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Platform roadmap

From Organic Design
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This document is a business plan that specifies an event-line showing our activities to build and deploy the platform network.

It forms the business plan, or simply the Roadmap. This document describes our ongoing work to implement the ideas and principles described in our manifesto. It is directed at those who share our goals and visions who would like to contribute to help bring them about.

We call the outcome we are working toward “Platform”, a package of software technologies designed to provide a robust starting point and foundation to help any individual or group to achieve their goals. We envision that this technology can serve to unite existing groups to work together more closely and form larger groups based on shared interests, as well as empowering individuals with information technology that provides flexibility, freedom and privacy.

We propose that it is possible for people around the world who have shared goals and values to work together much more effectively and harmoniously. The path to achieving this will be to create a flexible framework that can serve as a living, evolving repository for proven and effective methods of collaboration and decision-making, which is easy to change, improve and customise. All users of such a system will be able to contribute to its improvement, much like the Wikipedia has drawn upon a large number of contributors to become the largest and most up-to-date repository of encyclopedic knowledge in a number of languages.

We now have a functional system that we've been using for our own organisation and project management. It still has some critical elements missing and is currently based on a MediaWiki framework (which is why we are calling it Wiki Organisation). This has been useful for us to develop and refine a prototype within, which also contains the initial content and structure of the Platform. We are currently “packaging” the prototype Wiki Organisation technology we have developed this way to allow the setting up of Platforms. A foundation exists, but further work is required to document the system and to make it more user friendly, easier to customise, technically efficient and robust.

Contents

Goals

This is the specific sequence of goals we want to achieve in implementing Platform specification. Each milestone comprises a number of projects and their associated tasks. These "organisational milestones" are conceptually the same as milestones within projects, except at the level of a whole organisation.

Milestone 1: Business, commercial and funding Structure

We are currently preparing to crowd-fund the first two milestones listed here to give us a fully functional, packaged system to deploy for partner organisations. At this point we will re-assess the most effective path forward. We will be in a position to focus on the development of the platform network and progress the rest of the milestones in parallel and with much more momentum.

In presenting our work to the public for crowd-funding, we intend to show how much work we have already put into the technology and that we have a solid plan moving forward. We are moving the development work into the public realm to offer transparency, accountability and credibility to potential backers. Our demo system will allow any member of the public to try and use the technology for themselves to see whether it is something they want to use or support. In addition, we plan to offer members of the public an easy way to set up their own wiki organisation for free.

Organic Design itself is a virtual organisation, comprising members who share the vision of Organic Design, who use the Wiki Organisation prototype to collaborate on a range of projects, including the development of the system itself. The Organic Design wiki is also a collaborative effort, it serves as a development hub and repository for research and other documentation. About Organic Design elaborates further on the organisation, which has been operating in this evolving form for the past five years. Organic Ontology gives further detail on the structure of the current organic design departments and the scope of the work.

Organic Design maintains a mutual benefit relationship with the Platform One project. Platform One will be a new kind of sustainable learning community in rural New Zealand, designed to develop and model new sustainable technologies and showcase existing innovative environmental, software and social technologies. The Platform One charitable trust, as the legal and financial management foundation, has a constitution incorporating the core of the Organic Design manifesto and will use the Platform technology as a foundation for all software systems and the IT infrastrucutre. In doing so, the trust will drive the development of the Platform technology and the Platform network, while ensuring that all operational methods and procedures will be available as a "living template", allowing the entire organisation to be "cloned" and implemented in parallel on a wider scale. This lends considerable leverage to the work done at Platform One, allowing effective solutions to be deployed rapidly and aiding the development efforts undertaken by exposing the work to global peer-review. In collaboration with Organic Design, the stakeholders of Platform One will be able to eventually foster an entire eco-system of learning communities.

Milestone 2: Prototype Organisation System Complete

By the time we reach this milestone, our system will be available for use by members of the public, who will be able to set up a free, private trial version of the demo system. The first step toward this is to move the development work around Wiki Organisation to the public OD wiki, out from our private beta testing wiki. Packaging is at a level where someone can download the wiki technology with a basic set of records and subscribe to updates from the demo system. Development can continue in the form of releasing packages to extend the functionality of the org system. People can choose to set up their own "blank" system, one with user guides, with demo content, or OD default content ("live" projects to improve the system itself).

The goal is to define the minimal set of features and content required for this stage and to separate out development work that can be handled as part of the package release cycle. In addition to being able to maintain a synchronised system, the users are also able to share selected data with other trusted entities or the general public using the system. This allows users to create and publish projects within the trusted network. Some design and UI improvements will round off the initial system.

Milestone 3: Prototype Fully Packaged and Deployment-ready

By the end of this phase, we will have the packaging of the system refined to the level where it is self-contained and can run offline. What we mean with that specifically, is that anyone could cheaply obtain an installation CD or memory stick with the current version of the desired Platform software package and install it on any computer they desired, to "boot up" into a free operating system complete with any software required, as well as a range of copyright-free content such as the Wikipedia. Upon opening a web browser, the user could then access a fully functional Wiki Organisation containing the Platform interface. Some people may also wish to do this using a "live" system that could be removed again without making changes to the host computer.

The Platform software package could then be set up on a number of other computers to be used by the members of the platform to do work, locally or further afield. Users of the Platform software package will then be able to choose from a number of methods to exchange software updates, emails, organisational records, files and other data, rather than gambling the continuity of their work on the assumption of uninterrupted availability of broadband Internet connections. This is not to say that the Platform software package would not take full advantage of fast Internet, the availability of which would allow for dynamic video and 3d interaction between members. This approach also brings with it the ability to distribute data securely across a trust network and securely log into one's own personal "roaming profile", containing all up-to-date personal files and settings. In this way, people using the Platform software package will have access to cloud computing services with the peace of mind they offer, without having to sacrifice their privacy.

We intend to use the technology at this stage to expand our network of aligned organisations using a shared system, by offering customisation and consultancy services around Platform implementation. This activity will presumably result in a boost to the development efforts around the Platform software packages and an ensuing decentralisation of development work, taking the pressure off Organic Design and giving rise to other flavours of Platform, with other names, in other languages, which would necessitate the development of a language- and technology-independent specification of the Platform, so that in spite of increasing diversity within the network, effective collaboration will remain easy.

Milestone 4: Technology-Independent Specification and Development

The focus of this stage of development is to develop a specification of Platform technology that is technology and language-independent, an open standard that can be implemented in any technology or language while maintaining interoperability between the numerous implementations. The result of this effort will be the full decentralisation and internationalisation of the Platform development work. It also means that the Platform can be implemented in the most up-to-date technologies, to allow for effective integration between functions like email, project management and social networking, while making communication more dynamic, adding voice and video collaboration where the bandwidth is available. XMPP currently appears like a good standard to use for creating such a specification, the potential of which has been demonstrated by Google with their "Wave" application. We envisage a subscription model, where different aspects of the Platform, including the interface, are "curated" by different groups and the users can specify which groups' settings, updates or content they would like to see reflected in their own Platform.

This stage of development, with Platform no longer being constrained by limitations of specific technologies such as MediaWiki, will be ideal for creating a user interface standard for Platform that is based on the most current technologies and is focussed on making the platform as user-friendly as possible. The challenge will be to create a consistent experience across the whole range of software packages used, while still allowing for flexibility in customisation and making effective use of resources such as broadband Internet or hardware graphics acceleration while not assuming the availability of such resources. The challenge of creating a unified "look and feel" also encompasses creating a consistent experience across a broad range of currently separate applications, such as browsing the web, working on emails, managing projects or updating accounts in the book-keeping application. We need a simple, consistent and solid interface that ties together all aspects of creating and growing an organisation, which can reveal complexity where desired.

At the end of this stage we will have an evolving set of turn-key organisations that can be used by members of the network to set up new organisations in response to the demand within the network. This is an important aspect the specification mentioned above will need to cater to. We envisage a "wizard" interface that consultants can use to create a new Platform, which is able to tap into any existing resources to create a full inventory and then compare such an inventory with current demands within the platform network to suggest products or services to offer. Having technology abstraction means that all the consultants and their clients need to discuss are everyday concepts such as what kind of skills employees have, what kind computers and software are available to the organisation, what kind of financial and production capital is available. By providing forms to fill in this information, the Platform software then converts these everyday concepts into machine-readable format and publishes them within the Platform network. The software can then suggest the most efficient legal structures and most rewarding value propositions based on the data within the network. The foundation technology to do this has existed for some time and it is often referred to as "the Semantic Web".

Milestone 5: Currency and Trade

With the foundation of the previous milestones in place, at the end of this stage of development we envisage a range of new services to be supported and enhanced by the Platform network that were previously too complex to orchestrate or which require a certain economy of scale. These services include the provision of currency, insurance schemes and investment capital, allowing Platforms to be set up in a wider range of industries, including farming projects, high-tech fabrication plants for computer hardware, hospitals, universities, banks or even civil engineering projects such as roads and railway systems.

We see a growing demand for groups to effectively formulate policies and goals and to raise the resources required from their members to implement them, with full accountability provided by the underlying technology. This technology should also ensure access by all stakeholders[1] and empower them to review, question or provide feedback on any aspect of the work undertaken. We hope that the Platform network can help meet this demand. It is even plausible at this stage that some of the new non-territorial nations could be represented within the Platform network. Those nations could offer their "customers" citizenship, protection, standards development and welfare services in return for moderate "membership fees", while maintaining full transparency of accounts.

We envision this trend resulting in significant empowerment of individuals and families worldwide who are now free to choose between number of economic and legal systems, leading nation-states and other sovereignties to compete for potential citizens by offering more efficient and transparent services, pristine natural environments or more opportunities for social, intellectual and spiritual advancement. All of the above, we hope.

Related projects

Some organisations and projects involved in similar work:

  • The Business Class.Net - Setting up workspaces with accommodation to ensure consistent standards for people working around the world
  • Dreamfish - Creating a worldwide network to collaborate on projects
  • Couchsurfing - Creating a world-wide peer-to-peer trust community
  • Gaiasoft - Facilitating the development of shared templates

Related concepts

Notes and references

  1. Loosely: anyone affected by the project, department or organisation

The GNU Project Debian GNU/Linux Linux Mint GNOME


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