Activity Streams, Socialism, & the Future of Open Source

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These are the slides for the somewhat tongue-in-cheek talk I gave at Open Source Bridge in Portland, OR.

These are the slides for the somewhat tongue-in-cheek talk I gave at Open Source Bridge in Portland, OR.

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  • I like slide 98: The Activity Streams model presents an “actor verb object” tuple, with an optional “target” parameter.
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  • Very inspiring and well explained. Thanks a lot!
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  • 1. ACTIVITY STREAMS, SOCIALISM, & THE FUTURE OF OPEN SOURCE Chris Messina • Open Source Bridge • Portland, OR • June 1, 2010
  • 2. @chris.messina buzz.google.com/chrismessina @chrismessina #osb2010-0458
  • 3. you might know me from efforts like microformats ... barcamp ... coworking ... hashtags
  • 4. you might know me from efforts like microformats ... barcamp ... coworking ... hashtags
  • 5. you might know me from efforts like microformats ... barcamp ... coworking ... hashtags
  • 6. you might know me from efforts like microformats ... barcamp ... coworking ... hashtags
  • 7. you might know me from efforts like microformats ... barcamp ... coworking ... hashtags
  • 8. You may also remember me from such chick flicks as: Julia & Julia; Ira & Abby; and of course everyone’s favorite: Vicky Christina Barcelona Of course [CLICK]...
  • 9. You may also remember me from such chick flicks as: Julia & Julia; Ira & Abby; and of course everyone’s favorite: Vicky Christina Barcelona Of course [CLICK]...
  • 10. You may also remember me from such chick flicks as: Julia & Julia; Ira & Abby; and of course everyone’s favorite: Vicky Christina Barcelona Of course [CLICK]...
  • 11. You may also remember me from such chick flicks as: Julia & Julia; Ira & Abby; and of course everyone’s favorite: Vicky Christina Barcelona Of course [CLICK]...
  • 12. these days I work for Google as an Open Web Advocate. Google, as you know, is the Don’t Be Evil ...[click]
  • 13. ...Empire
  • 14. No really, it’s not that bad. And in fact, there’s a great deal of good that Google is doing. [click]
  • 15. dataliberation.org efforts like the Data Liberation Front are leading the way in making sure that, as Google grows, you always have a choice in how to get your data out!
  • 16. “GENERATIVE STRUCTURES” University of Winnipeg Enough about Google. Today I want to talk to you about something else. Namely, “generative structures”...
  • 17. ...like the ones that Jonathan Zittrain wrote about in his book “The Future of the Internet (and how to stop it)”. [CLICK] if you’re a communist, you can download it for free at futureoftheinternet.org. Kidding about the communist thing, but that does [CLICK]
  • 18. futureoftheinternet.org ...like the ones that Jonathan Zittrain wrote about in his book “The Future of the Internet (and how to stop it)”. [CLICK] if you’re a communist, you can download it for free at futureoftheinternet.org. Kidding about the communist thing, but that does [CLICK]
  • 19. ...bring us to our first topic! Yes, we’re going to turn to the soviets to learn about something called activity theory.
  • 20. Activity Theory 101
  • 21. ACTIVITY THEORISTS Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky Aleksei N. Leontiev Yrjö Engeström 1896–1934 1903 - 1979 1948 - present Some of the more prominent activity theorists include Vygotsky, Leontiev, and Engestrom (yes, Jyri’s dad)
  • 22. Tools Subject Object Outcome Vygotsky Activity Theory was developed as a way of understanding and shaping a workforce, which was of course a very soviet thing to do. As such, Vygotsky’s activity theory was heavily centered on tool mediation and the relationship of a single actor to an object or objective. The theory goes much deeper, but from a lay perspective, this is where it all began.
  • 23. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Yrjö Engeström, 1987 Fast-forward several decades, and the Scandanavians expanded Activity Theory by putting the actor in the context of a community where there were social norms and roles at work. This basic framework could help to explain social development, organization, culture, and social systems at various scales and degrees of inspection.
  • 24. Mediating Artefacts Sense Subject Goal Outcome Meaning Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 Curiously, by studying this model — and examing how goal achievement functions socially — we begin to understand how meaning is made and cultural understanding grows. So, if your goal is to actually produce meaning, knowledge, and understanding — you can work within these constructs to motivate action.
  • 25. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 ...especially if you think about how roles, rules, and mediating artefacts (tools) all relate to one another.
  • 26. so, for example, if you’re designing a new app for the first time, think about how you can manipulate the roles, rules, and tools increase interest, desire, or motivation you might develop a series of rewards for completing certain tasks, bounded by rules
  • 27. so, for example, if you’re designing a new app for the first time, think about how you can manipulate the roles, rules, and tools increase interest, desire, or motivation you might develop a series of rewards for completing certain tasks, bounded by rules
  • 28. Social Objects
  • 29. PEOPLE DON’T JUST CONNECT TO EACH OTHER. THEY CONNECT THROUGH A SHARED OBJECT. JYRI ENGESTRÖM Following in his father’s footsteps, Jyri Engstrom proposed the notion of a “social object” as a primary vehicle for social interaction.
  • 30. A nice example of this idea is Katamari Damacy, a game where you control a character that goes around collecting stuff by adhering it to its body. this is not unlike the way that activities define who you are today. indeed, as the game progresses, all these things that you collect come to define you and your experience.
  • 31. rating, add to playlist, favorite, share, copy the URL, flag, play, comment, reply by video adding value to objects that are uploaded by users. that turns them into social objects.
  • 32. add notes, tags, comments, favorite, add to galleries, add contact, interact with other members... but here’s a twist to Flickr’s approach...
  • 33. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Yrjö Engeström, 1987 you take activity theory...
  • 34. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 by focusing on these elements — you can understand why Flickr works the way it does.
  • 35. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 one thing that they’ve done rather well, is make it possible for the subject to manipulate the rules of the Flickr environment.
  • 36. and on Flickr, I can set the rules of engagement, making it possible for me to personalize my experience, and focus on interactions that are more meaningful to me. This becomes really important when designing social systems in order to avoid “surprises” as we begin to collate these social objects into...
  • 37. ...as we’ve recently seen with the Facebook community as Facebook changed the underlying rules that governed the activity in the space.
  • 38. I’d to now apply some of these ideas to the Mozilla community... [CLICK]
  • 39. SpreadFirefox Specifically the SpreadFirefox community.
  • 40. Photo by Tristan Nitot In 2004, I read this blog post by Steven Garrity asking for design help. There was no pay, the hours weren’t any good, timelines were short and they wanted professionals. So DUH! How could I resist?
  • 41. I’d heard of Firefox then, and I was aware of it... and I couldn’t help being drawn to the symbolism...
  • 42. This is an Mozilla invitation to their 2.0 release party. I mean, you couldn’t escape the inviting, “comm...unity” feeling about this stuff.
  • 43. of course this was also in 2004, back when the rivalry between IE and Firefox was really hot.
  • 44. And Microsoft wasn’t making any friends with the open source community either.
  • 45. And then something that no one expected would ever happen occurred: Mozilla released Firefox 1.0 on November 9th, 2004. But now they needed to promote the thing. At the time there were essentially zero mainstream open source successes back then. So people didn’t have high expectations.
  • 46. So we setup this site called Spread Firefox, built on a distribution of Drupal called CivicSpace. The first blog post on Spread Firefox was posted 9/12/2004 BEFORE Firefox 1.0 in order to start rallying the troops in advance of the public launch.
  • 47. WE'RE IGNITING THE WEB. JOIN US! Welcome to Spread Firefox. You are our marketing department, a diverse community of people tired of swatting popups, chasing spyware, combatting identity theft and installing security updates you could set your watch to. You have a vision of the 21st century web and are ready to push it to the world, wresting control from a monopoly that has let it stagnate. We'll provide the tools, but you will drive campaigns that will be rolled out here over the coming months. The post started off: “Welcome to Spread Firefox. You are our marketing department, a diverse community of people tired of swatting popups, chasing spyware, combatting identity theft and installing security updates you could set your watch to. You have a vision of the 21st century web and are ready to push it to the world, wresting control from a monopoly that has let it stagnate. We'll provide the tools, but you will drive campaigns that will be rolled out here over the coming months.”
  • 48. WE'RE IGNITING THE WEB. JOIN US! We hope you'll bear with us as we ramp up development of this site in the coming months. In the future, Spread Firefox will coordinate a series of volunteer efforts to promote Firefox, and run campaigns to focus our community's energy on very tangible, specific goals. This is just a beta, and there are still validation errors and bugs on the site, so make sure to let us know if something's not working right or if you have ideas for cool new features. And make sure to add yourself to the Spreadfirefox announcements mailing list. It continues, but talked about goals specifically: Spread Firefox will coordinate a series of volunteer efforts to promote Firefox, and run campaigns to focus our community's energy on very tangible, specific goals.
  • 49. WE'RE IGNITING THE WEB. JOIN US! Our first target: one million downloads of the Firefox Preview Release in the next ten days. Register, sign in, and spread the word by adding a Firefox promo line to your email signature and one of our buttons to your web site (or your personal new Spread Firefox blog). Each time someone clicks on your link, you'll get a point, so you'll be able to see how much impact you're making. We highlight and publicize the ten most successful promoters in the "roll call" in the green bar on the right. In the future, prizes and pronounced placement on the wildly popular Mozilla website will offer additional motivation to bump yourself into the top ten. We also intend to beef up our referral tracking and award points for many other things besides referrals, such as donations and active participation in one of our marketing teams. And set an explicit outcome to get us started: “Our first target: one million downloads of the Firefox Preview Release in the next ten days.” And then connected each person’s activities to that outcome: “Each time someone clicks on your link, you'll get a point, so you'll be able to see how much impact you're making. We highlight and publicize the ten most successful promoters in the "roll call" in the green bar on the right.”
  • 50. The idea was to spread these buttons all across the web and promote an ideology of freedom and choice made manifest in an alternative, open source web browser.
  • 51. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 So how does this relate to ActivityTheory? And why does it matter? Well, because there are lessons that can be extracted from Firefox’s success that can apply to today’s open source efforts. Let’s start by taking a look at the ROLES. [CLICK]
  • 52. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987
  • 53. VOLUNTEERING There are many ways to volunteer with the Mozilla project and to help spread the word about Firefox: • If you're a developer, you can help fix bugs, or add cool new features as extensions. • If you're a security expert, help us find security vulnerabilities before they became a problem - and get a $500 bounty! • If you're a tech-savvy users, you can help test our software, file and help organize bugs or contact web sites that don't work with Mozilla software • ... and if you're passionate about Firefox and want to help spread the word, then you've come to the right place. Under the volunteering section of the site, we listed a number of different ways to get involved...
  • 54. VOLUNTEERING 1. The WebApps Team 2. The Design Team 3. For The Record 4. Wordsmiths 5. The Ad Team 6. The CD Bundling Team 7. The Events Team 8. The College Reps Team There were 8 different teams that you could join to pitch in. We had very clearly articulated the Roles for the SpreadFirefox communty and made it possible to get involved quickly by self-selecting.
  • 55. I made a series of diagrams in 2005 to depict the lifecycle of getting people involved in the community... from outliers to casual Firefox users to bringing people into the core community.
  • 56. It could also be depicted like a cell. You’ll note that the membranes actually help protect the core developers and commiters — but provide a semi-permeable membrane for letting people in.
  • 57. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 now let’s talk about the rules.
  • 58. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987
  • 59. So in the beginning we had this leaderboard (this is just a mockup that I made but that was never launched). The rules dictated how you could contribute — and applied to everyone.
  • 60. Similarly, Mozilla has reused this concept and employed badges as a signifier of people’s participation in the Creative Collective — same basic idea (promote Firefox) but different rules.
  • 61. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 Now let’s talk about mediating artefacts — or social objects.
  • 62. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987
  • 63. Basically everytime we hit a download milestone, I would head into Photoshop and spend far too long coming up with graphics like this...
  • 64. ...or this.
  • 65. We basically produced all kinds of designs and “social objects” that people could post to their blogs and share with their friends — that they could use the tell the story of Firefox or use to identify with the community (i.e. through desktop wallpapers, etc).
  • 66. And again, this is being continued in the Mozilla Creative Collective... creating new roles and ways to get involved and producing...
  • 67. design by foxyboy clever artwork like this — giving designers a way to pitch in — and feel connected to the broader effort.
  • 68. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 So let’s talk about community....
  • 69. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 Community sits in between the Roles and Rules of the Activity model.
  • 70. In 2005 I created like approximate diagram of the relative importance of different aspects of the Spread Firefox universe. All together, these areas — with their roles and rules — represented the SFX community.
  • 71. And, it was the strength of the individuals within the Mozilla community that lead me to design the full page ad in the NY Times this way.
  • 72. I wanted to represent the nearly 10K donors who helped to pay for this ad and get it into the paper. These were the people that played a very important role — funding this ad — to make the collective voice of the community heard around the world: “WE HAVE ARRIVED”.
  • 73. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 but none of this would have mattered if the community didn’t connect to a higher calling — [CLICK]
  • 74. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 a clear goal tied to specific outcomes.
  • 75. Mozilla's mission is to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web. We do this by creating great software, like the Firefox browser, and building movements, like Drumbeat, that give people tools to take control of their online lives. Mozilla's mission is vague, but provides an area of operation; namely to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web.
  • 76. Photo by intothefuzz And this is why folks like Mitchell Baker are starting to talk about and define the “open web” as a “better internet”
  • 77. And why Mozilla is investing in work like Mozilla Drumbeat
  • 78. Mozilla Drumbeat is keeping the web open. It has a less tangible mission, but one that speaks to people who are already on board and gives them an effort to join.
  • 79. 2004 Still, they’re mechanisms that worked in SpreadFirefox to involve people, and to take them through the activity ladder using social influence.
  • 80. 2010 Still, they’re mechanisms that worked in SpreadFirefox to involve people, and to take them through the activity ladder using social influence.
  • 81. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 connecting the goals of the project...
  • 82. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 ...with the personal.
  • 83. But here’s the thing. It’s not happening fast enough. And we’re not doing enough to mobilize our community and provide meaningful ways to learn about what’s going on and to connect to people outside of our normal circles.
  • 84. We had this model in 2005. But what are we doing to make the membrane more permeable today? I worry that we’re still focused on the core, and not creating enough lightweight roles to support the outer rings.
  • 85. Open Source This is important because this model applies to Open Source as well as the Open Web. [CLICK] Our challenge is connecting the mainstream with the ideology, practices, and technologies of freedom and choice.
  • 86. Open Source Web This is important because this model applies to Open Source as well as the Open Web. [CLICK] Our challenge is connecting the mainstream with the ideology, practices, and technologies of freedom and choice.
  • 87. Open Mainstream Source Web This is important because this model applies to Open Source as well as the Open Web. [CLICK] Our challenge is connecting the mainstream with the ideology, practices, and technologies of freedom and choice.
  • 88. Let me spell this out for you: back in 2004 we got a million people to put these little buttons on their homepages, spreading the message. And we took back the web. [CLICK]
  • 89. But today, in 2010, Facebook is eating our lunch.
  • 90. “History is written by the winners” —George Orwell Tribune, 4 February 1944 And the problem is that, even though we’ve had 5 years of success, it is not written in stone.
  • 91. Activity Streams So let’s write our own history. They’re not the be-all, end-all solution, but ActivityStreams can help weave together the open source/open web communities, making us more effective, while retaining decentralization and individuality.
  • 92. Open Source put the networking in Social Networking After all, we put the “networking” in social networking.
  • 93. Open Source put the networking in Social Networking After all, we put the “networking” in social networking.
  • 94. ActivityStreams for those of you unfamiliar with ActivityStreams, here’s a brief primer.
  • 95. the basic idea is to take existing streams of content...
  • 96. which represent all of the activities coming out of networks, repositories, and so on...
  • 97. icons by Fast Icon and provide the metadata necessary to differentiate all the distinct activities coming from these different sources.
  • 98. actor verb object target the ActivityStreams model presents an “actor verb object” tuple, with an optional “target” parameter
  • 99. person share link for example, someone sharing a link...
  • 100. person started following person or someone following someone else...
  • 101. developer fork project-name or if a developer forks a project.
  • 102. ATOM JSON Photo by trainman74 ActivityStreams currently comes in two flavors: Atom and JSON (though JSON is being developed)
  • 103. VERBS & OBJECTS and to begin with, we already support a dozen verbs and several well-known objects.
  • 104. VERBS & • Add Friend • Article OBJECTS • Check-in • Audio • Favorite • Bookmark • Follow • Comment • Like • File • Join • Folder • Play • Group • Post • List • Save • Note • Share • Person • Tag • Photo • Update • Photo Album • Place • Playlist • Product • Review • Service • Status • Video and to begin with, we already support a dozen verbs and several well-known objects.
  • 105. VERBS & • Add Friend • Article OBJECTS • Check-in • Audio • Favorite • Bookmark • Follow • Comment • Like • File v0.8 • Join • Folder • Play • Group • Post • List • Save • Note • Share • Person • Tag • Photo • Update • Photo Album • Place • Playlist • Product • Review • Service • Status • Video and to begin with, we already support a dozen verbs and several well-known objects.
  • 106. PROCESS and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 107. PROCESS 1. Ask why. and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 108. PROCESS 1. Ask why. 2. Do your homework and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 109. PROCESS 1. Ask why. 2. Do your homework 3. Propose and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 110. PROCESS 1. Ask why. 2. Do your homework 3. Propose 4. Iterate and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 111. PROCESS 1. Ask why. 2. Do your homework 3. Propose 4. Iterate 5. Interoperate and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 112. Turns out sites like Github are already publishing these kinds of activities.
  • 113. VERBS & • Add Friend • Article OBJECTS • Check-in • Branch • Close • Comment • Commit • File • Created • Folder GitHub • Edited • Group • Follow • Issue • Fork • List • Join • Master • Open • Note • Post • Page • Pull • Person • Push • Photo • Resolve • Project • Save • Service • Share • Status • Tag • Video • Update and with only a few tweaks, we could easily model this stream of updates in ActivityStreams.
  • 114. So what if we could get another site like Gitorious to publish their activity streams using the same basic format?
  • 115. So what if we could get another site like Gitorious to publish their activity streams using the same basic format?
  • 116. Let’s consider another example... in this case, StackOverflow. You could imagine that users of those other two sites also use StackOverflow, but it’s activity stream looks a little different [CLICK]
  • 117. Let’s consider another example... in this case, StackOverflow. You could imagine that users of those other two sites also use StackOverflow, but it’s activity stream looks a little different [CLICK]
  • 118. VERBS & • Accept • Article OBJECTS • Add Friend • Badge • Answer • Comment • Ask • File • Award • Group StackOverflow • Follow • List • Join • Note • Post • Person • Revise • Photo • Share • Question • Tag • Status • Update • Tag • Video still, it’s list of verbs and objects, though it has some differences, has some similarities too.
  • 119. VERBS & • Add Friend • Article OBJECTS • Check-in • Comment • Follow • File • Join • Group • Post • List StackOverflow • Save • Note • Share • Person + GitHub • Tag • Photo • Update • Status • Video still, it’s list of verbs and objects, though it has some differences, has some similarities too.
  • 120. If you start combining these streams from different sources, we could take this great feature of StackOverflow — reputation — and make it more portable — based on people’s actual work across different systems.
  • 121. combine that with an identity protocol like OpenID... and add in OAuth to get data, we start to have something that looks pretty compelling.
  • 122. combine that with an identity protocol like OpenID... and add in OAuth to get data, we start to have something that looks pretty compelling.
  • 123. The latest craze: Which explains the interest
  • 124. distributed social networks distributed social networks
  • 125. diaspora* diaspora
  • 126. OneSocialWeb onesocialweb
  • 127. status.net status.net
  • 128. Appleseed appleseed
  • 129. DiSo Project diso, etc
  • 130. but we need to remember the lessons of the activity theorists — and work to apply their ideas to arrive at a more holistic approach to our work one that is inclusive, models behavior for others to follow, and gives people specific roles to take on, within a specific rule structure.
  • 131. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 because what this model is really all about...
  • 132. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 is creating new roles for people, with social objects that they care about, and collect around, with rules that are fair and reasonable.
  • 133. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 in order to connect the individual to a community through shared goals.
  • 134. Mediating Artefacts Subject Goal Outcome Rules Roles Community Engeström, 1987 and working in concert to achieve specific outcomes that might not otherwise be achievable.
  • 135. The goal is to change the economics of work With the goal of changing the economics of work
  • 136. The outcome will result in changed culture in order to change culture
  • 137. The history of open source Because we will be writing our own history...
  • 138. The future of the open web And creating the future of the open web that reflects our values, ideals, and aspirations.
  • 139. The End.
  • 140. Questions; Answers.