Open Media Network

The project

The Open Media Network is a project to play a small role in revitalising the open web. It uses the tried and tested technology of RSS, taking it out of a basic personalised mash-up of feeds into an open metadata social network. Its initial focus will be around alternative media, enabling projects to grow and cross-fertilise independently of the social media corporate giants.


The #dotcom silos are completely dominant in terms of people's identity, for publishing and for networking etc. At social events you once gave your phone number, then your email address, and now you friend on facebook.

By contrast, the open web has plateaued or is already in decline, depending on your point of view. To fix the issues of why the open web is failing we first need to look at why it succeeded:

  • KISS throughout
  • no identity checking
  • no security

The internet/web was a KISS trust-based network that took over the world we have been living in for the last 30 years, and it was no accident that identity checking and security were missing from the original internet/web.

To reboot the open web will take many overlapping streams of open projects. Here we are proposing a KISS project to that end.

Let's look at a small, once healthy stream. Alt/grassroots media used to play a large role in the world. Now all that remains is a few sprigs of green in a polluted/dry river bed. In its heyday the global #indymedia (link broken) network rivalled the BBC and CNN in its scope and coverage on the big days of action and international summits. Now all that is left are some strongly branded small projects (, that grew from #dotcom social media and are only networked within them, and a handful of big legacy projects (

The problem we face is a pre-web problem, that of silos. That is each project is a small pool in a empty/dry river and there are very few links or shared data from one to the other (link to 3 projects). The currency of the web is the "valid link"to build networks. Alt-media's growth is severely limited by this lack.

Open Media Network

The OMN is one project to fix this problem.

It is a project of the 4 opens. It is a human-based project at its core, as opposed to an algorithmic project.

Quite simply we want alt-media sites to link to each other and share content, to become a healthy network rather than isolated drying-out silos. 

The outcomes needed for it to work are easy to achieve, and they have a large possibility to grow/empower projects as a network.

The project uses RSS as a data object exchange format, using a tagging folksonomy as a way of shifting the data flow between federated sites. It uses both native code plug-ins and javascript to “embed” links to this tagged data flow in open web sites and blogs (working example visionontv side bar on

RSS aggregating news portals are not new, which is a major part of their strength for the realizing of the Open Medium Network. Taking this tried and tested tech into an open metadata social network is new. Another thing which will be new to some of the media side of the project is the 4 opens.

Each participant in the OMN will embed at least one news river in their sidebar. 

The plan is to build synching aggregating portals / hubs (based on existing CMSs) that feed those sidebar rivers.

Human networking based on trust is key.

Aggregators choose to link RSS feeds into their hubs.
Users choose the tags for the link streams from the hubs into their side bars. 
To facilitate trust, basic security is built in.

  • flows can be on auto or moderation
  • there would be a feed-based roll-back for when spam gets through the trust network.

User embeds, either native or JS, are boolean tag based and have metadata editing rights based on trust (hosting hub gives them this), with 3 levels: auto/moderation/rollback.

NOTES for Developers:

This project uses technology to build a human network. There's a sense in which the simplicity is as important as the code. The project can grow to work in many different ways but the base has to be KISS. 

NOTES for journalists and media makers:

You retain complete control of what appears on your site. As the trust network builds, it will become higher quality and faster to administer.


From simple springs big rivers grow to feed the sea.

In my 30-year experience, I have seen too many alt-media projects grow, flower and fade away, without aggregating or archiving themselves into a state of permanence.

This project can play a crucial role in solving this, as hubs will not only be able to moderate the flows of news, they could achieve it, with no extra work, in a massively redundant distributed way. 

The same basic project and tech will work fine for the blog-rolls of sites, creating more “static” dynamic linked side bars. This will reboot the idea of “webrings”. 

It can also form the basis of identity. People are just a tagged data object that can be sorted into “flows”. This opens up social networking to creative thinking. 

Sites link to each other both though trust, the human side, and through links, the machine side. Both are a good opportunity for the open web to compete with the closed silos.

The networks of hub sites become portals in their own right, driving traffic to the root news orgs/blogs that feed them.


300 words

The Open Media Network is a KISS hybrid client server/peer2peer project to play a small role in revitalising the open web. It uses the tried and tested technology of RSS. Its initial focus will be around alternative media, enabling projects to grow and cross-fertilise alongside the social media corporate giants.

For the full background to the project see this

  • Stage one (6-12 months) basic linking and embedding programming, basic beta roll-out – the outlandish funding.

  • Stage two (6-12 months) is synchronising and meta-data editing, then expanding roll-out.

When we have basic working code, set up a number of exemplar hubs to beta test the project in the real world and push out embeds to existing real world alt-media sites.

This project is largely social technology. The tech part is configuration and repurposing existing CMS's and their plug-in architectures.

Pre-programming - there is a need to look at the existing code/plug-in base and spec out a number of roots to working aggregating CMS to seed development.

List the parts that need scripting/programming/configuring.

Work out the basic meta-data format (RSS/atom) 

These no exclusivly act as “seeds” for the aggregating hubs. They already have some of the basic functionality needed. Take this list to open source programming projects such as LINK etc.

As an open project built peer2peer, the core is to get a lot of people at different levels of expertise working on each bit and run them all in parallel. There is no right answer and no signal point of use/failure.

 visionOntv project can offer to match the funding coming from outlandish.

I take this comment from a famous programmer as a complement "feels dated in the language and tech" that’s the point ;)


Briefly describe what support in addition to funding you would require to make your project a reality. This could include people with other skills, or office or event space.

The funding is nice to keep focus, but the core help is the links and knowledge network that outlandish provides. The content and media side we can handel. The running of aggregation we have been doing for over 20 years, over many generations of failing alt-tech. At the moment we only have youtube play lists and embeds, this is a crap situation, not to say embarrassing state of alt-media.

To escape our silo thinking

“A river that needs crossing political and tech culture - On the political side, the is arrogance and ignorance, on the Geek side the is naivety and over- complexity”


What am highlighting here, Geeks think this is to simple to think about, the politicos have no understanding of this. Both are happy with silos as it gives them “total control” of there tiny things. These isolated siloed islands are no match for the continents that the dotcons control. The issue here is that nobody cares for the big thing that all these tiny things grow from, this big thing “the open internet” is withered from neglect. The shrinking “open internet” is further perverted by political legislation and Dotcon grasping/enclosing it becomes a ghost of its old self.


Thinking to escape this sad and bad fate.


The web is made of links:


* Articles are just data objects


* Data flows


* Feeds are living links to move data object flows


* The link is were the value is (google learned this a long time ago)


* Synchronisation and redundancy of data is key to resilience and remembering the past links (value)


This is hard for the politicos to hear, but, content is just something to link to.


This simple thinking is held safe by the 4 opens.


The is a small resurgence of alt-media projects (such as LINKS ) but each of them is a silo and will likely flower and fade.

Why did the open web flower and die over the last 30 years

Why did the thousands of open internet projects fail? despite the mager state, foundation, NGO funding. The were early successful atavist tech projects, all proved to be pointless or withered with success. In all cases I would argue that the underlining failer was one of ideology, almost all projects worked against the dominate ideology of the net and web it self. Just as the dotcons bumed and bust repeatedly, traditional media was hopeless in till a new generation came along who had a inclining of the underlining working of the new tech ideology.

The few open projects that worked with in the ideology of the web were swamped by the pushing of the funding of the main streaming of the web/internet. Am arguing here that the majority of people making a living in the open web/internet world are core to the problem not the solution, I could name hundreds of projected with the word open/radical in um who actively destroyed “open”.

A tiny minority created a world expanding technology based on the ideology and practices of trust based Anercisam. This exploded into the existing tech/communication worlds, pushing aside, pushing over, all the “better” 20th century vertical (ideology) tech already in place. Open became dominant for a while and this open was “locked in” because of a strong idealogical thread through out the standards and structures the internet/web, the very “chaos” of the open web protected it from the “vertical” (20th century) lockines of corporates such as Microsoft etal.

Nothing last for ever, a new generation came along who merged the “open” back into the “closed” cant rearly blame them, they were children of Thatcher and Rangion.  Am amazed to have lived though the time of the open web, the world really did feel very different for a time. Who are the heroes and who the villeins, this history is unwritten yet, better get to it.

This is my realistic/pessimistic view of were we are at for a little more dreamy/optimistic view LINK


We face a digital cliff, the open internet may be over

Here are two views on this subject:

We have Phil Windley who thinks the open internet was a historical fluke here he is talking about the very real view that the internet is finished, that the commons have been enclosed by the dotcon silos and what remains outside are terminally withered and dieing.

Then Dave Winer who argues that the open web comes in waves and what Phil Windley is arguing is but the drawing back of the water before the next wave of open washes in.

My point of view is that both are right, the open internet was a historical “mistake” and with Winer that the are a few waves left, the storm is not over yet. The is a logic to the digitisation of everything and the web was a living example of this let loss, it was a tsunamis that crashed over every part of our cultures and the storm is not over yet.

The commons opened up by the early web are enclosed by dotcons, but their sea defences are low and weak and the digitisation storm still rages.

How to re-boot grassroots media to help to re-boot the open web to create real social change


We need to get our current dispurate and weak activist sites to link to each other, then get NGO's to do the same. Then push out news river embeds to more mainstream sites to expand the network.

This project needs to be run as a non-branded open network based on open social and technical standereds.

The social side is based on linking flows of information.




Of course you can and should be all of the above, but to aid expansion and growth this is not insisted on.

The first two paths are easey, the last more complex:

* Producers, this is any web site that puts out an RSS feed, this is most sites on the internet [tick]

* Consumers, are at a basic level very easy to do using a javascript sidebar code or a custom CMS plug-in using the javascrit plugin the barrier to upkeep is slight so this can spread easily. [half tick]

* Aggregates are slightly more complex as they will need custom codeing, this all ready exists in a basic form for Drupal and Wordpress and the miro project. [needs work]

As the production side is already solved and the consumers side is relatively trivial this only leaves the Aggreaters as a steep path to take. We have a small budget to kick this off and is technically feasible.

The second part needed is actually the more complex one, how to get groups and individuals to implement open cooperative working practices. The issues that have to be bypassed/addressed/ignored:

* Geek culture is infeactured with encryption and fake technical privacy, this is fading with the victory of failbook and its fellow dotcoms and the disintegration and fading into obscurity of the geek privacy projects. But this will comeback and bite at the OMN as it grows out and builds the basic open tech. So we have to harden the project against this agenda by codeing the opens into the foundations of the project.

* The Trots and the Authoritarian tendency left jumping on the band wagon, this is solved in the same way as the geek problem as they actually share the same pathology of the 20th century illusion of control.

* NGO's this is solved by moving to fast for them to react, if we get bogged down this might become an issue of co-option. Keep moving fast.

To sum up build soled open foundations and keep moving fast.

How would the project look/feel

The open web and the sites that make it up would look much like they look today.

But the OMN project would socialise linking and sharing to create a network out of all the small disparate bits that make up the remains of this fading open web.

Production and consumption sites would gain a sidebar containing realtime updating links to “tag” based rivers of relevant content.

Aggregating sites would contain rivers of subject based content that they would sive and add value to be re-tageing. And creating meta articles linking to original sources. The feeds that production and consumption sites display would come from one of these aggreating sites.

The network would grow out organicly based on subject:

* a aggregating site could only handeal so many feeds before the human moderates are overwlemed this would lead to specialisation and a hirakey of subject aggreaters that would organicly mirror the existing real social interest groups.

* we would end up with specialisation, and a shifting network of overlapping bottom, middle and top sites which would all find ordnances and drive traffic back to the producing sites that feed the network.

* bottom sites would aggregate mostly original producer sites, middle sites would aggregate a mixture of original sites and tags from subject based bootem sites, finally the top sites would aggregate tag based feeds from the middle sites.

How would this look to the “users”

* It would be much easer for “normal” users to find relevant content on subjects that they are interested in, they would be introduced back to the open web by links on #failbook and #juduceserche engine. This growth of traffic would re-energise peoples websites and inspire the upgrading of meny moribund website projects and a move away from current hegemonic dotcom aggregation of #failbook and its siblings.

How would it affect “producers”

* publish ones and your content appears on 100's of sites driving traffic and commenting back to your blog/website and away from #failbook atel. The open web is being straggled by the pay to view throttling on these copurte silos, its a no brainier to move to escape this now. With the increased trafic you can put energy into upgrading your existen website to make it more relevant, the OMN would be active in providing the open tools and plug ins to make this happen.

What would this look like from tech prospective:

KISS open industrial standards based on trust and redundant data roll-back back functions to Handel the breakdown of trust that will happen some times.

RSS will be used as a database object exchange format, a tagging taxonermy will be used to shift and create the flows of these objects. Subscribing to tag based RSS feeds will be the bases of the trust network.

Open databases will hold duplicate meta data linking back to the original source of the RSS object.

*** the is a creative way of making the consumption of content more transparent and develop/user friendly – this will be talked about later ***

RSS feed aggregation would be base on trusted, strate through or moderated ie adding to a moderation cue in the aggregating sites.


3 months to build the seed aggreaters and basic javescript embeds/plugins

6 months to build out the seed networks

9 months to major launch

12 months to being a real alternative and play a role in saving the open web.

Food for thinking:

If you think this sounds oldfaserned you would be right it is, its the basics that needs to happen to creat a pool of metadate enhanced media objects. What happens after this? for ideas will add some links:


The open web and the power of lobbyists is being regulated.

Net neutrality is a good thing the open web works because of it. But legislating around net neutrality is dangerous as it opens up the actuality existing open web to the power of lobbyists. Historically the web has been shaped by undefined "traditions" built on open industrial protocols. This “open web” is starting to become thin with the enclosures of the dotcoms.

We are now resorting to "regulation" which takes this nieve working "open" inside the bureaucracy, historical experiences of this is a bit scary. I understand we need to bite the bullet and do, but with our current politicians toss a coin into the air and hope it lands on its side...

The are some good people working on this lets hope it doesn’t go wrong, the out come will be in the small details...

FAQ - why use open websites

We need to get activist to actually use alternative net infrastructure.


Q. Its to complex to use this geek software.

A. So was Facebook when it started, almost nobody understood what twitter was for for ages – all new experiences are hard. Its actually ONLY a question of motivation then familiarisation through repartition.

Q. Activist internet site are ugly – if they just look nicer people might actually use them.

A. After bad UI is put to one side (and this can be an issue) the is a direct correlation between full user functionality and bad looking sites – you can make site look nicer by dis-empowering the user or by shaping and controlling there interactions – but freedom always looks messy just look at Facebook its one of the more messy sites out there – it overcomes this issue by good UI and familiarity – people get used to “functionality - ugliness” after they use the software every day.

Q. My activist site has no way for the “user” to be part of the site beyond limited commenting.

A. Yes activist sites are generally in the stone age of hierarchical control freakery, use sites that are web02 not web01 the actually are some projects out their. Complain to admins if the is no peer -to- peer production on an activist site, then actually use the peer production tools they set-up such as wikis and forums.

Q. Why not just use Facebook groups/ fashionable web2 site, every one is on there anyway.

A. This way leads to the death of the open internet/society LINK

Q. Can i trust activist sites with my privacy.

A. On corporate site's that most activist use, such as Facebook you can only hide from your friends not from your enermys. This is generally true for the open web in general and is something we need to understand. If you have a secret take the activist to the garden and whisper it in there ear, do not rely on any fig leafs of corporate privacy settings or promise of activist client server encryption LINK

The Activists - FUCKED UP USE of corporate social media

It consistently amazed me how activists walked into the trap of corporate social networking. I can understand NGO groups narrowness of focus, its were the funding is. I can understand traditional media's embracing of Facebook, Twitter and the closed ecosystem of app stores as its a perceived as a “safe” place to run from the crumbling business markets they are part of.

Lets look at each in turn:

Corporate social networking is perfect for the less radical charity's as the company's running theses networks wont to be seen to be social responsible and charity’s are the perfect place to be seen to care with out the risk of upsetting sponsors, advertisers and investors.

The more progressive parts of the traditional media, such as the FT have realised the trap they leapt into when building inside Facebook, Twitter etal. And are now back to prioritising building on the open web using HTML5. The less progressive side are now negotiating from a weak postion with these new powerful gatekeepers.

10 years ago Activist media was a worldwide phenomenon, inventing and leading many of the technology and techniques that are now mainstream. But two things happened, firstly they got bogged down in “activist process” and on the other the “lifestyle of geek” open-source culture. These together slowed innovation to a stop, the functionality and reach of such new networks as Facebook and Twitter rendered this moribund activist media less relevant to new generations of activists such as the climatecamp media team. Leaving space for the NGO focus embracing of corporate social media on one hand and the manipulation of traditional media on the other as the main ongoing successful strategy.

Were are we now? I was at the party to cover the celebrate of the death of Margaret Thatcher recently in Trafalgar sq. The were hundreds of cameras both video and stills probably as many people filming and documenting as there party goers or police. But almost no radical media made it online, the was a smattering of wonabe mainstream media such as Vice and Demotix. What interested me was running into all the retired activist and the ones that now work for NGO's it struck me that the is no continuity, no new radical media, it had almost completely ended. Few small exception’s to this are ourselves (visionontv) and ONN who are both small fish.

As I sead at the time, we as activist's fucked up in two ways: in wholesale embracing of corporate social media and in the narrowing of activist tec into geek lifestyle. Can we learn from this? Its time to reinvent grassroots bottom up media – its not to late. 

StopG8 website - Activist web organising tools are broken


The web is fundamentally a peer to peer network, as are human relationships. Let's look at a recent activist website built for the G8 protest in London It is a one way approach – a directing tool for a small minority of unknown and unknowable people to direct the majority of people, with limited ways for the majority to talk back or take part in the web organising.


Wordpress the tool used here is a a top-down tool, original a single user blogging platform, thus its useful for hierarchical opaque organising, which goes hand in hand with “closed security” minded geeks and activists - the problem oveasuly lies in the fact that such tools restrict peoples online involvement and this leads to a dampening and shrinking of offline involvement or the moving of open organising onto the closed web of Facebook etc. Wordpress is fine for a noticeboard site or personal blog but not for any form of self organising or group networking, its broken as a way of building a dynamic social moveme

A more obvious activist approach would be to use opentools such as wikis and forums, and self organising web spaces to build a creative movement “open security” model were people could could build “trust” by activity feeds. A tool for this would be single sign in site built on liferay such as

“Closed security” gives the dangerous illusion of anonymity were non exists, this both gives control to a small group of unaccountable activists and dampens self organising – the life blood of activism.


“Open security” widens ownership and builds spaces for creativity, its based on transparent trust networks. It builds security as the is no foles sense of anonymity – if you wont to organise something “spiky or norty” you whisper at the back of the pub.


The is no security in centralised activist infrastructure as you don’t know who actually runs them and you don’t know who is upriver of their hosting providers. The is a clear danger that this pseudonymous is mistaken for true anonymity and this danger comes at a clear organising cost.  At the moment we have a clear failer of activist web culture, which can be seen in the shrinking of activism ( and its replacement with clicktivism) – post a comment if you would like to have a go at fixing this.


What is needed for the next 5 years to build a open media web

* We have to discredit the domination of corporate social networking such as FB and twitter as solutions. (this should be easy – but needs to be put in a centralised place that is easy to send people to). WHY

* Deal with the “geek question” how to get user-friendly – user-relevant free tools (open-source) as a focus of geek development. Currently 99% of geek development time is wasted here, this is a HUGE untapped operturenerty for open tools. (this is a hard one as the problem is invisible/irrelevant to most people). 

* The need for open industrial standards rather than fashionable standards. This is a “geek chattering class” issue and is simply solved by a critical mass of chattering about open industrial standards.

* Co-operation is an issue for left/progressive contemporary media projects, its a steep clime to get simple linking between sites to happen. We are working on a number of projects to address this.

* Traditional Journalism is a obstacle to the building of open media, as they still have a gate keeping role on what is seen as news and many contemporary media people are sucked into the traditional media world as a career option due to the continuing failer of contemporary media business models. We currently don’t have a good solution to this problem.

If we have a strategy for dealing with each of these issues than we can realisticly move onto building real infrastructure.


Its interesting that people say to me that these things aren’t needed or are two vague – my answerer is simple and straightforward if you don’t deal with them then your project WILL LIKELY fail so you should at minimum have them as a highlight on your project description and at best have continuing documented experiments on over coming them for your project to succeed.