• Community Stewardship Manifesto

last modified June 5, 2017 by strypey

There seems to be a need for a Community Stewardship Manifesto, which amongst other things, will specify that all copyrights and trademarks relating to the products of a peer production community should be held by an open and democratic body, which represents the best interest of all developers and end-users. If we can learn from the stewardship challenges and experiences of projects like the Kete library database, the OpenOffice, and the Tox peer-to-peer chat system, as well as non-software projects like Appropedia.org, Permaculture Media Blog, and Open Source Ecology, hopefully we can learn to do better stewardship of the commons.

Democratic Management Models

Internet User Rights Statements

 (thanks to the BestBits network whose 'Statements of Internet rights and principles' page provided some of these links)


Organisations Campaigning for Internet Rights

    Learning from Past Mistakes

    • Kai.org.nz - started by a web design company, with a small grant from COGS community funding, but after a few years, it was infected in places with spam, and then dropped off the web (see Useful Plants ). No plans seem to have been made for ongoing stewardship of the site.
      • Lesson learned: funders giving grants for web projects need to realise that websites are not stone sculptures which will last indefinitely once built. They are more like light sculptures, needing constant care and maintenance, and proposals for funding should include the costs and plans not only for the initial build, but for ongoing stewardship. Fortunately PiNZ has taken over stewardship of Kai.org.nz.
    • The plethora of short-lived permaculture wiki demonstrates that as with open source software projects, shared knowledge commons can't be created sustainably just by dumping materials on a website. There needs to be a critical mass of regular contributors to develop initial work into well-researched, useful articles.
      • Lessons learned: where online permaculture materials are licensed under CreativeCommons-BY-SA (or CC-BY), in the worst-case scenario when sites are abandoned (as with Kai.org.nz), the contents can be migrated to and integrated into another wiki or database, without any fear of later legal action by copyright trolls.
    • Open Source Permaculture - In 2012, Sophie Novack (Permaculture Media Blog) and Evan Schoepke, ran a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo for a permaculture eBook, and agreed to host the contents on the Appropedia wiki. The crowdfunding was successful, but unfortunately, Novack went incommunicado almost straight after the money was paid out, and the work was never delivered. Her Permaculture Media Blog disappeared from the web about the same time.
      • Lesson learned: when it comes to growing commons on the web, many people putting in a small amount of unpaid time, because they are passionate about creating permaculture resources, is probably more reliable and sustainable than one person doing it as a fulltime paid job. If funds are raised to create paid roles, they funds should be received from the crowdfunding platform by a credible organisation, not the individual proposing to take up the paid role. That way, the organisation can ensure delivery of the proposed work before making full payment.
    • KickStarter and IndieGoGo have been host to a number of high-profile failures, including the musical lightbulb LightFreq, and the Zano Drone, which received millions of dollars from pledgers, but failed to deliver finished tech. There is also another class of crowdfunding failure, where the company are able to deliver the tech to pledgers, but fail to build a successful business, eg Ouya game console (see the Reddit discussion on what might have contributed to this).
    • Koha is library management software originally commissioned in 2000 by the Horowhenua Library Trust (now Te Horowhenua Trust) in Aotearoa (NZ), and built for them by a company called Katipo Communications. The software was released under a free code license, and a diverse open source community evolved around them. Katipo continued to hold the copyright to the source code, and the trademarks covering the name and logo, which were eventually acquired by LibLime, a US company providing tech support for US libraries using Koha and adding new features on commission. LibLime was then acquired by PTFS and Koha.org continues to point to the 'LibLime Koha' product site owned by PTFS; "The February 2007 acquisition of the Koha division of Katipo Communications resulted in LibLime’s ownership of a variety of resources related to Koha, including the copyrights to the source code and documentation developed by Katipo, the koha.org domain, the content of the web site, and the trademark for Koha in the United States and other countries."
      • Lessons learned:  Te Horowhenua had to go through a lengthy legal process to win back control over the NZ trademarks for Koha. It's pretty clear in highsight that the original contract with Katipo should have given stewardship of the source code copyrights, trademarks, and domain names, to the Trust.