Connecting the dots: Developing better software for collaboration at #LOTE3

Proposal for track and blogpost calling for #colabs action ahead of #LOTE3

“Im looking for a good, ideally self hosted alternative to google hangouts to do regular community video calls, and then be able to post the recornings of those sessions online. Help please.”

“I like the topic, and I think we could find people interested in such a track at LOTE because it’s highly relevant … and lots of folks are sick of depending on oogle & Co. But not just about video conferencing”


Could it be worthwhile to dedicate one day at #LOTE3: the Unmonastery Edition (Oct 29 - Nov 30) to figuring out what is needed to improve the key pieces of software we need to build, manage and participate in thriving communities? And follow up the session with a 3 day hackathon to get as much of it done as possible, together? The ideal outcome will be a community-generated documentation of software recommendations and best practices: an approach similar to the Tech Tools for Activism book, but now including more aspects of community communication, like videoconferencing with large groups, online learning spaces (shared whiteboard, screensharing…), shared code editing etc…


As netizens, we rely a lot on software for building, managing and participating in communities. Like forums, social networking sites, video conferencing, telephony software. Much commercial software is offered for free, like Google Hangout and Skype, but comes with a severe non-monetary price: giving up privacy. See the unfolding PRISM scandal …

Perhaps a small contribution would be to dedidate a track at lote3 to finding, learning and documenting alternative solutions: software infrastructure that does protects the privacy of personal data and content in online communities.

This is about confronting the dilemma heads-on that many of us have faced for years now: as people who build, manage or participate in online communities to affect positive change in the world, the choice was always: Safety as well as privacy – or speed, convenience and smooth user experience? We need non commercial digital infrastructure that is safe AND offers a great user experience.

We have witnessed first hand from the persecution of the late Aaron Swartz and the Pirate Bay how vested interests will attack disruptive innovators and voices for change.

We all love the free software and open source communities and the work they do to enable us to connect and collaborate. At the same time many of us are stressed out and stretched far too thin, more often than not working on volunteer basis and with very little resources at our disposal. We are constantly tempted by easier to use, commercial software even though we know it is bad for us and the Internet in the long run. We so want free software solutions to win, for all our sakes.

While we know that a conference is not enough time to code actual solutions, there’s a highly relevant contribution that we can make when gathering all together: Researching what is the state of the art in safe free structure communication infrastructure, learning to use it, documenting this as a toobox of recommendations and best practices, and pointing out which parts are still missing.

Possible stakeholders who could support follow up work?

  • free software (FLOSS) developers, integrators and experts
  • people from The Guardian Project (free and open source, secure Android communication apps) and similar initiatives
  • authors from Tech Tools for Activism (maybe a collaboration to extend their book as conference outcome is possible?)
  • organizers / developers from social networks for activists (N-1, Riseup Labs, …)
  • IXDA?
  • Communities like Ouishare, Edgeryders, Make Sense and (add more here)?
  • Online education providers like Code Academy or Hackipedia?
  • Others?

Interested in the topic? Know of good people, places or projects that we should draw into this conversation? Want to help? Tell us you are coming and leave a comment below!


Great idea, high time!

This is a great idea and I am very happy that this idea is being floated. I have written about it on a few occasions, there are concrete ways we can start going about it.

A great set of tools and alternatives to PRISM-tainted services people use are already gathered in one place.

I see three tracks, or three parts of such an effort:

  1. for normal users: help in setting up libre alternatives, CryptoParty-style event for asking questions and getting to know Free Software and cryptography tools; key-signing party;
  2. for freesofties: some serious brainwork on creating viable alternatives to walled-gardens, and a hackathon on doing just that, plus fixing  showstoppers in libre solutions.
  3. for all: prototyping solutions together and testing existing tools by normal users but with the involvement of advanced freesofties.

On one hand this will enable every and all participant to take advantage of this idea; on the other, it will help ensure concrete outcomes, in the form of:

  • more users running free software
  • more users using crypto tools
  • tools being tested by users in a systematic fashion
  • solutions being prototyped together
  • tools being improved by more advanced participants

This is actually exactly what is now needed the most by the free software movement: testing, quality assurance, and more users.


So true.

Agreed in all the points, including the emphasis on testing and usability for FLOSS.

One little addition to your blog post about subverting the network effect of walled-garden social networks and services: maybe a “conditional pledge” approach would be great. A site where users can pledge something like “I’ll switch from Facebook to the free alternative if 32 of my friends do the same”, and the site would send them a note when it’s time to do that. A similar approach is taken by the Free State Project and (as a service) by PledgeBank.

And about standards: at times I think it needs good leadership to arrive at an agreed standard. It may not be the best (as e-mail is not  the best e-mail there could be), but it’s a standard at least …

User side: I’m in

I really like the approach! Also, thanks Mike for the links. I re-read your post on “breaking free”, and love also the collection of privacy-aware tools.

I am no developer, but I am willing to learn how to use and spread the use of tools. Crypto Party Matera at lote, anyone?

@cataspanglish :slight_smile:

hearing about Crypto Party I think we should check with Chris Pinchen @cataspanglish who I recall helped with organizing few in Berlin :slight_smile:

BTW I don’t see him here lately :frowning:

Sounds like a plan

Seems to be the continuation of the discussion we had at OuiShareFest :slight_smile:

Of course we must do it. The question of what pieces already exist and what do we need to connect together to make the puzzle work …

We would be willing to work with our to help cover some of the ground.

Count me in.

Organizing it

Hi there,

I am unfirtunately swamped with work till around the end of September and will not be able to take upon myself organising/driving this initiative. I will contribute, share ideas and take part in discussions, etc., but I simply cannot commit myself (as this will end in tears from all sides).

We need somebody to step-up and take that task…

We’ve been talking about similar things…

at the Free Knowledge Institute.  For instance, the idea of developing a free alternative to current popular Software as a Service offerings.

And also, the connected idea of “the business case.”  The “temptations” of using non-free software would be less if the cost/benefit analysis came down squarely in favor of free software.  Can we use free software and other free/open approaches to help create new and compelling revenue-generating possibilities?  (Or other less-businessy benefits…)

Makes sense

Agree, Joe. Question here is: can we deploy the expertise Nadia is talking about at the conference? BTW, now our plans for the conference are a little better defined: see the minisite. [rysiek], shame you are so busy, but no need to worry. If the need is there, people will step up to it.

groundwork - legacy

Dear Alberto:

Given the scope of this task, it would be great to get as much groundwork done beforehand, keeping in mind the work that will be done after.  A whole conference could be organized just on the topics we’re talking about here.  How can we organize the discussions in a way that will also sustain problematizing & solution-making after the conference?  (Concretely, I’m thinking about technologies - like mailing list, pirate pads, RSS feeds? … others may have good ideas and I’m sure we can point to many existing discussions that we’d like to connect this one to.)


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