Community OS stack

The Great Untangling: Part 1 – Shaping the foundations.

To sufficiently express my identity as a netizen I require:




They’re all somewhat-interchangeable components of an overarching community platform in the making, with identity at the center. Not one single app, but rather the entire stack I want as a community-professional as well as a regular participant on the interwebs. Identity realized in community: Community OS.

Some of these tools are partially open source already, but by the end of 2023 I'd really like most of them to be so. That'll require some complete migrations on my part, like I recently did with GetPocket (fully proprietary) to (open source client).

It'll also require a lot of building, because the open version of the tools I need won't come from the closed tools dominating the status quo. Thankfully, a lot of people are already working on the open version of the tools needed for the Community OS stack, so cOS will happily default to these applications.

Gardens, Streams and Campfires

Building on the terminology of Digital Streams, Campfires and Gardens and its forebearer and knowledge-management classic The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral, we will add in the concept of the Digital Experiencing-Self, aka your identity.

The Garden is the web as topology. The web as space. It’s the integrative web, the iterative web, the web as an arrangement and rearrangement of things to one another.

Things in the Garden don’t collapse to a single set of relations or canonical sequence, and that’s part of what we mean when we say “the web as topology” or the “web as space”. Every walk through the garden creates new paths, new meanings, and when we add things to the garden we add them in a way that allows many future, unpredicted relationships

In the stream metaphor you don’t experience the Stream by walking around it and looking at it, or following it to its end. You jump in and let it flow past. You feel the force of it hit you as things float by.

It’s not that you are passive in the Stream. You can be active. But your actions in there — your blog posts, @ mentions, forum comments — exist in a context that is collapsed down to a simple timeline of events that together form a narrative.

In other words, the Stream replaces topology with serialization. Rather than imagine a timeless world of connection and multiple paths, the Stream presents us with a single, time ordered path with our experience (and only our experience) at the center.

There are no hard boundaries between these categorizations of tooling. They greatly overlap with one another depending on how they are used and extended by their respective tool-users. That is why I appreciated Tom’s addition of the campfire, which blurs the line between Garden and Stream.

Campfires – mostly blogging for me, though I know some folks gather around private Slack groups too. My blog functions as a digital campfire (or a series of campfires) that are slower burn but fade relatively quickly over the timeframe of years. Thinking out loud, self referencing and connection forming. This builds muscle, helps me articulate my thinking and is the connective tissue between ideas, people and more. While I’m not a daily blogger I’ve been blogging on and off for 10+ years.

Your identity (ID) inhabits the places and behaviors which the Garden, Stream and Campfire represent, simultaneously experiencing and expressing itself through those outlets.

digital-metaphors By Lise

To my great delight, three new internet protocols are emerging as a communications triumvirate of great promise. In order of maturity:

The missing piece is an identity protocol, but we’re on the verge of figuring that out as well. Both Matrix and ActivityPub (currently represented chiefly by Mastodon) are adopting OIDC (OAuth), the Web2 standard for login.

Matrix’ progress can be tracked at . Once complete, they will support logging in with Mastodon, among many other options.

Mastodon already supports OAuth 2, with ongoing discussion about improved SSO support and allowing Mastodon to be used as an OpenID provider.

On the horizon awaits OpenID Connect Federation.

Meanwhile, Noosphere is trying a brand new approach to fit its local-first, peer-to-peer paradigm: UCAN a Web3 login protocol that’s also been adopted by ATproto.

The requirements for centralized always-online identity and distributed local-first identity are very different, and thus not in opposition but rather complementary. I don’t want to keep my money in a flimsy USB drive — I’m messy! I like banks in their essence: Hold on to most of my money for me in your super secure (always-online) vault, and let me access it with my (local-first) formal ID.

Both the old and the new have their part to play on The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity

The Great Untangling: