February 23rd, 2017 09:37

Commons transition: what about the IT infrastructure?

Michele Kipiel
Michele Kipiel Public Seen by 513

Hi all,

there's a great deal of debate in the P2P community about the ways the commons transition will take shape in fields as diverse as energy production, farming, housing, industrial production and so on. Almost all proposed solutions take the IT ifrastructure as a given: the internet is assumed to always be there for us to use, no matter what. This seems to me like a naive and dangerous assumption, as it greatly downplays the importance of ISPs (which are private companies) as both gateways and gatekeepers of our access to the internet. There are many ways both governments and private institutions could get in the way of the commons transition by disrupting our communication channels.

Has this been debated here before? Are there any resources/articles/papers around this problem I should be aware of?


Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf February 23rd, 2017 09:51

I think IT needs to be rethought for a better economy (and also a better social impact like less monetarization of personal data, etc.)
True P2P networks (in the IT sense this time) ought to be more developed. I've seen web pages but it's far from easily feasible for the lay, non IT person.
I've moved my blog to my own server (a raspberry Pi 3 with an attached small hard drive), and intent to host my own email as well. But again, it's still complicated (though some pre-packaged kits are available like Yunohost for instance).

I personally dream of the old days of Internet with 1:1 connections and routing between hosts. Protocols have evolved since, so it should be more easily doable as well. Forget DSL links save for the isolated people, and let's go for wifi hops to hops to route our packets :)


Graham February 23rd, 2017 11:39

Community ownership of infrastructure is surely a key piece of the jigsaw. Initiatives like guifi.net and b4rn.org.uk are part of the solution, and put users in control of more of the supply chain, but things like these are a drop in the ocean currently. The big internet pipes are I think largely under corporate control, but I would hope there is also strong governmental input into these assets given their strategic importance. Interesting to note that major peering points (where the big pipes exchange traffic) are often run as not-for-profit mutuals (e.g. https://www.linx.net) and commercially focused exchanges are often much less successful. The cooperative model works! See also http://bdx.coop and http://shaunfensom.com


Graham February 23rd, 2017 11:40

what's your blog address Nicolas? I'd be interested to see how running it off a Pi impacts performance. Also you'll need to be on a connection with a decent upload speed.

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf February 23rd, 2017 11:57

http://blog.appreciatingsystems.com/. I have a poor DSL connection, but I find it enough for a blog (and descending email later or to upload files I find at work onto my personal cloud instance - also on the Pi).

The latency is due to the DSL line, not the Pi, really. When I browse the Pi from home, it's just... fast.


Graham February 23rd, 2017 12:07

That's not bad at all. I tried running Wordpress on a first generation Pi and it is painful. This looks much more useful. As an aside I'm seeing the seeing three errors on your home page:

404 error with http://blog.appreciatingsystems.com/resources/images/article_assets/2016/08/R1609C_ALMQUIST_VALUEPYRAMID-850x1169.png

400 error with

and a JS error with http://blog.appreciatingsystems.com/wp-content/plugins/googlecards/js/googleCards.min.js?ver=4.7.2

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf February 23rd, 2017 15:58

well, I have not migrated all the DNS entries, and some might still be pointing to the US provider. Until then, errors are expected :)

But really, the Raspberry Pi3 is really powerful (even when connected to a TV with a keyboard and graphic interface, it's usuable even for Office work (with Libre Office for instance). It's a bit slow but in an energetic degrowth posture, it's acceptable for me. (It's headless for now, running below my home desk, slurping only 2W at most).

My future work is to have it run out of a solar powered battery (I have one for a play house for the kids in the garden, with LED lights, which isn't used, and the battery has USB power outputs :)

Jake Hansen

Jake Hansen February 24th, 2017 19:29

There is also a grassroots initiative here in The Netherlads, in the city of Leiden: https://www.wirelessleiden.nl/en

Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel February 27th, 2017 14:35

Thank you all for sharing your knowledge on this topic! I'll look up all the shared resources and try to figure out what's the status-quo regarding commons-based IT infrastructure, which in my opinion is a vital topic for the movement.


Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) February 27th, 2017 15:03

The vision of a complete user-owned and co-op run infrastructure is beautiful to think about!

In case anyone is interested more in https://b4rn.org.uk/ I have personal experience of helping build the network, and this message is sent through them!


Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel February 28th, 2017 08:38

Hi Simon,

that's exaclty what I have in mind: co-op infrastructure to serve as the IT backbone of the commons transition. Are there any legal frameworks available for this kind of co-op ?


Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) February 28th, 2017 09:44

For the official position of B4RN, see https://b4rn.org.uk/about-us/ as you see in the UK it's a community benefit society, but I haven't looked deeply into the legal framework. What I know more about is the practical aspect of building the physical network.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 1st, 2017 01:01

The big issue threatening non-corporate use of the internet at present is the person Trump has put in charge of the US FCC, who is busy undoing a lot of the good work his Obama appointed predecessor did towards protecting net neutrality. Especially important is the classification of broadband as a public utility, like water, electricity, or telephone, which is now under threat in the US.

Of course, if all the critical internet infrastructure around the world was owned by for-benefit cooperative bodies, rather than for-profit corporations, the role of regulators like the FCC would likely be much less important.

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf March 1st, 2017 07:58

Then maybe we should rely less on government controlled (in one way or the other) big infrastructures, and more on ourselves and commons-managed ones.

I'd say that for everything not natural (ie, humanly built) we should build the comm-unity at the same time of building the commons.

Simon Carter

Simon Carter March 1st, 2017 08:33

So hypothetically, if someone had the means to build a big on-line community, how might that community go about building it's own IT infrastructure?

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf March 1st, 2017 10:11

I'd say that it should be in a P2P way ? Either small pieces connected to small pieces.
However it there only way is a big one, then, although difficult, it should be build with all peer stakeholders.

Now, putting optical fiber cables down the ocean is another problem (or launching a telecommunication satellite), but maybe there are other ways?

If all that's left is turning big corporate corporations in charge of the internet biggest infrastructure into cooperatives, then it means we've achieved a lot IMHO.

Meanwhile, I'd think the best way is a middle one: pursue both path of pushing for more commoning and building/Rebuilding commons from the ground up where transforation of private assets into commons is too difficult and slow.

"Don't fight a broken system, create a new one and let the old die" (Buckminster Fuller is I recall correctly). If people start to use a commons instead of a capitalistic resource, then it's a form of boycot and non-violent action, then the capitalistic enterprise might consider switching gear (after all, if its stakeholders and employees want to survive, it would turn out as a "best then nothing" alternative).

Unlimited growth won't last long, so employees will come to other form of economy sooner or later. The sooner we build alternative, the more prepared they (we !) will be.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 1st, 2017 10:25

Great reply from @nicolasstampf -- to add to that, I'd say, let's start by listing all the components (a wiki would be great for doing this, then we can have a tree-structured breakdown of what is needed) and look at each component in turn. We need to know what the easier parts are, and the harder parts, then we can take forward the easier parts, and make a start on thinking creatively about the more difficult parts.

Let's investigate: has anyone started this kind of wiki-style planning resource? Fragmentation would be really unhelpful.


Graham March 1st, 2017 11:00

The Dutch project in Neunen (http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Nuenen.html) going back to 2008-ish was inspirational for many in the UK when looking at community owned solutions. these types of project are the way to go in terms of creating infrastructure under community control between home/office and a local hub/exchange. The bdx.coop approach can be used to create new digital exchanges (a currently under-considered element in the network where as I see it there is a lot of scope for cooperative ownership/control). The much bigger challenge is the backhaul – the core fibre infrastructure that connects these exchanges together and provides the central transit services that we all rely on. There's nothing to stop communities (of place and/or interest) from building their own infrastructure (other than the financial barriers and the vested corporate and political interests, of course).

In terms of building a knowledge base, don't start from scratch. http://www.beyondbroadband.coop was built by INCA (inca.coop) a few years ago. Somewhat out of date now, there's still a lot of good information there, albeit largely UK-specific (disclosure: Im part of the INCA team). Shaun Fensom (referenced earlier in this thread) and others have been working on these issues for many years. Interested parties should talk to them and learn from their work before duplicating that effort.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 1st, 2017 11:24

Brilliant, thanks @graham2 just the kind of information I was hoping for. Totally agree about not duplicating effort.

If there is a resource that is out of date, can we either get access to update it, or clone it and build on that?

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf March 1st, 2017 12:28

Maybe the P2P Foundation wiki has a place to collate the dispersed information for a starter? @michelbauwens1 might know an entry point ? Or a place where this work (or similar) happens already?

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf March 1st, 2017 12:30

http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Technology looks promising, including section 8.1 (though a bit short in content IMHO)

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 1st, 2017 14:31

dear Nicolas,

You mean basic info about the p2p and the p2p foundation ?



Graham March 1st, 2017 14:42

The http://www.beyondbroadband.coop site has really been mothballed now by INCA. Only last week we were talking about whether to take it offline altogether. However, if there was a committed group willing to take it on, bring it up to date and nurture it, I'm sure the INCA team would be very open to talks about how we could make it available.
The site is built in Drupal 6, and as originally established was designed to act like a wiki, where a community of interested users could contribute to the knowledgebase.

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 1st, 2017 14:51

perhaps Josef, in cc, can help ?

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf March 1st, 2017 14:57

@michelbauwens1 : we are looking for a place to gather links to initiatives aimed at building IT commons, and maybe co-organized in order to further grow relations between those initiatives (ultimate non-realistic goal: build an alternative Internet infrastructure ;)

@Others: did I summarize properly?

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 1st, 2017 15:10

@nicolasstampf yes that is certainly one aspect of our vision! I would enjoy other reflections on what we are trying to do. My personal perspective is that it would be a good start to build a coherent knowledge commons -- e.g. on a wiki -- where we can separate and relate all the various components of an IT infrastructure, and then (a) where we already have workable commons solutions, disseminate the knowledge and encourage their implementation; (b) where we don't, bring that up in our awareness so that we can apply our creativity to thinking through and experimenting.

Simon Carter

Simon Carter March 1st, 2017 15:39

Obviously we all pay a fortune for our internet connection collectively. All we need do is redirect that spend, buy what we need, & run it as a public utility. . . . . simple ,. . . . . maybe it is. Frankly, that's all we need to do with anything that is currently controlled for profit. I'm not sure why we put up with it.


Graham March 1st, 2017 16:09

Well I guess you answer your own question @simoncarter - we buy rather than build because it is easier that way, even if it costs us more in the long run.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 1st, 2017 16:17

Actually, B4RN https://b4rn.org.uk/about-us/ is not particularly cheaper than other providers. Every household pays £30 per month, for a very fast service (upload particularly is awesome, as the bandwidth is symmetric). Very few people do this, but it means that it is feasible to run a web server from home, which few other services make practical. That's the real peer potential of an arrangement like ours.

The income stream goes to (a) the admin and technical team (b) will be towards paying off investors, then in the long run (c) community benefit. Barry Forde has often said that when the initial investment is paid off, he hopes we will continue paying our £30 per month, with the surplus going to benefit the community. There may be an alternative option to reduce the cost.


Graham March 1st, 2017 16:24

For the performance that you get, the price you pay for the B4RN service is pretty keen I'd say. Take a look at the stats a thttp://www.thinkbroadband.com, which put B4RN customers right up there as one of the three top performing services in terms of download/upload speed - not bad at all for a very rural connection. Plus with the fibre to the premises infrastructure that you've built up there, you have plenty of capacity to increase that performance over time, subject to backhaul.

Josef Davies-Coates

Josef Davies-Coates March 1st, 2017 17:37

if there was a committed group willing to take it on, bring it up to date and nurture it, I'm sure the INCA team would be very open to talks about how we could make it available.

Maybe one for CoTech?

I had a very quick look at the site and immediately though "wtf are 'NGA projects'?"

Chris Croome (Webarchitects Co-operative)

This is slightly off the topic of a commons based ISP but there have been some early discussions between people in CoTech regarding a future Co-op Cloud and Webarchitects is soon going to be setting up a GitLab CE site for co-operators at git.coop and I came here following this thread being mentioned on the Autonomous Infrastructure thread on the Co-operative Technologists Loomio group.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 2nd, 2017 01:25

I think avoiding reinvention of the wheel is essential, and learning from the successes and failures of cooperative network projects to date. The Free Network Foundation comes to mind as one which seemed really promising but seems to have gone dormant. I started a list of similar network projects on the Disintermedia wiki, but as with a lot of the content there, I intend to merge this into the P2PF wiki.

@graham2 if the beyondbroadband.cooop site is out-of-date (both the content and the infostructure - Drupal 6 is no longer supported), maybe the content could also be merged into relevant/ new articles ont he P2PF wiki?

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 2nd, 2017 05:17

do have a look already at http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastrucrure, which contains links to initiatives like the Collaborative Tech Alliance, indie web, the counter-anti-disintermedation group and others


Graham March 2nd, 2017 10:15

As far as I recall the content is CC-BY-SA so as long as those terms are complied with, content can be re-used.

As I said earlier, if people want to make use of that asset, then I'm sure INCA would be open to an approach, and I'm happy to act as the front door for that approach. We could then potentially provide a login to that site or a database dump to facilitate content migration.


Graham March 2nd, 2017 10:58

"NGA" = Next Generation Access (aka industry jargon)

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 2nd, 2017 12:22

typo alert: https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastructure

(also mentioned upthread)

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel March 2nd, 2017 14:43

As I recall, Nethood co-founder Panayotis Antoniadis has a particular focus on developing DIY networking community and capacity. So, I think Nethood is a highly relevant information resource.

I've written a short free digital book on how P2P digital networking can and IMO should work. However, that book's ideas (or similar ideas) could only be fully realized through the development of low-cost and DIY networking infrastructure, per projects like Nethood.

Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel March 6th, 2017 11:05

Crazy (stupid?) question: how can communities with interests so different and facing such diverse challenges be effectively networked into one coherent organism? What are the tools that could be used to achieve that? The common movement lacks banks, which are a tool to divert unused financial assets to where they are more needed, and defies the exogenous motivation mechanism (Benkler, 2006) which in turn is used to divert unused labor. Are there ways we can outgrow the extremely local scope of these projects? Is there a way we could create a true network of networks which could sidestep and then overcome the current ISP based model?

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 6th, 2017 12:05

Good question! Several projects from various parts of the world are now converging in one combined software project. Here's the intro:

That does not make them a real economic network of networks yet, but it's a step on the way.

I'm also hearing talk in a couple of projects about starting a bank or a cooperative credit union.

Nicolas Stampf

Nicolas Stampf March 6th, 2017 16:18

That's IMHO why I think we need an initiative where we would imagine what a truly P2P ecosystem might look like :
- agriculture (or anything related to natural commons)
- services
- production (creation of un-natural widgets)
- economy / banking system (if any)
- art (that which does not "produce" something but which is useful anyway)
- education
- information (including IT and internet infrastructures)
I've advocated elsewhere (P2P facegroup group maybe, or here on Loomio) about thinking how to build a vision of what such a P2P world might look like.

I've given hints at that myself in http://bit.ly/UP-draft.

It's not an easy task, but I feel like we have all these marvelous initatives scattered that we could 1) identify (of which the P2PF wiki does of a great job) 2) help interrelate to build a bigget (eco) system.

Fortunately, the method to do that exist, it's called "Syntegration" by Stafford Beer (cf. my link http://bit.ly/UP-draft). It's complex, it will take some time, but it can be done for sure. And such a great initiative in cocreation can only do wonders for those involved and others to learn from. I have absolutely no about about this!

Lynn Foster

Lynn Foster March 6th, 2017 17:12

@nicolasstampf I appreciate your vision, and of course there is definitely a need for vision, as well as a place for experimentation and practice. And they need to proceed in cycles of knowledge, the scientific method basically. And sometimes people can contribute better in different places in the spiral, although we need to keep all of this connected up.

Just so you understand, for me personally, I am contributing to more efforts on the ground than I can handle right now. So I see your posts, but don't see that it is the best use of my time to be part of very general discussion on the topic. Some of the things I work on are in fact looking at moving from the particular to the general (like ValueFlows vocabulary https://valueflo.ws/), but in a much more targeted way than you are picturing. (In this case working on how to help connect up different economic experiments into an ecosystem using a standard vocabulary.) Another aspect I think needs some study is the habits of people (often ideology inherited from capitalism, if you will) that hold back these efforts and sometimes destroy them, I have seen a lot but haven't made much progress on making this into something useful.

But in general I have a feeling, which could of course be wrong, that right now in history we are in a place in the cycle of knowledge where working experimentally on organizing economic alternatives on the ground is critically important, for people who can and like to do that. We so much need more of these experiments so we can actively learn from them. There is a lot of theory to draw from, although of course it can always be organized and synthesized in more helpful ways, such as P2PF and others do.

Anyhow, I have felt bad ignoring your posts, wanted to let you know I appreciate your thoughts, but to also give a little perspective from the worker bee side. :)

And +1 for Stafford Beer's work!


Graham March 6th, 2017 18:07

I tend to agree with you Lynn. We need more practical stuff happening on the ground, especially in the current climate. I'm thinking and working now to get something moving in my locality, and although there's lots of theory out there, there seems to be precious little in the way of practical experience that I can learn from and which can accelerate my pathway.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 7th, 2017 07:46

The simple answer is "standards and protocols". The internet is made up of billions of people, organisations, and moving parts, "effectively networked into one coherent organism" through the standardization of the internet protocols (TCP/IP), web standards (HTTP/ HTML), and so on.

"Is there a way we could create a true network of networks which could sidestep and then overcome the current ISP based model?"

The short version:
I think this has to be an emergent process, although having bodies that work towards identifying what interoperation requires and filling in any missing pieces would likely help (the Free Network Foundation attempted this but seems to have gone dormant around the end of 2014).

The longer version:
I think we can learn from internet history here. What became the internet emerged from a number of competing networks, each established by different network developers, funded by different organisations, for different reasons. Ultimately, the reason TCP/IP and other internet protocols became the standards is that the largest number of network nodes implemented them, but the process of clarifying how protocols work and deciding which ones to use was helped along by the activities of standards bodies like the Internet Engineering TaskForce.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 7th, 2017 09:20

Very much agree with you, @strypey on the essential nature of standards and protocols. Personally, I hope that we can (eventually) do better than developing many standards, letting them "compete" in a "market" and then going with the "winner". Though that may be effective enough in the long run, it strikes me as very wasteful of time, effort, energy and good will.

Equally, I have no trust in standards imposed by a centralised body run hierarchically.

What I'm hoping and looking for is some third way, by which we can apply a commons governance approach to commoners developing the standards in collaboration, resulting in solidarity.


Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel March 8th, 2017 09:40

I see your point, and I very much agree with you on the protocols and standards part. What bugs me though, is not the technical aspect of the question, but rather the legal and economic ones. Maybe it's just me, but the sheer scale of the economic, legal and social hurdles to overcome if one wanted to kickstart a "people run ISP" is frightening, to put it mildly (at least in Italy, where achieving even the smallest goal means facing countless levels of stiff bureaucracy). We have the standards and the protocols, but getting from users to owners of the IT infrastructure takes more than just plugging the right cable into the right socket, if so I might say.

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 8th, 2017 09:54

so something like Guifi.net would be impossible in italy ? and extending the widespread cooperative model to technology as well ?

seems unlikely to me, difficult, for sure, but impossible ?

Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel March 8th, 2017 10:47

If one wanted to do something like guifi.net in Italy, there would be at least three layers of difficulty to overcome, as far as I can see:

  1. The deeply un-cooperative mentality of people (what Banfield called "amoral familism")
  2. The entrenched business interests (in Italy there are "guilds" in even the smallest business areas, fiercely defending the status quo against any potential innovation)
  3. Heavy rules and limitations regarding co-ops (which stem from co-ops being historically used by various mafia families and/or by regular businesses to massively avoid taxes)

On top of that, there's an economic problem: youth unemployment is close to 50%, which sharply reduces the number of people who can invest in the hardware needed to run a distributed ISP.

Sorry for being so negative :)


Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 15th, 2017 02:21

Again, I stress looking at the history of how things actually happen in practice, rather than imposing models from pure theory. In practice, the formalization of internet and web standards has been neither blindly competitive nor hierarchical. Instead, groups of engineers come together in voluntary standards bodies and propose protocols based on existing technology. Where more than one protocol is in use, the two are used in parallel until either one emerges as the most effective and is universally adopted ("de facto standard" eg BitTorrent for P2P file-sharing), or, consensus is reached by engineers working through a standards body like the IETF or W3C that one of the protocols is technically superior and should become standard practice (a formal standard eg XMPP for instant messaging and presence). Although corporations have always tried to get their own protocols, file formats etc to become de facto standards (eg MS Office document formats), or pushed them through standards bodies (eg the EME crippleware Google, Netflix and others want to insert into the HTML5 standard), they have had limited success, and the "third way" you hint at is the way things have traditionally been done in internet engineering.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 20th, 2017 13:35

Thanks, @strypey, I like this as a useful contribution to widening the discussion about standards generally. One of the challenges is that (IMHO) there are too many standards bodies, and plenty of them are compromised in one way or another. If we standardised on a standardisation body -- indeed, if there was one that truly stood by commons principles -- we would save so much time, energy and good will, as well as making better standards, in my opinion. And that represents value, whichever way you look at it.

And how much more time and effort we would all save compared to the unstandardised, independent approaches to doing things?

I would guess that together, we have sufficient understanding, knowledge, skills, competence and experience to found an effective standards body for the whole global commons community. Perhaps we just need to make the "business" case, and crowdfund the minimal amount of resource that is needed to get started? Personally, the idea is close to my heart, so I'd be OK volunteering some time to start up. Great care at the start can save all kinds of difficulties later!

Any other takers? Or, more realistically, do you know of anyone else not here that would be interested?

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 20th, 2017 14:21

At https://valueflo.ws/ we are working on a common vocabulary and protocols for solidarity/cooperative/mutual-coordination economic networks. We will probably try to run them through w3.org, but we're not quite done yet.

This is based on a lot of collaborative work with ISO, Sensorica, Fair Coop, Mutual Aid Networks, GoPacifia, and Vientos (and the collaborative work is not finished yet, either, and more collaborators may be engaging).

I have worked with several different standards orgs, and they all have problems, but are you sure we need to create a new one? And if so, how will it avoid the problems with the existing ones?

One of the problems with the existing ones is corporate agendas, but that's capitalism for you, and every "alternative" org I have ever worked with is populated by people who were enculturated by capitalism and have internalized the ideologies.

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 20th, 2017 14:24

Dear Simon, you are probably aware of the efforts of the Collaborative Technology Alliance, which may have hit some snag in its development, and Edward can perhaps give an update.

An interesting methodology is the social-charter base strategy of the inter-mapping projects coordination, in which Silke is involved, she's in cc as well,


Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 21st, 2017 11:48

Thanks, Michel -- yes I've recently joined up to the CTA, and have engaged with the The Open App Ecosystem discussion, but am not yet clear about the clarity and unity of ways forward. I hope that more good sense and direction can emerge.

I could certainly envisage something like a Collaborative Standards Alliance, more of that in reply to Bob

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 21st, 2017 12:03

Good questions, thank you Bob.

Yes, I do believe it is very worthwhile doing our best to create a new standards body, but a relatively low-profile (for the moment) and humble one to begin with. If it were to grow, it would be by grass-roots usefulness, not by top-down promotion.

I believe it is worth trying to avoid the problems that existing standards bodies have, not by trying to reform those bodies (they are remarkably resistant to reform) but by doing our best to create, from the beginning, a culture that acts immediately as a corrective to the capitalist values into which we have all been subject to enculturation -- or in simpler terms, which we have all grown up with. We could do this in either or both of two ways: to look at the imperfections of current bodies, and design a culture to correct those; or to look at our own core shared values, and to embed these in the culture, as well as the formal processes and practices, of the new body.

I see this as in some ways part of, and in other ways complementary to, the IT infrastructure. I'd say we need a critical but realist awareness of how the infrastructure works, and be ready to replace any parts that work against, or compromise, our values.

I am awkwardly aware, too, that the way I am writing, and the general way that these discussions proceed, does not itself, so far, tally with what I think our shared core values are. This is what I was saying with the Open 2017 people: there seems to me a tendency to overrepresent masculine-style structural and "fix-it" mentality, and to underrepresent a more feminine-style emphasis on personal care, needs, and well-being. To me, this kind of consideration is vital to co-create a more wholesome and healthy culture, along with the infrastructure.

I really don't know how to avoid this imbalance in the context of web-mediated discussion, but I would welcome any help offered.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 21st, 2017 12:47

I'll reply to the standards topic, not so much on the communication style topic, which would be a good discussion thread of its own.

I have no objection to a new standards body, but think it is still worth working with the existing standards orgs. Standards themselves are a development of capitalism, that is necessary for capitalism, but also deviates from capitalist logic, and is one of the seeds of a new system emerging from within the dying corpse.

We meet a lot of people doing standards work who understand where we are trying to go, and can go along with us, and help.

Moreover, somewhat to your point about communication styles, we will not escape from capitalist ideologies by setting up our own new organization. The people within will still have been stamped by the old system. Requires constant struggle, both with ourselves and with each other.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 21st, 2017 13:38

I'm all in favour of some of us doing "what we can" with existing standards bodies, if that's what those of us like, or if that's where we feel we can make a positive difference.

Personally, I've tried it, I've "been there, done that" or if not done, at least seen being attempted, and (again, personally) I have tired of that. I would be greatly filled with renewed purpose were I to find some collaborators willing to work with me towards (at the same time as the other actions) the idea of how we could set up a new body.

"Escape" isn't the kind of word I would be working with. I'm all into the "constant struggle" -- yes -- but my intention is to build positive alternatives. The fact that we will still need constant struggle should not prevent us from trying to make the conditions more favourable.

I'm totally happy with you, Bob, or anyone else, preferring to work through existing organisations. I'm just asking to see if there are some of us who would prefer something different.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 21st, 2017 13:47

We are also doing something different (e.g. the Value Flows project is itself a standards org), and are very willing to collaborate with anybody else who wants to do something different. It's not either-or, it's both-and. (I won't be the person from VF working with W3C, but somebody who is already engaged there will do it. Same for ISO.)

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel March 21st, 2017 16:01

The idea of working with existing standards orgs or creating new ones depends on how you define "working with". Coordination and collaboration are closely related but IMO deeply different types of activity.

Here are my relevant work in progress Modular Organization Glossary definitions:

Collaboration is the type of cooperative activity which is oriented towards creating a shared result. The shared result may be complex and heterogenous, but collaborators perceive shared value in pursuing it.

Collaboration often occurs informally, but agents can assign collaborative work to specific agents.


Coordination is the type of cooperative activity which modifies or arranges separate activities to support one or more mutually shared goals. Such mutually shared goals may include the reduction of recognizable harm(s). (For instance, the actions of two groups may be intentionally differentiated to reduce conflict or unnecessary competition.)

Coordination often occurs informally, but group agents may assign coordination responsibility to individuals or to subgroup agents. Note: a coordination function (or any other function) which is assigned to a subgroup becomes a collaborative work within the subgroup.

I'm sure that those descriptions need work (and are endlessly debatable), but the point is to distinguish the pursuit of a shared activity from the coordination of separate activities.

In my view, Value Flows is trying to internally collaborate on the development of a new standard while coordinating as constructively as possible with existing standards. Note: I'm only lightly involved in that collaboration function, and practically absent from the coordination function. However, I think that coordination will become increasingly important.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 22nd, 2017 10:15

Thanks @gregorycassel for clarifying this very helpful distinction.

To start with coordination ...

I suspect it will become increasingly difficult to coordinate with standards bodies, the more they sink into the pocket of the interests of capital.

However, it may be possible to collaborate with them, creating a shared result, for diverse reasons, when there is the possibility of shared standards that truly meet the needs both of capital and of commons. That would indeed be worth working for -- it may even be a form of "transvestment"[1] -- and good luck to VF along that road.

The kind of coordination in which I am personally most interested is the coordination that to me seems implicit in this whole thread: of building an IT infrastructure that truly serves the commons. I say coordination, because I don't see building a whole IT infrastructure as one task on which people can directly collaborate: it's much too large. And I have read so much confirming that capital-driven IT infrastructure serves us well increasingly rarely -- I hope there is no need to spell that out here.

For this coordination, on building an IT infrastructure for the commons, I sense the need for collaboration with other IT commoners, rather than other standards bodies, on the sub-task of creating standards to help the components of that infrastructure to interoperate. And it is not simply the existing infrastructure: having well thought-out standards can help us in the task of building new parts of the infrastructure as well.

Hard as it may be to coordinate with existing standards bodies on this kind of goal, there are of course good people working in existing bodies, and we can always ask for their collaboration, expecting them to bring the insights that they have gained with the other bodies.

To try to focus this, could we start working together on getting advice, thinking through, and creating common documentation of just what are the coordination needs of building an IT infrastructure for the commons, e.g. for interoperability, with the aim of formulating a way forward for standardization -- or what I prefer to call "commons harmonization"?

[1] http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Transvestment

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 22nd, 2017 10:54

To be clear (if it isn't), VF is not waiting for other standards bodies to do anything, but we plan to share what we are doing with w3c, if they want it. If they don't, so be it.

The reason we want to do that is we think that Linked Open Data can be part of the common infrastructure, and that's one of the places where LOD happens. See also

We also think that the common infrastructure should be a protocol, not a platform, if the distinction is clear. If not, here's a quick and inadequate explanation:
* The World Wide Web is a protocol. Anybody can put up a Web page if they can get space on a server and obey the protocol, which has been done by millions of people, without needing anybody's permission.
* Facebook is a platform. You need to register with them and get their permission, you can only post what they allow, and they will harvest everything you do.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 22nd, 2017 10:55

By the way, I know the intelligence services will harvest everything you do on the Web, too, but that's a different problem.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 22nd, 2017 11:11

Thanks, Bob -- more clarification from me this time:
* LOD = great; yes I'm a believer in this, too ;)
* I'd completely agree on the vital place of protocols, or open APIs not tied to any one particular platform -- and much harmonization and interoperability may result from adopting common ones

There is also much talk in these circles of "platform cooperatives", and I would support this, too. I see this as related to, rather than different from, the issue of big data harvesting. It's also related to building "generative" rather than "extractive" infrastructure. So I'm suggesting "both, and" rather than "either, or" in terms of protocols and platforms. Just that the platforms need to be owned in common, run by co-operatives, and using the open protocols and APIs as above.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 22nd, 2017 11:24

I agree that platform cooperatives are much much better than platform capitalists. The problem becomes that platforms do not tend to interoperate.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 22nd, 2017 11:35

I'm guessing -- maybe people can help here? -- that one of the main reasons that platforms tend not to interoperate is that they are owned by businesses that run on capitalist principles.

If co-operatively run platforms do not interoperate, we could gently remind them of Principle 6, and work with them towards interoperability.

It seems to me that having a thought-through framework of harmonization, built collaboratively and open to growth as the needs of the commons evolve, would be a good basis for working towards interoperability when it isn't there, and even more helpfully, guiding the platform coop builders to build in interoperability from the ground up.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel March 22nd, 2017 11:40

Another challenge here is that cooperatively run (and, presumably, "owned") platforms need to make group decisions, and our tools & techniques for decision-making in large groups are IMO terribly deficient. So that's one of my main personal focus points.

It doesn't do much good to be cooperatively owned if the cooperative doesn't develop genuinely inclusive decision-making and collective intelligence. (I bet you already perceive this Simon.) Otherwise, the cooperative can easily come to behave according to the sum of the personal biases of its members, instead of subtracting those biases from group decisions.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel March 22nd, 2017 11:41

The nice thing about a well-defined protocol is that it doesn't require any regulation. People either use it or they don't. If they don't observe the requirements, they can't interact with others who do.


Graham March 22nd, 2017 11:41

Platform coop builders can only build in interoperability where there are clearly understood and commonly agreed ways about how to do so (protocols and open APIs, I guess).
They will only build in interoperability where there is a good business case to do so, otherwise it simply represents a cost without a benefit.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 22nd, 2017 11:52

Indeed, Graham, I've seen this often. What we might be aiming at, or hoping for, is that, for the businesses / organisations / collectives involved in building platform coops, a "business case" does not just mean "profits", but also serving at least the co-operative principles, and hopefully also the needs of the commoners and the commons. Or, for another way of putting it, profit is not the only "benefit".

So how would you go about agreeing the protocols / APIs (or whatever, in your own terms) that you rightly point out are needed to build in interoperability from the ground?


Graham March 22nd, 2017 12:08

I've no idea what these protocols would look like - perhaps Bob and the work he's involved in has answers on that. And that's sort of what I'm getting at. I'm sure that the builders of these platform cooperatives will be open to the notion of contributing to the commons and to interoperability, but what does that mean in practice? And what does the cost benefit analysis look like. Getting away from the abstract and conceptual and towards the tangible and code-able seems to be important.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 22nd, 2017 12:29

This is also a reply to Simon upthread. I think this is all happening, bit by bit, with different groups and projects starting to converge toward something.

The value flows vocabulary and protocols are not quite codable in total, but some early code is emerging. In the meantime, this project, which I think I mentioned in this or some other related Loomio discussion, has at least 3 different groups and projects coming together to work on software they can all use, and which will all interoperate.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 22nd, 2017 13:11

As Bob has referred to upthread material, perhaps I could say a word on the VF work -- https://valueflo.ws/ (OK, actually I'm saying much more than that...)

I very much like the simplicity of the VF vocabularies. This really helps towards understanding and use by non-experts.

VF is highly general purpose. Nothing I can see is particular to commons or P2P (or any other name for new) economics.

The questions I would ask of this kind of standard (and I imagine the questions have been well answered in the case of VF, though I have not personally looked for answers) include
* what about other existing models? Are there mappings? What is lost in each mapping, and does that matter?
* for a broad range of the kind of real world scenarios we (as Commons Transition, in this case) are concerned with, how are they mapped onto this model? Does this mapping make sense to the participants in the real world?

It may be that there is nothing special about modelling the commons, in which case, as far as I can see, it's all to the good to share an ontology with the establishment. It's got me wondering, though. If I were doing this kind of work for areas that VF hasn't covered, this is where I would be inclined to start -- looking at real world scenarios, and engaging the participants in the effort to map their processes, practices, etc. to a common model. The common model is clearly then part of our intellectual commons. It can take a lot of insight -- wherever that insight comes from -- to achieve such a common model that sufficiently represents those aspects of the real world that are of interest.

And often, because of how people come from their own established ways of thinking, it can feel uncomfortable to engage in a process that may seem like complicating matters. And partly because of that discomfort, it is essential that people treat each other with respect, kindness and understanding. This is where the culture is so important.

It's these kinds of model, vocabulary or ontology that form the bedrock of interoperability. So I guess what I am saying is that a good IT infrastructure is based firmly on a good interpersonal culture, via these intermediate common models.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 22nd, 2017 13:13

By the way, everybody should be aware that valueflows is only working on common economic interactions. For a whole common ecosystem, we will also need social and governance interactions, some of which @gregorycassel is working on. I'll let him point us to his latest work on those problems, when he's ready. Greg is also watching valueflows and I think those sets of ideas can come together.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 22nd, 2017 13:32

VF is highly general purpose. Nothing I can see is particular to commons or P2P (or any other name for new) economics.

Mostly accurate. If you look at our principles, we want it to work for organizations in transition from capitalism to something new, which is often experimental at this stage.

for a broad range of the kind of real world scenarios we (as Commons Transition, in this case) are concerned with, how are they mapped onto this model? Does this mapping make sense to the participants in the real world?

Some test mappings here: https://github.com/valueflows/valueflows/tree/master/use-cases

But the precursors to valueflows have been used in a lot of real-world organizations, all of which are compatible with VF, because that's where the vocabulary came from. The groups in that other project I mentioned upthread are among them. Here are some others: http://mikorizal.org/groups.html

Several more in Europe, collected around Fair Coop. Another couple are starting up now, in Mexico and Argentina.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 24th, 2017 04:51

TL;DR standards bodies are already part of a commons, they are participatory governance mechanisms for shared technical commons. To propose a new, commons-specific, standards body, is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of standards, what they are, and how they come about. All new work on future standards starts somewhere, often inside an organisation or group of organisations working on the bleeding edge of a new area of technology, but to be widely adopted, a new standard must be approved by a standards body that already has buy-in from a broad range of relevant actors.

@asimong there's a classic XKCD comic on standards proliferation that sums up the problem nicely. The same logic applies to the proliferation of standards bodies, and really any other case of reinventing the wheel. Let's keep in mind here we are talking about engineering standards. Such standards, and the bodies through which they are developed and formalized, have to do their best to be ideologically neutral, and focus on provable technical criteria, because the whole point of them is to coordinate activity across a the broadest possible cross-section of the actors who trying to implement a common (inter-operable) system.

This is easier to understand if we ground it in a specific real world example, so let's talk about the electricity system. Large scale use of mass-manufactured electronics, using electricity supplied by an inter-connected grid, requires all the electric engineers and designers who want to work on that inter-connected system to agree on standard ways of doing things (ie "standards") to make the system work, and to make it safe. Things like:
* the physical shape of electrical sockets
* the number of volts, amps, and ohms, used in the wiring of buildings, in local transmission, in long distance transmission
* the protocols by which power plants (whether coal burning, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal or otherwise) supply power to the grid
* the protocols by which long distance lines are stepped down to local transmission voltages at substations
* etc etc etc

There are a number of ways such standards could be decided:
* the corporatist way: standardization could be "left to the market", with all the companies involved in the electricity sector doing everything in their power to get their competitors to adopt their preferred ways of doing things, thus giving them a first-mover advantage. But this tends to result in competing systems that don't inter-operate for years or decades, resulting in uncertainty and inconvenience for both businesses and end users.
* the statist way: standards could be dictated by government, obliging any company operating in that government's jurisdiction to follow one set of standards. But this doesn't solve any problems involving inter-operation of systems across state borders, and government couldn't do a good job of it without doing extensive consultation with engineers and designers anyway.
* the commons way: non-governmental and non-commercial standards bodies are set up as independent organisations, inviting participation by engineers from as many different organisations as possible, who proceed towards consensus through discussions focused on measurable technical criteria (eg does it work? Is it safe? Is it efficient?). Once these cross-industry consultations reach consensus on a standard, most industry actors will implement it voluntarily, understanding that the benefits of inter-operability outweigh the those of sticking to their preferred way of doing things, and knowing that their engineers can continue to make their case in discussions on the next version of the standard, or a new standard that might one day displace it. However, governments may also make some parts of the standards compulsory in their jurisdiction for public safety reasons (eg standard voltage for household wiring and appliance to prevent house fires from non-standard voltages clashing).

One way to think of standards is as peace treaties between businesses competing in the same industry. Standards bodies play a role analogous to the role played by inter-state treaty bodies like he UN or the WTO. There would be very little point in group with a shared political-economic ideology sitting down and defining their own standards for electrical systems, because there's absolutely no reason for anyone outside their group to implement such standards. It would be a bit like all the Buddhists in anglophone countries sitting down together to negotiate treaties between their countries. In both cases, either they would be ignored, or if they came up with something useful, it would have to be run through the relevant standards bodies/ treaty organisations anyway before anyone outside their group would take it seriously.

(EDIT: added clarification that the commons route to standards is usually based on voluntary implementation)

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 24th, 2017 10:21

BTW I'm not saying it's not worth gathering people in a new forum to discuss possible new standards (or new treaties), indeed nothing new would be possible if nobody did. What I am saying is that it would be a mistake to see this as something fundamentally new, rather than one of the traditional ways of participating in the standards process. I think this is an important topic so I have tweaked my comment here for a blog post.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 11:35

Thanks, @strypey -- for the time being anyone can see my initial reply on your site (when moderated). I'd be delighted if you were to be able to join me to work out a consensus on a better way forward. I'll be hoping to put a more coherent and persuasive argument in favour of a new commons harmonization body in my own blog, and I'll flag that here when do it.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel March 24th, 2017 11:40

To propose a new, commons-specific, standards body, is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of standards, what they are, and how they come about.

I doubt that you meant it this way, @strypey , but that's a harsh accusation regarding the unseen thought processes in other minds.

Your long comment seems generally accurate, but I doubt that many (if any) people reading this thread lack general knowledge of how standards bodies come to exist.

There would be very little point in group with a shared political-economic ideology sitting down and defining their own standards for electrical systems.

I may have missed something, but I don't remember anyone suggesting here that we need a new standard which is defined without any coordination or compromise with what you call " relevant players".

I'm not sure what your point was. Do you believe that there must be one or more existing standards bodies which we need to accept as an ultimate authority? Or do you think that the only way to practically influence future standards is by working directly with one or more existing standards bodies?

I'm probably missing something significant, Strypey, because I doubt that you'd give all negotiations and treaties between power players the same deference you seem to accord here to the work of existing technical standards bodies.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 24th, 2017 11:58

Hmm, I agree with both @strypey and @gregorycassel, while they seem to be disagreeing with each other. This ain't the first time this has happened to me in loomio conversations. I must be wishy-washy.

In VF, we have people who have worked and are continuing to work with both W3C and ISO. I think both of those orgs have made some good decisions and bad decisions. Our economic vocabulary was heavily influenced by an ISO standard (that I helped to define back in the day), although I haven't seen a lot of evidence that being an ISO standard is accepted as an authority by anybody in our project. If they don't like something, which happens often, the fact that the ISO standard says so does not matter. The W3C LOD vocabularies are often more persuasive, since that is where we want our vocabulary to live. And I think our vocab will influence some upcoming ISO work, too.

Those are all fairly pragmatic decisions and relationships, as far as I can see.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 12:09

Glad so say that I'm not going to take to heart the idea that I might "fundamentally misunderstand the nature of standards" :)

I'm with @bobhaugen in a sense of pragmatism vis-a-vis ISO or W3C. Good to hear that Bob has experience of working with ISO. But it's not the (unquestioned) fact that some ISO standards are useful, and others not, that I am straining against. It's the fact that ISO (and other 'de jure' national standards bodies) generally work in a way that is way out of synch with commoner culture. Yes, there is a nominal

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 24th, 2017 12:12

Do we generally agree in this conversation that it's both-and, not either-or, re setting up commons-oriented standardization projects and working with existing standards orgs where they fit?

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 12:14

(sorry, pressed enter at the wrong time)
Yes, there is a nominal acceptance of the norm of consensus. But drafting committees are constrained to proceed in confidence; and the resulting standards, while being probably free of patent restrictions, cannot be reproduced, as the copyright is restricted, and copies have to be paid for.

W3C looked great in its early days. But look where it is now in terms of dominance by large economic players.

I'll say again, so as not to be misunderstood, that some W3C, ISO, etc. standards are very useful and worthwhile abiding by. But the standards themselves in no way form an intellectual commons.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 12:17

Do we generally agree in this conversation that it's both-and, not either-or, re setting up commons-oriented standardization projects and working with existing standards orgs where they fit?

Yes. What we may want more clarity on, to my mind, is
1. how to tell whether collaboration with existing bodies will serve the needs of the commons
2. whether we want the higher-level coordination of commons-oriented standardization (or, as I prefer, harmonization) that could be provided by some kind of organization -- maybe in the spirit of the Collaborative Technology Alliance

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 12:28

For ease of reference, here's what I replied to @strypey on his blog...

Great that you have opened up these issues further. I see your post here as a very useful summary of thinking to date.

I’m well aware of that well-known XKCD comic — I often quote it myself to people. What the cartoon characters failed to do was to get any kind of buy-in from the users of the many competing existing standards. So, naturally, they have no buy-in to their end product. If the same logic applies, then we need to take care to gain support for a new body before it starts using up a lot of time and energy.

I’m not sure we are talking about “engineering standards” quite that simply. Perhaps, sometimes, or often, we are talking about choice and combining of existing standards. I took a little time out this morning to look at IPv4 and IPv6. Nice little microcosm. Which would suit the long-term purposes of the commons better, as they are not mutually compatible? But, sure, as no doubt we all agree, it would be mad for us to try to invent a different version of IP.

Corporatist / statist / commons approaches. Yes, understood, good outline. How would you classify existing bodies on this dimension? ISO (and national member bodies)? W3C? IETF? or, to mention one more specialist one, IMS Global? There are tales of all these…
Yet, I wonder if your view of “the commons way” is, well, rather idealist? Sure, they should work that way, but do they actually work in a way that benefits the rest of the commons? The culture I have too often seen is not conducive to genuine, durable consensus that works for the commons. Thus, the need to build in processes, practices, and the related technology, that makes interacting in a commons-friendly way easier and more natural.

Your peace treaty analogy is nice. They have a mixed record. How do we prevent a re-run of Versailles? What about Yalta? (though that wasn’t exactly a peace treaty)

I hope to make several other new points in my blog post — not today ;) — as I hope to make a more thorough and convincing case for the creation of a new kind of body.

Your last point is sound — we’re not talking about something radically new, but rather a revitalisation of an ideal that has gone astray, of a genuine consensus-based standardization process. What I am saying is that the current standards bodies and institutions cannot (as far as I can see) serve the needs of the commons transition effectively.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 24th, 2017 12:42

What would "a genuine consensus-based standardization process" look like? How would it work?

I saw several mentions of the CTA upthread. It appears to be dead, for all practical purposes. Did it accomplish anything? (Other than a lot of getting-acquainted among different projects, and a lot of conversation, both of which were useful. And a lot of improvements to Hylo, from Connor Turland...)

But creating actual standards that will be adopted and used widely is hard work. And as I mentioned a couple of times before, do not assume that all of the political-economic-ideological problems of the existing standards orgs will magically disappear from a new one.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 12:50

What would "a genuine consensus-based standardization process" look like? How would it work?

Answering those questions in any detail will need substantial work. Many of us probably have our own images, but answers need to emerge from a consensus of those engaged with the questions, not from one or two individuals. But before even that, how about we try to formulate the question in a way that everyone relates to? That's only my phrase: could you formulate a better question?

do not assume that all of the political-economic-ideological problems of the existing standards orgs will magically disappear from a new one.

As you repeat this, Bob, could I ask, who do you think might be assuming this?

We can accept, I hope, that nothing will be perfect, and still strive for a better world than we have at present.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 24th, 2017 13:03

As you repeat this, Bob, could I ask, who do you think might be assuming this?

I'm not pointing at anybody here, but I thought I saw a lot of that in the CTA, for example. And we have had ongoing problems in every commons-oriented project I have ever worked on. And I am sure I have a lot of bad habits myself...

[edit] My point is that if a commons-oriented project does not consciously deal with those kinds of problems in some effective way, they will defeat the purpose, partly or totally.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 24th, 2017 13:25

My point is that if a commons-oriented project does not consciously deal with those kinds of problems in some effective way, they will defeat the purpose, partly or totally.

Couldn't agree more! How would you try to deal with those kinds of problem? I have a genuine interest here, and it goes along with my concern about organisational culture, in contrast to (and complementing) the formal structure.

Personally, I would greatly welcome us addressing the "infrastructure" (harking back to thread title) and the culture of our organisations hand in hand.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 26th, 2017 05:26

I wonder if this discussion about standards (and standards organisations) needs its own thread, so we can return to the discussion of building ICT infrastructure commons? @asimong you've alluded a few times to specific problems you've had trying to advance a commons perspective inside existing standards processes. Perhaps you could start us off on a new thread by telling us a few stories about your experiences of these problems, and why you don't think existing standards bodies can be reformed to address them?

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 26th, 2017 07:01

Coming back to the challenges of ICT infrastructure commons, a fully free network would itself be a commons only in a very abstract sense, ie in the same way that the planet is a commons. In the sense that Elinor Ostrom uses the word commons (a shared resource with a shared governance structure), a free network would in practice be a federation of commons, each operating at one or more network layers. To illustrate, here are some commons (existing and potential) operating at different layers:

device (hardware and software of the computers used to access networks)

  • free digital (or "open source") hardware design projects (where the design patterns for computer hardware are released under a license allowing it to be freely used, modified, and redisitributed)
  • customer-owned and/or worker-owned hardware manufacture and distribution cooperatives
  • projects developing and distributing free code software that runs on end user devices (eg the projects that maintain the various software components used in GNU/Linux distributions)

standards (defining how computers will interact productively across networks)

connections (cables, wireless access points, and routers, allowing data to flow from computer to computer across the networks):

  • community mesh networks (P2P wireless between PCs or mobiles)
  • community access wireless networks (collectively-owned wireless tower)
  • open wireless (voluntary sharing of private wireless networks by customers with uncapped upstream internet connections)
  • customer-owned and/or worker-owned ISP cooperatives (collectively-owned cable and router infrastructure, at any scale from neighbourhood to country to world)

hosting (servers providing access to databases over the networks):

  • projects developing and distributing free code software that runs services (whether on end user computers or dedicated server hardware)
  • P2P networks (eg BitTorrent clients, trackers, and search engines, or BitCoin and other blockchains)
  • home of office servers (consumer grade PCs running free code server packages, or combinations of them eg FreedomBone)
  • server colocation (or "colos", small data centres run collectively by a group of server operators who provide and maintain their own hardware, eg RiseUp.net and MayFirst/ PeopleLink have their servers in a colo)
  • customer-owned and/or worker-owned ISP cooperatives (collectively-owned datacentres leasing the use of "bare metal" servers, virtual servers, or use of shared servers) EDIT: fixed formatting
Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen March 26th, 2017 11:24

@strypey great overview! We had a recent discussion about this kind of topic in value flows: networks of networks, or one big network? Where I think most of us came down on the side of networks of networks, as in (a) better, and (b) how it's happening and will happen anyway.


Steve March 26th, 2017 12:27

Essentially as I understand it, the premise is to re-create an IT infrastructure with an ownership model that meshes with commons needs and goals and to avoid downtime, censorship or exclusion (ISP throttling ports)? Perhaps the Pareto 20/80 rule would be useful:

"The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. "

Identify in the list that @Strypey provided, the 20% that would be responsible for 80% of potential problems.

EDIT: what I am suggesting is to pragmatically consider existing infra-structure/protocols as a resource. An example: in laying out water infrastructure, does it matter or relevant to discuss the piping standards sizing protocols or treat it as an existing off the shelf resource?

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) March 26th, 2017 17:34

I wonder if this discussion about standards (and standards organisations) needs its own thread

Indeed. Personally I see it as very much part of the infrastructure, in its own way. Could I ask for any contrary opinions? If no objection, I'll start a new thread in the coming days.

I haven't had any clear opportunities to advance the commons perspective with standards bodies: more like just the appreciation of why I don't think they will work that way. But sure, let's start a separate thread on this.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 30th, 2017 07:15

The Wikipedia page on 'wireless community networks' has a list of some examples and a good breakdown of the types of community wireless project. Is there currently a page on the P2P or CT wikis where such projects are listed and categorized?

EDIT: forgot to link!

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype March 30th, 2017 07:19

Good points Steve. I agree that it would be good to do some movement-wide strategic thinking about where that 20% lies. That said, we have to keep in mind that each person/ group will have their own priorities about what to work on, for example I'm pretty happy to treat existing standards as basic plumbing, whereas @asimong believes there's a need to bring a more consciously commons-orientated approach to standards processes.

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 30th, 2017 08:23

dear Danyl,

not sure if we have that, there are the files dealing with wireless matters,


and our overall category is http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Infrastructure,


Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel March 30th, 2017 08:24

Hi Steve,
In my (admittedly very limited) opinion we can't expect ISPs/Telcos to give away their infrastructure for free, so we're left with two options:

  • we collectively buy them out and run them as coops (VERY unlikely)
  • we deploy a parallel ad-hoc infrastructure to sidestep ISPs completely (much more affrodable)

I might be wrong, but option two seems to me like the only viable idea at the moment...

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens March 30th, 2017 08:26

by the way, do you see a difference between WCN's and CWN's (community wireless networks) ?

Simon Carter

Simon Carter March 30th, 2017 08:44

'we collectively buy them out and run them as coops (VERY unlikely)'
This is a very long thread that I have been following vaguely, but this comment caught my attention. Ultimately is this not the only real power we have within a dominant system?. If we can coordinate our collective spend, we can quite simply buy the commons back from enclosure, in all it's diversity.

Michele Kipiel

Michele Kipiel March 30th, 2017 09:02

At a very high level I agree with your position, but then we need to factor in the harsh economic realities of our age: 30+ years of massive capital hoarding have left the youngest (ie. the most liberal, educated and tech savvy) generation with no surplus capital to spend. We can't expect people who struggle daily just to make ends meet to buy in the idea of spending a possibly inordinate amount of cash (from their point of view) to buy out something as far from their personal experience as an ISP. What do you think?

Simon Carter

Simon Carter March 30th, 2017 09:25

How about if we initiate a new kind of business venture to compete against the for profit model, with the express intention of paying a living wage, with all surplus invested in the commons?. As a youngster, would you not wish to both work for & buy from such a company, or indeed start one?.