ReportBack: Decentralized Web Summit 2018

ReportBack: Decentralized Web Summit 2018

By Magenta Ceiba, executive director, Bloom Network

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Decentralized Web Summit, which gathered something like 600 people to collaborate, communicate and engage communities about the decentralized protocols and apps that are being developed for a peer-to-peer internet.

You can watch the livestreams of many of the talks on the Internet Archive’s Youtube page.

What is the decentralized web?

Wired has you covered: https://www.wired.com/story/the-decentralized-internet-is-here-with-some-glitches/

Why did I go?

I view Bloom Network as a DAO, but a physical community of people. We work on IRL decentralization and global decentralization of power and resources. Local Bloom leaders have their ears on the ground connected with multiple different movements and community needs. They help guide the direction of our global community – where we allocate resources, how we develop our website and communication channels, and how we govern ourselves as a collective.

Bloom Network founders initially found each other through an online social network that dissolved. We’ve known people are developing the kinds of web tools we need to facilitate communication and resource-sharing, so we’ve been waiting until they’re done rather than try to build them in house. So I was at the Summit to learn what tools exist now and where they’re at in terms of usability. To my great heartwarming surprise… I discovered that the community around them is ahmazing!!!

What did I learn?

One of the sessions I attended was a panel on decentralized governance, with representatives from Aragon, Protocol Labs, and COALA. One of the concepts Matt Zumwalt from Protocol Labs discussed was how to dampen information without censoring people. For example, on Twitter sometimes women coders are using block lists, where there are known harassers. Instead of kicking someone off a platform, that’s one decentralized way to dampen signal flows. Aragon will be working on testing/researching best practices for making different governance bodies audible to each other in a decentralized network, so information and decisions get to where they need to.

The opening night had a talk with Cory Doctorow interviewing Mike Judge, the creator of HBO’s Silicon Valley, Beavis and Butt-Head, Office Space, and King of the Hill. It was a joy to hear Mike talk, definitely the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head.

I learned that an exciting thing about blockchain technologies is that they’re open, meaning anyone can fork a tool and build off what’s already been created, rather than creating competing proprietary gardens. This, combined with the huge amount of capital that is flowing in the space, makes for rapid iterations of the technologies.

One thing I appreciated about networking and talking with people in this community was how open and generous people were about sharing information and tools. There’s a general spirit of open collaboration and deep curiosity. It *is* a decentralized collaborative ecosystem and it’s endlessly fascinating. I’m eager to wade in deeper!

I spoke with a woman from Omisego, which is an organization working on providing banking services to the unbanked through decentralized exchange of cryptocurrencies and fiat. Many countries don’t have banks, so sending money from another country to family back home in that country tends to be very expensive. It’s also hard to get loans from a normal bank if for example a farmer doesn’t have a title to the land they live on. That issue often comes up at regenerative agriculture meetups I’ve attended over the years. This is one example of where connecting one decentralization movement with another can create positive, symbiotic impact.

At an afterparty I met a woman named Anushah Hossain who is studying how marginalized communities use information technologies. She described that people in India don’t see some Pakistani content, and similarly other countries will selectively block data. She spoke at the conference on her research.

​Lastly, I emcee’d a set of Lightning Talks, recorded here

Why is the decentralized web relevant to regenerative culture?

It’s people working on liberation and equitable access to resources, information, and power.

What about the energy use of Bitcoin?

My perspective is that solutions to the computing power will come through. 

So what tools are Bloom interested in using?

Generally we have an interest in helping to mainstream awareness that these approaches to building internet technologies exist, and in boosting adoption. It looks likely that we’ll set up a Bloom organization on Aragon, since it has a great simple dashboard for proposals, discussions, and voting. I’ll be proposing decentralized tech tool alternatives over time to our team. We’ll likely report on technology development in this space, interview makers etc. For example, Decentralized Autonomous Dataset (DAD) is a decentralized dataset solution, which could help communities access more robust datasets and balance the huge aggregation of power that is happening where companies like Amazon and Google have disproportionate access to AI.

My overall impression of this community was that it’s full of incredibly smart, creative, caring, passionate people. The density of brilliance with using cryptography tools for collective well-being was really fascinating. Many of my closest friends are herbalists and healers, and I don’t have a lot of people close to me to relate with about technology development. It was a huge relief to be able to talk with creative developers who are focused on building technology for more equitable distribution of power, more free access to information (rather than gatekeeping, walled gardens, censorship, and monopoly).

The conference helped me wade deeper into the world of the peer-to-peer web. I look forward to watching the recordings of more of the talks, and continuing to learn more.

Other blogs and media about the event:
https://bobsummerwill.com/2018/08/03/decentralized-web-summit-2018/
Internet Archive Twitter: https://twitter.com/internetarchive
Internet Archive Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFa_X02QhJnP0FNpFAKyRRg

Photos: by the Internet Archive unless otherwise labeled.