Lightweight tech for online community
- Franz, Alex, Sasha,
Thank you for your letters at Global Villages
about online architecture for our community.
Sasha, I looked at the open source social networking platform
http://www.elgg.org which is good to know about. I also read some
comparisons from this year and it seems from users that at this point the
Ning platform is more usable. I also read that the Ning platform is in
many ways quite open, both in terms of code and in terms of values. The
Ning platform is working rather well for us so far and so I am encouraged.
And we don't have to host our own Ning website on our own servers which I
think we would need to if we were using Elgg.
Les Squires joined our Worknets Ning today. We knew each other from the
community currency conference we attended in Bad Honnef, Germany in 2004
and we have met again thanks to Franz. Les is active in the "Transition"
movement (for a post-oil world) and they have set up Ning websites in each
of the fifty states such as http://transitioncolorado.ning.com Les worked
for many years as a programmer but is making vigorous use of low tech. He
is very enthusiastic about Ning and also was able to tell me that there
were solutions to several wishes that I had such as using the Ning ID and
accessing the data. For example, he is developing a combined search for
all of the Ning sites of the transition movement.
I have set up a Ning work group at our Worknets Ning site for anybody
interested in customizing our Ning sites and relating our other software.
I will add several challenges I face that perhaps somebody might advise
I teach algebra and have organized my students into 18 teams, each one for
a "dimension" such as length, time, volume, mass, price, speed. For each
dimension, they will collect noteworthy mathematical amounts and units,
for example, What is the average speed of Columbus on his first journey to
America? What is the speed of light? and so on.
So I can store the answers in a simple table. But is there a lightweight
web solution for creating pages to show and to edit this data? That would
be very helpful so I don't have to code everything from scratch. I have
many uses for such technology!
Here are a couple of letters from 2004 where Marcin and I discussed our
visions for online architecture.
and there was a diagram that I might find and put up.
I let this previous post through even because it seemed very personal and
reproachful because I think we all are in bitter need of understanding each
others motivations, methods and abilities in the process of network
building. Its an excellent example for me how the best intentions dont
help if we do not try to formulate precisely what we want from ourselves
and others, without putting pressure on them - but rather act as was there
is a "seamless" way the network provides us with the people and skills we
need because they simply like to help a good case.
Andrius has a clear technical vision and in many points it is in sharp
contrast to mine. He wants a system that can aggregate thoughts,
capture them easily, let them flow to the right point where they are
needed just in this moment, let them go to a repository where they can
easily be found later. I want a system that can aggregate thoughts,
bring them in systematic coherence and build a fractal virtual library
where individual coherences are not just built on tags, but on page
trees, and these page trees relate to each other and become a
collective coherence like the tree structure of a brain. Memorable,
Both visions are justified, but they require different technical
means. When I referred ProWiki to Andrius, it was a similar case like
Drupal: something that is built for special purposes, very good for my
page trees, but would have to be drastically altered to fufill the
needs of Andrius vision of a Thought Garden. So there was not really
sustainable cooperation between Andrius and the developer of ProWiki,
Helmut Leitner. although Andrius managed to adopt ProWiki to his
vision a bit. But with every step, the problems are getting steeper.
So we have this issue now out in the open, and I must point to the
fact that the tools of communication and capturing our thoughts in a
virtual collaboratory are important for Global Villages, but a subject
of its own. We should not spend too much time to dicuss them any
longer here. There are exciting news flocking in by the hour that
really show we have a chance to build a globe of cooperative villages.
I am not able to spend hours and days in learning drupal. I have no
person commited enough to go along with my visions, even Helmut showed
some grave discontent with the ease I use his resources instead of
paying for and promoting ProWiki. Similar with Andrius. Cant you
understand that we are simply pragmatic and we take the tools offered
freely to us, allowing enormous leverage in terms of access, storage
and maintainance costs?
This yahoogroup functions enormously reliable. It does not require our
constant care - if its even online etc. -, so we can care for
something that is important for us. NING is the same, brought to a
higher level. Can you really take responsibility of the costs and
maintainance? Of course not, I suppose.
I appreciate the work you do for Marcin, but to tell you the truth
what I really find interesting is Marcins blog. To move it out of an
OSE site would be like cutting the heart out of a person.
Yes, I know, we have these issues about persons being dominant in
movements. I am sure, Marcin, Andrius and I are having similar
problems with this. As you write correctly, there is no overnight
solution to this, but basically neither of us seeks dominance, its
just our impatience that drives us forward, its the opportunities we
perceive and the fire we can spread. Without people like you, we would
be lost. We would be alone, without impact. Our work is totally
different from each other, but we complement each other in a circle.
You are part of that circle, if you understand that we work from our
vision and from nothing else.
Helmut Leitner told me that I use GIVE in Austria as a "social
dashboard" for my visions, not as a true organisation. GIVE is the
little legal association we have formed here, meaning Globally
Integrated Vilage Environment. It has about 30 members, but most of
them are extremely passive. Now that it is more and more filled with
life, people are uncomfortable and they think "what does it have to do
with me"? There are so many different interests in this so called
organisation, the ones want to produce theory, others are going for
implementation. What are we? Now, in the moment of seeming succesful,
GIVE is in danger of breaking down.
I say nevertheless this "social dashboard" mode is how we can truly be
succesful. We create a new reality out of many perspectives; we need the
skills and the methods of many to complement each other. A good theory is
like a birds eye view from a satellite, allowing us to see dead ends
andobstacles long before we practically perceive them. Its like a compass
that shows us directions when we are lost in the haze. Its not at all
implementing, and it might not even be imaginative. So what binds
Thats what we as networkers see. We see the unmanifested potential to
help each other out and complement each other. We might see more than
people actually see for themselves and in others and we might see it
wrong. But we must give it a try. The proof of the pudding is the
eating. And our soul must stay present in this process, it cannot be
objectivised, technicalised, mechanized. Please, help with technology
that allows us to pursue our method of networking and stay alive
within that process.
I just posted a reply to Andrius on his blog, and I am resposting that
here for others to read, lest he doesn't approve it.
To all those who read this,
The site at http://factorefarm.org was built for free for Marcin
Jakubowski to help his operation publicize and promote their stupendous
work, to help with fundraising for the amazing projects he is doing there,
and to engage a number of Web 2.0 features that can facilitate
collaboration and communication, 2 things that are increasingly important
in our fragmented world.
Marcin and I learned a lot about how to make this work, and a copy of the
site, with all content purged, is available for free. Just contact me
through my site at http://alexrollin.com. The site is built with Drupal 6,
from http://drupal.org , and is Open Source.
I am making the copy available so that you can benefit from the 60 plus
hours of configuration that went into the site, and help your organization
get a head start.
I waited for 30 seconds for the link you put on my name to load. Oh! Look,
it's your site, with 3 php errors on it!
I built the http://factorefarm.org site at Marcin's request. It
accomplishes a number of goals, the most specific being the collection of
donations for projects, and the reporting of information about project
progress for folks who want a consolidated status report, as opposed to
tracking the more lengthy discussion at http://openfarmtech.org.
The addition of the 'news' functionality and collaboration options are
still in process.
Specifically, the discussion is around how to foster the greatest
collaboration without spreading administrative help too thin. On the
functionality side, the general consensus is that the
http://openfarmtech.org label, or site destination, is a great place to
collate technical information and to collect on the ground insights.
The project news functions for http://factorefarm.org are meant for specific
comments about site implementations at Marcin's work site, things that may
or may not be applicable to the world wide Open Farm tech collaboration,
but are certainly relevant to the work environment where Marcin is
While working on a project, the thought is that modifications are
collected and published on http://factorefarm.org, and then final
documents are published to http://openfarmtech.org.
Certainly a part of this is to prepare for the possibility of increasing
traffic on the wiki, and to insure that there is a way for Marcin to keep
the work and reports happening without weighing down the wiki in noise.
Another aspect that may not be so obvious is that everyone in the Open
Space is watching to insure that "The Commons" really is owned byt the
people. I am sensitive to the possibility that folks will perceive
http://openfarmtech.org as Marcin's personal site, and avoid posting their
designs and solutions there. In fact, this very situation did come up in
the course of the our work together. A group emailed Marcin and mentioned
that they felt they wanted to be in a more general sphere of OSE, instead
of within Marcin's purview. This is the very issue I was trying to defuse
proactively, but...and it is a BIG but, it means Marcin's weblog ought to
be moved in order to mediate that impression.
The questions becomes, how open, what does it mean, and how do we
demonstrate it in action and on the site? Those are a lot of questions,
and I certainly have my opinions, but I really don't think those questions
need or want to be answered over night. The best I can do is point people
to thinking about the issues, real or potential.
Now, for the heavy stuff Andrius.
I do not appreciate you crapping on the situation. You showed no interest
what so ever in learning about or even attempting to understand the
motivation of the project, or in the issues listed above.
I can appreciate your comments that there is little recent activity at the
http://factorefarm.org site. Marcin is in the process of discovering the
way he wants to go about things, and there is no pressure from me to
change anything about his weblog, and at the same time I have provided him
with my best insights about a possible path to proceed along for the next
couple of years. At the moment, he is thinking that over. Cool!
Why in the world would I expect you to care about the thought and discussion
that went into this? That is the question I am asking myself now.
You were extraordinarily confrontational on the phone, and as I mentioned,
you really showed no interest in understanding any of the insights that
Marcin and I had while working on this project. My offer of sharing those
insights, and the product of those insights, with you specifically,
garnered nothing but monolithic objections. "Drupal doesn't work, no one
wants to help me, the site has no traffic." These are not even true or
relevant, but that doesn't seem to matter to you, and you certainly didn;t
want to discuss any of it.
Forgive me, but it appears that your site is not functioning :(
Let me put it this way: What are you trying to accomplish on your site,
overall? Are you open to there being other ways of doing it? How would these
improvements benefit the world? How will we measure the success of the
efforts together and as a community?
I am not really interested in debating Drupal as a platform. Content
Management Systems are here to stay, and Drupal is #1. Those are facts. To
call them opinions avoids the real issue here. Your objections to Drupal
show a lack of familiarity with the system, which does admittedly have a
steep learning curve. However, you never asked with help to learn
anything. You just wanted me to do something.
You have some things that YOU want done on your site. Great. Make a write
up. Find some support, and we'll see about them.
You are turning this into some dog and pony show.
It is obvious to me that your attitude, and the way you 'story' an
interaction IS a core reason why those who are capable of doing work,
building things, etc, are straying away from you. I have NO inclination to
work on any of your projects because I am rather certain I will end up on
the list of 'useless do-gooders' who failed to help you before.
I find your information aggregation posts, your digests with updates, to
be very interesting. I am glad you are connected to so many people. I am
glad you have an interest in the larger community, and that your publicity
gives a sense of hope to all of us.
With your current attitude, though, I have no interest in working on your
You called me and whined, bitterly, that no one ever wants to help you. On
the phone you acknowledged a whole bunch of people who tried and failed.
And then you demonize them! What are you doing? What do you think that
To make it even more apparent that you are a difficult personality, you
proceed to repeat the same thing in print, here, on your infamous INCluder
You claimed on the phone that no one ever asks you what you want. I did. You
never asked me, though. Nor did you even post a link for people who might
want FREE services and software, etc, to reach me. I am not seeing what is
going on here, apparently. There must be something I am missing.
I asked you if we could find someone to help together, someone who has a
pronounced need for a web application of some kind. You said you would only
help them if you got something out of it. I mentioned on the phone that I
was more interested in placing the client first, and you objected.
Please tell me if I misunderstood.