The Global Square: a call for coders to build the platform

by Pedro Noel on February 14, 2012

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The Global Square — a proposal launched on ROAR last year — is starting to take shape. Now we need coders to help us build the actual platform!

Call from our partners at WikiLeaks Central:

The Global Square (original proposal/project description here) aims to be the first massive decentralized social network in the history of the Internet. We are aware of the difficulties we must overcome, but we believe the Internet Community has reached a point where such an initiative is possible. It is possible because we are more united; censorship and repression have created stronger bonds between those who care about freedom and the free flow of information. How can we achieve this goal?

Structure: organizing humanity in a single collective

The Global Square is to be an easy to use social and work platform for individuals and groups. One of the main goals is that it should have very low barriers of entry for inexperienced users, making it as easy as possible for them to contribute work, interact and use the various tools at their disposal. Another goal is that the Global Square be expandable to allow global coordinated and efficient work in every system. The Global Square recognizes the principles of personal privacy as a basic right of individuals and transparency to all users as an obligation for public systems.

The Global Square is not exclusively for activists. While it will assist activists with the correct tools and virtual meeting areas, it will also be available to the global community. Although the structure is designed for organization and coordination of personal relationships, assemblies and action, the platform is also conceived for independent work systems, movements struggling for civil causes and more. As systems are added that encompass more aspects of daily life and political topics of wide interest, experts and users from all walks of life will be able to use the Global Square to discuss, create and learn. A first example of this is the News Commons, which will be a source of verified, crowd sourced and peer reviewed news on all topics. Other early basic systems to be created on the Global Square are the Global Market for establishing new methods of exchange and the Renaissance and Evolution Forums for testing principles for governance and law. Future systems could include topics such as communications, healing, food, arts, sports, sciences, trade, housing, and energy.

This is an open community where everyone is welcome. It is peer-to-peer, horizontal and non-hierarchical. This is a space where coders, designers, itechs, artists, activists and philosophers are invited to collaborate together. We believe it is necessary to concentrate and focus our energy, so if you are already in a group planning something similar or with the same objectives please participate to enrich both projects.

P2P-based

With the support of Delft University of Technology, The Global Square will mainly be developed based on the existing peer-to-peer technology provided by the renowned file sharing software Tribler. Tribler is a project focused on decentralized social networks with years of expertise in peer-to-peer communication. By using this particular existing P2P technology it becomes virtually impossible to break or censor our network. The content files are not centralized in any physical server, so the network belongs to its users — a basic principle of participatory democracy applied to the online space. It encourages input from users from countries with censorship and blocking; with an ‘unblockable’ space to share all kinds of information and work collaboratively. It has been proven that web, as we know it, each day is more closed and subject to arbitrary and illegal blocking. A step beyond it is more than needed.

Open system

The Global Square will include authentication mechanisms, relational schema and communication protocols. Authentication and communications are up to whoever implements this specification to build a system. That will allow a project to be “Global Square compatible” while supporting semantic data, currently visualized as RDF. The RDF vocabularies we develop to represent meaning and relationship are the common thread that enable uniting a variety of platforms. Any network is the sum of the technology supporting it as well as the actual connections made between individuals and groups within it. To succeed, we must be able to both leverage whatever currently exists as well as develop anything needed to build bridges between systems and people. There will be a blend of network protocols, web services, data stores, P2P clients etc. Tools for people across the planet to meet, share ideas and develop proposals must enable coordinated, effective, global action. The Global Square system will provide a unified way to manage communications between people within a radically heterogeneous vocabulary system.

Approach

Build something, get a real-world community to use it, and ask how we can improve it. Instead of detailing the design out from zero, we propose to build software and incrementally improve it. This requires a designed-for-evolution type of modern software engineering approach.

Our goal is to have a functional prototype by March 2012. The Global Square will be a featured project at the Berlin Biennale from April 27, 2012 until July 1, 2012. To have something working in March, we need to be modest. We will start with a simple PC app. The first feature to create is an operational skeleton for an attack resilient social network: Users can add friends and send them messages in private. You can also leave messages on the people’s public walls. This first prototype should already have robust security and use Elyptic Key Crypto to secure all communication. Each user creates a public key upon installation. All private messages are encrypted for that person only. All friendships are initiated using spoofing-free mechanisms.

Features after the March release

Using the Agile method we will focus on one feature or module for a few weeks, conduct tests, do a release and then focus on the next feature. By releasing in a 6-8 week cycle we can focus on coding and improvement.

A goal is to have a smartphone app later in the year plus a standalone app with a usable GUI. We will start with the stand alone PC app, which later can be turned into an .apk for mobiles. Once the basic prototype is up and running, we can add features beyond social networking, for instance, Squares, Task Groups or Events with communication systems. Once that is up and running the focus could be on “distributed decision making and voting” and the various Systems such as News Commons.

The Global Square needs developers to turn ideas into reality!

For such an effort, we must count on the community of coders and developers. We are going to use a Tribler kernel based on Python. We urgently need the help of the community in order to implement all the features planned for The Global Square. If you have expertise in Python and P2P protocols you still have time and opportunity to join our project, a project which will hopefully change the dynamics of interaction among global society.

Various jobs require a combination of the following:

  • Experience with Open Source project basic operation;
  • Python programming;
  • Network protocols, UDP message transfers;
  • Cryptography, pub/priv key management;
  • SQLight, performance, transactions;
  • Epidemic gossip protocols, for global dissemination of crypted info;
  • Self-organising network programming;
  • GUI in WxWindows;
  • Android developer, mixed .py build chain (for later smart phone .apk).

To join:

General Contact:
Pedro Noel (“connecting people”)
info@theglobalsquare.org

Press Contact:
Heather Marsh (spokesperson)
press@theglobalsquare.org

Developers Contact:
Johan Pouwelse and Ed Knutson (development coordinators)
dev@theglobalsquare.org

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Wilson February 15, 2012 at 09:59

This is incredibly exciting.

My 2c… this is the next step. It’s incredibly exciting. The internet is indeed becoming NOT what it originally was meant to be. This is the next step after that. So good.

The 99%!!!

God bless,
Mark.

Reply

anon February 16, 2012 at 00:33

You’re goal time frame is pretty unrealistic I think. You should check out Diaspora or Crabgrass, and maybe think about building on their code base.

Reply

Andrew Stergiou February 20, 2012 at 06:30

Sadly on the contrary the time comes or is now, with all things being what they are, that the internet as tainted by many different governments controls and interference, unbridled spying, data mining, and international surveillance that the internet should be abandoned as not conducive for free democratic purposes.

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Andrew Stergiou February 20, 2012 at 06:34

PS any system that can be devised can be cracked, the internet began as a government (military) corporate entity as far without guarantees of its integrity or an international internet bill of rights the world is better off without it as from the beginning so in the end it poses a threat controlled by corporate elites.

Reply

sabo tabi February 20, 2012 at 23:33
Chris Watkins February 27, 2012 at 14:46

I’m with anon – the timetable seems very optimistic, considering how long Diaspora is taking, and I’m wondering why this is being started as a new project, instead of building Diaspora, Crabtree or Friendica.

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Laurel L. Russwurm May 2, 2012 at 05:57

There is a real-world community using the ostatus softwate that exists already… it can be downloaded free from Statusnet. This is Free-As-In-Freedom stuff that can be networked. Identi.ca is the free service hosted by Statusnet … like twitter but better in many ways. People can set up their own instances (separate nodes) of this which can be networked together. Most of the people I talk to host their own instances. From Identica my posts can be rebroadcast to Twitter, but people with their own instances can broadcast both ways. I talk to people on Friendika, and I have friends who upload from Tumblr. Some people post from Google+ Apparently Diaspora is still too proprietary to federate.
I am not a tech person, although I’m a free software/free culture supporter. Talk to @evan on Identica or just pop by and check it out.

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tony May 5, 2012 at 00:47

Uhm, friends, it’s done already: http://friendica.com – federated, decentralized social networking on steroids, federating with diaspora, facebook, status.net (identi.ca), livejournal, dreamwidth, insanejournal, posterous, twitter, tumblr, etc., with strong privacy controls, events, photo galleries, groups, forums, chat, etc., etc….growing and developing at alarming speed.
Friendica is teh awesome.

(Yes, I’m aware of diaspora, but it doesn’t federate, except with friendica, and that was because of work done mostly on the friendica end, and/or by Ilyas, who, sadly, is gone. Diaspora is not the answer. Friendica is.).

Or http://status.net (decentralized, federated microblogging, and more).

Reply

Allen Atkinson February 4, 2013 at 20:36

Any update on this info? I’ve been watching to see this go online but haven’t seen anything in nearly a year.

Reply

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