Fuck Social Networking, I want Social computing.

Submitted by naught101 on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 12:36

Sharing your bookmarks and photos is all well and good. Discussing stuff on forums can be interesting. Editing Wiki pages is better - coming close to a collective conscious.

But the computer has always been an individualistic tool, which sucks. No matter what I do on a computer, it's always just me. Fundamentally, a computer is used for making things; usually, art, writing, algorithms etc. when I do these things in real life, I can do them with other people, at the same time. This is especially true for music, and note taking, etc. This is much more difficult on a computer - mostly, the only way to so it is to write your bit, save it, send it to someone else somehow, and get them to check it, and send it back. I want to do it in realtime.

Googledocs looks like it could be it, but I'm wary of storing anything on google's computers. Also, it's proprietary software, so it's hard to know what you're really getting.
The other option is online whiteboards, of which there are a few. Inkscape has a whiteboard function, but it's difficult to use so far, and may not be included in the next official build (0.46) (although you can include it anytime you build from source).

Basically, what I'd like to see, is probably something like googledocs running over XMPP, where each user has a locally stored file, which is updated when ever a session is started with both users, and can be updated in realtime, with the messages sent as short edits, not the whole file. Damn that would be cool.

One problem I can see with such a system is that if one user wants to edit something, then send it through another static communications system (like an e-list), you could end up with a few duplicates. That might be solved by somehow creating a unique fingerprint (not based on the file contents obviously, but perhaps the date and time, and the original title?), or simply by allowing users to diff the files, and choose which changes to include...

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Jamesey (not verified)

Sat, 11/17/2007 - 21:00

Hi Naught101,

Interesting post and a coincidence since just a few weeks ago I started looking into developing a project with a similar focus.

I'm envisioning creating a virtual hub for social justice activists and people with technical skills to leverage open source software and Web 2.0 Online technologies to collaborate on projects that will make a difference to their communities and the world through the integration of Open Source software such as GIMP, Inkspace, OpenOffice, Scribus etc etc CASCADE CAD, with a content management system (drupal, plone, or JXTA like Collanos is built on along with technologies that facilitate communications such as OpenWengo (VOIP), Jabber (IM), yabb (forums), Horde or Hushmail (email) wikis, RSS feeds, social bookmarking, blogs, AJAX (mashups), and file-sharing (bitTorrent or Freenet).

Be aware that although I come from a users background rather development I am aware the ambitious nature of my vision.

Perhaps this would prove helpful in developing the concept.

This article might be helpful in conceptionalising the design of collaborative software as well.

Two projects with a similar philosophy that I've come across on the web are Thinkcycle from the MIT media lab and AMD's Open Architecture Network, although as far as I'm aware they don't have an integrated collaborative system that I'm envisioning.


Cool dude,
Thanks for the links. Interesting that you mentioned CAD - that's another one of my major wants for FLOSS. To be honest, I won't work on this - I just don't have time, but I am interested in doing some CAD stuff with inkscape, and maybe blender - extensions first, then maybe looking at forks. I dunno. I'll have to find time first.

oh, and http://www.openarchitecturenetwork.org/ isn't an AMD project - it's an Architecture for Humanity project - AMD just support them.

No worries.

Re. CAD theres plenty of open source software without needing to reinvent the wheel (BRL-CAD, CASCADE, AvoCaDo etc) I can't testify as to their quality compared to commercial offerings though.

I knew the project would be too much for one person and intended to contact Yuda from anarchism.org.nz, some developers from AptAnarchy and others from the Open Source community to see if they'd be interested in the project.


a big list, with a couple of notable absences, Including Archimedes http://archimedes.incubadora.fapesp.br/portal , which has had a bit of a stop-start development process, and currently appears to be in limbo.

AvoCADo looks pretty cool, I'll give it a go.

Most of the cad packages are usable, but just not feasible to use for real work, for me, at the moment, perhaps because I'm using CAD for architectural work - I think most are more suited to engineering type CAD.

Keep me informed about the project, if it gets up and running, it definitely sounds cool.

Hi naught101

Yeah just ones I discovered after a quick scan of Google results.

I've never really been able to get my head around 3d modeling, but I've recently gotten really interested in the Open Design movement (epitomised by GNU/Linux and the Free and Open software movements) and immediately realised its potential in promoting social justice, which is an issue that I'm passionate about.

I've also recently recognised the internets potential in uniting people with different skillsets and allowing them to collaborate on endeavours that they may not otherwise be able to achieve alone. While I was searching a way of merging the principles of Open Design and social justice and leveraging the internet's capacity for collaboration I realised that no integrated infrastructure existed that would allow it to take place, which is when I stumbled across your blog.

I'll be sure to keep you informed. Cheers for the encouragement.

Hi Naught101,

Yeah my preference is to stick to open source software as well. Even when the business releases their product for free to its users like Google does.

No I haven't used Collanos as I have no need of it quite yet. I'm rather hesitant to put forward my idea as yet.

I've stumbled across a possible alternative for facilitating collaboration that being the Chandler Project, although it isn't stable yet.

Another interesting project is CloudStack that allows Seamless tasks between multiple users through the JXTA p2p networking protocol.

What excites me is the capablities provided by the underlying software architecture.