The Getgee project
G is a universal database and trust network which can be used for the most popular software applications today.
Technology corporations have lately become incredibly wealthy and powerful by controlling and exploiting access to the information we all create. These corporations abuse the control they exercise over all of our data, our work and our networks, because they can and because it is profitable for them to do so. From monitoring our shopping and browsing habits to manipulating what mood we are in or whether we vote, these corporations are replacing our traditional governance and media structures with corporate dictatorships that have no social interest and exist to provide maximum profit for shareholders. Their users tolerate this abusive relationship because they don’t want to lose all the years worth of data or the networks of contacts they have created.
In past years, a great deal of money, time and code have been spent in trying to address the problems with the existing platforms by replacing them with duplicate alternatives but the problems outlined in this document are not the fault of any particular software. They are a fault in the way the web was designed. The web was never designed for mass collaboration. It was created to mirror academia, to have isolated pages of information citing isolated pages of information. The Internet now is primarily databases, not pages of information, so the result is an Internet constructed as a series of pages controlling access to sealed wells of information. Even if we have access to every page on the Internet, we never have full access to the sealed wells, collaboration across them is difficult to impossible, and the data in them is controlled by corporations and used in ways we did not consent to. To add insult to injury, we created all the information in those sealed wells.
There is no point in creating another Twitter, another Facebook, another Google, another thought bubble with its own sealed well that doesn’t address any of the root problems that allowed these platforms to disregard the wishes of their users. The corporate control of user information is what created the fertile ground for corruption in the first place.
Control corrupts. Absolute control corrupts absolutely.*
A universal database and trust network will return control of our data to the users who created it while still allowing for mass collaboration. If any application software starts antagonizing its users, they can just get rid of it and use something else without losing all the work and networks they have spent years building up. They can also choose the functionality they want. The structure is an ecosystem, anything can be replaced without destroying the whole.
This project needs both funding and more expertise to help provide resilient hosting and ongoing development. Contact me at HeatherMarsh@riseup.net.
Sealed wells of user created information
In every case, the hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate value represented by the logos below comes from a page that seals a well of user created information. The only service these platforms provide is web hosting. They have written a lot of front end software and many of them have released a lot of great software to the open source community but that is not where the value is. If it was, we wouldn’t be getting it for free. The value in all cases is the user generated data they control access to.
G decouples the databases and trust networks so a person could replace the functionality of any of applications below and still retain all of their data and contacts under a different front end. This reduces the value of nearly all the unicorn corporations in existence right now to just a piece of application software that provides some functionality on top of the user controlled data. G reduces the corporate control to control over only their own software product, not user data. It also allows collaboration at the data level so collaborators do not have to agree on a single piece of application software and that can be left to individual choice.
We have free software. We are working on free networks. We need free databases.
Problems with existing online and social media
Examples of this type of coercion have been seen recently in the automated twelve hour Twitter trend of an English hashtag in support of the Brazil coup and a massive (and also English) astroturf campaign in support of a 2014 attempted coup in Venezuela. The purpose of these campaigns is to give the appearance of widespread grassroots support for coups which subvert democracy and skew outside perception. Foreign governments can then quickly accept the new corporate friendly presidents as was seen in the Paraguay coup of 2012, accepted by both Canada (Rio Tinto et al) and the U.S. (Monsanto et al) within hours.
Another example of online manipulation to influence election outcomes in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Venezuela is described by current Colombian prisoner Andrés Sepúlveda in a recent article in Bloomberg. The techniques described in the article are very familiar to online activists and are used by states and corporations globally. In an election as long as the US, even 4chan has the opportunity to manipulate and increase sectarianism to their heart’s content. Election manipulation goes beyond influencing opinion and also tracks and predicts individual voting preferences, a far more dangerous subversion of democracy.
Every form of open and hidden advertising designed to manipulate the public is practiced by these platforms, including hiding information which corporations want hidden and gathering personal data for advertisers.
Astroturfing is propaganda designed to simulate grass roots movements and drown out all information the states and corporations who pay for it don’t want seen. Astroturfing can be intimidating or frightening as some of it is very aggressive and threatening. It is frustrating, as you never know if you are talking to a real person or wasting your time with a bot. It contributes a great deal to all the noise we have to wade through looking for information, and it is very chilling to online conversation. It has made social media, especially Twitter, almost unusable for dialogue.
Celebrity ponzi schemes
We are governed by ponzi schemes of celebrity, wealth and power and in order to benefit from these ponzi schemes, we need to enable and support them. No one has ever become wealthy by being of assistance to someone trying to survive in the streets. No one has ever become a millionaire by raising a baby. If you want to acquire wealth, you need to be of service to the wealthy so they can distribute that wealth down to you. In order to gain influence, you need to promote and amplify those with greater influence so they can raise you up.
Crypto-currencies did nothing to change the algorithm that brought us ponzi schemes of wealth and social media did nothing to change the algorithm that brought us ponzi schemes of celebrity. All either of them did is reproduce the same algorithm with all of the physical barriers lifted, so now the results are instant, we have overnight crypto currency millionaires and instant social media celebrities. We need algorithms which reward us for amplifying and being of service to those who need it most and we have algorithms that reward us for amplifying and being of service to those who need it least.
Celebrity ponzi schemes are particularly harmful because not only is celebrity not real influence, the two are mutually exclusive. Celebrities are those riding the peak of the wave of mainstream opinion. They have no thoughts in opposition to acceptable mainstream opinion. They are not voices that are seldom heard, by definition. They definitely don’t speak at a level of elite expertise. Celebrities are people like Donald Trump, someone who speaks at a grade 3 level. The more people who can understand and agree with their message, the wider their appeal will be. It is counter intuitive to think celebrities can influence us to move in a new direction. If we want to hear the voices that are seldom heard, that expand our Overton windows and give us some fresh perspective, or require some elite level of knowledge to explain some breakthrough of the kind we require to solve the problems in front of us today, or challenge our current opinions by presenting opposing thought, amplifying celebrities is the exact opposite of what we ought to be doing. Celebrity amplification is creating noise which drowns out the thoughts we need to hear and keeps us stuck in the same place.
Once online forums reach a certain size and age and the members have reached some consensus around many topics, they start to create their own culture and develop their own ideas of what are acceptable viewpoints and what ideas are taboo, like all cultures do. At that point, any opposing viewpoints are pushed out and shunned till they go off and create their own little thought bubbles of people who agree with them. Just as they weren’t allowed to participate in the main forums, the smaller thought bubbles also typically push out everyone who disagrees with them and collect resources that support only their ideas. When Facebook and Google see what each group are interested in, they feed them even more information in support of their existing views so each side begins to live in purified thought bubbles where only their thoughts exist.
While affinity groups are very beneficial, and small thought bubbles can be useful for formulating viewpoints in opposition to those held by wider society, without transparency, communication and reconciliation between thought bubbles these online forums are contributing increasingly to intolerance and sectarianism within our societies. This division is also being helped along by the same people who brought us astroturfing, some people profit greatly from our division and are fostering it online.
Truth dictatorships are co-operative groups which all have to come to consensus over ‘the truth’ or ‘facts’. First they all fight about which truth is the most truthy, then they rank them all in order of importance, then they present the result as authoritative fact. Truth dictatorships are great at promoting the status quo and celebrity ponzi schemes, they are themselves thought bubbles, and they have a special added feature I call photoshopping. Photoshopping is where those writing history erase everything that doesn’t suit their world view by saying it’s not the most relevant part of the story. Wikipedia is a great example of this. You can spend weeks clicking Wikipedia links and never find anyone that is not a caucasian man as Wikipedia editors have decided that caucasian men are the only relevant parts of every story.
G replaces the traditional stand alone app structure with an ecosystem of five layers. The database and the trust networks are the base layer, data analysts create category trees for the relationships in different applications, researchers and journalists map relationships between data objects in constellations, and users search, join and filter those constellations into read only galaxies. The final layer is the application software that provides some collaborative tool or other functionality.
With G, we filter out astroturfing and spam using trust networks. We don’t have celebrity ponzi schemes because the structure promotes the people contributing work instead. We can isolate ourselves but we can’t create community thought bubbles because everyone has control of their own information filters. We have diversity of opinion and we allow for different realities. We let our own trust networks decide what is important to show us instead of leaving it up to Facebook and Google.
G is accessed through a two button app that does everything we ever do with databases. We can search, or we can log in and create, update and delete. The places we can create are Universe, Constellations, Galaxies and Metaverse. G allows users to add plug in applications to provide any functionality they like at the User, Constellation or Galaxy levels and it allows users to add other users, Constellations or Galaxies to their trust networks.
Everything can be created with a fiction toggle and fiction can be filtered out of search results. Search results can also be filtered within specified degrees of a trust network and editors can be added explicitly or within degrees of trust.
Universe is a global commons database containing the base units we can all link to in all of our work. There are five entity types that will allow us to do everything we do in any of the applications shown previously: person, organization, event, thing and idea. There are also media entities that can be linked as the sources for each object or relationship in Constellations (like hypertext but in a graph database).
Almost any attribute of these universal objects is subjectively important and changeable, so they have very few attributes associated with them in Universe. Since even the bare minimum attributes we include are still subjective and changeable, each data object is a hypernode that can contain multiple linked realities. It does not matter which reality is used, all will appear associated with the same data object. Reality types are temporal (Bradley Manning and Chelsea Manning are two temporal realities of the same person), perceptive (Islas Malvinas and The Falklands are two perceptive realities of the same islands) and linguistic.
The reason we have three different reality types and five entity types is because they have slightly different attributes so we can do things like attach geotags to events and organizations and map them or string temporal realities in a timeline.
Category trees / Metaverse
Within Universe we have a global commons of data which we can all use, but these objects are not very useful or meaningful on their own. In order to create any meaning from a data object, we usually have to relate them to another data object. For example, a person contributed to an organization, had a relationship to another person, or participated in an event.
Usually these types of relationships are part of schemas included in applications developed by programmers. For instance, in Ebay, there is code defining buyers, sellers, products and so on. These relationships do not have to be coded by programmers and in fact they shouldn’t be. Programmers don’t know how users are going to use their data. Users are always doing unexpected things with data and then programmers have to change the schemas and it is usually difficult. We can give users the ability to create category trees to map all possible categories for each of the five entity types and every relationship between them to allow for diverse use cases.
Creating category trees is beyond the ability or the interest of the average user but it is not beyond the ability of a data analyst with knowledge of the sector. This is like blog themes: a blog platform gives you the ability to create blogs but if people create themes for it they provide more versatility and usability for a greater number of use cases. When data analysts create category trees, other users can pull them in to use in their own work.
A constellation is an autonomous space where each user can work by themselves or add editors or open editing up within selected degrees of their trust network. Constellations map relationships between data nodes from the Universe data commons using category trees. Media nodes can be linked to nodes and relationships as source references (like hypertext but in a graph database). Currency transaction receipts can be added to currency transfer relationships in the same way.
Constellation graphs can be embedded in other work, shared on social media, exported or added to galaxies. If you tap on any of the nodes used, all constellations associated with that node are displayed, even if they used entirely different category trees. Any front end functionality can be added on top of the constellation data.
Galaxies are a space where constellations can be combined and filtered to create a data collection tailored for a specific purpose. The data in galaxies cannot be modified by galaxy editors, it is updated as the constellations are edited. Galaxy data collections can have front end functionality added just as constellations can.
Galaxies help avoid monopolies. Even if one constellation becomes the dominant site for a particular use case, galaxies can always be created to combine constellations and prevent shutting out smaller sites from greater traffic. Galaxies will probably be more used than large constellations in any case as the filtered data is faster and more useful for any regional or similarly categorized data.
Front end applications
Application software can add any functionality to the data without controlling access to the data. While certain application software may impose its own restrictions, for instance US flight or hotel booking software may exclude Cuba, Cuba data will still be in the database and accessible by any other application software.
Users can choose the functionality they want. They don’t have to go through one app for everything, they can have a little stripped down, read only app on their phone and a giant application on their laptop. They can collaborate on the data level with people using entirely different software.
The future of journalism is discussed in more detail here.
Instead of repetitive news, cut and pasted across all media outlets, G allows news to be added to a permanent knowledge repository. Transient news streams can be replaced with knowledge that builds over time while still allowing the new additions to be highlighted. It encourages deeper research over trivial updates and recognizes the original sources of a story as there is no need for endless duplicate sources. It also enables more fluid collaboration between journalists while retaining autonomy and individual recognition for contribution.
Galaxies and front end applications can allow news to be displayed with different contexts. For instance instead of mapping conflicts always by state, it is possible to view them mapped over resource corporation activity or any other data to look for other possible relevant links.
Data can be easily uploaded into source media nodes and relationships mapped to be used as a resource for all researchers and journalists, not just a selected few. The Panama Papers could have been added to a constellation with editing permissions given to all the journalists involved. Any outside person could create and link different constellations containing other data, such as other corporations a person was involved in, making the process much faster and more productive. We would also then have the data in a permanently usable format, in a global commons for us all to build from instead of unusable wall of text articles everywhere and a private linkurious database for selected journalists.
Uber, Airbnb, Ebay, Alibaba et al
The buyer / seller / product relationships for all commerce sites can be specified in a commerce category tree and documentation for financial exchanges can be linked as a source media node. Rather than relying on easily manipulated site reviews and trust algorithms, we can rely on our own personal trust networks for filtering. Both sides of a transaction are far more likely to behave responsibly if there is a personal trust network linking them. Local or specialized merchants can create constellations to link each other together in a trust network as well, adding another local layer of accountability, local control over industry and the ability to allow regional diversity for local laws or customs.
While anyone can create a global galaxy of all the constellations for a particular industry, similar to Uber, Airbnb, Ebay or Alibaba, the fact that anyone can do it removes exclusive control from the galaxy creators. Without control over the data, galaxies are simply a tool for end users, allowing them to filter and sort data across multiple constellations. The software applications become simply that, applications which input selected data from galaxies or constellations and provide some front end functionality such as paying a taxi driver or buying a product.
Transparent and fluid organization
Organizations can use constellations and galaxies both for transparency and for dynamic reorganization for specific tasks. Political parties are currently organized by region. A party can create constellations for each region and galaxies at national or international levels, leaving the ability to add or remove members from positions at the constellation level but still allowing collaboration at higher levels. A party can also be instantly reorganized by galaxies to allow collaboration across non-regional affinity groups. For instance, a German Pirate Party member in an environmental working group can belong to both a local and an international Pirate Party galaxy and also an international Pirate Environmental group. Better yet, they could belong to regional and international Clean Water and similar galaxies with no party affiliation. The benefit to these galaxies is the responsible person can change at the constellation level and the change will be instantly reflected in all associated galaxies. The data in every galaxy can be used in collaborative apps such as Loomio decision making and other transparent tools which allow the group to work without outside noise but completely transparently to the public.
Instead of donors having to rely on bloated, political and frequently corrupt NGOs, charities and non-profits, they can establish trust networks to deliver aid directly to those who need it. Through trust networks, donors can monitor results directly from those receiving aid so those providing aid can focus on their work on the ground instead of spending their money and time on advertising and photo ops.
Direct trade relationships can be established between communities, bypassing the political and corporate control over trade and encouraging public education and engagement over current trade and duty laws.
Using a trust network adds a needed dimension to make fundraising easier and provide more references for donors.
Science and research
Instead of a closed circle of academia in which paper citations can be reflections of power and reciprocity instead of knowledge, Idea nodes can be set up around any topic and all contributions heard.
Governance and law
Principles of a society such as constitutions and bills of rights can have every definition and option listed with the historic or potential consequences of each definition and option easily accessible. For instance a principle such as The right to life has little or no meaning without defining the start and end dates of life, whether the right of one includes the duty of all others in the society to ensure it and many other aspects. This clarification makes each point far easier for every member of society to understand and agree on and then ensure that all law in that society flows naturally from the root principles. For instance if the right to life also includes the duty of each member of society to do what they can to ensure the life of another, then homelessness and extreme poverty cannot be tolerated by that society. This is discussed more completely in Binding Chaos, chapters, Natural and negotiated rights and Beyond nation states.
Once these principles are clearly defined, it is possible for every state or other society to accept or reject principles along with their specifications and the results can be easily accessible for all. It could also be possible to then use these accepted principles to choose association, for instance refuse trade with a corporation that refuses to accept certain environmental practices.
G is written using Meteor 1.3 with a front end in React. It will probably follow the Mantra specification in the future. Most technical documentation will be on Github and Trello.
I was raised in one of the most isolated and impoverished communities in Canada’s north. It was largely self governing with an economy based on social approval, not trade. I have spent most of my life working on anti-poverty, human rights and community developed solutions, from free stores and free education to community gardens and social care in many diverse communities. I am a programmer and have organized online as well for most of my life.
From 2010 to 2012 I was the sole administrator and editor of the Wikileaks news site Wikileaks Central. My objectives were to take the news focus off of men with guns, politicians and NGOs and amplify problems and solutions from the sources on the ground that were not being heard. My slogan for the site was News, Analysis, Action as I also wanted to encourage those reading leaks from Wikileaks, the Palestine Papers, etc. to move past passive news voyeurism and organize solutions. I participated in, promoted or reported on most of the major social movements of 2010-11 from their first initiations. In 2012 I focused on all forms of social media organizing, especially how states and corporations were using social media to manipulate public opinion and action and how to best combat their techniques.
Most of my work can be found on Wikileaks servers, Anonymous videos and etherpad manifestos worldwide. My signed work (book, articles) is linked to the GeorgieBC blog and GeorgieBC social media. Work related to G can be found on Github and on the website Getgee.xyz.
Where is this database hosted?
Since this is an extremely complex database that will need a lot of work to optimize, I will set it up initially as a simple server application. After it is optimized and we know it can scale, we can run parallel testing in decentralized solutions to see what works.
What is the organizational structure of G?
It doesn’t have one yet and that will depend in part on who contributes code and funding and where it is based. All aspects of the project must remain free for anyone to use, and without obligation to funders in conflict to the stated aims of a global commons database and trust network. Potential structures are non-profit, co-operative or foundation.
Is this the Global Square?
The Global Square was a project I tried to develop in 2011-12. My links with Wikileaks, Occupy and Anonymous brought a huge amount of international media at the point when I did not even have a fully formulated idea, resulting in a huge amount of attention from people who wanted to use the project for personal fame and fundraising. It brought no one who wanted to contribute code, funding or usable ideas of any kind. Also in 2011-12, no one understood how I wanted to organize or why, so I needed these years to explain and show people why we need this structure (and not just a direct democracy voting app or a forum of regional representatives, for example). So no, this is not the Global Square, it is G.
What does G stand for then?
Whatever you like. I am just claiming this letter of the alphabet before a certain corporation decides to make it their intellectual property.
Everyone else is talking about privacy, you seem to be going the other way?
Private communication is not the biggest issue facing us on the Internet, social manipulation is. An organized public with reliable information can solve the majority of the problems of spying by removing spies from positions of power and creating regulations and laws in support of privacy. An isolated and confused public cannot organize solutions to anything.
There is also no such thing as privacy on the Internet. Anyone with enough money and motivation is perfectly capable of tracking all of your online activity across all platforms and displaying it in one graph. Their job is made much easier if you use the current corporate application software but they can do it in any case. A universal database allows you to choose your own front end software to make it much more difficult to track you and G allows you to use pseudonyms and multiple identities, something that is becoming more and more difficult with existing platforms. Since G leaves it to the user to filter spam using trust networks, we do not need the aggressive verification approaches of other platforms and we do not have any use for personal data either. Even though there is no privacy on the Internet, G is closer than what we have in existing collaborative platforms.
Why isn’t there an entity type for place?
Because place has different definitions. It either means location, which can be attached as geotags to events or organizations (the only times we want to reference that kind of place) or it means an organization, like a state or municipality or a thing like a house.
Thought bubble: A forum which is closed to outside thought or opposing opinions.
Sealed well: Databases which have access controlled by web pages.
Ponzi scheme: A pyramid scheme algorithm which requires those at the bottom to support those at the top in order to benefit. This type of scheme never benefits more than a few.
Astroturfing: Propaganda campaigns created to mimic grassroots movements.
Trust networks: A network of people whose knowledge and judgment we rely on to help us filter our data or to grant editing permissions. A filter of zero degrees of trust contains only items we ourselves explicitly trusted, one degree also contains anything trusted by those we trust, and so on. Four or five degrees of trust should bring all results that are not spam or astroturfing.
Photoshopping: Removing aspects of a story which the writer does not deem relevant or agree with and leaving only those which support the writer’s bias.
Truth dictatorships: Platforms which present one view of reality as a complete ‘truth’ or ‘fact’.
To keep in touch:
Mailing list: email@example.com
Heather Marsh: HeatherMarsh@riseup.net
* Yes, of course it is a reference to Lord Acton’s quote about power.