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Re: <nettime> If Only Indymedia Learnt To Innovate
Theo Honohan on Mon, 17 Nov 2008 03:18:26 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> If Only Indymedia Learnt To Innovate


2008/11/16 Brian Holmes <brian.holmes {AT} wanadoo.fr>:

> If you got, it came by a corporation. First of all the
> network, the underlying cables and hardware and also the very machine
> you are using. I understand and respect the value of non-proprietary
> code, I run Linux and everytime I install a new application I am deeply
> impressed with the beauty and functionality of the system. But I'm a
> hardcore ideologist and I need to communicate with people who aren't.

There are related underlying problems in the conception of much
activist software.  There is a failure to compartmentalize
functionality and politics, which results in duplication of effort.  I
can imagine some political people coming back with arguments that say
that you can't separate software architecture and politics, but look
at the example of MediaWiki, which is used not only by Wikipedia, but
by a range of politically and theoretically diverse sites from
capitalismandschizophrenia.org through nosubject.com to Conservapedia.

To produce generic software is not only a contribution to other
activist groups, but helps to break down barriers between factions.

Take politube.org as an example of activist software.  It looks like a
pretty good reimplementation of youtube which has just been given a
political "skin".  Unfortunately there are several competing activist
video sites, such as g8-tv.org and the transmission.cc project,
resulting in fragmentation of the community of people who could
contribute.

To give an example of the interaction between two projects, here is a
comment from the subtitling group of the transmission.cc project.
(Actually, the existence of a development group for this purpose is an
example of my point right there: the need for the feature of
subtitling videos is in no way restricted to a particular activist web
site.)

>From http://transmission.cc/subtitles

"G8-tv.org have done amazing work on the Flash based system for
playing a range of Closed Caption subtitles to create a truely
mulitilingual site.
[...]

What we discovered is that we really need an online Content Management
System that can host subtitle files and allow online translations. You
see then the g8-tv.org site arrived and showed us exactly what we
needed. Now we just need to create one we can use ourselves. Any
offers?"

This is clearly a case of trying to reinvent the wheel, to create a
piece of generic software which will only be used in a specific
context, and furthermore, one which has already been implemented by
another group of activists who are more or less politically aligned
with transmission.cc.  This kind of fragmentation and duplication of
effort is a big problem.

In a sense, projects such as r23.cc, g8-tv.org and transmission.cc are
software-as-rhetoric.  The software is created partly for its own sake
as an expression of a political position.  For this purpose, it is
most expressive to blend functionality and politics together, rather
than combine them orthogonally to produce something which can later be
cleanly factorized into functional and political components.

Theo


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