Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sneakernet 2.0

Metafilter linked to Google's Project 10100 which is looking for ideas to help humanity in general.

I don't know why by here's my first contribution, which I think can be done without any money or great deal of time. I copied my answers out of the form before I hit submit, because I thought it was a pretty good idea and wanted to be sure to save it. You can read them at the bottom of this post.

My basic idea is to learn from history, toss in modern code and the fact that almost everyone can get access to a working computer / USB port, to build a set of social networking tools that don't need the internet, but could certainly use it

We need Sneakernet 2.0

I have massive amounts of photographs which I would like to share with my family. Because of the limitations of even "broadband" connections in the US, it's just not practical to do this across the internet. I'm sure that there are lots of people with lots of stuff they want to share that just aren't willing to try to stuff it through the net.

Plain text (or html) is tiny compared to the vast size of the thumbdrives we now throw away. With the appropriate software and/or organization tools, you could re-implement "fidonet" using USB keys to eventually get things to the places they need to go, with or without the net.

The internet is nice, but there needs to be more, with store/forward and some hints provided by the people who carry the stuff around, you can get far more bandwidth to far more people. This I believe is a worthy goal.

My favorite quote on this subject from history:
Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway. Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1996). Computer Networks. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 83. ISBN 0-13-349945-6.

There's already projects to be done, I'll survey the existing stuff and join one if it looks promising.

Here's the questions and answers raw from the form I filled out, in case they help explain things better.

10. What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

Build a complete set of social and computer networking tools that can be distributed on/via USB Sticks.

11. Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)

CBBS opened a new vista of social networking in 1978, which lead to Fidonet, to parallel UUCP, etc. Build a set of tools which allow the modern update to it, with sneakernet as the backbone.

This could be used by families to share photos. Researchers with huge data sets on the larger scale of things.

Provide a nice standard way to share stuff on a massive distributed scale that's extremely easy to use.

12. What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)

Routes around censorship and trust issues with the internet. Lowers the barriers to entry for social networking.

13. If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)

Anyone who needs to share a huge amount of stuff with others they meet or send packages to on a frequent basis.

14. What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)

Some brainstorming, evaluation of available tools, and a small community of people who want to contribute to the idea.

15. Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

Everyone around the world gets to share more stuff, and gets more as a result.

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