A Federated Commons | Building the Commons

by Mike Thicke

Twitter’s recent troubles have catalyzed unprecedented attention on Mastodon as an alternative. In turn, this has introduced many to the Fediverse—a loose collection of services that, like Mastdodon, use the ActivityPub protocol to communicate with each other.

At Humanities Commons, we have long considered ActivityPub to be the most promising way to expand from our current, single-site, structure to a network of associated Commonses. We have taken Mastodon as an inspiration and model for a new, federated Commons network.

I hope to use this blog both to keep users at Humanities Commons informed of our plans and progress toward this goal of a renewed Commons and Commons network, but to also have conversations with all of you about our direction, about how we can best serve your needs, and about how you can contribute to our journey.

In this post, I want to describe in general terms how the Commons functions as a pseudo-network now, some of the challenges we’ve experienced with that structure, and how a federated or decentralized Commons might address those problems. In future posts I will go into more detail about how different components of the site—such as profiles, groups, sites, and the repository—might function in a federated Commons, as well as discussions of how we plan to implement all of this.



AccelNet Proposal: Community of Open Scholarship Grassroots Networks (COSGN)

Abstract:  The Community of Open Scholarship Grassroots Networks (COSGN), includes 120 grassroots networks, representing virtually every region of the world and every research discipline. These networks communicate and coordinate on topics of common interest. We propose, using an NSF 19-501 Full-Scale implementation grant, to formalize governance and coordination of the networks to maximize impact and establish standard practices for sustainability. In the project period, we will increase the capacity of COSGN to advance the research and community goals of the participating networks individually and collectively, and establish governance, succession planning, shared resources, and communication pathways to ensure an active, community-sustained network of networks. By the end of the project period, we will have established a self-sustaining network of networks that leverages disciplinary and regional diversity, actively collaborates across networks for grassroots organizing, and shares resources for maximum impact on culture change for open scholarship.

Community Cultivation: A Field Guide

“Innovators abound in the fields of libraries, archives, museums, publishing, and higher education. Many of these idea generators find ample support for the creation of tools and technologies that enable new forms of knowledge production, dissemination, or preservation as those tools are first imagined and piloted.

However, when these innovators attempt to sustain their creations, external funding and attention often wane. A well-documented “Valley of Death” stretches between softfunded projects and sustainable programs. Without deep knowledge of how to build a support community, and how to manage such elements as resources, communications, engagement, and governance, innovators find the bridge between grant funding and ongoing operations very difficult to cross….

Many potential tools and services wither, not due to shortfalls in demand or shortcomings in those products, but rather to a lack of attention to organization and community building….

We [at Educopia] are now openly sharing the model that we have developed and refined over the last twelve years. Community Cultivation – A Field Guide provides a powerful lens that can provide both emerging and established communities with ways to understand, evaluate, and plan their own growth, change, and maturation. We are offering this Field Guide freely in the hope that it will empower more community facilitators and leaders to invest in the health and sustainability of their own collaborative networks….”