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Open Source Bridge - Activity Streams, Socialism, and the Future of Open Source

Chris Messina, Google Google
  • dataliberation.org
    • trying to make it easy for people to move their web data around
    • one of the challenges is figuring out where you can move your data
Generative Structures
  • example: rhizome
    • can self-generate from the root structure
  • jonathan zittrain - the future of the internet and how to stop it (book)
Activity Theory 101
  • promoted by russians from late 19th-century on (vygotsky, leontiev, engestrom)
  • vygostky
    • how to model work to measure outcomes
    • focus on tool mediation -- relationship of single actor to the object of their work
  • scandanavians (engestrom) expanded to include rules, community, roles, culture, social systems
    • can look at very small or very large communities
  • by putting things in relationship to this model we start to see how meaning and cultural understanding grows over time
    • is the work satisfying? do people pursue it of their own volition, or do they need to be coerced?
    • by understanding motivations we can get people to do things
  • social objects
    • people don't connect to each other, they connect through a shared object (jyri engestrom)
    • e.g. flickr -- comments, tagging, metadata, galleries -- photo is mediating artefact
    • flickr has granular settings so people can control what can and can't be done with their photos
  • rules often emerge organically
  • contrast flickr with facebook
    • when you change the rules and surprise people, they react--expectations were betrayed
Examples from Mozilla Community
  • spreadfirefox
  • steven garrity - blog post from 2004
    • called out for help to bring designers into the mozilla community
  • a lot of the imagery from mozilla early on was communist in nature
  • browser wars were at their most heated at this point
  • for mozilla, the "enemy" of IE served as a social object
  • firefox ships november 9, 2004
  • once the browser is out, how do you get regular people to know about it?
    • spreadfirefox born to serve this need
  • "Welcome to Spread Firefox. You are our marketing department ..."
    • "... wrestling control from a monopoly that has let [the web] stagnate ..."
    • "... focus our community's energy on very tangible, specific goals"
  • first goal: 1 million downloads in 10 days
    • threw in game mechanics--kept track of points for clicks on links on people's web site
  • little "take back the web" button changed the game
  • roles
    • volunteering page on spread firefox--articulated very specifically what people could do to help
      • specific tasks for developers, security people, designers, users, etc.
    • had specific teams (webapps, for the record, wordsmiths, ad team, cd bundling team, events, college reps)
      • college reps team--seed firefox to kids who will then install firefox on their friends and relatives' computers
  • rules
    • focus on points people could get when they put getfirefox buttons on their web site
    • mozilla continues this today with their design challenge -- earn badges by contributing
  • mediating artefacts
    • new firefox images based on download milestones
    • people took these and put them on their blogs, modified, made their own
    • mozilla creative collective group
    • finding an interesting balance between the commercial side of things vs. rewarding people who are contributing
  • community
    • blogs, user profiles, affiliates, forums, etc.
    • ad for the new york times
      • 10,000 people donated money
      • all the names incorporated into the ad
    • important to consider how to incorporate collective voice of contributors into the project
  • goals and outcomes
    • "promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web"
      • vague, but can evolve over time
    • mozilla drumbeat
      • next generation of spread firefox
      • promoting open web to a wider audience
      • "Mozilla Drumbeat is keeping the web open"
      • images of people used on drumbeat site helps people visualize -- feel they can get involved, put themselves in the photos, make a difference
  • we need to do more to mobilize ourselves into a coherent narrative, bring more people in
    • can't take open web for granted
  • ideas from mozilla apply to open source in general as well as the open web
  • how do we get the open source/open web message to a wider audience?
  • How did the facebook "like" button trump the get firefox button? why was that opportunity not capitalized upon?
  • orwell: "history is written by the winners"
Activity Streams
  • one piece of leverage not currently being tapped
  • how do we leverage the social web and social networking to our benefit
  • activity streams format
    • take all the feeds that already exist in the wild (e.g. rss)
    • when rss was invented, the idea was to provide as little information as possible to route people back to the source site
    • in 2010 rss is still used but we're representing a vastly different type of information when you take into account social networking sites
    • basic model: actor, verb, object
      • e.g. person share link, usera follows userb, developer fork project
    • two formats -- atom and json
    • pretty decent list of verbs and object types that model what's already happening on social sites
  • process
    • inherits a lot from the micrformats community
    • ask why
    • do your homework / document
    • propose
    • iterate / implement
    • interoperate
  • number of sites already publishing activity streams
    • github timeline
    • gitorius also publishes an activity stream, but not in the same way
    • stackoverflow has its own activity stream
      • has verbs already highlighted, but the data isn't available in a way that other sites can use
  • lots of common verbs, activities, and objects between sites that initially seem disparate
  • could for example take stackoverflow's reputation system and create a common way of spanning that across projects
    • could join a project and people would "know" you
    • combine with openid and oauth and things get interesting
Distributed Social Networks
  • people still using single siloed social networks
  • lots of efforts in open source world to solve this (status.net, diaspora, etc.) and they don't interoperate
  • want to create an inclusive model that applies to all these efforts
  • create system in which people can work on what they care about, but also collect around objects regardless of where they exist
  • connect individual to a shared outcome through involvement and engagement in a community, and you get a much greater outcome than someone could achieve on their own
  • this results in a changing of culture
  • if we can do this, we'll be writing the history of open source

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