After the call today with @Nadia and @johncoate about concepts for the new edgeryders.eu software platform, here is a synthesis by myself. It’s not exactly a summary of what we talked about or agreed on, but builds on that.
1. Basic considerations
Main paradigm. “edgeryders.eu is a collective intelligence platform for open-source everything”. Or in simpler words for the public: “edgeryders.eu is an expert community for free, open and DIY solutions for everything in life”. This is, obviously, our recent “Open Village” vision. It is also a practical value proposition as it tells people they can come and get advice on “hack solutions” for whatever they need.
Users and what they want. Nadia identified three types of users: (1) those who come to read / acquire knowledge / acquire skills (they get served finished Open Village content and instructables); (2) those who come to contribute / take action (they get served the dialogue space); (3) those who come to work with Edgeryders as a client or even a company partner (they get serves a “contact us” call to action).
Main changes to the interaction style. In contrast to now, we will have discussion sections for all areas of a “good life” open at the same time. The platform will manage to make the match between people seeking advice and the experts who can give it (in Discourse, by notifications for people who are subscribed to topics). A good idea to seed this will be to automatically make every user track between 1 and 5 categories when migrating to Discourse, according to what they could be interested in based on their previous contributions. Ideally, network analysis or AI could help with this task of “recommending” categories to be tracked by each user. Also in contrast to now, challenges will not be implemented as boards / groups (“sets of threads”), but as topics (“threads”). This was Nadias idea, and it changes the interaction style more towards the traditional “problem and suggestions” Internet forum style. This means way more challenges than right now, but with Discourse, that seems manageable.
Combination with Open Village content. The question is how a Discourse forum can be geared towards the collective development of EarthOS-style content for Open Village. We did not solve this yet, and it seems rather difficult as specifications and documentation for non-code open source projects is quite technical and complex to edit, while it has to be enjoyable for a community of volunteers to do it. The “ultima ratio” solution is to hire 1-2 editors to do it (from Nepal, it could be affordable for us). However, there should be many smaller ways to let the community contribute, which we should explore first. One nice example is that we can list relevant Open Village content packages in each section of the forum, by categorizing Open Village content with the exact same set of categories used to structure the discussion space itself.
2. Edgeryders platform components
The following is an update to the list from the “Planning for our new platform” thread.
Main menu with static pages. Contains: static HTML pages. Proposed list of the menu hierarchy, with the links to static pages:
- Community (links to the Discourse frontpage).
- Projects and Events (Sub-pages for current projects only. Former project content is only available in Discourse, tagged by project.)
- Future Makers MENA. (Static intro page, Or whatever link, according to our current project. Links to the appropriate category page in Discourse. Entry point link to hand out, though there would be a single-page website additionally.)
- Open Village Festival (Basics about the event and how to join. Entry point link to hand out, though there would be a single-page website additionally.)
- Open Village
- Overview (Nadia's "aspects of wellbeing" slide, linking to selections of Open Village content. Additional graphical ways of navigating are possible.)
- Content Packages (The actual Open Village content, for online viewing and for download.)
- About Edgeryders
- About us
- Track record (List and short descriptions of all our former projects. Includes links to a Discourse tag for each project, allowing to see all the project's content at once even though there is no longer a category for it. Includes links to downloadable final reports and documents.)
- We're open (Talking about Edgeryders OÜ as an open organization and that people can "hire themselves" to join the company.)
- Get in touch
Discourse dialogue space. Structured using these elements:
- Categories. The main structural element in Discourse. See below for a detailed proposal.
Tags. Tags will have three separate uses in our platform:
- Tags for alternative navigation. Nadia's "aspects of wellbeing" slide provides an alternative means of ordering the content. We can use tags on topics to apply that order, and let users navigate to tags by clicking a node on a diagram looking just like that "areas of wellbeing" slide. The Discourse tagging system is simpler than Drupals, having only a two-level hierarchy. However we can use our own pseudo-hiearchical tags like "food→agriculture", or perhaps rather "food:agriculture". That works just as in Open Ethnographer, and provides nice hierarchical autocompletion after typing the separator character.
- Tags for keeping projects together. We do no longer allow users to create projects, and there will be no custom per-project categories. However, users can freely tag their content, and it is possible to follow / track tags in Discourse, just like you can follow / track categories. So tags are our new proposed way for people to keep their project-related user content together. For example, Open Insulin content would all be tagged "openinsulin". The same principle will be used for content from our own past projects, and for client projects when they finish and their custom project category is dissolved. So instead of a category "WENA Youth Platform", the content would then all be tagged "mena-yp". (And everyone who followed the category would be made to follow the tag instead.)
- Tags for free tagging. Some people like folksonomy tagging. It does not hurt the above uses, so no problem.
- Matrix chat space. Would allow realtime one-on-one and group communication, and the default chatroom could be dedicated to be the hangout space of the site. (John recommended to have this, as it's important for people to also have a relaxed space and not having to be focused on content, work and staying on-topic as everywhere else on the site.) Matrix might be better for this purpose than Discourse, as it provides pleasant real-time communication, and because this communication would be ephemeral (not archived), which provides peace of mind for people in a space where it's ok to be at times silly.
- Open Village toolkit. Probably a custom software, to be developed in the medium-term future. Ultimate goal is a downloadable open source package for every aspect of a good life, in such a way that all the packages work nicely together (both their digital format, and the things to build from the packages' instructions).
3. Proposed Discourse categories
The category tree is the main structural element in Discourse. If we really want to go with the Open Village “open source everything” vision, the best way to cut categories is probably “one for each area of life”. The current “channels” list is a good starter. It will finally be a two-level hierarchy of categories, with only the first level shown in the Discourse hamburger menu (may need a bit of custom code). We need two levels so that people can subscribe as “experts” to specific-enough areas of interest. In addition to by-topic categories, we’d have temporary “focus categories” such as “MENA Youth Platform”, special categories for events and the blog, and access protected “staff categories”. A rought proposal for a two-level list of categories, ordered by “growing distance from the self” (as in EarthOS):
Future Makers MENA. Potentially with a better name though. Focus categories like this are temporary, provided as long as the project for a client lasts. Afterwards, their content is sorted into the usual categories above. As long as they last, they provide a sub-set of the site's content, so newcomers feel less intimidated, and more at home as they will be closer to the people gathering in this category for discussions.
- Co-working and co-living
- Alternative means of livelihood
- Agriculture and Food
- Accommocation and protection
- Environment and nature
- Healthcare and social care
- Making and Producing
- Mental and Spiritual Resilience
- Personal relationships
Community, people and places.
- Community organizing
- Governance and self-governance
- Policy-making and politics
Science and Knowledge.
- Network Science
- Open Science and Technologies
- Campfire. Or whatever name. A section equivalent to the current "Agora", providing a space for relaxation and hangout. No need to be focused, working and on-topic as everywhere else on the site. A probably better alternative is to dedicate the default Matrix chatroom to this (see there for some details on that, above).
Events. A category for organizing our events, with one sub-category per event. There will always be discussions regarding the event, even though we will use specialized external web applications for actually organizing tickets and logistics. Also, we need this to import all the existing content of prior events.
- LOTE 6 (Open Village Festival)
- Blog. (Access-protected category, only visible to members.) This is a special category. All topics created here would be shown as an infinite-scroll blog in another section of the site. The group itself is access protected, so that the blog is only publicly visible in one place on the site, not redundantly in two. The access protection also lets us select who can contribute to the blog. We'd add basically all experienced users. It should feel as an "honour" to write on the official Edgeryders blog. For example, stellar projects like Open Insulin could write some post from time to time on the blog. In more general, anything that is not the typical "challenge / problem / concept, looking for replies" format of the forums is a good candidate for the blog.
Staff. (Access-protected category, only visible to members.) We should not try to force staff discussions to Open Project, as it keeps people closer to their "workplace" in a natural way when they discuss about their work on the same platform where they work.
- Staff: Edgeryders Company
- Staff: MENA Youth Platform
- Staff: Future Makers Global