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README.md

Business plan Liberate Science

This business plan is written both as a visioning exercise (future tense) and updated subsequently with what has happened (past tense). This is a living document. Versions of it may be stored at various snapshot dates to allow for evaluation of how the business plan evolves. The document provides a product analysis, a community analysis, and yearly plans.

Business motivation

Provenance in projects can be a pain, especially when we collaborate with various people, for large projects, and also for projects of various nature (e.g., research, music production, journalism). Git provides a way to collaborate on large projects with people, but the usability makes it limited to projects of a relatively specific nature. We want to build a tool that makes managing projects and their provenance easy by breaking down large projects into its smaller components. Moreover, by sharing all these components publicly and permissively, we allow us to reduce the redundancy in our work by seeing what our peers are doing. This might help inspire us and facilitate more collaborations.

Large projects without provenance, shared rarely and if so under restrictive licensing, reduce the creative space of the people working in it and reduce the verifiability of outputs. The products outlined in this business aim to fundamentally alter these dynamics, by ensuring all building blocks are allowed to be reused, and these blocks are communicated continuously, as close as possible to when they are produced.

Products

Liberate Science produces public digital project management, evaluation, and planning tools for creative, chronological, verifiable processes that require clear provenance of information (e.g., for research, journalism).

The products are non-rivalrous (i.e., not zero-sum), non-local (i.e., can be consumed anywhere), one off (i.e., not subscription based), and are mostly simple (i.e., no custom products or pricing). The products stack together, building on the previous layers. Other product stacks may be built using the first layer, by other organizations. Green blocks have revenue potential.

Product 0: 🍐-to-🍐 commons

The peer-to-peer (aka 🍐-to-🍐) commons framework is a set of opinionated, minimum, and flexible specifications to create a commons infrastructure for all chronological, stepwise, creative projects. The design for this commons infrastructure originated from redesigning scholarly communication (see also here and here), but can be generalized to any iterative, creative, collaborative process (e.g., journalism, music production, book writing) that values provenance. The main added value is that all steps are chronologically communicated and link and that the commons infrastructure lives on the peer-to-peer protocol Dat.

The specifications aim to formalize both the minimum specifications for a communicable unit on the commons (i.e., a module), plus the storage and indexation on a device (for interoperability purposes). The range of specifications may be extended over time, but the values underlying it are that they provide a stable commons infrastructure upon which to build applications. Software Development Kits that are implemented in accordance with the specifications are provided for application development.

Product 1: Hypergraph

Hypergraph (i.e., a graph of graphs) will be the first application to utilize the 🍐-to-🍐 commons (Product 0). Hypergraph allows people to start interfacing with this commons in order to consume and produce modules. There will be various instances of the Hypergraph application (command line, desktop, mobile, web), to provide various users with tools.

These various instances of the Hypergraph application will run on a common development scheme, for example, where v1.0.0 will provide the same core functionality. That means that if all instances are at the same version, they have the same functionality. In practice, that’ll mean that the CLI is likely to be the highest version (e.g., v1.0.0), the desktop lagging behind (e.g., v0.9.0) and the mobile application lagging behind that (e.g., v0.4.0). This also makes sense, because the CLI incorporates only the functionality, but the desktop application needs to build a design around it. The mobile application is something that is on the wishlist but may take longer due to porting of the Dat protocol. Given the psychological value of having full versions for people’s perception of stability (and not sticking in beta for forever), we follow this product versioning scheme that has multiple major version changes over the course of the first developments.

Product 2: Hypergraph Vault

Liberate Science will work on creating the first registry for the peer-to-peer commons, which we call Vault for product reasons. This includes building a database instance to store the contents of the Vault, a Docker container to deploy for server rehosting based on that database, and integrating a payment process into Hypergraph using Stripe to add modules to the database. Modules MAY be in the Vault if people choose so, but it is not a necessity; Hypergraph will implement this as a requirement for registration of content modules. The added value is persistent availability and findability (the Vault is immediately searchable in Hypergraph by default). In order to get a module in the centralized Vault, a small fee must be paid; 1EUR.

Product 2 also allows the organization to gain experience in integrating payment infrastructures (e.g., Stripe API, bookkeeping, paying international VAT). This is a simple product and provides a stepping stone towards more complex and larger payments in Product 3; this also serves as a clear counterweight to the Article Processing Charges (APCs) of large publishing houses exceeding hundreds or thousands of dollars (see for example here).

Product 3: Network analyses

Most modules will be created as a follow-up to a previous module, creating a(n acyclic) network of consecutive modules. This structure opens up the biggest revenue possibility: Providing Hypergraph users prepared substantive questions to analyse the network on. These analyses can focus on how the network looks at that time point (i.e. evaluative) or how the network might change in the future based on how they proceed with the project (i.e., planning).

Liberate Science produces added value with a range of off-the-shelf substantive questions and their respective indicators, that may be of interest to the user. We provide compute services for when these computations become too complex to reasonably run on user’s personal devices. The complexity may increase due to both the size of the network, the complexity of the indicator to be calculated, or an interaction between the two. Buying the compute service is a convenience product, where the user gets answers to their substantive questions within a more reasonable timeframe (e.g., 4 days instead of 4 years).

The revenue model for these network analyses is progressive, because users can try out all the functionality on their own machine for non-complex computations, providing them with tangible value that may nudge them into asking more complex questions over time. Users are guided along a decision tree to come to their substantive question of interest.

Product 4: Custom network analyses

The substantive questions provided in Product 3 will continuously be developed, refined, and extended upon, but there may always be substantive questions that people or organizations want answered and are not part of the off-the-shelf offering. Liberate Science will provide a consulting process to help clients formulate their substantive question of interest, translate that to a (set of) indicators, and provide the computations.

Subsequently, these custom network analyses will feed back into Product 3, becoming available as off-the-shelf analyses. This means that the Product 4 clients are in effect paying for Liberate Science’s product development.

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