The past 24 hours saw perhaps more activity in the #known IRC channel (yesterday and today) and than I have ever seen before. Near the end of it all, jgmac1106, having previously voluntold me to be the first rotating organiser, voluntold me to “call all of today a meeting of the Open Collective”. Obviously you can’t have a meeting without minutes, so here they are.
It all started with jgmac1106’s heartfelt plea that he just wanted to publish his site, “not learn backend engineering” and contemplating starting afresh. LewisCowles raised the question of how to reward Open Source software developers and maintainers, and that started a discussion of what it would take to put Known on a commercial footing.
Jgmac1106 was of the opinion that easier install with auto-update was needed. Lewiscowles and jeremycherfas thought that better direction of the project was needed, with a model that offered installation, domain management and updates, for a fee.
“Make it Known would be such a great tagline if we could get Sir Patrick Stewart on board.” Lewiscowles
There followed further discussion of operational models, including micro.blog; pay for hosting, including updates, and some backfeed, with a free offering open to IndieWeb if you have a capable site elsewhere.
On funding, jeremycherfas related his early experience hosting through IndieHosters and jgmac1106 talked about applying for grants to fund specific pieces of Known development. We played around with numbers, concluding that nobody knew enough to build even an outline business plan. There did seem to be agreement that venture capital should be rejected from the outset, while collectives and cooperatives could provide a more desirable structure, and that any kind of structure needs direction.
After a gap, some other people joined the channel and mapkyca explained that right now, a bigger block than money was time as he is working flat out. He also said that the maths does not work out for SaaS.
Benatwork then rejoined the meeting and explained in some depth the history of Known, including funding decisions and his original vision.
The original intention was to build a community platform that could be hosted securely, with discussion not monitored by the likes of a Facebook. … [I]t was never built to be an indieweb platform or an individual blogging engine from the start. The core idea was: flexible, social feeds that one or more people could contribute to, with per-item access control and integrations both in and out. I still believe that it has most value as a multi-user platform.
Major problem: we gave our entire platform away as open source, and it turns out there was a strong correlation between people who wanted to use it and people who didn’t want to pay. Although they were happy to pay for an account on a shared host, which of course didn’t go to us. So it didn’t really work as a scalable business.
Benatwork then filled us in on recent developments and why his direct involvement has dwindled, all of which is very understandable, closing with his belief that SaaS is not the way forward.
Jgmac1106 then voluntold jeremycherfas to take the lead on setting up monthly meetings for the next three months, as the first rotating organiser. He also shared his idea of having something like Known to offer local media as something they can sell to subscribers as a built in social platform.
In response to a question from Aaron_Klemm, Benatwork shared the Known roadmap on github. He also explained some of the past technical decisions and that maybe some of those should be revisited to improve the product as a whole.
People shared their different ideas of what Known could become for them, with the question of the current admin tax prominent. Cleverdevil said he would be happy to pay mapkyca to update his site, raising again the potential demand for SaaS.
Benatwork’s vision is Known not as a blog CMS exclusively, but rather:
What Known can do is create a stream of many different kinds of content, and present it differently based on context. Filtering is a similarly powerful idea. “Show me all posts that are sensor readings and photos tagged with bats, from January 1st.”
There was some discussion of other aspects of Known that need attention, including the templating engine, which mapkyca said he hopes to separate completely from the back end.
Chrisaldrich raised the possibility of working with Reclaim Hosting to devise a package similar to what Reclaim offers universities, i.e. Reclaim does the heavy lifting for turnkey Known installs while allowing a small group of others to support people who signed up. Aaron_Klemm supported this idea strongly.
There was a lot more discussion of various ways in which Known could contribute to community internet literacy and how it might be used alongside other web publishing tools.
This summary is an entirely personal capture of the discussion; corrections and comments welcome. (You know how to do that, right?) I’ll suggest some times for an online meeting through the channel.