A general strategy for decentralized knowledge standards

From Encyclosphere Project Wiki

As I was getting in the shower, I had a brainstorm. It's not an idea for a project so much as clarity about the general strategy that the KSF should advocate for, with regard to "knowledge standards" (or, more generally, human-written data standards).

Consider the following categories of open, public, human-written (so, video is harder) content:

  • Blog (news and opinion) posts
  • Encyclopedia articles
  • Social media posts (short, personal, photo-oriented, opinion)
  • Reviews (books, movies)
  • News (factual) articles
  • Q&As
  • Etc.

As I have argued repeatedly, the problem is that what is intended by the public as free, open content goes to benefit—and thereafter, permit centralized control by—a small set of corporations and their owners. Except for the first category of content, there is one dominant "platform" (that is the word) for each of these. We, the public, must not empower them. We must take back the power these corporations have seized:

  • Encyclopedia: Wikipedia
  • Social media:
    • Short: Twitter
    • Personal: Facebook
    • Professional: LinkedIn
    • Photo-oriented: Instagram
    • Opinion: Reddit
  • Reviews:
    • Books (and other products): Amazon and GoodReads
    • Movies: Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb websites
  • Q&A: Quora

These are the few, dominant corporations when it comes to user-generated text (and image) content. I want to point out a very important exception: blogs. There is no single dominant blogging platform for the very simple and straightforward reason that blogs all use the RSS standard, which makes it is easy to move from platform to platform.

There are plenty of competitors of these Big Tech giants, including open content competitors. Some of them build on what they intend to be general Internet standards, such as ActivityPub and BlueSky, for Twitter-like social media posts. The problem is that these standards all compete with each other. Another problem is that, frequently (as in the case of crypto solutions), the proposed standards operate independently of HTTPS and HTML. These constitute significant barriers to widespread adoption.

The criteria for a solution seem straightforward:

  • Build on HTML, exchanged via HTTPS.
  • Make sure the standard is text-based.
  • Build on an existing, widely-adopted standard, if at all possible.

Answer: articulate extensions of RSS for all the above categories of content.

Technical solution:

  1. Create a standalone personal content server, like WordPress, but which is designed specifically to support multiple types of content, each publishing according to an RSS extension specific to its content type.
  2. Create technical standards (as necessary) for digitally signing and publishing ZWI format.
  3. Encourage independent competitors of the Big Tech giants all to adopt this RSS standard. Help existing content creation platforms do so with pull requests and plugins.
  4. Create various aggregators of this content. "At rest," each has a ZWI file.
  5. Create various search engine/readers for this content.

Next "to do" items for the KSF, if we wanted to act on this idea (but it's just a proposal at this point):

  • Create the RSS extension for encyclopedia articles.
  • Create WordPress-to-ZWIRSS converter software.
  • Create software to automatically create ZWI files based on encyclopedia RSS.