My story - Thoughts on collaboration

Hello there fellow humans!

I am very happy to have found a good reason to finally get in touch with the Edgeryders community. My name is Julia, and I have been on the fringe of your network for quite some years. At the end of the month I will leave my position as Head of Media Developmenta at Sourcefabric and will have some time to deep dive into an interesting project.

I am still thinking about how to frame the topic I would like to work with in relation to this call, and I will share a few thoughts with you now, and I hope you could give me some pointers in the comments, as to what direction would be interesting to follow. I could imagine to work around a rather broad topic, such as “collaboration”, with sub categories like;

Technical challanges
How does collaboration look like in a distributed peer to peer network? What technical challenges are there to be solved? What initiatives are working towards solutions and how far are they? Are solutions compatible? How energy efficient are they? How private, and how hackable?

Lately I have been in touch with worldbrain a privacy focused browser extension to annotate, search and organize what you’ve seen online. I had some interesting conversations with them about the challenges you face when working collaboratively in a distributed network, and found it a very exiting topic.

Open data collection
What data is collected, and what is deliberately not collected, is a very political topic.
I am interested to talk to initiatives that have been collecting open data collaboratively, such as safecast, who maintains the largest open data set of background radiation measurements ever collected. The organisation maps open data connected to the environment and (radioactivity, airquality) and was founded as a reaction to the lack of information on radiation after the Fukushima disaster. I would like to find out more about what blockers and what strengths they experienced in setting up the organisation, as well as their ideas on how this kind of data will be accessed in the future.

With the rise of the climate change, collecting data, especially around environmental issues, will become increasingly subversive, and will need to be both transparent and protected in safe structures. I would like to look at a few open journalistic investigations as well if going into this direction.

I have a few other thoughts on the collaborative process as well, more in line with how infrastructure and incentives can push the process and result in different directions, and where also the psychological aspect of who owns your data, and who facilitates our communication play a part.

Please let me know any of your thoughts around these topics in the comments. :slight_smile:

A few more words on who I am: I am coming from a background working with local communities, activists, media, journalists and tech, and I have acquired skills and a network which I believe could be relevant in gathering interesting content for the research and festival you outline in this call. I also have experience in publishing a magazine and editing content, as well as facilitation of open workshops, processes and seminars. Sometimes on the serious side, sometimes more bordering art and performance.

Looking forward to hear from you!
Julia

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Welcome @JuliaV ! Thank you so much for joining us. Your projects and scope sound amazing! Looking forward to hearing more about them.

What types of collaboration or collaborators are you looking for?

Welcome Julia!

What an interesting coincidence. I just met Oliver from worldbrain in Berlin, and we had some very interesting conversations. We both attended the Data Terra Nemo conference. They have a lot of interesting ideas, and I think Oliver will show up here on Edgeryders at some point once he’s done with a work-sprint that he is in the middle of.

One initiative I learned about at Data Terra Nemo is Mapeo.

Mapeo is an open source, offline-first map editor. Mapeo makes it easy for individuals or teams to create maps and organize stories and knowledge.

They are building it in collaboration with Amazon Frontlines and Alianza Ceibo in the Ecuadorian Amazon. What makes is very unique is that it is built on top of decentralized technologies, making it very difficult for companies and governments to take down subversive datastores. And they definitely work in regions where that could be a real threat.

Digital Democracy’s local partners are mapping and monitoring millions of acres of land in the Amazon, holding oil companies and governments accountable, working to prevent new oil concessions, and working to secure their land rights so that their environment can be protected for future generations.

There are others here who also share your interests. There is @zelf, who does impressive work on facilitating collaboration in the Scuttlebutt community. And @zaunders and @kristofer who work on Holochain and other project. @Engstrom_PP who is thinking about how to make activists into collaborative swarms, and @Peer who thinks about swarm intelligence. And of course, @juneholley and her network weavers.

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Hi Julia. Delighted to see you here. I have a couple of overlaps with the orgs and links you mention above - by coincidence I had just downloaded worldbrain yesterday…am just checking it out now. Sourcefabric reminds me of The Coral Project, a US-based open source toolkit for journalists, to whom I did a bit of advising, and a good friend of mine, Dan Sythe, is on the Safecast team. Dan invented a low cost radiation monitor that is used quite a bit on monitoring here on the west coast of California and his company, International Medcom, supplies many if not most of the radiation detectors Safecast uses. Dan and I go way back…to a commune we both lived on in the 70s.

(As a digression, since everyone here loves a good hack, Dan came up with his design for a low-cost radiation detector back at the commune by hooking a geiger tube to a heartbeat monitor, and voila!)

Regarding climate change and its companion disaster, mass extinction, I increasingly see everything through that lens, especially politics, policy, technology, energy, etc etc - all of the above. And of course I live in the USA where the country is led by a climate change denier.

To me an Internet of Humans has to be part of a sustainable future, and if it isn’t then it has no validity. Because nothing does if it can’t show that it is helping rather than hurting. I see it as that stark at this point in history. And I don’t see anything making a difference that isn’t seriously radical. As in, no chance unless all armed conflict ceases immediately and all resources and efforts shift to solving the earth’s carrying capacity (and what are the odds of that).

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These are issues we at Edgeryders wrestle with all the time. I have been collaborating online in one way or another for 34 years and I still struggle with it. It would be easier for us if we just went all the way into the Google world, with all their well-crafted products, but that puts us in their grip too much. So we use open source products when we can. So there is that aspect of it: the tools. And then of course there is the distance. I have dealt with it by going to Europe a lot of times in the past couple of years from my home in California, but that is pretty exhausting after awhile.

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To the same questions of Julia,

I found, working with our group since its early days in 2012, that good processes and documentation is key. They are themselves hacks of existing commercial services and products, but adapted to our world and care for privacy and autonomy. @matthias is the best lead we could get and I’m sure he has his own reflections on it.

But when you zoom out of what seems to be working for you, I am not sure how it translates to other networks. It is cultural too, people have different preferences and the effort to channel them all in a good path is quite big. Imagine all the unpaid hours of thinking and testing.#

@JuliaV welcome from me too!

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Not sure about the nexus between “collaborating” and “where are my data”. Do you define collaboration as an act whereby someone lets someone else have their data?

Wow! As others have said, you’ve picked a fascinating topic.

My interest is in how the data that’s been collected is made discoverable by others, moving away from the current approach of dumping it all in one centralized pile. Since these topics are very much two sides of the same coin, I wonder if you have any thoughts that way?

P.S. Thinks for the worldbrain link, it’s right up my alley!

Hi there!

Sorry for my little late replies, this week is a real killer. :wink:

@MariaEuler
“What types of collaboration or collaborators are you looking for?”

Thanks for the warm welcome! I aiming to look at open, decentralized initiatives and what issues they face. I would assume decentralized structures are more gravitated towards collaboration by deafult, but will meet more challenges as well, compared to centralized structures.

@hugi
Yes, Oliver from worldbrain mentioned your talk. :slight_smile: Mapeo looks really interesting! Thanks for sharing, and the other pointers too!

@johncoate
Interesting that we have some overlaps. :slight_smile: Well, not so strange, maybe, world is always smaller than one would think!

@alberto
I was more thinking about the psychological effects of how and what people say on social networks and why. In this sense I was actually more referring to dialogue than collaboration. I think concerns about data is getting more and more mainstream, leading to some degree of self censorship, though I would argue hate speech is the main issue we face.
Anyway these concerns are also alive on the fringes in decentralized networks, for instance, a small example regarding scuttlebutt:

“Another problematic issue is that you cannot delete posts. Once your posts appear on others’ computers, they no longer have a singular home where they can be accessed & destroyed. Once you send out those posts, they now have multiple homes. I understand that the protocol’s very structure makes deletion difficult. I do. Many developers argue that SSB is the place for “sober” commentary, that the permanence gives folks pause for posting. I don’t know: we’ve collectively witnessed at least 4 decades of online bad behavior. Also, folks say stupid shit all the time. Should they be held accountable forever? What if they wish to leave Scuttlebutt? What if they’re being targeted by malicious actors? What if they just wish to reduce their digital shadows? If you can’t delete your posts, do you really own your data?” Source: https://gopher.floodgap.com/gopher/gw?gopher://sdf.org:70/0/users/rusty/Post04-ssb

@alcinnz

I think there worldbrain is really on point, as I think information overload is a real issue, as well as quality information.

Another thought that I had last days is the curiosity of gender in community building and construction of networks. If one looks to society, this is generally something where females take the lead, keeping connections in support networks, arranging and managing the social sphere. Would a collaboration, community build by non-cis-male engineers look differently? If so, how?

Cheers,
Julia

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Wow, who is this Rusty guy? The post is impressive. @matthias has been thinking a lot about high-latency computer networks for application to rural Nepal, and I see his arguments coming to life in Rusty’s words:

Understanding New Zealand’s geographic isolation is necessary to understanding why SSB came into existence. Birthed from the brain of Dominic Tarr, SSB was originally an attempt to cope with New Zealand’s unreliable internet connections. Instead of thinking that this roadblock had to be overcome, Tarr & soon others developed a way to network using localization & disrupted connectivity as foundational concepts. (source)

I am fascinated by the trade-offs that Rusty mentions (I experience them myself, I have used SSB for almost one year now). Since posting is permanent, you are discouraged from posting in anger. My client (Patchwork) wants you before each post, and asks for confirmation. This generates friendly, “sober” thoughtful responses. People go out of their way to get closure of anything resembling conflict. But then, no, you definitely do not own your data if you cannot delete them.

In the end, he proposes that the best use for SSB is to keep track of interaction with local groups:

Instead, I see its greatest potential as being a tool for aiding communication between individuals in a closed network. […] SSB would make for a great tool in a closed network because everyone’s information is stored on each other’s computers. There would be no corporate spying or targeted ads. Since you avoid outside servers & could even avoid the internet, the rules of discourse could be negotiated by the active participants. In other words, SSB could help maintain autonomous digital spaces at a time where they are rapidly disappearing.

In Edgeryders, this function is fulfilled by:

  1. This platform, with some groups open on the web and some closed ones. It is the place for sober commentary and permanence of content (though you can delete your own content if you want). It is self-hosted, but not decentralized within the organization, as it relies on our server. You could argue it is more decentralized than using discourse.org, or Google Groups.
  2. Matrix for rapid-fire communication. Also self-hosted, but part of a federated system. Our server is programmed to forget all communication after 15 days. If you have important content that you want the network to remember, post it on edgeryders.eu instead!

I can certainly see the value of SSB for activists planning. People also use Signal for that.

@allegra, was great to have you in the call just now. There is a worldbrain connection here, have you already seen that?

This is not a great use-case of SSB. In the future it might be, but at at this point only private massages are encrypted, and there are better protocols (like signal) if that is what you care most about. Most posts on SSB are actually completely unprotected, and viewable from the www-internet through nodes that are sharing their feeds online.

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This is an interesting point, because it has some strange ramifications if we follow it through to its conclusion. One of the rationales for not being able to delete your posts is that in a world where data is distributed, is that it just isn’t possible to guarantee that your posts don’t live on. Today, anything embarrassing is impossible to get rid of from the internet if you are famous, but the only reason this is not true for all of us is that it’s simply too expensive to save every piece of information I see online. But as storage grows cheaper, this will no longer be the case. Indeed, Worldbrain saves everything I read online in its local cache on my computer and makes that content searchable and available to me later regardless of whether you have deleted your posts or not. If it becomes as cheap for me to save every image I see forever, if it becomes as easy for people with camera-glasses to cache every moment of everything they see locally, can any data ever truly be deleted? And when this starts to extend into IoT sensor territory, this becomes an even stranger future world.

And if we draw this quote to its logical conclusion: If you can never delete any of the content you release online, does this mean that you no longer own it?

Hello, Loomio dev here.

We have this problem regularly. If someone contributes to a group discussion, is that comment theirs to delete?

How about a vote. If a group make a major decision, then later someone decides to delete all their data, losing their vote makes the decision unclear - to me, it is clear that you do not own your vote data, you give it to the group.

Practically, to give users maximum freedom, we remove the user record with user_id, name, email, photo etc, but preserve the vote record with position and statement. So the outcome of the deicsion is not changed, but the user’s personally identifiying information is removed at their request.

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That depends on the kind of discussion and the context of the group I’d say. Your “major decision” example is a good one, in such cases, the vote should be kept, because people need to be able to see how something important was decided. If it is really important, it might even be prudent to say “no, this needs to be in the public record forever, with that persons name attached to it!” In those cases, it is imperative though, that everyone who is called to that vote knows this beforehand.

But for random discussions where someone realized that they inadvertently wrote something harmful and want to delete it? Say, you did a snafu and realized that you copy-pasted your credit card data into a Facebook discussion. You should be able to remove that, shouldn’t you?

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Yes, Julia is collaborating with us. She is the one who told me about Edgeryders :slight_smile:

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@JuliaV I just came across the political initiative crowdvoice that is all about gathering data from eyewitness collectively.

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Hi there again!

First of all, thanks for all the feedback on my post! :slight_smile:

I have been contemplating a bit the last days about the upcoming months, and I actually think I need to give myself a bit of a calm time before deep diving into something new. I am really happy to have gotten a small insight in the community, and I would like to stick around to follow the developments in this forum. Maybe i would have a go at another of the fellowships later in time, but for now, I hope the right person finds this opportunity. :slight_smile:

Also glad to see that @allegra found her way here too!

Have a nice evening!

Julia

Yeah, i don’t know Rusty, i just came across this post on twitter and thought it was pretty on point. :slight_smile:

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