Letter in these times of change

Dear friends,

We are contacting you for updating you on a new way of collaborating in the growth of our community. As you know, Comunes, Ourproject, Kune y Move Commons have lived an extraordinary growth in the last times. This growth has required to increase the capacity of the servers and infrastructure of Comunes. In this line, we joined other similar collectives to form a Collective Data Centre, with enough resources for all of us. However, this implies a continuous economic effort. Furthermore, the time has come to renew our servers, that have already shown serious signals and issues.

That’s why we have decided to create a new way of participation and cofunding for our supporters. It consists on regular, variable and fully optional economic contributions, that would allow us to sustain the expenses, so everyone in the community can help sustaining this common ecosystem. We should take into account that during 10 years we have been assuming the efforts from our personal economic contributions. Thus, we have prepared a donation page in which you could, if you want to, collaborate with regular monthly quotas. These contributions will be used just for the maintenance of the servers and infrastructure, and we’ll keep with the spirit of Comunes by not seeking profit in any way. Every economic move done with these contributions will be clearly exposed to the community, transparently, in a highlighted part of our pages.

The team behind Comunes, Ourproject, Kune & Move Commons

¡Help! Hardware issues

Bad news… The Comunes collective has several servers to handle the initiatives under its umbrella: Ourproject.org, Kune, Move Commons, etc. Well, a few days ago two hard disks (from a RAID) failed. Translation for non-geeks: serious issues with our machines. Our servers are somehow old (several years) and this is a clear warning: it’s time to replace several components. Besides, the forthcoming release of Kune “in production” (for the use of everyone, not just in a demo) means that we need a new server that can handle the load.

Thus, we ask the community for urgent support in donations, hardware spare parts, or servers that we could use.

UPDATE: The servers run on Debian. The hardware parts could be useful if they are not too old. Please contact us, thanks!

 

What a month!

As it was mentioned previously, Comunes has been moving around presenting its projects. In Contact (New York) we presented Kune, in the Free Culture Forum (Barcelona) we reviewed the approach and projects of Comunes, in “Building Digital Commons” (Barcelona) we focused on Move Commons. We have been meeting with people from Occupy Wall Street concerning Kune. And we are involved in a crowdfunding campaign for Move Commons using Goteo. Far too much for a month!!

If you want to know details on the reception of our projects, please check the Move Commons blog and Kune blog posts. You can also check out a throughout presentation of Comunes approach and projects in this slides presentation.

Move Commons in a crowdfunding campaign

Move Commons, the Comunes project for labelling social initiatives, has just began a 40 days campaign for crowdfunding and search for collaborators. It is using the new crowdfunding platform “Goteo“, which just helps projects which provide a return to the Commons. The campaign aims to attract funding to boost the project and collaborators in different areas to fulfill its needs.

 

There is a list of collective returns to the Commons (such as an open infrastructure, search engine, HOWTOs) and individual returns (“if you donate X we help you with Y”). There is a minimum of 7,000€ that, if it’s not reached, no money will be gained and all donations would be returned (to guarantee donors that they’ll fund a sucessful project). Even if we don’t reach such minimum, we hope to attract enough contributors to push this ambitious project forward in the next months. Please, spread the word!

The campaign:
http://www.goteo.org/project/move-commons
The needs and calendar:
http://www.goteo.org/project/move-commons/needs

Upcoming presentations of the projects of Comunes

During the month of October, Comunes has been invited to present some of its projects in three prestigious events:

  • Free Culture Forum (Barcelona), presenting Kune and Move Commons, on Saturday October 29, 18:45-19:05. The FCForum is an international space in which to build and coordinate a global framework for action and a common agenda for issues related to free culture and access to knowledge.
  • Building Digital Commons (Barcelona), presenting Move Commons, on Sunday October 30, 11:00-13:30. Building Digital Commons is an event that aims to provide visibility to collaborative communities to create digital commons, promoting learning and mutual support among them.
  • Contact Summit (New York), presenting Kune, next October 20, 2011. Contact Summit is a gathering for innovation, where the main network experts, entrepreneurs and activists can meet people who are building new social technologies. The network of the future will not be driven by advertisements, but by real people working on solutions to problems in a decentralized manner.

If you live in any of these cities and you are interested in any of the Comunes projects, we will be happy to meet and exchange views on any of them.

Ourproject boosts!

Ourproject.org is Comunes first child, born in 2002. Nowadays it’s a grown-up, pretty independent, and providing several web services to multiple initiatives. Looking at the forthcoming Kune, Ourproject geek-only technology looks old and rusty. However, it seems as if these days it’s shouting out loud that it’s still very alive and attractive for many. Ourproject has had since November 2009 a steady average of 500,000 non-unique visits per month. This summer 2011 though, it has boosted:

  • 2011 July: 758,314 visits
  • 2011 August: 1,198,483 visits
  • 2011 September: 1,153,841 visits

UPDATE:

  • 2011 October: 1,360,126
  • 2011 November: 1,134,068 visits
  • 2011 December: 1,054,232 visits
  • 2012 January: 1,052,043 visits
  • 2012 February: 1,618,352 visits

Good work!

Building a collective Data Centre

It is common that free/open source software collectives have issues for hosting their projects. Many of them just choose to externalize them, hosting them in foreign companies that offer such services. The ones that choose to keep their projects in their own servers (such as Comunes), face problems, continuous efforts and costs associated to high-bandwidth connections, hardware replacement, attacks, spam, QoS, etc. That’s why we decided to associate with other similar social initiatives in order to build a collective data centre for all of us, and such data centre is becoming a reality now.

Minka (which means “work in favor of the whole community” in Quechua) is the umbrella that groups the Free Software cooperatives Xsto.info, Free Software Seed and the nonprofit Comunes (and hopefully soon SinDominio). We will handle this common data centre, with multiple aims: to share and socialize resources among initiatives with similar values, reducing external dependencies, share management, be open to others, have control over servers, to be flexible in conditions in space and time… summing up efforts and dividing the costs equally.

Technically, we are deploying a Content Delivery Network, which should optimize the use of the servers, reduce the delay for the users, and increase the virtual bandwidth. The physical space is located in Spain, and this initiative is open to any other initiative with similar values (local and foreign), in different degrees of involvement. The idea is that the more initiatives join, the less each one pays, and the more efficient is the CDN and shared maintenance. Therefore, if you are interested, just contact us!

New release of Kune published (codename “15M”)

What we have seen these days in the movement 15M in the Spanish cities (and extensible to the Arab revolutions), has been a similar scenario to what we have lived all these years in ourproject.org, but condensed in a few days.

When a person or collective needs to have a space in internet:

  • Either they depend on economic resources to hire the creation and management of these spaces… If they don’t have such resources, this option is not feasible.
  • Either they have technical volunteers to perform these tasks. In this case, the people without Internet technical knowledge depend on the technicians, that suffer a lot of demand and are frequently a bottleneck (there are not enough geeks per square meter). In such cases:
    • These geeks use free/libre tools that are old and difficult to use for the general non-geek public (mailman, etherpad, wikis, irc, etc)
    • The geeks focus their efforts in teaching to use these tools to the users. The result is typically the frustration of both groups, as only a small percentage of the users manage to handle successfully in those complex environments
    • There are issues with certain tools that demand too many resources (bandwidth, hard disk, management) such as the email, as it’s complicated to fulfill the demand of so many people for such a service (using free alternatives)
  • When the geek community cannot fulfill all their demands, or when the people/collectives cannot afford these dependencies, these users end up using proprietary tools (groups, emails and chat of google/yahoo/microsoft [1][2][3], blogs in blogspot or wordpress.com [4][5][6][7], flickr [8][9], google-docs [10][11][12], facebook [13][14][15], etc) that due to their usability and simplicity they can manage by themselves. This implies:
    • use of proprietary and centralized software, controlled by multinational for-profit corporations
    • problems of privacy, selling our private data
    • blocking of services, accounts or documents with political implications
    • loss of independency
    • forced to comply with foreign law
    • etc
  • In the worst case, they use tools that they know how to use (Powerpoint, Microsoft Word, etc) and they send each by email different versions of the created documents… communicating through long chain emails and/or without any netiquette.
  • …or simply they cannot manage to have any presence in the internet, as they find it too complicated, turning into mere consumers (non-producers) of information.

In Kune we try to take benefit from our experience these years in ourproject.org in order to facilitate the creation of self-manageable web & communication spaces, for any person or collective, independently of their technical knowledge or economic resources.

That’s why this new version is codenamed 15M. Among other things, we have tried to integrate certain additional tools thinking of the needs observed these days. In fact, what can we do with Kune? Kune offers users and collectives services such as:

  • Email service of new generation, hosted in the Kune server of your trusted collective
  • Chat compatible with gmail and others: person-to-person or group conversations
  • Allows the call for online assemblies with the members of your group/project/initiative and taking minutes (editing them all at once)
  • Collaborative and simultaneous edition of documents (similar to Google Docs) thanks to Apache Wave
  • Social network: management of personal and collective contacts with different levels of privacy
  • Multimedia space: for sharing videos, photos, maps, twitter…
  • Extensions useful for collectives: allows call and development of meetings, decision-making, translation of documents, sharing task lists…
  • …and everything is free/libre software, usable and decentralized, that can be adapted and improved by anyone

You can try Kune in our demo here, and if you think it’s worth it, check how you can help!

[1] https://groups.google.com/group/asamblea-popular-vega-del-tajuna
[2] https://groups.google.com/group/reboot-uk
[3] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/reforma_ley_electoral_15m_bcn/
[4] https://nadiaelawady.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/egypts-revolution-eyewitness-account-january-25-to-29/
[5] https://politicalargoplazoacampadasol.wordpress.com/
[6] http://tahyyes.blogspot.com/
[7] http://15maio.blogspot.com/
[8] http://www.flickr.com/groups/egypt_revolution_2011/
[9] http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacoboictus/5739566757/in/photostream/
[10] https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0Bw2kcVTiRhl5Njk5ZmNmMjYtYTQ2MC00YmRjLTgyMzMtMDBhODYzNmU0NjUx&hl=es
[11] https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtUC5Tzt8MFudF9rYXRENEUzTnE0V1NLWGcwUXdJa0E&hl=en
[12] https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?hl=en&key=tVDU006Wt97P_GkYYBmPOKQ&hl=en#gid=0
[13] https://www.facebook.com/ElShaheeed
[14] https://www.facebook.com/Syrian.Revolution
[15] https://www.facebook.com/acampadasol

New agreements with universities

Two new universities have joined the project of Comunes: the Department of Computer Science at the American University of Science & Technology (Beirut) and the Faculty of Sociology and Political Sciences at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, through its Master in Research Methods in Sociology. From now on, these institutions offer their students the opportunity to make their final projects in any area of study within the framework of Comunes.

Thus, these two schools join the initiative that the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid began, as the last semester six students from its Master of Free Software made their internships within Comunes.

Comunes offers trainings & internships, allowing anyone to become part of the community behind Comunes projects, at least temporarily, under the guidance and support of the members of the community. Note that, as a community-driven non-profit, no one behind Comunes receives any kind of salary or economic compensation for their work.

The typical profile for the technical trainings is grad/undergrad students focusing on Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, or Free Open Source Software degrees. However, there are also multiple non-technical trainings available. So anyone is more than welcome!

If you are interested in a particular profile, or would like to try several of them, please contact us and we’ll see how to arrange it. Also, if you collaborate in an institution that would be interested to know more about how to offer Comunes internships, or thesis/final project guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Getting Kune and Move Commons funded

As a non-profit grassroots driven fully by volunteers, Comunes relies on donations of the community for reaching at some point sustainability. Given the characteristics of our projects we find fundraising a pretty difficult task. That’s why one of Comunes volunteers has began a course called Getting your Creative Commons project funded in the P2P University. Given the CC nature of our projects, the aim is to draft two grant proposals for Kune and Move Commons. At the end of the course, Comunes will have project proposals to submit to foundations with similar interests… and wait for a (hopefully) positive reply :)

We are drafting these proposals on the open, so anyone who wants can participate. You can check their status, leave comments or edit freely in the following wiki: http://ourproject.org/moin/fundraising%20proposals

The Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU) is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2PU – learning for everyone, by everyone about almost anything. We advise everyone to check out their free online courses!

Thanks to this course, we could write grant proposals for two projects, trying to answer questions such as:

  • What do you want to do?
  • Why do you want to do this?
  • What makes you the person to do it?
  • What activities do you have in your project?
  • How many hours will each of your activities take?
  • Can any activities take place at the same time?
  • What non-time resources do you need?
  • Where to turn for funding?
  • How do we make the project sustainable?

Through a series of workshops and seminars, we have been taken through the steps from an initial idea to having a finished project proposal that can be submitted. Soon, the proposals will be reviewed by a series of experts and peers.

However, we not only need this financial support! We also need help in many other ways, as Kune and Move Commons are supported by a pretty small community with few developers and resources. Thus, if by chance Kune or Move Commons sounds interesting to you, please don’t hesitate and consider participating, becoming a trainee or spreading the word.