If You Have to Start with Community

This post was born as part of a response to this comment on a Loomio thread.

Though I do believe that a proper socio-technological architecture starts with individual self-owned online presence it may very well be that actual applications will begin in social spheres. Those beginnings will probably gravitate towards creating online-community space (as they often do).  In my opinion this presents an opportunity.


I believe that especially in these cases the underlying socio-technological infrastructure still matters very much. A typical architecture where a community site is created and proprietary account architectures are created for participants looks something like this:


Ideally I believe it should be more like this:


Which makes things like this possible:


However, pragmatically, we are not yet near a situation where a majority of people have self-owned sites. So they will come to a community site and “open accounts” to participate. We could choose to create these “accounts” in such a way that, when people do wake up to the benefits of an individual presence, they could “break away” from the community site to become free (participating) individuals:


Example: WordPress

To demonstrate that this is not theoretical but is not just possible but already happening, consider the example of the WordPress project. There used to be two primary ways to get a WordPress website:

  1. By registering for a free (with optional paid upgrades) site on WordPress.COM.
  2. By self-hosting a site based on the software freely available on WordPress.ORG.

Because both services use the same underlying code it is possible to freely export a site that was started on WordPress.COM and transfer it to a self-hosted server. So one can start “inside” WordPress.COM and then move out and become a self-owned and managed site.

Today there are more WordPress hosting companies and because they all use the same underlying code, it is inherently possible to export your content from any WordPress based platform to any other.

The Opportunity

What if we could harness the motivation of people to participate in intentional and purposeful online communities to lead them towards online-independence.

I am guessing there were different movitations that got people to join Facebook. Regardless of the motivation, the end result is that people walked into a trap (even if a comfortable one). For many people their online presence is defacto their Facebook page – which means its in the hands of a corporate overlord with its own agenda and motivations. This has and continues to create plenty of friction.

So yes we can create online community spaces. But we can build them in such a way that when the time comes people will realize that they do have an alternate online presence and that when they want to take it further they can. We can design it so even though it looks like “an account was created” … actually what was created was a pod of independence … and that pod can be launched and separated from the mother ship (the community site).

Where Facebook created a trap where freedoms were taken away, we can create an pathway to freedom. We can harness the motivation for people to congregate, to discuss, to vote, to shape their communal lives … as a reason to become free individuals in cyber-space.

We can do this subtly. The user experience can be simple and seamless. The underlying architecture can be drastically different.



One thought on “If You Have to Start with Community

  1. Alan Moore

    We are building something very much like this. To bootstrap the process we are using gitlab CE on our own domain. Works great but we have long term needs that can’t rely on gitlab. BTW – GitLab has something similar, both hosted and self hosted git repos (project and wiki.)

    Good luck with your project!


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