My story - Thoughts on collaboration


Welcome @JuliaV
Fun to see someone who’s been at SourceFabric, I’ve been trying out Booktype and have been curious to use it to publish a longer read some day!

I think for collaboration I can recommend having a look at Adam Kahane’s book “Collaborating with the Enemy” about what collaboration really is and different forms of “collaboration”. Would be interesting to learn about different types of collaboration in peer-to-peer network.

For Open data collection, I really think you are on to something. It’s quite political as many authorities often release datasets which are not so interesting even though global warming and climate change are imminent huge challenges. There’s also often a lack of sensitive datasets around economic spending which could cause a lot of debacle.

I think it’s really true that if you can’t delete your data, it’s not yours. At the same time, there’s a big risk someone has already copied the data so it’s no longer “yours”. For event activities off Facebook I suggest having a look at the current crowdfunding by Framasoft NGO callled Mobilizon which is very well on its way to create an interesting replacement to FB. Events is the only function left on Facebook that I hear keeps people on it.


Hi Matthias!

Thanks for the tip, i will check it out!

On the politics of data collection id like to share this blog



If you can’t delete your posts, do you really own your data?

Back in the 80s at The WELL (one of the first publicly available online asynch conferencing platforms and often cited as the first real ‘online community’ - I was employee #2 there), in trying to determine this issue, the founder came up with the phrase “you own your own words.” He meant that you, rather than the platform, take responsibility for what you say.

But he used the word “own.” Now the guy who wrote the software The WELL ran on (and still does in one form), was so anti-authority that he made it impossible for even someone with root privileges to edit someone else’s words, or even remove them. Even the poster could not remove or edit them later. This was a real anti-Big Brother stance, and quite admirable I think.

But that word “own” meant that some of the members wanted to be able to remove a comment if they did not want it there. So, having a lot of hackers in the community, one of the better programmers figured out how to allow someone to remove their own comments. Not the sysop - only the poster could do it. And it wasn’t invisible - it had to say “scribbled” instead of what had been there before. It didn’t happen much so wasn’t all that bothersome, and many users felt better about at least having that ability.

But then it got taken a step further when someone figured out how to “mass scribble” which means removing every comment you have ever made. So when you leave you take it all with you. The statement said “own” and to many, that is what the word means.

Again, it wasn’t too big of a problem until one guy, one of the very most prolific commenters, who said things all over the place, got in an ugly fight with his fiance’ who was also very prominent on the WELL, and in a huff he did a mass scribble. That made the whole site look like swiss cheese and was kind of a disaster. Luckily the guy came back and it all got restored. But that was just luck. Still, when you use the word “own” that can cut a number of ways…


I should add that later, another guy, very sharp, prominent contributor, did a mass scribble then killed himself. Those comments were never restored because they couldn’t be restored by anyone but him and he was gone for good. What was sad, besides losing the guy completely (he was a friend), was that he was a seriously interesting and insightful guy with great stories and ideas. All of that was lost to the community. But he owned his own words…


This seems to be one of those contradictions that you can never solve by throwing code at. In a conversation, the community has a right to a trusted log: who said what when. But individual humans have a right to oblivion, and starting all over again. Furthermore, communities benefit from a trusted log, because it promotes prosocial behavior. But individuals benefit from being able to respawn with a clean-ish slate, and not having to walk around with the albatross of their past mistakes hanging from their necks, like Coleridge’s old mariner. There’s no solution, only management.


No question he was trying for a kind of social engineering. And pretty extreme. He didn’t trust authority but he also didn’t really trust the people, since you couldn’t edit what you said once you said it. The idea with that was so you couldn’t go back and erase something and later say “I never said that.” So yeah, building his social biases into the code.