The Together Project
It started with a simple idea. What if we could actually see the acknowledgement graph — the network of connections showing who has been thanked by who in a community?
This is a simple concept with enormous power to help people connect in new and better ways.
Let’s imagine you’re trying to join an artistic collective. You want to get ‘in it’ but are unsure how to actually go about that. Together can help you find your place in that community by inviting you to do specific things — “Can anyone help build us a DJ booth for the gig on Friday?” You can configure it to send you notifications about projects that might interest you or where you can help. Conversely, if you are a person already deep in the group, here’s an easy way to get the word out — inviting people to contribute. With any luck, Together will notify just the right people — those keen and able to help..
And how do you ‘pay’ such people for their help? Of course, you can pay them in dollars (or timebank hours) if you like, but a public acknowledgement and thank-you are often enough to make someone feel valued and part of a community.
Did I mention this is all 100% open source?
It’s worth knowing that before we go further.
So, what does it actually do?
Well, the super-minimal set of features we’re building in the first version of the app are as follows:
- Ability to post up your skills and requests on your profile
- Ability to get notified* when you match a particular request and a way to explore and find projects or requests that might be of interest to you.
- A way to express your gratitude by posting an ‘acknowledgment’ to the other person’s profile and to the acknowledgement graph as a whole
That’s it for now. As part of our user-centred design process, we want to get this into the hands of real people and get feedback based on real-world use before we add more.
That said, this is still very much a work in progress. We’ve been around since March 2022, but we’ve built a lot already. Here’s an idea of what the app looks like right now.
And here’s what the ‘graph visualisation’ looks like so far. Tons to do — or, if you prefer, lots of room for your ideas. ;_)
We’re working super closely with (some of us are part of) the community at Exchange Christchurch (XCHC ). The idea resonates especially well with them, so we’ll see what they have to say as we go, then try it out in the real world and go from there.
Here’s our early user personas and pain points investigation, which gives you an idea of some of the key pain points we’re trying to address.
Can other communities use this?
Very much so! Did I mention this is open source yet? We hope that by building this app, we can provide a free building block that will be useful to all kinds of projects. We’ve spoken to groups such as:
- community trading projects
- timebank projects
- mutual aid projects
- community credit projects
- artist collectives
- gardening groups
- community-supported agriculture
There are all kinds of groups that will be able to use the core functionality.
Keeping it open by keeping it simple
To make this platform as widely applicable as possible, we’re keeping things simple. Many communities are keen to incorporate some type of mutual credit, timebank hours or reputation rating. We absolutely want to make this possible.
But communities measure value in many different ways. So, to keep things focused on building a common platform, we’re concentrating on the acknowledgement itself as the only kind of payment — at least to start. If we can make that design “resonate” with our users, it will be even more effective when acknowledgements are coupled with additional value tokens.
Surely someone has already built this?
You might think so. It’s a bit like a Timebank or a Mutual credit trading app? But no. Very recently, the NZ Timebank Software Working Group paid for a comprehensive study looking at options in this space. They concluded that basically, the main options are either:
- slick, paid software — with a ‘catch’ of various kinds, or…
- open-source options — with clunky, mostly website based interfaces and no mobile notifications*.
* Cyclos is an interesting exception here, but it’s not user experience focused, and the mobile story gets ‘complicated’.
So, let’s build it!
Isn’t it time someone planted an open-source seed in this space? Let’s just start building and see who wants to come together and help it grow.
We’re open-source, but that doesn’t have to mean feature-heavy command-line interfaces that only a computer programmer can love. Instead, we’re using a modern, user-experience-centred design process to create a 100% open-source mobile app.
The technology stack is modern — Dart, Flutter, GraphQL and DGraph. We are going to complete the MVP on a ‘conventional’ DB, but have started work on a fully decentralised web3 messaging schema for the acknowledgement graph — building on scuttlebutt with local caching is the long term plan.
Here’s the source code so far:
We want to become the foundation platform whenever people want to build communities that recognise reciprocity and group contribution.
Our particular focus is on making community engagement easier; for people already plugged in to their community and for new people trying to get involved.
Who are we?
- Like many open-source projects, there are no strict boundaries or hierarchy — people just turn up. But here’s the crew from our last zoom call. Sadly an excellent designer and contributor, Courtenay, was missing from this particular zoom.
- And here’s our website
Keen to connect?
Being open-source of course we’d love your contributions to getting this built. Right now we’re extra-especially looking for awesome UX designers and designers. But developers, artists, creatives, project managers and vibe merchants of any and all stripes can be welcomed.
- There’s a place on the website where you can leave your name and such
- Or if you prefer, jump onto telegram chat, and say hello. You can find us here: http://t.me/togetherprojectlobby
Want to dive in? Here are some specific requests
Taking a leaf from our own book — how about some specific ideas for how you can connect with this project.
Or check out GitHub issues list for the up to date ‘good first issues’ list.
When you contribute to open source projects you get to build and extend your design, programming skills and work with the latest tech. Also — you decide what you want to contribute and on what schedule. Your input decides what actually gets created. No matter what your level, you can make the world a better place and maybe become a ‘core contributor’ on an a well known and awesome project.
If you want to adapt this platform to fulfil the needs of your own particular group — we’re totally into that! Being MPL licensed that’s actually what it’s all about!
Whatever your reasons …
Come say hi!
Here are some other ideas for where this might go.
We’re definitely not short of other ideas for where this might go. Maybe you can add to this list, but here are a few ideas we had to get started
- Guilds and ‘badges’. Badges would show you have certain skills relevant to the group. For instance, a badge from the audio and lighting guild would indicate they trust you to set up and run the PA at a particular venue.
- Proof of attendance badges for events.
- Reputation scores of some kind.
- Letting you attach time bank hours, mutual credit tokens when you make an acknowledgement. We’re keen to incorporate support for Credit Commons back ends as well.
- Notifying people who want to ‘pay it forward’ of opportunities to ‘close loops’ as a way to encourage the viral growth of reciprocity. Attaching cashless stake to acknowledgements and then letting people clear that stake via reciprocity.
- Letting you share an acknowledgement on the web as a public statement of appreciation and commitment to ‘pay it forward.’
- Public profiles showing off your acknowledgements and other contributions you’ve made — with photos and testimonials.
- Conversational interface — imagine just communicating as normal on twitter or slack and having AI recognise requests or acknowledgements and with your supervision build the acknowledgement graph and send out request notifications behind the scenes