Collaborative Futures Day4: Web 3.0 is bullshit too

4 days of intense collaboration have passed. 1 more day left to go. I’m tired.

Networking with new collaborators

Marta and I comparing quotes and cats - pic by Mandiberg / Flickr

Today we have finally got better about receiving external help. When I started to write about GIT vs. SVN as references for collaboration systems I checked out Jonah Bossewitch‘s Versioning Dissonance paper which he sent me after finding my first post in this series and reading that I might be interested in these ideas. I was initially planning to find a nice quote from him, but ended up realizing he basically wrote what I had in mind, only better. Since he licensed it under a CC-BY-SA license I could just copy paste the Multiplicity and Social Coding part of the essay directly into the book. Jonah will probably go into Booki edit it a bit tomorrow, but it is already a very good contribution to the book as is. By the way Jonah is involved in the pretty astonishing work done by NY based geeks hacking for Haiti, read about it on his blog.

We also got a piece about Anonymus from Patrick Davison. Jon Cohrs, whom I originally know from Eyebeam and who now lives in Berlin joined us too and worked with Michael on some of the pieces. Sophie the copy editor joined in person too and helped me edit some of the definition chapters.

My good friend Ela Kagel from Upgrade Berlin who’s one of the curators of this year’s Transmediale was today’s guest of honor. She quite elegantly blended in. It was largely due to the fact that by this morning we knew we are in pretty good standing and that we can allow ourselves to better brief her about what’s going on. Ela decided to write a chapter for the Futures section of the book titled Collaborative Economies and by the end of the day the chapter was pretty much done.. As a teaser for it I’ll quote one of the quotes she used:

“Cities without gays and rockbands are loosing the economic development race.”

Richard Florida from The Rise of the Creative Class

It seems like finding sexy quotes has assumed some game mechanics in our process with Marta constantly trying to one-up me with great quotes. Quotes are great, you get both a sound byte, an amusing pause and some social capital by having smart people passively validate your thoughts. At some point Marta and I stopped competing on quotes and started comparing our beautiful cat pictures from Flickr (M vs. M).

So it’s bullshit, but in what way

From day one Adam and Martha were into having a piece that pretty much says Web 2.0 is bullshit. Adam took a pass at it and started with a few essential bulletpoints:

  • Incentivize data-driven network effects!
  • Integrate data-driven weblogs!
  • Syndicate A-list network effects!
  • Beta-test user-contributed web services!

A direct output from the Web 2.0 bullshit generator. We all took our turns giving feedback and context. Mike helped integrate it into the history section and I ended up working on it a bit myself. It seemed like we all agreed it’s bullshit, but each of us had our own reasons. I was glad to see we have finally came to a disagreement that while Web 2.0 is bullshit, Web 3.0 is bullshit too. (it might sound like a rant, but it ended up being a pretty well articulated point)

One more day to go, we are going to make it. For real!

Collaborative Futures Day3: Who is I?

It has been another intense day of recursive collaboration at the Collaborative Futures book sprint here in Berlin. Currently at around 23,000 words. Not bad for just 1, 2, 3 days…

Attribution

The people in the room have quite strong feelings about concepts of attribution. What is pretty obvious by now is that both those who elevate the importance of proper crediting to the success of collaboration and those who dismiss it all together are both quite equally obsessed about it. The attribution license we chose for the book is CC-BY-SA oh and maybe GPL too… Not sure… Actually, I guess I am not the most attribution obsessed guy in the room.

Scale

We had a parallel sushi sprint going on. I should work on my rolling skills...
We had a parallel sushi sprint going on. I should work on my rolling skills...

Another somewhat illuminating anecdote is that we have some parallel scale issues. We were joined by Michelle Thorne (Creative Commons Germany, Open Everything, Atoms and Bits) and by Mirko Lindner (OpenMoko, more…) who were invited to help us with writing. These are super interesting and talented people who I would love to spend time with. But today there was just no way it was going to happen. Apparently two days were enough for us to construct such a tight process that we could not allow ourselves any distractions.

It seems that the tight time constraints serves as a reverse factor for participation scale. We are so invested in the process that we are reluctant to spend time in coordination and assimilation of new contributions into the overall process. This time constraint is pretty rare for these open collaborations and it definitely affects the actual openness to new participation.

Michelle and Mirko actually wrote about it in for the self-referential epilogue section: Outsiders: thoughts on external collaboration (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page)

Schizophrenia

Yesterday I first ran into this issue of subjectivity. I was about to write “I actually more am interested in…”, but since we are writing collectively I asked the group how should I write this? Am I interested? Are WE interested?

Today this conflict got even more complex when I wanted to refer to a personal anecdote. Both Michael and Mike have already done it in their own writing but they were able to quote themselves as they were indeed quoting previous written sentences. In my case, this was a grim memory from my army days. Not something I have ever put on paper.

Do I say I? Who is I? We’re writing in plural, as “we”. Do I say “one of the authors”? That’s pretty lame and quite superficial, and come on… how many of “the authors” served in the Israeli army? Do I quote myself? It doesn’t really make sense, it is not like I am reappropriating a quote from a different context. Should I declare explicitly that I am switching to first person for the anecdote’s sake? It is a fucking anecdote, any writer will just write it as: “I remember…”. Is English just not equipped for this collective thing?

This was getting quite schizophrenic. As for now we left is as is – unstated. It is still bound to change as we have 2 days left. But all these conflicts more than frustrating they are simply fascinating.

Collaborative Futures Day2: “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?”

This is so much fun!

On the second day of our “Collaborative Futures” book sprint (read the posts about it and about day 1) I was still very skeptical about our process and our chances of success. But as the day progressed the project started taking shape and I’m actually even more excited about it now (and the same goes for the rest of us).

Most of our work today was actually heads on writing and from time to time some more lower level structure stuff. I focused mainly on definition issues and wrote drafted three chapters under this section tentatively titled: Sharing is the First Step Towards Collaboration, Coordination Mechanisms, Does Aggregation Constitute Collaboration?

My co-conspirators have wrote about assumptions, history, web 2.0 is bullshit, motivation, open relationships, and other people’s computers (revolving mainly around cloud issues). Pretty interesting writing, as this is definitely a group of pretty informed and passionate people.

We have also drafted a more detailed outlines to the whole book which would be the basis for our call for remote (ahm…) collaboration tomorrow, so definitely stay tuned for that.

Knock, knock…

One of the sections we’ve drafted was an unexpected yet somewhat obvious epilogue which will refer to some of the anecdotes that we are experiencing through this collaboration. I want to share one of them with you now. Around noon today we hear a knock on the door. Now let me just explain the set up, we’re working from a hotel room in a complex called IMA Design Village, on the 5th floor of an old (nicely) reappropriated industrial building with a jerky elevator and nothing to really point you at where we are. All of us were in the room at the time and we were not expecting any company. We opened the door and there stood a guy around our age who said he has heard about the project and he wants to contribute.

We were both amazed and mainly unprepared. He didn’t even say his name, he just said he had some ideas about collaboration and he really wanted to contribute. That was just completely great! But while we announced that the collaboration will be later opened to remote collaboration, at that moment, in that place we were completely unready for more people in the room. Adam (which the mysterious contributor said he met in some obscure music event in the city) have went with user-X downstairs to the cafe to discuss the contribution and he (still don’t know his name) will join us tomorrow writing a chapter for the book.

This was a unique experience of (finally) meeting the epic “anonymous user” in person. That faceless person that does not even have a username but is highly motivated and just wants to start contributing was standing there in-person at our doorstep. We didn’t know his name, we only knew his IP address–where he physically is: he was right there! Practically browsing our “collaborative site”.

And we? We were so Alpha, we were what early web people two decades ago used to call “under construction”. We didn’t even have an interface for him yet. It’s like he found a public yet unannounced URL for a future collaborative platform that was just not ready yet. We thought we were private, but apparently we were live. We were caught off-guarded with our first anonymous visitor, very online and just eager to log in.

If this will continue to be the spirit through the next 3 days I do expect to be continuously surprised. More updates on proxy collaboration definitely coming tomorrow. This is really great!

Collaborative Futures, Day #1

The stickies on the wall after an intense day of presentations and discussions
The stickies on the wall after an intense day of presentations and discussions

Berlin is beautiful in the snow, though we get to experience it mainly through the window. Day 1 of the “Collaborative Futures” book sprint (more about what it is in my previous post) was fascinating and intense. I feel very privileged to have met thisĀ  group of talented people, all coming with strong experience and insights about collaboration, all with a pretty explicit free culture & free software bent. (I was weirded out by being the only one to nut be running Linux on my laptop)

As I suspected, this is not an easy task. After a day of intense work we came up with the (tentative) guidelines for the book. You can think of it as a table of contents but it will serve mainly as a general guideline for our writing this week. Finally, this will not be an exhaustive survey of the term collaboration (which would be a boring outcome), but rather a set of articles and insights (and possibly some predictions) about the past present and future of collaboration as informed by our experiences and interests.

Here’s the TOC for the first day:

  • Assumptions
  • History
  • Definitions
  • Process
    • Models
    • “Other people’s computers”
  • Problems
  • Futures
  • Epilogue

Other clusters of themes we have brought up and that will or won’t find themselves in the book are: motivations, politics (as in national group identity), money, autonomy, power, free culture, free software, trust, licenses, law, identity, reputation, attribution, scale, leadership, goals, org culture, structures, learning from mistakes, value and bullshit.

Check out the sites and relevant posts from my fellow sprinters: Mark Linksvayer (0+1), Michael Mandiberg (0), Aleksandar Erkalovic, Marta Peirano, Alan Toner, Adam Hyde.

our workshop room (my bed is behind that Ikea thing) and snowy Berlin from the window

Towards the (week of) Collaborative Futures

During the upcoming week I will be working in Berlin with 6 super smart people (Adam Hyde, Mike Linksvayer, Michael Mandiberg, Alan Toner, Aleksandar Erkalovic, Marta Peirano) on writing a whole book from scratch titled “Collaborative Futures”. The format for this collaborative writing was developed by Adam Hyde and the Floss Manuals community which is devoted to extending the accessibility of free software through the compiling free and liberally licensed manual books. The books are published online and their PDF formatting allow for an easy print on demand option.

Our book sprint is not setup as a manual though, commissioned by the Transmediale (a Berlin based new media art festival) the only piece of information we will have will be the book title. Unlike a software manual (like the one for Inkscape) or a digital practice manual (Like the one titled “How To Bypass Censorship”) this one will not have a solid rational task to bounce off of. Beyond that, throwing “futures” into the mix makes our concrete collaborative basis even thinner.

None of us know what format we will choose but all of us come with a pretty extensive experience in collaborative work so I definitely expect it to be insightful. Some of the themes I would be interested in exploring are:

  • Bridging between “sharing” and “collaboration”
  • Possible lessons from code revision technologies (like SVN vs. GIT)
  • The boundries of networked productions (like the challenges to open source design)
  • Networking beyond enemy lines – when “collaboration” is a bad word (in the Israeli/Palestinian context it is often interchangable with treason)
  • What can we learn from Haiti?

Ahhh… thousands more are comin up as I write this… but my plane is about to leave so I’d better publish before I leave NY (writing this on my phone… hard!)

Last thing: This project is open to collaborations beyond the 6 of us, we will publish how to contribute and help probably on Tuesday morning.

Last call… more updates to follow…

NewsShift: watchdog journalism with a long tail [Grant application]

Kevin Connor & Matthew Skomarovsky from LittleSis.org (an involuntary facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited by people like you) & David Nolen and myself of ShiftSpace have teamed up and together with Eyebeam have submitted an application for the Knight News Challenge. It is a cross between what LittleSis and ShiftSpace do best, applied to a rethinking of social media meets local journalism. We’re trying to get the best of both centralization (of collaboration and databases) and decentralization (of data sources, contribution and consumption) – combine what makes both the centralized Wikipedia and the distributed blogosphere. From the application:

NewsShift is a web platform that adds a social research layer to online news stories. This layer, accessible from the news page itself, offers readers powerful tools to communicate and develop the story with additional information and insight — facilitating collaborative watchdog journalism.

Read on and if you find it worth supporting, please vote to help make this happen.

Beyond Sharing: “Open Source Design” / Wordcamp NYC

Towards the discussion I will be leading on this subject at Wordcamp, this Saturday 11:30am I wanted to share with you this diagram I’m proposing for discussing the open source process and how might design be a part of it.

Teaser image for my talk at Wordcamp
Teaser image for my talk at Wordcamp
  • What is the motivation model that have been perfected in open source coding? (especially in the WordPress community)
  • Can it be applied to design too?
  • How might it need to change to fit the design process?
  • What examples can we draw from within the WordPress community and from outside it?

I would lead a discussion addressing these questions, and to provide my insights from 4 semesters of teaching the Open Source Design class at Parsons’ AAS Graphic Design program, from my experience as a design professional in Shual studio and from the development process on my own open source project, ShiftSpace.

I am very excited towards Wordcamp this weekend and I hope to see you in my session and beyond.

Presentation slides included: