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Libertree Philosophy

Some writings by Pistos (founder of The Libertree Project) regarding Libertree.


Raison d'être

Why bother making another social network? What sets Libertree apart?

I created Libertree because I wanted a social network that was free from the tentacles of commercial interests. In building and continuing to shape this software, I also want to foster a great community, a place where people can find a positive, friendly atmosphere, and also feel involved in its growth, improvement and progress. In the Libertree community, I want people to experience being listened to, talked with, and acknowledged when it comes to using the software and being a part of the community. I want to make Libertree into what people want it to be, something that makes them happy, that makes their lives simpler, easier, better.

Libertree and other social networks

It is frequently asked whether Libertree can or will connect to and interoperate with other social networks, whether the popular ones, or the lesser-known alternatives (Diaspora, Friendica, StatusNet, and so on). Right now, the answer is no, Libertree has no external connectivity features of this sort. But will that ever change? Maybe -- if someone codes it up. Myself, I do not see this as important to include in the Libertree core code. This has to do with my vision for Libertree.

Growing Libertree

It's not my aim to make Libertree a Facebook killer. It's not my goal to get tens of millions of people using Libertree as soon as possible. If Libertree eventually does become hugely popular, well then that would be great. But, to me, it would not be a failure if it didn't.

I'm building Libertree for the small scale. The grassroots. I want it to be like the little town, not the big city. The neighbourhood cafe, not the nationwide coffee shop franchise. The small business, not the megacorp. It would be neat to see Libertree spread, but in the way that there's a general store in most neighbourhoods, not in the way that there might be a mega chain store in every county. The general stores serve the people very well -- the local people.

So, in social networking terms, I don't care to see one huge Libertree tree[1] housing every Libertree member. Or even several big trees serving the world. Or one, single giant forest comprised of all known trees. I'm building Libertree so that it's easy to install, easy to maintain, and easy for people to use for social networking. This way, many, many people around the world can just plant a tree for their friends (or for the friends they've yet to meet), and small groups of arboristas[2] can agree to network their trees into small forests. Then there would be many little forests around the world, each with no obligation to connect with or even know about each other.

This is my vision for Libertree. Not to grow big, but to grow broad.

[1]: A Libertree server is called a tree. [2]: A tree administrator is called an arborista.

Privacy Policy

My policy in general is to have no privacy policy. You should not trust the contents of Privacy Policies. Companies might renege on any published policy without detection, or without any punishment, consequence or loss to them.

It should be up to each individual arborista (admin) to come up with his/her own policy documents (PP, ToS, EULA, etc.).

If you do not trust that your arbo has your best interests at heart (or at least that (s)he won't do things with your data that you wouldn't want done), then find an arbo that you do trust, or become your own arbo.

On Novelty and Change

Sometimes when people make things, they strive to make or be something totally new, totally different than what is already out there. While I understand this sentiment, I think it's also important not to take this to an extreme.

Sometimes the existing, the commonplace, the traditional are good -- are still good. We would probably not say things like this, for example:

"Businesses are always trying to make money. We should be different!" "Athletes always practice and exercise. I'm going to be different." "The typical restaurant strives to serve good food. We're going to be different."

Likewise, I'm not interested in making a radically different social network just for the sake of being different. There are some things that already work, that people already use all the time, are used to, and are perfectly content with. If there's no reason to change something, I don't believe in changing just to change.

"Change is good." No, improvement is good.

I'm not against innovation, creativity and novelty. But pursuit of these things needs to be tempered with good judgement.

On the Importance of the Distribution Design

Having a well-designed protocol, server specification and overall network architecture is extremely high priority for us. It is the crux of the software. It really needs to be done right, or at least as well as possible. You could almost go as far as saying that the rest is just window dressing compared to it. If we fail at the design of our distributed system, we may as well pack it in. Everything else rests on it.

On Privacy and Security

I don't have strong inclinations to provide ultra impenetrable securiy at the cost of exponentially more complex code. It's not part of my goals to provide a communications medium that can protect secrecy or data integrity sufficiently where money, safety or life is at stake.

People that need such stringent security should turn to other technologies, such as PGP, Tor, or non-digital means of communication.

Designing for Meaningful Content

The design of Libertree up to this point has strongly focused on pseudonymous, public interaction. "Meatspace mapping" may come later. In the current design, what you say is what is interesting, not so much who you are. To me, a thought-provoking post by an average Jane is more interesting than an "I'm eating breakfast now" post by an international movie star. Libertree's design gives meaningful content a platform. There is a shift from "what are the people I know saying" to "what interesting, valuable, meaningful things are being said". I hope to design Libertree to help people find that life-enriching content.