Flux: an Australian political party

Flux – an initiative from Australia is a fascinating combination of technology and society. The technological platform seems to resonate with many of the ideas I used to describe Oameni. But in this case it is coupled together with a political party that is built and operates using this technology and in doing so setting a new de-facto standard of politics:



This post is a reply to an invitation to share what I imagine to be a “chat application” that may be developed as a prototype Holochain application.


The Holochain team conversation is taking place on Mattermost (an open-source Slack look-alike). I believe that there is a good chance that default the conversation will converge on something similar to that. I do not believe that is a good outcome and though what I am about to describe seems to be something very different, it does include in its potential field a Slack-like modality.

Messaging Convergence

Though we use different tools for messaging, they all seem to be able to morph into similar outcome when to put to real world use. Consider these examples:

  • There are Holochain team members with whom I’ve only communicated on Mattermost and never with email and so when I want to reach them I got to Mattermost and use its private messaging as if it was an extension of email.
  • I have seen Gmail used in such a way that it looks (from the perspective of a single user) like a slack/mattermost … where emails are directed into folders based on people/context, etc.
  • There have been a few people with whom I’ve communicated on Twitter using direct messages – again as if it was an extension of email. This was not a preferred solution on my part, but rather an undesirable outcome because we initially connected on Twitter and I did not have their email addresses. I am uncomfortable with my communications being held and trapped on a corporate platform.
  • Facebook itself is essentially a kind of chat application … and its chat application is explicitly that.
  • Whenever other apps or platforms (including the above mentioned examples) want to guarantee they can reach us they revert to a guaranteed medium: email to do so.

The result is:

  1. A fragmentation (we need to look at messages in many places) which gives birth to what capitalists like to call “the attention economy” where our attention is being pulled in many directions for a very similar kind of communication  simply because these communications are controlled by different corporates.
  2. A flooding of email which is increasingly difficult to manage.


Some Agent-Centric Implications

When I reflected on the idea of a “Chat Application” I found myself mainly focused on the implications of a transition from a centralized world view to an agent centric one. I had two primary examples on my mind to challenge my framing:

  1. The questions that came up when the Mattemost was setup about what/how channels should be named. That is a centralized question. In an agent-centric view it is plausible that I join a channel and then rename it to make sense within my own context. It would still be the “same channel”, but I would know it by a different name.
  2. In a centralized view a channel is directly correlated to a list of its members. I had a wish to join a channel but to silence some people in it (but not in other channels).

The point I want to make with these examples is not as features but as teasers of what an agent-centric chat may become. Because we are so used to chat in a centralized architecture, we are pre-empted with many assumptions about what is possible and what is good.

To meet that challenge I believe we need to start not with chat but with agent-centric messaging as a fundamental capability.

The Email of a Distributed Interet

Some years ago Mozilla Labs Launched (and ultimately cancelled) a project called Raindrop which was given a mandate to re-imagine messaging. This is the scope that I am imagining.

Just as we are creating DPKI as an identity infrastructure, I am suggesting that (before we commit to specific forms of messaging) we create messaging as an infrastructure.

I do not mean this just a technicality but also as a foundation for creating a re-imagined individual-oriented experience of messaging. An experience that  each individual will be able to shape and tailor to their own needs and preferences.

For example: I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client. I also use it as my RSS aggregator. Ideally, I would have also liked to use it to “channel-chat” with the Holochain team without having to use another app (or browser tab) to do so. Let us start by creating the “Thunderbird hApp” without being bound to the concept of email or chat message as being separate things.

If such an infrastructure is established it may be a useful service to other hApps and developers. Instead of recreating fragmented messaging across applications, all applications will be able to “reach users” through this core messaging service.

About YIN

I once browsed a book on Tai-Chi. In it I found an explanation about Yin and Yang in the context of Tai-Chi. The Yin quality represents listening/attention. The Yang quality represents action. Though Tai-Chi, in the west, is mostly known in its slow-moving form, it is in fact a martial art. In combat Yin represents a stance of readiness where one is very attentive, waiting for the opponent to make a first move. Then, when one has “read the opponent” one can respond correctly and quickly – which represents the Yang quality. A good warrior will begin moving after her opponent and reach her target first.

Yin represents the quality of attentiveness – the readiness and ability to receive. The core messaging capability I am imagining manifests this quality. As a core service it creates one channel (an integrated sensing organ) where all messages (signals from the environment) arrive (are received), making it possible to be shape an integrated awareness/attentiveness that receives and responds well to messages from many sources.

Today, our communication tools pull at our attention in different directions and distract us. What if they could be remade (the opportunity we have at this time of birth of a new internet) to be coherently well-integrated? This basic sense-ability seems like a good step towards allowing us, as individuals, to coalesce into social-beings.




Range Voting by David Siegel

An interesting collection of resources by David Siegel.

  • Why do we vote: I’m not sure I agree with his theory … I think people vote because we do not have better ways to make decision … and attached to voting is a promising (though illusory) story which comforts people (both voters who feel they are being heard, and agenda-makers who know that the voting can be gamed and brought into service of their wishes). That said, in a better world, the question of why vote is a valuable one.
  • When to vote – try other decision making tools before voting … participation trumps voting.
  • Range Voting … another votign strategy to be explored

How to Make Transparency Meaningful?

Yanis Varoufakis talks about transparency in a very simple and straightforward way. The DiEM movement he founded demands transparency in these terms:

  • the live-streaming of the entire European Council, Eurogroup, ESM Board of Governors and Ecofin meetings, and the subsequent publication of official transcripts for all such meetings
  • a full set of minutes for each ECB Governing Council meeting to be published three weeks after the conclusion of each regular meeting, and complete transcripts of these meetings to be published within two years
  • an exhaustive list of all Brussels lobbyists and a register of every one of their meetings with elected or unelected EU officials
  • electronic publication of all TTIP negotiating documents and full transparency at every stage of the TTIP negotiations.

While this may be a step in the right direction I have felt this request sufficient. A good example of that comes these days in the forms of the US senate confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet. The hearings are available online for all to watch and I believe live-streamed too. This (heavily edited) presentation from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah can give you a sense of what is happening (in this one example of many):

Despite the COMPLETE transparency and the fact that Betsy DeVos is clearly unsuitable for the job she will likely get it. So, clearly, in the short term, transparency is not very useful.

But if you watch a bit more of the raw footage from this hearing you will see that transparency can even become damaging. The quality of the hearing is horrific not only because of Betsy DeVos’ ignorance but also because of the way she is questioned:

The democrats are attacking her without even giving her a chance to reply … which is a shame because if they did her incompetency would shine through even brighter. The democrats are using this platform (because it is transparent!) not to hold a good hearing but to hold a public execution and to advertise their own ideas and positions (which, ironically, for the foreseeable future do not matter much). It seems that in the short term transparency can even be damaging!

I believe that for transparency to become effective we need deeper processes. Public representatives need to be held accountable over time. I would like:

  1. Everyone in these hearings to have a personal public record available.
  2. Every vote to be on record … so that anyone who supported or objected the confirmation of Betsy DeVos can be held accountable for their action.
  3. I want every senator on this committee to have an opportunity to post their positions on both education and BestDevos in advance … maybe even pubish their question in advance. Maybe even consult with their constituency in advance on the questions they would like to be asked.
  4. I want everyone who cares to, to be able to submit to public record an explanation of their positions (in writing, video, whatever).
  5. I would like the public to be able to express their position on how the senators performed in a hearing. If voters want to support the positions of Bernie Sanders, let that voice be heard and recorded.

Once you become a public representative you shoulder the burden and responsibility of transparency and unlike your personal CV (which you can edit) your transparency record will live with you the rest of your life. Your transparency record may become anasset or it may become a liability. Either way, you won’t be able to make it go away. Betsy DeVos may be mocked in this hearing, but she knows it and all she needs to do is get through it and it will be forgotten. So will the republican senators who support her.

I also believe that if Transparency is done well, politicians can learn to harness it as a constructive tool. Can we make transparency a promise instead of a threat? If we could demonsrate that politicians who embrace transparency have better careers and lives … would other politicians embrace it?

If we are using transparency to put politicians on the spot and place blame on their shoulders then it is only natural that they would want to avoid it. I believe transparency holds more profound potential to it then that.

Identity is NOT Required for Voting

“In almost all transactions that we take part in on a daily basis we are not proving our identity, we are proving that we are authorised to do something whether it is to charge money to a line of credit in a shop, ride a bus or open the door to an office. In these cases we are using ID as a proxy because we don’t have a proper infrastructure in place for allowing us to keep our identities safely under lock and key while we go about our business. What you should really be presenting at the polling station is an anonymised entitlement to vote that you can authenticate your right to use. It is nobody at the polling station’s business who you are and, in common with many other circumstances, if you are required to present your identity to enable a transaction then we have created another place where identity can be stolen from.”

source via Tom Loosemore

Hence my thinking that every voting opportunity be accompanied by a securely generated voting-token which expires upon use. This can be further strengthened with some kind of two factor authentication which can be activated on the spot, still, without a need for identity per-se.