This is an answer to a question I just received about the percloud, my proposal for really usable alternatives to centralized social networks and services like Gmail and Facebook.
The question, slightly reformatted for clarity, is:
“If I was to work on an open source online marketplace, where small and medium business (SMB) supplied offers to civil society, and individuals could access education, and governance was included based on either traditional or cooperative models… My goals would be to enable personal clouds safely connecting to an environment yo which they can apply their local preferences (i.e. language, currency and cultural or spiritual…) if they choose. Does the percloud you propose offer this?”
Your percloud would be YOUR castle. And nothing else
Think to a percloud as a standard “website + email & other servers”, with its own domain name. A percloud is also accessible as a service (that is, you can delegate to others its actual hosting, installation, activation, system administration…). Its availability as a service is, in fact, the MOST important part of it. In any case, a percloud is designed to be a PERSONAL, individual “permanent online home and communication hub”.
The “individual” may also be an NGO or SMB. Or just one “face” of the same human being, The same person may have up one percloud for her family relationships, another one to only interact with their friends, a third one only for work purposes… just like she may have three totally independent smartphones, or three different phone numbers, one for each of those spheres.
As they say, your percloud would be your castle. It’s your website, in which you may publish what you want, in whatever language you want. You may certainly declare in its home page your religion, political views, or what currency you usually adopt (but just that, it’s NOT an e-commerce site, or an alternative). And being your website, you would be the only arbiter of e.g. who can see or comment anything you publish there.
This said, the percloud is what I call a “personal box”. Its services must stop to those described above, for the reasons described in the main proposal (limit complexity, AVOID “governance”, digital payment systems etc ). A percloud is an environment that YOU own and control.
Personal castles vs village squares
Digital environments for COMMUNITIES are a totally different beast. I explicitly mention this in the percloud proposal, calling such environments “community boxes”. Let’s assume that you are the manager of an NGO serving single mothers, and doing it also through online discussion. In such a case:
- that NGO MUST have and manage its own, distinct “environment” = website which includes e.g. an online forum, etc,
- the NGO members should only use that online forum for “official”, internal discussions of NGO-related issues
- governance of that online forum (e.g.: who can join, code of conduct, applying sanctions to whoever violates it..) is responsibility of the NGO, of course. And the NGO manager, or a delegate of hers, is the person who must actually enforce the rules
The three bullets above define the purpose what I call a “community box” in the percloud proposal. They are a totally different service, because it must support functions that are just unneeded in a personal box (project management, publishing flow, moderation, several roles…).
Perclouds or community boxes? Both!
Let me repeat that, in my own opinion, personal and community boxes are totally different services. They are both needed, and must be interoperable, of course. If a person participates in several, possibly completely completely unrelated communities (e.g.: family, church, sport club), each of those communities should have its own website = community box. But that person may have just one percloud, that is one “digital personal castle”, as base to interact with all those boxes and everything else. All the notifications for discussions happening inside each of communities, for example, would arrive inside the personal cloud/website, in the same window. Buth inside your own percloud you will also receive unfiltered news from magazines etc… directly via RSS, without Facebook or other networks deciding what you will (not) see according to your activity in their, or their partners, online fora.
Perclouds are PREREQUISITES
To escape from the heavily surveilled walled gardens that are the current social media, both personal and community websites are needed. The perclouds remain the crucial PREREQUISITES to participate in any “community box”, be it an NGO, or anything else, without the surveillance, profiling, algorithmic discrimination… now bundled inside Google, Facebook etc.
Why? Because if your church, party, NGO… has its own, self-managed, 100% private online forum, in its own “community box”, but ALL your interactions with that forum still happen e.g. through a Gmail address, you are still profiled by Google. And consequently, you cannot have the guarantee that e.g. Google will not hide from you the ads for certain job opportunities, just to make the most obvious example.
Take-home message: perclouds cannot and MUST not do everything (the less they do, the better), but in the long term: WITHOUT percloud you may not do anything else right.