Digital Backyards Forum “Alternative Social Networking”: Workshop

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  • “Alternative Social Networking”: Workshop Oct.19th

    This workshop discussed about alternative networks that exist beside the big monopoles of Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. They asked each other what is the problem of many small projects not interacting with each other and if centralization or plurality can be the solution. Education, new technical and theoretical approaches, usability and independency are keywords that are mentioned in the discussion.


    Unlike Us – project to research alternative networks
    FoeBuD e.V. – organisation for data privacy
    Social Swarm – platform that brings social media projects together
    Secushare – open interface using P2P for social networking – offering hosting services – search engine for user (names)
    polyglot server – one server that speaks 5 protocol languages (one news inbox)

    Input by Daniel Reusche (Unlike Us)

    – initiated Unlike Us 2 years ago
    – goal: find alternatives to established networks, bring experts together: projects, media theorists, artists, focusing on different use cases, decentralization with strong anonymity -> independence from monopoles
    – conclusion: there is not one solution
    – next Unlike Us conference in April/May 2013
    – umbrella project for all alternative social media: Gnu social

    Input by Leena Simon (Social Swarm)

    – FoeBuD e.V. = organisation
    – gave Big Brother Award i.e. to Facebook
    – goal: creating social surroundings, good frame for good ideas
    – they don‘t want another project for code solutions (like Secushare)
    – project: Social Swarm: no other project, one project to evolve, solution: office privacy, free software, community develops itself, interfaces, connections
    – goal: social media with different providers interacting in a network, getting projects together and finding one standard way to which all agree
    – everyone can choose their platform
    – FoeBud is campaigning and asking politicians and popular people to tell about it
    – problem: you have technicians but you also need community management, without: not enough connection between coders
    – i.e. deciding on open interfaces, socially, philosophy, theoretically

    Input by Carlo von Loesch (Secushare)

    – other open networks give too much energy in the wrong direction
    – created Secushare as an open interface using strategies of filesharing which are independent of a big company
    – but going further than peer2peer: combining it with social graph
    – open standard is on a higher level: foundation/framework to put tools/apps on top so that all people can contribute (i.e. programming a little ebay)
    – computer runs a trusted matrix that know your friends: i.e. skype video connection over another server runned by a friend
    – less CPU traffic than skype or filesharing
    – fast speed to transfer data
    – interface looks like web server but its your own computer
    – status: prototype that runs sometimes
    – obstacles: bugs (like finding friends again after going offline), financing is missing, free/open software is abandoned from App stores
    – Mobile alternative to iTunes or Android App store: fdroid: free app store

    Input by Florian Schneider (

    – not constituted organisation that started in the mid 90‘s
    – owns servers since 1997 and offers hosting services (website, mailing list,…)
    – original idea: digital campaigning was new, offering services to artists, political organizations
    – project funded and without goal to generate money
    – is working quite sustainable
    – no intention to invest in facebook or twitter


    There is the possibility of change:
    – ask people to change platform
    – getting an facebook account to control the information published on facebook
    – install an add-on that replies to facebook questions via email, facebook user has a disadvantage
    – need of open interface
    – educating users to other thinking: goals?

    – majority doesn‘t care: hard to convince until there is no alternative project


    – Do we have to educate users? How? Which goals?
    – Technical solutions?
    – Connection of people?
    – Political support? Legal changes?

    One network or many small ones?

    – There always be several protocols and there always will be invented more: There is not one best solution
    – problem of corporate networks: idea of integrating everything into one service -> to dominate your activity -> to create an digital identity -> digital identity will be traded -> data as a new currency
    – challenge: many small services that don‘t have to become one -> power to make the decision which I want to use
    – BUT: one platform that is open and secure is easier and more usable
    – alternative is P2P (like secushare, briar, retroshare) = new basic infrastructure this it not unifying and where you can put apps on top of it

    Value of data

    Who owns data?
    – data is worth more when it‘s more centralized
    – P2P: prevent getting data more valuable (departed data)

    What is the value?
    – nobody cares about the content (Google is not interested in content of emails)
    – meta data: relational value
    – solution: I don‘t want to pay with data but with money

    Do we need a different business model?
    – alternative economy: collective model (Genossenschaftsmodell)
    – i.e. has users pay for service and doesn‘t sell data
    – public sector has a responsibility

    Privacy issues of Facebook

    – problem of data mining on facebook
    – but people using facebook are interested in interaction, real time conversation instead of storage/archive function (use their website as portfolio instead)
    – What is so bad about not storaging information?
    – Start to think about what to post (Datensparsamkeit)!
    – technically important is the ability of systems to forget and to delete

    But why people stay on facebook?
    – advantages: has all users and is usable
    – easy to share pictures, to create groups of people, …


    – a tool that does not require other people than me
    = communicate with people that are one facebook without being logged in and without having them to move
    -> creating a net over all the tools
    – ignoring the walls around the social networks instead of creating a new web
    – sending messages without knowing via which service (you get the message where you are logged in)
    – E-Mail
    – P2P networks


    1. Is there a problem? What is the problem?

    2. What do we have at the moment?
    – many little projects that don‘t talk to each other
    – not everyone can chose the network they want: depends on where the friends are
    – data is currency
    – tension between technical and theoretical approaches

    3. What do we want?
    – federated networks: chose provider by your own (easier)
    – P2P: on your own computer – but problem of usability?
    – easy made interface
    – more education in schools, open places
    – centralized network vs. plurality of networks: one big or many networks?

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