Building a alt/grassrots media network
The OMN rollout is a 10 step process
Rollout a single node to link alt media and share content to 100 sites.
Rollout full social taging flows and start the offline backup, start to move away from the dotcons.
The openweb grows into the semantic web, the dotcons become history.
* This could take a year with support and full on effort
* 2 years with interest and some geek commitment
* 5 years with active BLOCKING and geek’s turning away and doing something “better”.
* It will FAIL if the alt/grassroots groups don't links to each other and each tries/pushes to be the “one” ie if we strive for the same dotcon working in alt/grassroots media.
“Be the change you want to see”
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
History of the visionOntv project
The original project was offlinetv and was a online network to setup screenings to bring people together and cross fertilize different radical campaigning groups. I was pushing it as “open” rebooting of the failing undercurrents video activism project.
Before this I had been making a meager living doing screenings by fundraising vie the copyleft ruffcuts video CD project. With the transitioning from dialup to broadband internet speed the was a possibility to move the the distribution of screening quality video to the spreading peer2peer web.As you will continue to see thought my narration here my core thinking changes little.
The first dotcon (enclosures) boom had bust, the web was still a health open network through the “open” pioneers were being pushed out by more mainstream fahernisata people, these people were being snapped up by the next wave of dotcon funding so the clock was ticking on the next boom (and attempt as enclosing the web for control and profit).
Fashernisa´s were all over the open web, conferences, events, media. Geeks were developing open standards - each one unlinked/incompatible with the next it was a "fun" time for “open”. This flowering of geek culture had its fashernista side, the were 100 applications for zipping files or FTP and no easy to use open tools - the geek problem.
P from undercurrents got involved to do the funding side, a lot of “brainstorming” was done. During this time we see a “splitting” of the project. It was obvious that streaming video - that is a technology for watching video real time without having a local copy was going to grow to dominate the next dotcon boom and the fashionistas were buying into this big time. This is a client server technology - from one to many - its old (traditional) media distribution. At the same time the was a subculture flowering or peer2peer technology being used for “free content” this was a “native” open web technology.
The “splitting” was around a miscommunication/misunderstanding of what was going to happen in the next 5 years. And “funding” pushed this in a bad way, it was easy to talk to funders about “online video” it was fahernista mainstream. Few had any thought to the “cost” of jumping on the #dotconS fahernista wave. And in time the rise of the #dotcons from the second boom that was rising for all to see.
The “brainstorming” lead to the project being renamed visionOntv - just for the funding and outreach - much easier to get funding. Why would anyone be interested in offlinetv and peer2peer technologies all the value was about “owning” online space. That is enclosing the commons was unthinkingly embraced as a good thing - a touch on controlfreekery.
This simple change was the first step to the project losing direction and failing.
Rebooting Alt/Grassroots Media
The OMN Beta is a subset of the full open project.
Its a just the linking part. A first step to the data soup and open per2per network.
A single node will facilitate existing alt/grassroots media projects to link to each other. This will hopefully, partly overcome the #geekproblem to brining in talented developers to roll the rest out in a open way.
If this is blocked and stalls (possibility) the is away the evil of "funding" but its a many edged tool that cuts in all to predicable ways.
The BETA will roll out
* Basic content flows by tag
* Basic video player flow embed by tag
* Basic audio embed flow by tag
* Basic “blog/site/project list flow” by tag
* Basic “personal” grouping/flow by tag
Many of the existing radical alt/grassroots media sites (PGA hallmarks, #4opens) will be feed into the network (opt out) and all of the sites invited to become a active parts of the OMN by embedding sections/sidebars.
For the geeks http://omn.openworlds.info:8080
The OMN an easy project for everyone
The OMN an easy project for everyone
Producer groups have to put in minimal effort only puting a linking sidebar on their site and providing a RSS feed into the network.
These can be:
* Tag based content list “you might be interested in this”
* Tag based site link list “blog roll”
* Tag based video player embed “good films”
Optional: a site can add a badge to say its a member of the network.
What do they get out of it?
Google juice from the wide links back to their website and their content.
Clicks and content audience for all sites of the network rather than just their own.
More commenting from cross site conversations in their CMS comment system
On social media (the #dotcons)
They get a wider sharing of their content to work its way round the FB algorithm restrictions.
More “likes” on their #failbook pages to help boost the 3% organic reach.
Well a warm fashernista feeling of being part of something whole/bigger.
A geeky feeling of doing something real geeky.
We join together to push the “undercurrents” up and into the “mainstream”.
Badging the OMN
Is based on the #4opens to get a badge a site has to embed at least one linking embed somewhere (relatively) prominent on their site to become a member of the network. The Badge will link to the OMN project page, maybe this could have a list of OMN sites, as well as hosting the basic project docs.
Gold – 4opens
Silver – 3opens
Bronze - 2opens
We need some one to design these “badges” its up to site owners if/were they use them.
The OMN is a project of the 4opens and the PGA hallmarks.
Looking at the tech and organising of UK alt/grassroots media
Many people find it hard to understand the underlining understandings that push projects based on flow and linking such as OMN and openweb. Here is a short list of activish projects.
Is a place for holding/hoarding closed data – this is used by the #dotcons to extract funding form “free users” when mainstream/alt silo projects finish, as 99.9% do, the data varnishes and is lost, and in this the effectiveness of any alt building is diminished. Silos do not use open licensing for content re-use. Just about every alt/grassroots media project is a silo. It's about capturing data. Its obvious that this is a unthought through issue of "churning"
Is an idea that you can be the big one, all the small fashionista websites aspire to be the big one and by doing this they are working to the logic of the #dotcon and working against the logic of the openweb. They are building a project to lock there users into their project. Portal and silo are overlapping (but different) ideas for building web projects. In the mainstream, Apple is a prime example of this working. In the alt/grassroots almost all alt/grassroots media projects are portals. It's about capturing users, just as silos are about capturing data. For a left wing group this looks much like "recreating the Soviet Union" the one party to rule the state.
Are for-profit data silos in the old days working as portals, more recently they are building out siloed networks as a pseudo networked portal. Its both sad and bad that many alt media projects unthinkingly aspire to be #dotcons
Is where ALL the value is on the open web. Without links content has NO VALUE. This is a obvious statement, its hard to understand the the lack of understanding around this simple thing.
Is a grassroots web standard that is still at the base of many of the dotcon world but is being pushed into the background of the openweb by building silos/portals in the grassroots/alt. RSS is like an open LINK with added data, thus adds value to the web. Its a powerful open tool that we still have. An API is like a geek control freak super power of RSS - the problem is in the complexity/control freak bit...
A subculture that is control/obscurity and more recently technical solutions to trust (wraparound right) this has always been a closing force on open projects. This helped to strangle the original successful alt/grassroots media projects and is pushing for the shrinking of the open web.
The unthinking desire for new/innovation/conformity. A wider subculture that churns the growth of alt/grassroots so little can grow beyond seedlings.
Are greedy dispoling of resources both human and money. The liberals that use bureaucratic funding to push out the geek/fashernista agendas over alt/grassroots projects. These are uneasy friends and clear (invisible) enemys.
Is both a technical thing of wires and frequency and an understanding of mutual aid and of “diversity of strategy”. It's native to the openweb and should be at the base of any alt/grassroots media project. In the closed #dotcon the widespread use of A/B testing is a pail controlled shadow of this.
wikipedia is an example of this. It's basic stuff open source project stuff. LINK
Looking at the tech and organising of UK alt/grassroots media. Do sites link to other alt-media projects? Do they support/display openweb standards (RSS)
First DRAFT (please message me with corrections/info)
Has a RSS feed, regular updates, copyright group silo, it has no outside linking
UPDATE: site back online, no visible RSS but can find a hidden one. Its likely copyright and a silo.
(Their website is hacked/down so posted the #failbook link used to have RSS and regular updates. Anyone know what's happening? Update they hope the site is back online soon.)
UPDATE: website back online copyright, no visible RSS feed but you can find ones. Its a a bit of an aggregater but has been suffering from poor spam control. Its pretty much a portal/silo – but could be more.
(They used to have an interesting website for the tec used, but it ended up being just a silo, they look like they are rebooting? Maybe a another silo? we shall see.)
Update they are rebooting as a linking site, lets hope its not a silo.
Has regular good content, RSS, they are a product of the #dotcon social media wave and good at it. Copyright/CC is not stated. The site is a silo with no outside linking
No RSS feed, starting to look a bit “old left” regular updates, no copyright/CC notice. A silo with no external links
The Bristol Cable - Bristol
No visible RSS feed, it kinda probably tries to obey the 4 opens maybe. It's a WP blog site in this it's a media silo with no external links.
Port Talbot Magnet
no visible RSS feed, it mostly fails the 4 opens due to copyright, data and organising. It's a WP blog site, in this it's a media silo with few if any external links.
New Internationalist - based in Oxford
Has RSS feeds, it kinda passes the 4 opens using a CC licence for its content. It links to the visionOntv project.
The Ferret - Scotland, based in Edinburgh
Looks like the old media transitioning to the new media. No visible RSS feed or copyright/CC notice. Is trying to be “open process” looks like a WP site.
Strike! - based in London
looks like a archive of a print mag? Has a RSS feed :)
Positive News - based in London
Dated looking site, hard to read, no RSS feed and a copyright notice. A silo.
Slaney Street - Birmingham
Did not load
Manchester Mule - Manchester
Has RSS feed but last article end of 2015 so not an active site. Probably for fills the 4 opens.
Co-operative News - based in Manchester
Nasty looking site and no RSS, copyrighted, its a silo
No RSS, copyrightish, old looking site.
Marlborough News Online
no RSS, copyright
West Highland Free Press
no RSS, copyright, its a silo.
Star and Cresent - based in Portsmouth
No RSS, no copyright notice? Its a silo.
Morning Star - based in London
Has a RSS feed but its empty, copyright, silo.
Cambria Publishing Co-operative
publishes paper books?
Zed Books - London
paper books and online reading lists, no RSS I can see.
copyright, has a RSS feed, looks bureaucratic open.
Blake House - based in London
no RSS, fashionable calling card website with out content, probably copyright?
Calling card website with out content, no RSS, likely copyright.
Ignite Creative - based in Oxford
Calling card website with out content, no RSS, copyright.
Shedlight Productions - based in Southampton
calling card website with out content, no RSS, copyright.
Steel City Film and Media Co-op - based in Sheffield
its a #failbook page, maybe open?
Trafford Media & Communications - based in Manchester
(mostly a printer, but also do film production)
calling card, no site.
The Community Channel
The granddaddy of NGO media, no RSS feed, likely copyright silo.
Jammu Kashmir TV
it has content, silo?
Has a working RSS feed
Inform My Opinion
Has working RSS feed but it fails in my pod catcher, its a page on a #dotcon?
has RSS feed, copyright, silo?
Half finished calling card site.
Hastings independent press
No RSS, no copyright/CC notice, a silo with no external links.
Copyright, no RSS feed, has some old school widgets which might show external links. Its a local news silo.
Has RSS feed and CC licence, no external links on front page, its a silo but better than most.
Has a RSS feed, its a silo but the is hope for it.
its a blog in the old school sense, has RSS
its a silo with no RSS and no external links
Alt-geek culture is broken - indymedia
An introduction to a "unspoken" problem. Everything is "pointless" in till you do something "that is not", if we keep repeating the pointless stuff were/when is the "that is not" going to happen?
An example of the geek problem can be found in the flowing and fading of radical alt/grassroots media at the peek of the #openweb
The basis of any new media is the technology it is transmitted/mediated by. In the case of newspapers this is the printing press, and for radio and TV it is access to the transmission spectrum. The open internet changed this "traditional" media which was based on a world of (vertical) analogue scarcity. As the accessing technology improved, it created a radically (horizontal) digital media space.
This was intently filled with (naive in a good sense) alt-media such as the Indymedia project (IMC). In this post I am looking at how this was killed off by internal geek/process dogmatism at the same time as its space was colonised by new/mainstream such as blogging and social media.
We are now coming full circle to where we started with closed client/server, algorithm-determined, gatekeeper, for-profit networks dominating media production and consumption. The corporate gate keeping venture capital driven (and invisible ideology) algorithm is the new printing press/broadcast spectrum that we started the century with.
What part did radical geeks play in this?
Let's look at the successful global indymedia project, which was based on open publishing and open process through a centralised server network. Before this the radical video project undercurrents, while not so open, was again based on a technical hub. They had the only free digital editing suite for production of grassroots video, thus anyone wanting to produces radical content was funnelled though this grassroots gatekeeper. With IMC, it was publishing to their hosted servers.
The indymedia network was setup in the very avant-gardist open model that was to dominate the internet for a time. Like undercurrents it succeeded because of its technical centralisation – the server was the ONLY place citizen journalist content could be published without hard technical knowledge. This monopoly was later lost to the growth of individualistic blogging platforms and later corporate social media. But what I want to argue here is that it died before this due to internal (process) pressures.
Indymedia was set up on the open, open, open, open, pseudonymous model.
* Open source (free software)
* Open publishing (post-publishing moderation)
* Open licence content (non commercial re-use)
* Open process (everything was organised on public e-mail lists, open meetings)
* Pseudo-anonymous (you didn’t have to provide an e-mail address or a real name to publish)
Let's look as some of the pragmatism that allowed the project to take off:
* The project was initially pragmatic about open source as it used the closed realmedia (RM) video streaming codec and servers. But the core project was committed to the free software path where technically possible.
* Open publishing was the basis of the project, things could only be hidden (not removed) because they broke a broad public editorial guideline. Even then they were added to a background page so were still public. In this the publishing process was naïvely open.
* Open licence stayed with the project to the end.
* Open process was gradually abandoned, a clique formed then fought and split, this was the main reason the project ossified and could not adapt to keep its relevance in the changing world of blogs and social media.
* (Pseudo) anonymity was part of the abandonment of open process and led down many of the technical dead ends that finally killed the relevance of the project to most users.
Lets look at this final one in more depth
Firstly, it's important to realise that any attempt at anonymous publishing in a client server relationship even at its most restrictive and paranoid would produce pseudo anonymity. ie. you might be able to hide from your mates and your employer but you cannot hide from the “powers that be” if they are interested in subverting your server and its internet connection.
The internet is inherently naïvely open, its built that way, this is why it works. The recent Edward Snowdon leaks highlight this to the wider public view.
- the integrity of the ISP and hosting was always based on trusting a tiny anonymous minority of geeks
- the physical security of the server could never be guaranteed.
- as the project process closed the identity of these core geeks became tenuous/invisible.
In activism just as the man driving the white van repeatedly turned out to be the police/corporate spy, the invisible server admin is the obvious opening for the same role – am not saying this is what existed, rather just trying to highlight how you cannot build a network based on this closed client server infrastructure/culture that IMC became. Given the open nature of the internet, it became dangerous to push IMC as an anonymous project.
There were four fatal blocks:
- the repeated blocks and failure and delay of decentralisation of the servers to the regions.
- the blocks on aggregation, then the closed subculture aggregation that final happened as a parallel project
- the focusing on encrypted web hosting and self-signed certificates put a block on new non-technical users that proved termanaly offputting.
- the failed "security theater" of not login IP address locally on the server as a limited security fig leaf. They could simply be logged on the ISP/open web instead.
These, together with a shrinking of the core group, led to the project becoming irrelevant in the face of the growth of more openly accessible blogging and then social media.
Let's get positive and suggest some ways the IMC project could have flourished and still be a dominant grassroots project:
* The base level of the project should have actively decentralised as the technology matured to make this feasible. Every town needed its own DIY run server.
* Then regional aggregation using RSS (really simple syndication) would make this grassroots media presentable as outreach media.
* A national aggregation site could then have compete directly with the (then) declining traditional media outlets.
* Recognising that the IMC project was pseudo-anonymous at best, IMC could have built a parallel encrypted peer-to-peer gateway app/network to feed into this to provide true(ish) anonymity for publishers to this ongoing open media project.
* The decentralisation would have been a force to keep the process open by feeding though new people/energy – this would have naturally balanced the activist clique forming/closing in the centre.
* As blogging became popular and matured these could have been “ethically” aggregated into the network to build a truly federated global open media network such as http://openworlds.info is working to be.
* Social networking could have been added as an organic part of this flourishing federated network.
If this had happened, it's not too much to say that the internet would have been a different place to where it is now. The IMC project highlights some of the failures of activist/geek culture. If we are to (re)build the open web we need to learn from this and move on.
(find photo of indymedia Sheffield masked up photo)
This is sadly not a metaphor for an open media project
It should be obvious to people now that even the most paranoid centralised closed internet is only pseudo-anonymous at best. We need to learn how to live with "open" to build the world we want to see. And our geeks fighting for closed are actually a problem for us, just as much as "them".
User story for the OMN - Ana and her Cat Pixy
User story for the OMN - Ana and her Cat Pixy
Ana loves her cat Pixie and wants to create a blog with photos and life stories of her cat. All her friends are creating Tumblr accounts but her friend told her about Open Media Network and that she could reach a wider audience. She created a Wordpress site instead. To make her blog more interesting and dynamic she adds some #OMN side bars from catlovers.net using the tags “black and white” “cat” and "fun” so that she can receive new pictures and headlines from other similar websites everyday. Her feed is added back to the catlovers.net aggregator and thus linked to over up to 100 cat sites each time she posted a new story.
Were is value online
Its interesting to think for a moment about how widely posts on the #openweb and #failbook are seen. On #failbook an average post on my time line might be seen/read by 10 people and a dog, a good shared post a few hundred people. On my blog an average post would be a few hundred people and a good post 10,000's of people maybe more. its easy to forget that #failbook is a #dotcon in real terms not just in idealogical arguments. The value is on the #openweb - how have people forgotten this?
EC "Cos convenience and the software works"
Yep thats why am pushing the #OMN so the is a space to do something about this.
Where next for grassroots/alt-media?
It's common knowledge that grassroots media is well F**ed and that #failbook and #twitter are the problem not the solution. Where can we go from here? To reboot alt-media (and play a role in rebooting the open web) we need to create an affinity group to cross the geek/political divide that has demolished our once flowing/healthy alt-media networks.
For a moment let's look at broad-brush history, The 20th century alt-media was one of offline social movements, where modern (21st century) alt-media is a product of online social networks - the web. Take a moment to think about our years of failed encryption geek projects on the one hand, and, the constant churning of disappearing media silos on the other. The last 10 years have been a wasteland for both the geek and political.
The original internet/web suceeded because it was a stupidly open design, it had no built-in agenda to the network. Lets compare this ”new” for a moment to the pre-internet, the old wired telephone networks had all the smarts at the exchanges and the phones were dumb, it was a centralised hierarchical network. Where the internet had the smarts at the ends, the computers, and the network itself was dumb – a horizontal network.
This turning on the head of 20th century thinking is important to move out of our current lon- running malaise in alt-media. Am arguing the divide between politicos and geeks is feeding a failed fixation on 20th century thinking in that they both want to build systems (both technical and social) where the smarts are at the centre. In contrast we know that in the 21st century it is more powerful to build “empty” networks that connect the smarts at the edges. The word “empty” here gets a lot of negative responses :) This is the touching of the core problem. Take a moment to re-read and think positive thoughts ;)
An “empty” network is a general-purpose network that connects general purpose computers to general purpose people and community. Yes, the tech we need, like the internet/open web has an agenda but it is not sectarian as #failbook and other #dotcoms are, as are our own much smaller alt-media silos. Instead its “open” and “simple” based on “industrial” standards and open working social ideals. This is obvious, but it needs saying, The “dumb net” is completely ignorant of what the user wants to do – just data in and data out. It's up to the user to decide what the data is. Only “universal languages”, that is data standards, have flow. There is a ridiculous power for change in this obviousness.
It's not hard to re-boot to escape these 10 years of failure, actually it's simple. Though it's not going to happen without a good affinity group who cross the geek/political divide. Message me if you think you have the smarts, skills, tolerance and humility.
Draw a line in the sand
None of the current alt/grassroots media projects link to each other. Message them and ask why and refuse to support them till they do #thecanary #Reelnews #RealMedia #Novaramedia is basic KISS of lefty/radical/progressive thinking.
What's the solution?
The minimum outcome a prominent small sidebar box front screen linking to other alt/grassroots project on each active project. it's a KISS no brainer and a line in the sand for lefty/radical/grassroots.
This can be done manually or as part of a bigger network project such as OMN
OMN user storys - A Writers Blog
Tabs is a writer and journalist who in the past was published in major newspapers. She writes opinion pieces based on current news events.
She keeps her hand in by writing pieces for her blog. She then posts her blog on facebook. Some of her friends share her pieces. Her blog reaches between twenty to a hundred people, mainly her friends.
Tabs knows one of the developers of the Open Media Network. He adds her feed from her blog to the OMN so that when she publishes a new piece the sidebars of all the blogs that are interested in her work are alerted. All someone has to do is click on the link and they will be taken to her site so they can read the new blog post. At the same time her blog will be copied and stored on OMN servers, or noids, so that a backup is always available.
As time goes on more people sees Tabs blog on the sidebar on their blogs. Her viewing figures double over a couple of months. So she decides to reciprocate and adds a sidebar to her blog and links to some other blogs she likes.
She is now a part of the OMN. A number of prominent sites feature her blog and the number of people looking at her blog increase dramatically and keeps growing as the network expands.
Foundations of alt/grassroots projects
All projects am working on at the moment are based on:
1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalisation.
2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds.
We embrace the full dignity of all human beings.
3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker;
4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements' struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and oppressed peoples' rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism.
5. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy.
1. Open data – is the basic part of the project https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_data with out this open it cannot work.
2. Open source – as in “free software” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software this keeps development healthy by increasing interconnectedness and bringing in serendipity. The Open licences are the “lock” that keep the first two in place, what we have ain’t perfect but they expand the area of “trust” that the project needs to work, creative commons would be the start here.
3. Open “industrial” standards – this is a little understand but core open, its what the open internet and WWW are built from. Here is an outline https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_standard
4. Open process – this is the most “nebulous” part, examples of the work flow would be wikis and activity streams. The project is built on linking trust networks so open process is the “glue” that binds the links together. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process
LINK for projects