc/
Simon Grant Fri 14 Apr 2017 10:46AM
I'm finding it hard to comment on Coeo and Mat Dowle, except that I wish them well.
How do we, collectively, choose projects or initiatives that meet our core values? What are our core values? Interacting, preferably face-to-face initially, may give us a better sense of each other's values, and it's on this basis (as well as recommendations) that I'd like to collaborate with people on building any of the IT infrastructure. Trust is essential.
Paul B. Hartzog Sat 15 Apr 2017 4:07PM
Simon, can you get me connected to Mat? Facebook, email, etc.? Much thx.
Michel Bauwens Fri 14 Apr 2017 8:17PM
just to explain that I can't engage in infrastructural projects but wish the people who do, well,
Paul B. Hartzog Sat 15 Apr 2017 4:03PM
Just wanted to chime in here to say that I am founding an institute with the mission of addressing these kinds of concerns. A global wifi "quilt" requires requisite ubiquity of p2p packet passing in order to meet the structural qualifications originally laid out by Paul Baran for a robust network. I believe that said infrastructure has to be managed as a global commons, as do the atmosphere, the oceans, the land (i.e. the whole biosphere) and space (where the satellites go).
If anyone wants to be involved in these initiatives, please contact me. ;-)
Greg Cassel Sat 15 Apr 2017 4:31PM
I believe that said infrastructure has to be managed as a global commons, as do the atmosphere, the oceans, the land (i.e. the whole biosphere) and space (where the satellites go).
I believe there's an important role for the management of some standards and activities at the global level. I also believe that highly detailed and specific standards and activities should be developed and managed in an organically distributed way.
I know you're a deeply systemic and organic thinker @paulbhartzog so I'm guessing that you'd generally agree with me. (?) I think it just depends on how we analyze and describe our goals and challenges.
If anyone wants to be involved in these initiatives, please contact me.
I'll follow up on that; thanks :)
Michel Bauwens Sun 16 Apr 2017 7:14PM
don't forget to talk also with arthur brock of ceptr on these issues,
Danyl Strype Mon 17 Apr 2017 6:28AM
We don't need to start from scratch, and certainly not from the top down. My point in laying out the various layers of the tech stack was to demonstrate that many projects are already underway, and can already be used, joined, supported, cross-promoted, and partnered with. Federating into more ambitious new meta-projects adds a 'social coordination' layer to the stack, which various organisations have attempted to provide, from early pioneers like the FSF and OSI, to more recent orgs like P2PF/ CT, the Collaborative Technology Alliance, and Tech Co-op Network (North America).
Simon Grant Mon 17 Apr 2017 7:00AM
I'd like to start by echoing @strypey here. Thank you! Instead of top-down, and from scratch, how about:
1. striving for transparency, so that we all know as much as we can about what has been done before, to avoid duplication
2. in most cases, where there are existing standards, and/or existing organisations engaged in standardization, change the image of our goal from building new standards (from scratch, top-down, etc.) to harmonization of what already exists?
I wonder if this musical analogy resonates with others? Listen out for who is already playing in this work. Where there is discord, see if something can be tuned to come into harmony. Get a global picture of where the most helpful tuning can be done, not presupposing that any one instrument is tuned "correctly". (This is attempting to avoid the fallacy of "the whole world is out of step apart from me".) Be creative in tweaking things so that we can play better together. Recognise that what sounds good, music that people can dance to, doesn't always have to be in perfect harmony, and it is the dance that matters, not the technical perfection. But serious discord does disrupt the dance, and needs to be addressed.
It's this kind of thing that I would like to see rising in our conscious awareness, perhaps under a banner such as "commons harmonization".
Steve Thu 20 Apr 2017 11:23AM
There's a distinction to be made between
Standards (ie. product/service/process that can be tested to meet a pre-determined specification/perfomance/metric .."something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model. "
Specifications (ie. essentially a wishlist of features/performance/behavior for a given product/service/process). ".. a set of documented requirements to be satisfied by a material, design, product, or service"
Much discussed here revolves around those two ideas but not yet ready to tackle those head-on.
Simon Grant Thu 20 Apr 2017 12:55PM
Thanks for raising this, @sm1
Working with (several different) standards organisations, while saying it isn't quite that simple, I would agree that it's helpful to note that anyone can dream up, and publish, a specification, but it takes a standardization process to make a standard out of that specification.
Despite the various failings and inadequacies of the many standards bodies, they do sometimes produce useful standards. As has been said before, there are often too many competing standards, and I see an opening for an organisation, rooted in the commons, with commons values, in helping everyone who is building the commons infrastructure to focus on the (relatively few) standards and specifications that work best for us. Adopting existing standards where they are good enough; harmonizing them where possible; only producing new standards where really necessary, and then doing so with as much clarity, transparency and care as they can muster.
I just discovered that one of my favourite guidelines in this area is from the latin:
Which still leaves us to decide what is "essential". This is a non-trivial task that no one person can do alone! It needs a range of people committed to commons values and practices, who are good enough at working towards consensus in a collaborative, constructive way. Preferably without too much ego! ;)
Wherever standards are not imposed by law, we are collectively free to adopt the ones that make best sense -- but it is often in our interest to adopt the same ones as other commoners do, if we want commons that work together. And by having a well-thought-through set of essential standards, we can make life easier when we start new initiatives.
I believe this is really worth the trouble, and would love to work with other people to get it going.
Greg Cassel Thu 20 Apr 2017 1:42PM
Here's the simple, intentionally reductive definition in my work-in-progress Modular Organization Terminology:
A standard is a specification which coordinates activities by autonomous agents.
Each of the boldfaced terms in that quote has its own hyperlinked specification in that terminology.
Standards and specifications tend to focus upon requirements, but they may additionally indicate options, preferences and "wishes". Distinctions between requirements and options may be indicated by terms such as MUST, SHOULD and MAY.
Here's an independent, detailed consideration of the subject: https://www.bicsi.org/double.aspx?l=4746
Steve Thu 20 Apr 2017 11:23PM
Greg: what I was saying is that something (or a class of something) has to exist BEFORE a standard can be developed for that something (product/service/infrastructure) to be tested against a set of performance/criteria/checklist . A specification can be developed (usually) before something is developed. A standard, however, is like saying : something, must meet these standard..and then a series of tests/criteria determine whether or not something meets that standard. Until something exists how can there be a standard? Otherwise a standard without something is like a wishlist.
*EDIT: I m using dictionary definitions at this point
Greg Cassel Fri 21 Apr 2017 12:06AM
What you've written seems reasonable, and it's not incompatible with my description of "standard" as a type of specification.
I doubt that I will explicitly recommend for standards to be limited to entities of types which are perceived to already exist. I think that networks and communities can make their own decisions about whether current or potential standards are sufficiently realistic and relevant to their interests.
Steve Fri 21 Apr 2017 1:21AM
Totally agree and I may add by necessity too.. since the network that suits the community needs to answer their needs. So essentially as we both understand it: a specification can include any number of standards eg. TCP/IP for a communication protocol, a hardware standard eg.usb plug, a new UI standard for accessing a data structure etc...
Greg Cassel Fri 21 Apr 2017 1:23PM
To extend that a bit further, I suggest that each specification and standard may be simple or complex as I define those terms. In other words, each specification and standard may contain any number of elements. (Elements may be requirements or recommendations.)
The example you suggest may be typical: one specification which requires the use of several existing standards.
Simon Grant Thu 20 Apr 2017 1:52PM
Greg's definition is neat!
The citation, however:
Here's an independent, detailed consideration of the subject: https://www.bicsi.org/double.aspx?l=4746
has an interesting section which may bear repetition:
Ideally, all specification documents would reference the applicable standard(s), so that any requirement is not taken out of context. However, as this would require everyone involved with a specification document to have a rather large standards library, this is not practical.
The point here, with open standards that are part of our intellectual commons, is that it should be trivial to reference any applicable standard, as all standards would naturally be published freely and openly on the web. There are many bodies that do this already -- W3C, IETF, etc. etc. -- but of course the de jure ones (ISO, CEN, ANSI, DIN, etc.) do not. Their standards are copyright and may not be published on the web. Maybe this is why the Bicsi page says what it says.
Greg Cassel Thu 20 Apr 2017 2:11PM
That quote from the Bicsi page is well-written. I'd just like to additionally point out that specifications aren't always related to existing standards. Of course, it's highly valuable to cite standards when applicable.
Simon Grant Thu 20 Apr 2017 2:26PM
Indeed, highly valuable to cite standards -- if we had a coherent, harmonious, open, commons approach to standards, perhaps we would agree that having standards as part of the infrastructure would really mean that specification writers need to be rigorous in citing existing standards?
It's like, defining what "quality" is for standards, in the context of the commons.
Greg Cassel Thu 20 Apr 2017 3:53PM
It's like, defining what "quality" is for standards, in the context of the commons.
I don't use words like "quality" much, but I seek to identify flexibly useful tools for (1) consistently communicating ideas and (2) coordinating activities. So of course, I don't think there's objective truth or value to be found in any specifications (including standards) or definitions: it's just a question of their use-value within identifiable social contexts.
I think you'll probably agree with me; I'm just trying to be reasonably precise here. :)
Simon Grant Thu 20 Apr 2017 2:22PM
Going back to a suggestion of @strypey -- I'd certainly be up for a separate thread on standardization (or better, "Commons Harmonization") if I knew there would be some people there to talk with! I guess I could test that with a proposal -- should I?
People are welcome also to contact me off list to discuss this -- asimong at gmail.
Poll Created Sat 22 Apr 2017 7:54AM
Split off the discussion about standards, specifications, interoperability and commons harmonization Closed Tue 25 Apr 2017 7:07AM
Thank you for the 13 replies! This is a clear enough confirmation that we should start a new thread on standards, etc., and I hope to do that today.
Much recent discussion on this thread has been focused on standards and related topics. Recognising that interoperability is vital to building infrastructure, the discussion of standards tends to be in a different space from discussions of concrete infrastructure. Splitting off this topic would be a move for constructive separation, not marginalization.
Please Agree if you would be interested in participating in the discussion around standards and interoperability as a separate topic related to infrastructure; Abstain if you think it's a good idea but would not participate; Disagree if you think the discussion should be kept in this this thread.
|Results||Option||% of points||Voters|
13 of 143 people have voted (9%)
Sat 22 Apr 2017 8:21AM
Very interested in reading and learning but I will be travelling for most of next month so I doubt I will participate.
Sat 22 Apr 2017 12:02PM
Will participate when about a technical layer I know something about; also interested in just keeping up.
Paul B. Hartzog
Sat 22 Apr 2017 1:02PM
Interoperability and interfaces are a necessary part of distributed commons infrastructure, but I agree that we can focus the conversations by splitting them apart.
Sat 22 Apr 2017 5:28PM
This is in its own thread. I feel like that's already enough "separation". You can mute the thread if you're not interested. What would this new, "separate" place look like?
Sun 23 Apr 2017 1:10AM
I think it's a good idea. I've chosen to abstain only because I'm not sure what I could contribute to the new discussion, at present.
Mon 24 Apr 2017 3:47PM
This is in its own thread. I feel like that's already enough "separation". You can mute the thread if you're not interested. What would this new, "separate" place look like?
Simon Grant Mon 24 Apr 2017 8:14AM
Not sure I understand your vote comment, Andrew @funwhilelost ; @michelekipiel - who initiated this thread -- agrees, which is reassuring, and @strypey was the one who first suggested a separate thread. You write:
I feel like that's already enough "separation". You can mute the thread if you're not interested. What would this new, "separate" place look like?
To answer your questing directly, it will simply be a new thread within this same Loomio group, Commons Transition. I am hoping also that we will develop some common knowledge repository structure, maybe as a wiki, maybe on the P2PF Wiki? But that is to be discussed and agreed when we have split off. People will be able to follow either or both this and the new one. I believe it will give greater clarity as well as more focused choice.
Greg Cassel Mon 24 Apr 2017 3:09PM
Our digital tools are incomplete and our techniques are inevitably inconsistent, but I believe that your discussion-splitting proposal @asimong is a valuable effort to help "map" this discussion and this discussion group.
Greg Cassel Thu 27 Apr 2017 9:49PM
Hmm, I don't think that Scuttlebutt or Patchwork have ever come up in this thread. I would've mentioned them sooner if I'd realized that! I think that their focus on decentralized messaging is more deeply sound than any other usable tech which I'm aware of.
Here's a good general intro to the Scuttlebutt approach: https://staltz.com/an-off-grid-social-network.html
Greg Cassel Tue 2 May 2017 12:10PM
Have you tested Hubzilla and the Zot protocol?
No I haven't. On first glance, its effort to decentralize or "granulate" web serving doesn't seem to go far enough from my perspective. It's certainly an intriguing project though.
To be clear, I don't think that any usable programs or platforms (including Patchwork) address all of the major issues which we ultimately need to address via voluntary, modularly iterated signaling and storing standards. However, all efforts to decentralize tech tools in real community use are valuable.
Bob Haugen Tue 2 May 2017 12:16PM
I don't think that any usable programs or platforms (including Patchwork) address all of the major issues
Patchwork doesn't think so, either.
Danyl Strype Wed 3 May 2017 6:20AM
I don't think that any usable programs or platforms (including Patchwork) address all of the major issues which we ultimately need to address
I agree, and I don't think any one program or platform ever can or will. It's something that can only emerge as a web (see what I did there? ;) ) of autonomous but interoperating systems. Which is why building prototypes (including prototypes of 'invisible structures' like organisations) and creating partnerships and federations is essentials to any progress in this field.
Paul B. Hartzog Wed 3 May 2017 2:26PM
Absolutely. It's really important that we keep an organic evolutionary mindset. Ecologies are spaces where experiments emerge freely. Cultivating fertile ground is more important than knowing what we are doing! :-)
Danyl Strype Mon 1 May 2017 2:40AM
Thanks to @asimong for creating a new thread on Commons Harmonization and Interoperability Standards. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments on standards processes, I encourage you to summarize them in the new thread for deeper discussion. Meanwhile, I invite everyone following this thread to have another think about the various layers of the ICT infrastructure that need commoning. I've posted my comment attempting to lay these out as a Disintermedia blog post, so it's easier to find. How can we, as CT champions, help these organisations partner, and help new groups form to fill gaps?
Simon Grant Wed 3 May 2017 1:37PM
Over on the Digital Co-ops Loomio, we've heard about the Digital Life Collective, whose aims seem highly relevant to this thread. I quote:
Just came across https://diglife.com/ in a post one of their members made on a facebook group I'm in where he said:
"I'm excited to be a co-founding member of the new Digital Life Collective. An amazing group of people is coming together to help build "technology we trust for the world we want." It's a global cooperative, currently incorporated in the UK, and we mean business! If you want to support the creation of tools that protect your privacy, are decentralized, and are inclusive/accessible to all, this effort is one way to do so.
Our initial goal is to raise 16K sterling, and in just a few days, we're 1/5 of the way there! The ultimate goal is orders of magnitude beyond this, but we're jsut getting started. Give us a hand and become a member?"
Greg Cassel Wed 3 May 2017 3:48PM
DLC does seem closely aligned, and somewhat analogous to an unlaunched project which I abandoned in 2015 due to personal emergencies. Both projects suggest fee-based membership in a (hopefully) inclusive, decentralized creative community serving the commons.
I haven't abandoned the general idea of community membership fees, but my ideas on all aspects of decentralized networking and communities have evolved in the last few years-- and frankly, I'm dubious of this DLC approach which asks for financial support (and incorporation) before becoming actively involved participants.
Danyl Strype Thu 4 May 2017 3:41PM
I hate to be negative, and I hope I'm wrong, but DigiLife looks likes classic vapourware, and AFAICT from the website could even be a scam (anyone familiar with the "Orion Project"?). Show me the code for a working service, or at least a specific plan for what existing free code components will be used for it, and then I'll think about handing over some cash.
Paul B. Hartzog Wed 3 May 2017 5:44PM
Sorry to nitpick here but can someone change the typo in the title of this conversation? "transition" is mis-spelled, and every time I get an email it mocks me. ;-)
Nicolas Stampf · Thu 23 Feb 2017 9:51AM
I think IT needs to be rethought for a better economy (and also a better social impact like less monetarization of personal data, etc.)
True P2P networks (in the IT sense this time) ought to be more developed. I've seen web pages but it's far from easily feasible for the lay, non IT person.
I've moved my blog to my own server (a raspberry Pi 3 with an attached small hard drive), and intent to host my own email as well. But again, it's still complicated (though some pre-packaged kits are available like Yunohost for instance).
I personally dream of the old days of Internet with 1:1 connections and routing between hosts. Protocols have evolved since, so it should be more easily doable as well. Forget DSL links save for the isolated people, and let's go for wifi hops to hops to route our packets :)