Building the world you want to live in


Bittorrent is really pretty great P2P technology, that could use some usability work.
Blockchains are really pretty great technology for expressing value (payments) and anonymized identity, that could use some usability work.
Perfect forward encryption works well with P2P and is already quite usable in apps such as Signal.

“Funded by the commons” could simply mean “everybody doing their own thing” (in an IndieWeb manner). I get uncomfortable trying to think about inventing something like government that is also somehow unlike government. I’d rather skip that bit.

So I can imagine a system that ties together torrent, blockchains, perfect forward encryption, webmention, not so sure about OAuth, and we need a long conversation about syndication. But people don’t want a basket of technologies. They want to say to their mom, “are you on HippieBook yet?” not “have you acquired your comp sci degree yet?”

Who’s going to do the work? I’d love to, but I live in a capitalist society and I have bills to pay.


It occurs to me that people might be willing to do the work “themselves” (or pay others to do it) if we saw any value in social networking. Or, if social networking produced something we already hold to be of value.

What if all our jibber-jabber resulted in something? That’s what I like about lines. Music comes out of this thing (often enough to be worthy of remark, if not constantly).


really enjoyed this article. two related projects that have recently inspired me:

in my view, sandstorm’s ‘federated apps marketplace’ has the potential to combine the power of open source with the privacy of self-hosting with the ease of ‘1-click’ installs for non-coders.

letsencrypt is one of those things where you wonder why no one thought of it 20 years ago.


Lots of interesting thoughts in this thread.

One huge hurdle to decentralized tools is, as has been mentioned, that good design for something of this scale is really really hard to do, and often requires a large team working for many years. As we see with so many open source projects, it’s really hard to pull off in a decentralized way of working. And this is largely what’s required for mass adoption.

The other aspect is cultural… most people just don’t see the problem with Facebook (etc) and are happy to use it as their sole access point. This is due to poor literacy around privacy and value exchange, but also due to cultural conditioning that has been reinforced by the economies of the web.

If you’re interested in learning about how we ended up here, I high recommend this article:

IMO, even centralized tools like Facebook could be much much better if the users were the customers. i.e. if we all paid some small amount for a subscription then the company would be more inclined to listen to people. Unfortunately in the current model we’re not the customers, we’re the product.

For decentralization, we also have to differentiate between the data and the tools. If we could have standards for decentralized data, where we each own our data and the rights to it, then many different types of companies or organizations could build interfaces for that data. We could allow access to the ones we want, and not to the others. We could agree to an equitable value exchange. We could participate in different level in different places, presenting different social fronts as we desire.

IMO, building the aggregators and tools is hard. Decentralizing the data based on a unified standard should be easier. But then the business model for the services must drastically change.

edit: One more thing absolutely worth reading:


Don’t assume this hasn’t been seriously considered by the major social networks. In the end, the analysis shows that economies of scale benefit from network effects, and it doesn’t work in reverse. This is why social networking is “free”. The only way to counteract this is to diminish the technical illiteracy that drives it. Huge project! Where to start?


Oh absolutely. To contextualize some of my remarks, this topic is a big one in my regular work as a software and product designer. I’ve worked with large social networks, and even with some startups trying to create social networks on BitTorrent and Blockchain technologies. It is absolutely being tried, but Facebook is a behemoth. It will be very hard to get people away from it for any of their daily activity (posting updates, sharing photos, managing events). And even when a company succeeds, they are quickly bought and rolled into the Facebook platform (i.e. Instagram).

It is a wicked problem indeed.


This is why I was trying to float the idea before, surely there is the technical skill here to take a rasp-pi, write a walkthrough for lektor, load it up with whatever flavour of Linux+apache works and offer a nice little 3D printed porcelain egg case for it to sit nicely in on my desk, for a price that works for the workers. Add in some social connectivity and see if the community can’t lead the way on more than the netlabel front.


A social networking appliance. Certainly a novel concept.

But why not a desktop/mobile app, distributed through app stores? Less capital intensive.

And it’s been tried. I think people underestimate the work involved. Margins get pretty thin in absence of VC money.


And VCs can’t figure out how to make a killing in a distributed system. A living, yes, but that’s not what VC thinks it needs. Hence, IndieWeb efforts of all stripes are starved for cash, except the ones that are trying to slip their own blockchain currency into the basic plumbing.


I think the obvious (!) thing to do is to do a trial balloon with a limited audience as a kickstarter / needs assessment / …

Facebook was originally one school.

Apple originally marketed to home-brew.

You have to start somewhere. And if it has merit, it flies. And even if it never gets that big, …


A non-corporate, indie-music friendly, app-plus-or-minus-hardware, roadworthy, simple, open, … trial.

Call it ‘Connect-isms’ or ‘Webome’ or… whatever.

The point is try it with a smaller audience that is open and sharing and has a bit of an axe to grind with corporate ownership of all the things.

So, basically, Myspace 2.0. openMySpaceToo?

(also might make a cool project for an innovation-connector like Y-Combinator, though… VC$ will lead to VC Thinking will lead to YetAnotherCorporateEntity.)


Well, this one happened…


I can point to a fairly lengthy list of attempts. Not that I want to dissuade anybody from adding to the list, but I guess I’d encourage anybody thinking seriously about this to take a long hard look at what has transpired in the past and try to learn from it.


hasn’t everyone a diaspora* account ?


I think I do? I might have even posted something to it once!


This is exactly what I’m getting at. I honestly can’t think of anywhere else this would work, but it might be nice to try…even as a set of guides+files, the community here seems like it could make this work at scale. Buy a rasp-pi, print off a llllllll case, follow the guides to install software, follow the guide to make a hello world with whichever static content generator, connect and expand. I don’t think it would have to be comprehensive, just a proof of concept. Most of it is already out there, but combining it and honing it into a community project…now that is novel.

If the goal is the ownership of data, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use platforms that negate the premise.


OK, I think there might be some misunderstanding about how app stores work, but whatever, it wasn’t essential to my point. Same point for downloading the app from anywhere.


No misunderstanding, I know what you are getting at, but if you have to use a computer/phone that runs on something that isn’t open source/known to be free of data aggregation services, how can you claim your end data is actually yours? Also using an app would require someone to code it/patch it together from open sources, and wouldn’t necessarily be different than any other attempt to go before it (besides an established community.)


OK, at the level of paranoia you’re operating at, there’s really no way to make the experience consumer friendly. You’re getting into territory that requires defining a threat model and adhering to it. Users would need to assemble the appliance themselves, more or less from scratch.

We make compromises.


Paranoia? I’m afraid you are misunderstanding my intent.

And yes they might need to do some assembly, actually don’t see too much wrong with that provided the documentation (consumer friendly) is adequate and the community can help solve any huge problems. I was trying to imagine a mid point between monome/lines/the goal of the article. Functional Art Object meets Social Network meets Idealistic Future Networks.


Sorry, I use “paranoia” as shorthand. I should be speaking in more appropriate threat modeling terminology.