Proposal: Build a stronger Solid community presence

TL;DR

This is a summary of this thread and a number of other discussions that have taken place recently:

  • Solid scope, vision and positioning are unclear.
  • There is no real Solid community, just a forum.
    • Vibrant community is essential adoption driver to emergent technology.
  • We propose having a true community, and community-building processes.
  • The nature of the community depends on the level of commitment of the ‘core team(s)’:

Inquiry to the team

Explicitly addressing the core members of SolidProjectDotOrg team:


We would like a clear statement on your level of commitment towards community-building.


It does not matter whether you choose a low involvement or a high involvement, but it is the _clarity_ that is needed for us to go forwards without feelings of frustration about how we fit into the picture. We as Solid community **love** :heart: all the work that is done to improve the initiative by you and many others. Thank you!!

Also in this whole picture, we certainly think that we as community have some skin in the game :blush:

</tl-dr>


A community-building proposal

(This was a bit lost in a thread so creating a dedicated topic. @MitziLaszlo could this be pinned globally for a while?)

Some time ago for the solid.community project I created this issue:

Launch a community website

I am strongly in favor of there to be an open, free software community or movement for Solid.

From what I have observed, experienced and posted about, Solid does not have a real community yet. In my opinion it has a solidproject.org website with a forum, and that’s it.

The solidproject.org website is clearly also not a community website. I could provide my reasoning for that, if that is needed, but leave that open for now. All in all to me Solid Project has the look and feel of an ‘open core’ ecosystem being developed, i.e. business entitities developing their flagship products and killer apps, and a base of enthusiasts help them with feedback while they build their own pet projects.

I don’t know if that was already the intention, but these arguments lead me to the proposal to have solid.community project not only be for a community pod server, but the place where there is a true community website. One published from a static site generator and that has its markdown content be editable from a git repo by anyone via PR’s.

Setting this up, with the clear separation of concerns that that creates, is imho a win-win situation for both the free software community as a whole, and the commercial side of the equation that want to see the widespread adoption of the standards upon which their products thrive. Combined with the forum it aligns with the ‘hub-and-spoke’ concept described by @happybeing and is a step further to bringing clarity to the whole Solid initiative (which imho is still lacking clarity).

solid.community team

I don’t know the status of the gitlab project, but it seems the following people are part of that team: @bourgeoa, @aveltens, @ericprud, @ewingson, @melvin (still a member here?) and @michaud.

What do you think about this proposal?

Solid community projects

Projects like SolidLoV App are ideal candidates to be ‘official’ community projects. Instead of calling for volunteers these could be just started and promoted like any OSS project with communication taking place on the forum.

If Solid Project and Inrupt support the idea of a strong community next to the project initiative itself, @MitziLaszlo and assigned community forum moderators could facilitate project development forum-side, i.e. create Categories, Groups, tags, pin announcements, etc. in this place. Note: This is how SocialHub is set up.

The big advantage is that projects by community members are not mere topics on the forum anymore, which then subsequently sink out of sight and out of mind. Having real community projects that are prolonged efforts will serve as an attractor to other devs to become involved in Solid.

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In my understanding solidproject.org is the community website. The source is available and allows contribution at github.

In addtion we could use one or more pods on solid.community to create and host community pages as needed.

Projects like SolidLoV App are ideal candidates to be ‘official’ community projects. Instead of calling for volunteers these could be just started and promoted like any OSS project with communication taking place on the forum.

I do not understand, what would differ from what we have now. Is it about those projects beeing more present on the website and the forum? If so I think I like the idea, but I think this could easily be part of solidproject.org and we do not need yet another site.

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This would be huge if it could be figured out, but its challenging. Community projects are not just projects driven by one person. I think this is a common problem across the open source ecosystem.

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Yes, that may still be set up as such, and certain projects could prominently feature as ‘community-owned+driven’ projects (in contrast to the current list collecting in general what is out there in-the-wild).

But - as I posted about in a bunch of threads the last couple of weeks - the current solidproject.org has the look & feel of a product page on .org site and with a forum for interested users. It feels to me just like any other ‘open core’ project.

The biggest threat to Solid’s future imho is that its scope, vision and positioning is entirely unclear (and it is not just me who thinks that).

A very good start to improving this is to unravel the various interests that are intertwined in the initiative, i.e a separation of concerns:

  1. Standards body: wants crystal-clear communication on how the standards work and where they fit, plus productive workspaces to elaborate them.
  2. Commercial interest groups: want crystal clear communication on where / how they can add value to businesses, and attract early-bird customers + capital to work on their products.
  3. Open community: want to freely experiment with what’s already out there, give feedback and interact with standards body to help improve things.

In experimental technologies like Solid it is often the community that gives the biggest initial push to its widespread adoption (unless we have a tech moloch be in the driving seat).

The community website I’m proposing doesn’t have to repeat what is already elsewhere. It focuses on community activity and its own projects’ progress. solidproject.org can be more standards focused, explanatory, documentation/knowledge base.

PS. In the solidproject.org issues I saw concerns about having community projects listed in fear of reputation damage (@justin).

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Not a concern for me personally :laughing:

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So what about building communtiy pages on Pods on solid.community. There can be pods for specific projects or groups. E.g. I control https://de.solid.community/ and am going to host Solid Groups there as soon as it is halfway mature and also use it as a Pod for anything related to the community in Germany, e.g. events etc.

I also have https://solid-groups.solid.community/ which currently only hosts a demo group but could also evolve to a community Pod arround the whole app.

So what I am saying, perhaps we do not need yet another page, but use Solid Pods to host communities and interlink them.

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I think the issue is less of what domains we have and how they are used as culture. I don’t find there’s a culture in Solid which fosters a broad inclusive community, so we’ve ended up tagging on new islands to an archipelago where each island has more of its own culture than it has in common with the broader community, and these differences re-enforce the different groups at the expense of the whole. It makes it very hard to define Solid, to understand its goals and vision, and how this relates to the different parts, or they to it.

It isn’t something that we can expect to happen, particularly in the decentralised way that we want (i.e. we don’t want a central entity defining the culture and practice). I’ve seen it happen close up so I know it can be created (its hard work too :smile:), and I think we probably all recognise it when we see it.

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The problem I have with that is that the pods are not yet ready for newcomers, and I think newcomers is what it should be about. Its a dilemma and we should err on the side of being more welcoming rather than bug fixing.

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SAFE also has its own currency, which I’ve noticed generates a lot of interest on the forum.

I thought it was about hosting community content / web pages? Newcomers won’t notice that it is hosted on a Pod.

Yes, this is spot on! It is very hard and exponentially harder as scope and audience increases. I have experience with this too for Humane Tech Community: when we first adopted the humanetech.com vision of ‘creating a cultural awakening’ our scope was all tech and our audience was the entire world. In any case community-building can easily be a full-time job (it was for me for a long time as a volunteer, but now I am just casually involved in HTC).

For Solid Community both scope and audience need not be that large and mission not that ambitious. Audience are mostly tech-oriented folks (techies) working on their pet projects and interested in linked data and bringing Solid to that. So scope is ‘solid-compliance-in-my-project’. And the mission need not be ‘reboot the semantic web’ at all, though the vision of The Decentralized Web is where all of our passions are.

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Yes, SAFE has a large number of investor stakeholders, which is also democratising since coin holders only have the same influence as any individual who is not part of Maidsafe and there we have a company which is majority owned by a Scottish charity, independent of the company, whose remit is education.

The are though just two topics dedicated to this, one for MaidSafecoin and another for any other cryptocurrency speculation. In general there’s much more activity on other issues, particularly the design, APIs, apps, testing and very close attention to development!

Maidsafe itself fosters this decentralised democratising culture by being very open (detailed updates every week, daily engagement from employees and management) while providing support for the hub, a clear vision, and letting the community govern itself as well as encouraging and engaging with the community on all aspects of the development. They still give the core developers the space they need to work and explore ideas as necessary, but there’s an easy flow, and lots of interaction and exchange of ideas, views, questions etc.

It’s a lot of work, but David Irvine maintains that this is not just about walking the talk, but because of the value it brings, including to advancing the design.

The least successful part has been moving more development outside the company, into developer hubs, which they have not been able to resource adequately. But I’ve lost count of the number of community members who have gone on to join the development team. The first version of the SAFE Browser was put out to the community to part fund, solicit proposals, and the community chose the winner by voting on the forum. This was delivered, and later the developer joined Maidsafe where he continues.

Over time people come and go, but the ethos and culture grows around shared beliefs about decentralisation, privacy, security and freedom, not just in the product but as something we tacitly or explicitly agree to foster. There’s plenty of difference too, but all with enough of that in common.

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Yes, this would be a great scenario if the Solid ‘core team(s)’ would be willing to be this much engaged too. In my previous case I outlined a smaller-ambitioned community that would also work very well - for the community members at least, maybe less so for the initiative as a whole (opportunities lost).

This could work, and in a way is similar to what the Fediverse is now (it is dogfooding itself with Mastodon, Pleroma, etc.). Precondition would be that there is really good - better than now - community forum support to bring people together, centralize comms. And as @happybeing and @tag42git say, there is an inclusivity issue and technology should be mature enough to dogfood. On extreme ends where inclusivity is concerned: the DAT and SSB communities… you’ll never hear from them, because they are inside their own technology (but they also target very specific audiences) :slight_smile:

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@aveltens Its kind of off topic here, but I was hoping that a solid group could be set up that would in some way have write permissions on a pod or pods that would host ontologies.

Should I add a section to the first post where I explicitly mention a bunch of people that are core to Solid and ask to state the level of their commitment to community-building? This because most of these kinds of conversations so far are between the usual suspects, us fine people already dwelling here, with only lukewarm engagement from elsewhere. If yes, then who should that be?

FYI Just edited the first post, added TLDR and Inquiry to solid team.

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Hey Arnold, just to clarify, since you tagged me: I’m not a Solid Editor, so I can’t speak on behalf of the editors. W.r.t. the website I’m only part of the Creators group, which means I can (and have, and will) happily accept minor changes (spelling, grammar, broken links). As an Inrupt employee, I write code and support developers writing Solid apps if I can, but I cannot speak for Inrupt, unfortunately.

All of which is to say: I’m not ignoring your post, but I’m not in a position to provide you with the clarity you asked for either… Hopefully someone who is will do so in due time. :slight_smile:

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Thanks for clarifying @Vincent. I didn’t know who to tag, so I included the entire solidproject team :slight_smile:

I can only speak for myself, but I think recent activity and efforts to connect the work in progress on the specification and panels with community members in the forum should at a minimum demonstrate a commitment to improving collaboration and dialogue with the community. I don’t think that’s a silver bullet, but I believe it’s a great place to start and that good things will grow out of it.

I believe that one of the most essential elements for community growth is to have well-documented patterns with libraries and tools that implement them, so that developers in the community can build awesome things, and others in the community can use them. I’m not the only one that commits days, nights, weekends, and holidays working on this out in the open in the hopes that the efforts will be used to that end. There’s only so much available time, and the vast majority of mine goes to that.

That said, the absence of collaboration from many of you on this work has really felt like a lost opportunity, and underpins the time I’m investing now to share and engage around it here. I look forward to more of that in the days and weeks to come.

I agree that solidproject.org needs to do a better job of this. It’s a young site - only launched some months ago. Admittedly I’ve had it on my own task list since before launch to provide a full round of feedback and review. This certainly is pushing it higher up in my stack. Still, the source is completely open, and anyone can submit pull requests to it. I’m sure that any of the energy that you or others could divert towards direct, actionable feedback or copy suggestions to solidproject.org would be welcomed.

I’m not sure that’s an accurate characterization of my issue. My concern (which I still feel strongly about) was nothing to do with community projects. My concern was providing a listing of applications for people to go and use with their data, that hadn’t gone through some form of review to make sure that it wasn’t going to break their data, or worse. FWIW - I actually suggested the forum as a better place for the community to evaluate, vet, and review/recommend applications.

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Yes, that is the beauty of the open source world… large groups of people willing to spend their time volunteering to drive their passions forward. Building community is real hard as both I and @happybeing testified in this thread. Well-documented patterns, libraries and tools are indeed important, but more so is the community process and the culture that is fostered within the community. I really appreciate your mindset and willingness to help drive this forward. Thank you :pray:

While in my Solid scope and ecosystem (and other related threads) a lot is directed to how people would perceive the site, I think the problem is way broader than that and underlies the entire initiative. As product owner I continue to adopt the outsider’s viewpoint (and with my own plans for new fediverse apps I am an outsider myself, doing techstack selection). I couldn’t PR to that site as I still don’t know what Solid is and is not, and what you want it to be.

The landingpage is in fact very promising: Solid offers some clear-cut, intuitive architectural concepts and reference components, that are based on new standards, with which I can make my own techstack solid-compliant and with that fulfill some important privacy concerns that are currently neglected in most other IT applications. So far so good…

But when I drill down into the site, solid’s repositories and the forum, this whole notion completely shatters. I get the impression that Solid is a whole thing that stands on its on. A unique approach that requires its own techstack which is NodeJS based and builds a new ecosystem from the ground up to ultimately form the next web.

With the richness of frameworks and techstacks this impression makes Solid one in a million other similar initiatives, and after a couple of minutes of clicking around 90% of devs will move on. Another part of the wrong perception is that, yes, there is open source but this is provided by commercial entities in the background and Solid constitutes an ‘open core’ project, which will lose you the remainder of the FOSS developers that were still interested.

I should have spent more words on my PS. because I actually agreed with you there, in the sense that the project list detracts from the essence of Solid. The ecosystem fans out from what Solid is in the core (in the way it is presented on the landingpage at least). And I am of course behind your suggestion to the use of the forum (see how SocialHub is doing this) and also that representing them on a separate community site gives way more freedom to present them in relation to other technologies, without raising the confusion to outsiders.

This is part of the separation of concerns, like “Here is what Solid is” and “Here is what the community is doing with it”.

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