I've been thinking about how to make something conference-speech-y out of the thoughts I shared here. I still don't know but now I have some more. Working on the mirror had led me to some thoughts about the platform and the data. I made some quick drawings to illustrate it.
What makes a community? What makes a community from a technical point of view? I'd say that a community is made of a group of people, the interactions between them, and their view and feel of being a community.
In case of an ONLINE community there is another important element - the platform. The platform is the medium for all these interactions.
Is that much? The above picture shows how it looks like. But not how it feels like. It feels more like this:
Since it's an online community all the interactions are online. So the only (unless there is some redundancy) way of reaching the community, the other people is through the platform. The community is seen
inside the platform. That's why it feels so endish if there are problems with the platform.
If the platform is gone it's almost as if the whole community was gone. And if the platform is permanently gone it can even mean an end of a community.
More about this. What makes a community what it is, is how its members perceive it.
Of course everyone acn have a little (or completely) different view of the community but as long as these views shape the community without conflicts it's not a problems. But what shapes one person's view of the community? It's who xe is, it's who the other members are and what's in the interactions. But how does one know who others are? From seeing their interactions in the community. And how does one see those? From reading the platform.
It's all there! In the platform. In the data. All what made the community what it si is somehow encoded in the data! That's really crazy if you think about it (If you don't think about it it's still crazy but you don't think about it then). If I have a complete copy of the OTT I also have all that made the OTT. If only I could decode that.
What we see in the platform shapes our view of the community. And our view of the community shapes our interactions with it.
And these change the data. And changing the data changes other people's view of the community.
Which affects their interactions with the community. Which changes the data again. Which changes our view of the community, and so on...
That's a feedback loop. That's how an online community goes on.
To make the view more complete there is a time perspective on it.
What makes our current view on the community is the data, the prevoius view and also the data from the past. In this OTT it's especially important with all the blitzening and upketching. If we couldn't access our past we'd no longer be the same OTT.
If data is lost if the platform is broken the loop becomes broken too. And the community
A sustainable community should have a sustainable platform.
What is a sustainable platform? I can't give a definition but if I tried to find out if a one is sustainable I'd ask:
- Does ist work correctly, without problems, mustards?
- Does it allow to create and access messages, posts, or whatever else?
- Does it allow to easily access the past? (some, like Facebook fail this)
- Does it protect its data?
- Do we know what the software really does? (if it's not free we don't)
- Does it belong to the community or someone else?
- Is it likely to be removed for some reason?
The points about how it works. It's rather obvoius why it's important. More about ownership. at some point in time a community appears. It's not a single event. It's a process. A process which is happening on an already existing platform. Whether its owner is part of it is a different story. One does not create a platform for the purpose of creating a community. One does not artificially create communities. A platform is created for some other reasons and sometimes commutities form on it. sometimes not.
The community needs to be able to keep its data safe. If the community doesn't own its platform it doesn't own its data. (unless they do something about it). If the community doesn't own its platform it can't be sure that the platform will continue to exist.
What to do? Moving to a different platform might not be a good idea. The platform can be part of what the community really is. And migrating would change that. A community can be formed on a lot of different platforms. Forums, chats, wikis, comment sections, mailing lists, ... Everywhere where information exchange is possible. Some of them may be not sustainable by their design. This is problematic. Staying is unsustainable (because of the platform's nature) and migrating is unsustainable (because of the community's nature). Luckily, our situation is not that bad.
How to live on a platform that may be not as sutainable as we want and still try to be sustainable enough?
Make redundant copies of the data. Regularly. But not everything at once. We don't want to overload any servers. The best solution is a bot that goes slowly through all data and saves it. But also save quickly new data.
Now if our platform/data is gone and if we have to create a new one we can recreate it and continue there.
So why not do it now? Why don't we create na new phpBB with a new OTT, move all our data there, start posting there and close this thread?
Because there are reasons for us to want to be here. We're still welcome here. The location of the thread is what brought us here ( because some already were on xkcd fora, because some knew where to look for Time-related discussion, etc.). There are a lot of less frequent visitors. There are blitzers. They may not be here when the change happens. We don't want to lose them. We can leave a message in the first and last post. And in signatures. But for some registering somewhere else might be a barrier high enough. Some will assume that when they no longer see the thread on the first page it means that the thread is dead. And being here is part of what we are. So we want to stay here as long a possible. But we should still have some redundancy prepared.
Sometimes, mustard happens. Mustard can happen everywhere. Why not use the already created copies to sustainabilize our experience here? Let's use make it viewable so that mustard doesn't cut us from the community. We have it - it is in the mirror. It's very compatible with the original OTT - you don't see any difference when reading trom the mirror and from the OTT. That's good. But it's one-way. Why not make it possible to continue the interactions in mustardtimes and then bring it back to the original platform? We have it too - it's on the Mustardtime Otherthread. It tries to be compatible with the OTT but still has some limitations. But that may change in the future.
So can the mirror be used as an OTT replacement when an eternal mustard comes? No. Not yet. Its current internal structure is not well designed for long-term replacement. But the mirror will evolve. To the point where you can just switch to the mirror and continue OTTing without noticing too many changes. That's my goal for somewhere in the future.
But even then it wouldn't be the most sustainable solution. Because it still would be ONE mirror. What if something happens to my server? what if something happens to me? It's good to have more.
But that's just us. how about other communities? The mirror is a solution for a phpBB thread. That's one of many different platforms. But maybe we (maybe the sustainable conference) can inspire others to do such things. That would be neat. Sush a redundancy software (including, but not limited to my mirror) should be free. To be reuseble. To be understandable. To make it possible to adjust it to a community's needs). But that's not all. There must be someone in the community with <computery-stuff> skills. There must be someone who can run a server. It's not difficult these days but you still need one, I think the best choice is a SBC or an old laptop. I bought the botcastle from my own money. And they must feel the need of doing this. I don't know how to cause that
data is important
redundancy is molpish
the future will be sustainable
Wow, this post has become much longer than expected. And also I was writing it longer than expaected, I've become hungry when writing it.
Also the drawins could have been smaller.