[Note: This is a back-of-the-envelope first draft of top-level hardware and software design specifications. What you are now reading is not the latest version. If you are interested in the latest version or you want to participate in editing the spec go to the PeerPoint Open Design Specification, a Google Doc that can be collaboratively annotated and edited.]
PeerPoint = Peer-to-Peer Everything
PeerPoint is an evolving crowdsourced design specification for a suite of integrated peer-to-peer applications to include (but not limited to) social networking, real-time project collaboration, content management, database management, voting, trust/reputation metrics, complementary currency, crowd funding, etc. This design specification overlaps with several existing p2p infrastructure and social networking projects but also goes substantially beyond anything now existing or in progress. At the same time, PeerPoint can fairly be called “vaporware” because it is a a preliminary design document for a product that is not yet in development.
The PeerPoint Design Specification is not meant to replace or supersede existing software and technology development efforts. It is intended to help coordinate the work of the floss / hacker /p2p community towards a future point of convergence and interoperability. It is essentially a statement of user requirements and guidance on preferred technical solution sets. It describes what the progressive user community needs from the technical community in order to prevail in the social, political, and economic struggles that lie ahead. It is intended to be a “Next Net P2P Master Plan” collectively designed by all the stakeholders in a free, democratic future for the internet and its users.
Members of p2p projects, interested programmers and designers, power users, activists, and others are invited to participate in the collaborative development of the open PeerPoint specs and to freely adopt or adapt any part of the specs they can use in their own work.
PeerPoint is a design to Occupy the Internet.
PeerPoint is intended to be much more than a user-owned social networking platform to replace Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is imagined as a peer-to-peer (p2p) social collaboration suite, developer’s tool kit, and security appliance in one cheap plug-n-play box.
The social tools provided by Facebook, Twitter, etc. have been fun and fairly useful, but if we think about how much serious collaborative work lies ahead of us over the next decade in order to shift an entire civilization onto a more principled, democratic, and sustainable footing, we are going to need better, more collaborative, more functional digital work tools. Those tools need to belong to us and they need to meet the social and political needs of our time, not the needs of a few self-serving corporations or their shareholders.
With the PeerPoint approach, each user will retain ownership and custody of all the data and content they create. PeerPoints will communicate directly with each other over secure, anonymous internet connections. PeerPoint users may still connect to the internet via commercial internet service providers (ISPs), but those ISP’s will only act as blind, passive carriers of PeerPoint encrypted data.
The PeerPoint will be connected between the user’s pc, home network, or mobile device and the ISP connection. It will support phone lines, mobile devices, wifi, ethernet, etc. for maximum flexibility. It may be accessed by your remote mobile devices either over commercial cellular networks or p2p wireless mesh networks like those used by Occupy Wall Street.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are proprietary, for-profit platforms that exploit users to create content and value. But they provide value as well, so a “Facebook killer” must provide greater user value (functionality, privacy, etc.) than Facebook. For numerous reasons the services provided by the commercial companies do not adequately meet the creative, social, political, and financial needs of the 99%. They are not up to the tasks that participatory democracy, non-violent social change, and sustainable economic systems will demand of our internet communications and our evolving cooperative methods of creating, working, organizing, negotiating, and decision-making together, in groups large and small, regardless of the geographical distances between us. This new kind of group interaction over distances is what allows self-selected individuals to coalesce into powerful workgroups, forums, and movements. It is also what will enable direct participation in the legislative process to function at a large scale for the first time in human history.
The corporate internet business model is based on surveillance of our online activity, our thought, and our expression. By data mining the vast amounts of our information in their custody, they identify our patterns of thought and behavior. They do this ostensibly to sell us stuff and to make money, and so far we have accepted this as the cost of our “free” use of corporatized internet services. But what other, less benign uses can this surveillance and data mining be put to?
I have been hoping for somebody like the Linux community to create an appliance-like p2p node that provides all the apps needed for secure (and when desired, anonymous) social networking, voting, trust/reputation metrics, database, content collaboration and management, workflow, complementary currency, crowd funding, etc. I’m talking about something that comes complete, out of the box, with the apps pre-installed; that connects easily to your personal computer, home network, or mobile device.
If a FreedomBox were used as a starting platform, the PeerPoint application package would be added on top of the FreedomBox security stack.
The PeerPoint apps don’t yet exist as an integrated package, or even as individual apps that are adequate to replace Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Earth, YouTube, Kick-Starter, etc. etc. All this functionality is envisioned for the PeerPoint eventually.
In the beginning it will be necessary to have interfaces/connectors to various proprietary client-server applications like Google until they can be re-engineered in open source p2p versions.
Initially the project would consist of a first tier of essential apps that must be tightly integrated in their interfaces/connectors, protocols, and data structures. After deploying the first tier, development would continue on a second-tier of applications. Second tier development efforts could be much more distributed and parallel since the final specs for all the basic interfaces, protocols and data structures of the first tier modules would be available to all interested developers.
The common requirements for each PeerPoint app are:
- world class, best-of-breed
- open source
- p2p architecture
- consistent, granular, user-customizable security management and identity protection
- integrated with other apps in the suite via a common distributed database and/or “data bus” architecture.
- consistent, user-customizable large, medium, and small-screen (mobile device) user interfaces
- ability to interface with its corresponding major-market-share service (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- GPS enabled
First tier applications:
- distributed database
- social networking: socialswarm.net: list of distributed projects, Wikipedia: distributed social network apps
- trust/reputation metrics
- crowdsourcing: content collaboration & management (wiki, Google Docs, or better)
- project management/workflow
- data visualization (data sets, projects, networks, etc.)
- user-customizable complementary currency and barter exchange (Community Forge or better)
- crowd funding (http://www.quora.com/Is-there-an-open-source-crowdfunding-platform)
- voting (LiquidFeedback or better)
- universal search across all PeerPoint data/content and world wide web content
One contribution the PeerPoint can make to the digital commons and the ethics of sharing is to incorporate a computing resource sharing capability into its system design. Every personal computer, tablet, smart phone, etc. is idle or operating far below its capacity most of the time. Added up, this unused capacity is equivalent to many supercomputers sitting idle. Those idle virtual supercomputers could be used in the public interest if the personal computing devices connected to the internet were designed to share their idle capacity for public purposes. Users might also be given the option to designate various percentages of their idle capacity to different uses, causes, groups, etc.
Once PeerPoint is up and running with the first tier applications we may be able to organize the 99% well enough to begin rapid development of the more complex second-tier applications and to start building or buying alternative network infrastructure.
Our new public internet won’t be owned by corporations or by the state. It will be owned by the people, an instrument of the people to invoke the people’s will and help bring both government and corporations under civic control.
“We are not progressing from a primitive era of centralized social media to an emerging era of decentralized social media, the reverse is happening…. Surveillance and control of users is not some sort of unintended consequence of social media platforms, it is the reason they exist….Free, open systems, that neither surveil, nor control, nor exclude, will not be funded, as they do not provide the mechanisms required to capture profit….we do not have the social will nor capacity to bring these platforms to the masses, and given the dominance of capital in our society, it’s not clear where such capacity will come from. …Eliminating privilege is a political struggle, not a technical one.” (emphasis added) Dmytri Kleiner
The integral tools I describe in PeerPoint are tools (maybe I should even call them weapons) that we need now to conduct our political struggle, not afterwards. The community that brought us Linux and Open Office (the integrated suite of open source applications that replaces Microsoft Office), is capable of bringing us a PeerPoint or something equivalent if it understands the need. If anyone doubts this, look at Wikipedia’s List of Open Source Software.
Free/open software development is largely self-motivated and idiosyncratic, with many islands of genius and inspiration separated by vast seas of minutia and trivia. But the bulk of the hacker and FOSS community does not yet appear to perceive its enlightened self-interest in our existential struggle for open society and government. Maybe they feel they can outwit Big Brother better on their own terms as individuals.
Perhaps we need to help them open their “Doors of Perception” wider, even if that takes a little mescaline.
At the very least we need to offer something like an X-Prize and we need to be ready and willing to fund and provision projects that fall within PeerPoint’s conceptual scope. That should begin right now with FreedomBox, the most likely base on which a PeerPoint might be constructed. So pony up, folks.
Like the old auctioneer says, “What’s it worth? You tell me.”
“All right, now, folks–what’s it worth? Com’on–you tell me!”
PeerPoint Google Doc Ongoing updates to the PeerPoint specifications will be found at this shared document.
The Curious Case of Internet Privacy (MIT Technology Review) By Cory Doctorow, June 6, 2012. Free services in exchange for personal information. That’s the “privacy bargain” we all strike on the Web. It could be the worst deal ever.
Creating Sustainable Societies: The Rebirth of Democracy and Local Economies by John Boik, Ph.D. John Boik outlines a “Framework of a Principled Society” (p2pfoundation.net). This is exactly the kind of “use case” that would be well-served by the PeerPoint platform:
“A Principled Society is envisioned as a local entity, but its core elements would be designed to overcome several major weaknesses seen at the national level. In this way, Principled Societies would be extensible to wider implementation in the future. The proposed framework consists of three core elements:
1. A new type of local currency system, called a Token Exchange System. Tokens are an electronic form of currency that circulates within a Society, in conjunction with the dollar. They are used by businesses and individuals to purchase goods and services, as well as fund local development and community services.
2. A new type of socially responsible corporation, called a Principled Business. A Principled Business is a cross between a nonprofit and a for-profit corporation. Like a nonprofit, it fulfills a social mission. Like a for-profit, it is self-sustaining and does not rely on donations. Principled Businesses compete with one another for interest-free loans offered by a Society. They coexist alongside standard businesses.
3. A new type of governance system based on collaborative direct democracy, called a Collaborative Governance System. Members collaborate in the creative problem-solving process of developing new rules. In a Principled Society, members are the legislature. For efficiency, councils would execute day-to-day operations and make minor decisions. Major issues would be decided by the entire membership in a user-friendly, efficient, online process.
The Internet application that would act as the infrastructure for a Principled Society is both practical and technologically achievable. It could be developed as a no-frills initial version perhaps with three to ten years of effort, given adequate funding and community interest. Each year thereafter, further enhancements could follow. From the beginning, the effort will be organic, and hopefully involve many thousands as momentum grows. Each interested person can contribute in small or large ways to move the project forward.