Collective Communication

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Roger Eaton
Collective Communication, Inc.

Lack of global consensus / consciousness.


society and politics


The plan is to create a voice of humanity (voh) by building peer-to-peer internet middleware that will serve to connect online communities and facilitate the sending of collective messages. "InterMix" will be written in Python using the excellent WingIDE Python programming environment, which is free for open source projects.

The voice of humanity will be implemented in a bottom up hierarchy of internet communities. Network messages will be rated for interest and approval, and those messages with high marks will be sent up the hierarchy so they will be more widely visible. Messages that reach the top will be globally visible and therefore doubly important, first for themselves, and second because everyone will be reading them. A bandwagon effect will reinforce these messages to the point where everyone will know that everyone knows that everyone has read them, thus creating a global consciousness.

Messages that reach the global level will by definition be both highly approved and of great interest, so it will be difficult for partisan and hateful messages on the one hand, or dull and platitudinous messages on the other to succeed. Kind and witty words that finesse a difficulty or point the way to a win-win solution should do best. Over time, a voice of humanity will redefine the "other" in a positive way, and the human race will come to have a better view of itself. Stupidity, hatred and greed will be at a disadvantage in the new conditions, which will validate the global perspective required to solve the great problems of war, social injustice and environmental destruction.

Every individual or community will be able to send a message to any other community or individual in the voh network. A message from a community begins as a "suggested" message written by a member of the community. If the candidate message reaches consciousness in the sending community and achieves the pre-agreed threshold of ratings, InterMix will automatically forward the message to the addressed individual or community. When a community receives a message, a "listener" sub-hierarchy of the receiving community will process the message. Depending on the "strength" of the message and on the reaction in the listener groups, the message may rise in the listener hierarchy until it comes to community consciousness. (The "strength" of a message has to do with the size of the sending community and how high the message's ratings were in the sending community.)

Importantly, a structured mediation service will be available to handle inter-group conflicts. Where there are two groups in conflict, there can be three voices to resolve the problem, that of each of the groups, and that of the two groups together as one. This bringing in of the common humanity of conflicting groups is an altogether new and promising approach to inter-group conflict that really really needs to be followed up on.

There is yet another extraordinary, even transcendent, result to be expected from the voh network: the development of collective personalities. Through the exchange of collective messages, every great community will develop its own recognizable sense of self.

We may imagine in today's world that a nation has its own character, but when a country has become truly articulate, when it can crack a joke or make a promise, then its personality will be much more discernable. The possibility of a fantastical new world civilization emerges, where not only humanity, but also Womankind, China, Islam, Academia, Business, Paris, and all the other collectivities have developed each their own immortal personas, forming a lively, buzzing new heaven, where the force of personality will be the currency.

A new heaven and so a new earth. We mortals will be fascinated and much impressed. Mankind and Womankind will be King and Queen of the new realm, with nations and cities as peers, and the religions, parties and scholarly trends as advisors. Humanity will overarch all as arbiter and guide.

This could be a disturbing picture of the world giving in to an almost medieval authority structure, except that each of these new gods and goddesses will be under our control in a system that gives the grand prize to love and wit. Moreover, this new governance for the world will not be a replacement for the current national and international structures, but rather an addition, holding only moral sway, not directly in control of military and economic might. People, who are now alienated by colorless bureaucracy, will want to be involved, because the issues will have been personalized and so made accessible. Most people have little patience with the issues of government, great or small, but if China snubs Womankind, *that* will need to be discussed and understood, and maybe something will need to be done! Within this hive of activity, the real issues of importance could get lost, to be sure, but under the guidance of humanity, a coherent set of sensible policies for planet earth should be more feasible than under the current nation-state system, which is not coping very well with population and technological advances.

It does sound farfetched, this new heaven and new earth, so I was glad when I stumbled on the idea of the Annotated Web. The AntWeb, as it might be called, will enable voh communities to share information about websites on a topical basis. The blogger community will be targeted because sharing information about websites is a big part of blogging, and getting the breakdown by topic right for bloggers has not yet been quite satisfactorily accomplished, so this is an opportunity to get the voh network off the ground without requiring a religious conversion on the part of the users.


Underlying a voice of humanity there must be a globally distributed database -- this article is about the overall operation and structure of that database. A separate article will deal with how we build the voice of humanity on top of the database.


Keep it easy. Python. Home-made simplified peer-to-peer and security logic. No java. No UML.


Hubs, items, users, categories, ratings and linkages with rules are the basics. Hubs are single InterMix instances, normally one per PC, each carrying many categories of item and servicing one or more users. Items are xml documents with both category meta-data and built-in meta-data, plus either item contents or a pointer to item contents. Users apply ratings to items. Users, hubs and categories are tracked as items themselves in the database. Meta-data is indexed along with ratings so that items may be retrieved efficiently in rating order using meta-data criteria within a category. Hub owners and other trusted users manually create long-term linkages between categories on a single hub or between pairs of hubs, specifying what items and ratings should be transferred, and how often. For each linkage, items may be exchanged in both directions, while ratings are always transferred in one direction only thus creating a hierarchy where the linked category that receives the ratings is above the hub/category that sends the ratings for that particular linkage.

A hub/category that receives ratings will tend to be collectors of items in that category, and so will have many feeder categories and many more items in the category than the hub that sends the ratings. The lower hub/category will want to download only a few of the most highly rated new items from the higher. The effect will be that highly rated items will rise in the hierarchy and be distributed back down to larger and larger domains.

It is important to realize that there is no requirement that the hierarchies all reach to a single global summit. There are bound to be semi-private enclaves that do not connect to the global level. Some categories of items will be too specialized to be wanted at global levels. Other categories of items will be proprietary and therefore not eligible for upload except within a particular sub-network.

To set the process in motion, InterMix software will have a number of hubs seeded in the database already at install time. A facility will be provided so that each hub that distributes the software can easily pre-load its own list of favorite hubs.

The basic elements for a global database, as laid out above, are hubs, participants, items, categories, ratings, linkages and linkage rules. In order to handle collective messages we will also need perspectives, groups, addresses, thresholds, listener groups and dialogue cycles.

Perspectives are membership categories defined by participant attributes, such as country, political party, gender or occupation. A participant and the items he contributes or rates will automatically go into each of the several perspectives he belongs to. Perspectives are so named because when viewing the database contents from a perspective, the list of items sorted by rating will be sorted by average rating of perspective members, not by the average rating of all participants, allowing us to see the priority of items from the perspective of the group. An option will allow the list to be restricted to items contributed by the group members.

Every perspective is itself a "group", so Los Angeles participants as a whole form the LA group. The intersection of a perspective with other perspectives or categories is also a group. For instance, the "basketball" category from the Los Angeles perspective would form the LA Basketball discussion group, or Los Angeles participants who are chefs might form a group called "What's Cooking, LA?"

Collective messages may be formal or spontaneous. Spontaneous collective messages are posted by group members at any time in a particular group and addressed from the group to either an individual or another group. Spontaneous collective message are "sent" only if they reach a preset "send threshold" for that group, at which point they are automatically delivered to the addressee, where they must be "heard" by a "listener group". A listener group is a small randomly selected sub-group of the addressed group. A listener group may or may not allow a collective message through to the larger group, depending on an adjustable formula involving average interest ratings by the listener group and total interest ratings by the sending group. Because we use total interest ratings from the sending group, therefore the size of the sending group comes into the formula indirectly, so a message from humanity will be more likely to be listened to than one from, say, San Francisco.

Both send and listener thresholds are adjustable by the group. An "advanced controls" page for each member of the group will have a number of slide bars showing the current group setting and allowing the user to slightly influence that setting by changing the position of the slide bar.

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