The biggest challenges for Solid are not technical in nature

I posted some newbie perception on Solid on this forum before, here, here and here, but wanted to bring up some furhter point after reading @RubenVerborgh’s latest and good article:

And especially the Hacker News discussion that was triggered by the article.

Reading some of the comments in that thread and in previous HN threads about Solid shows to me clearly where the biggest challenges of Solid for the future are: Changing perceptions of the technology and gaining adoption!

People do not understand where Solid fits in. They have perceptions that @timbl is trying to revive trodden paths of Semantic Web, which didn’t pick up after the great popularity (and hype) they had several years ago.

IMHO there is too much technical focus in this community and in general. While that is okay, and actual implementations becoming available are also very important to gain adoption, I feel this narrow approach is a very long road to success with high risk of failure. Writers, bloggers, evangelists, marketeers, promoters, organizers, community leaders, press… much more of these are needed.

I am not in the loop of the strategies behind the Solid project, and I may see this all wrong. After all I am just telling you about my early perceptions :slight_smile:

But I have great interest for The Decentralized Web, its grand vision, and for privacy-first technologies. And when studying what is out there in the fields of Decentralisation I see a hugely fragmented ecosystem, a proliferation of (de-facto) standards, no clear oversight to be had anywhere, and a landscape littered with the tombstones of dead projects. The crazy blockchain hype didn’t help as well.

As community facilitator for the Humane Tech Community (with a scope and audience which may currently be too broad) I know how hard it is to get these tedious non-technical, organizational aspects sorted out. People want to contribute to concrete things, and technical people want to work on technical things.

I’d advice Solid community dearly to give proper attention to all of this, now that momentum is still building.

Hoping I’m not perceived as ranting,

Warm regards,
Arnold.


Tangentially, some other technologies where the same issue is at play:

I love ActivityPub which is quite successful if you look in the right places. But it also suffers fragmentation - dogfooding the Fediverse for their development. It needs focal points from where to get informed and drilldown into its body of work. Not saying activitypub.rocks should be such place, I nonetheless created a Github issue with that plea.

Another initiative with some very cool peer-to-peer decentralization concept is datproject.org and in the past I gave extensive feedback to the core team, among others about their own technical focus (being NodeJS developers focused on cranking out NPM modules). They are still vey much under the radar now, slow going, and were it not for the active Beaker browser project, they might have been dead by now.

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A big challenge for tech companies is hiding the tech bother from the public user yet still leveraging it

The other challenge in this case is providing the physical storage for free

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Thanks, and good observations!

Fully agree, but see the very explicit call by @timbl, which is quoted in my article:

[Let’s] assemble the brightest minds from business, technology, government, civil society, the arts, and academia to tackle the threats to the Web’s future.

My personal opinion is that technology is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. So we as technologists have the burden of proof to make it work technologically, and we need to bring it to the people who can take it from there, and incorporate their feedback. And they are being listened to, definitely. Any suggestions to get more of this feedback are definitely welcome.

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“The crazy blockchain hype didn’t help as well” Amen to that.

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Dear Arnold, I think you are 100% right with your observations and remarks. It is difficult to make a tech driven project going viral. You need working technology which is hard enough. But even perfect technology will not do the job of making it known to everybody. Of changing the way how people think today about data.

Best regards, Immanuel

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Hi Arnold,
Thanks for your honest comment.

I agree that perception changes or paradigm shifts are the major challenges except for technology enthusiasts. Moreover, the factors to drive most users and app developers are: (1) overall experience improvement (2) business model engineering. where (1) is essential and usually is the precondition of (2).

I think this is where the root challenge lays now. If you tell people that a change is more cost-efficient to fulfill their desires or make a million, I’m sure tomorrow tons of such changes would be delivered, faster than what you can imagine.

Regarding the community’s focus, the hottest categories in this forum are actually “Build a Solid app” and “General discussion” rather than the technical ones, indicating that members are proactively thinking about the non-tech side. Trust me that some of them are still waiting for Solid to grow more mature, where as some of them already have good solutions in mind, just not the time to publish :slight_smile:

Think about it in this way: Having not tangled with the symbolic meaning, decentralization is already and always ubiquitous. No matter in daily life or the internet world, few agent has absolute control over others. All that they have is the stronger or weaker influence over each other. So we don’t make a break-it-all evolution, it’s just a natural and practical influence shifting.

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Dont you worry :slight_smile: if the the idea behind a project is good the technical side will be no problem - so I am very confident that solid or a comparable solution will in the end succeed.
If it would not: the world would be evil - and who wants to live in such a place?

Money will not rule!

An example for the contrary: The Squeak/Smalltalk Environment was the best GUI concept
I ever met. But because of lack of financial ressources it didnt get through.
Ok it is kind of complex - and this will lock out many users.
But this complexity hab been possible to hide in a different layer of the desktop OS.
And we would have been given the best user-experience and dev-experience ever possible.
(I am aiming at the Morphic class framework built into Sqeuak)

Take look if you are interested: Squeak Source

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Yes, I agree, Smalltalk was the best ever. Everything was an object you sent messages to, so it was very consistent and compared to JavaScript much easier to understand.

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…and it allows a functional programming approach too.
It is far more easy in Smalltalk to understand that Blocks(functions) are objects too than it
is in Javascript for example.
Ruby is also very good but it suffers from the lack of a extensive class library compared to a fully fledged Smalltalk system.
It was satisfying to find that in a running Smalltalk system all the tools (GUI creation, Class Browser/Editor) were already included.
And in respect to children education it was outstanding.
The Etoys scripting toolset is the best I ever found, allowing creation of dynamic content like an Adobe Flash for example - but in a comprehensive way.

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This may be not the right place for this, but I have some notes about my opinion of the future of the Web, and cant at the moment open a new topic.

some demands I consider important enough to mention it:

  • more reusable components
  • easy to adapt for every user
  • make individuals stronger not the mass
  • open the space of web development even for average people
  • promote values like tolerance, creativity, friendship, etc.
  • make javascript nice (through better tools and rdf)
  • shape the web with more heart - more soul - should be a friendly place
  • accessibility improvements - user should experience freedom and cooperation
  • focus on real human needs not money making

In one sentence:
The WWW as a way to a better future for us all

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Well said @Joytag2! You might want to join or at least read the work of the Solid Vision Panel whose goal is to describe the mission, vision, and goals of Solid, and there is overlap with your thoughts.

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Thank you very much @jeffz :slight_smile:

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It’s a shame: we already have a bunch of well structured data in our databases but all we do with it, is producing semantically meaningless html.
The web has to conquer these ressources.

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