Encyclosphere

Seminar

Join the Knowledge Standards Foundation for
a
free, serious, graduate-level, months-long seminar

Donation requested but not required:
PayPal • Liberapay

The Technology of Decentralization:

How and Why to Use Neutral Standards to Build the Encyclosphere and Other Decentralized Networks

A Seminar? Why?

You loathe the aggressive takeover of the Internet by Big Tech.

You have heard about “decentralization” as a solution.

You have heard it has something to do with blockchain—what’s that? Maybe it sounds dodgy. You’ve also heard that decentralization is much older than blockchain. (It is.)

You would like to do something to help. But how? Maybe you’re nontechnical and want to get the concepts down more firmly, and decide where to contribute your content and skills. Or maybe you’re a developer, and you want to develop a more rigorous understanding of the technology of decentralization.

The non-profit Knowledge Standards Foundation, a group led by Wikipedia co-founder Dr. Larry Sanger, is organizing a (hopefully) massive “teach-in” of the concepts behind the decentralization of the Internet, in the original, old-fashioned sense in which the Internet itself is decentralized.

We’re going to find bunches of real experts to talk to about this stuff. We’ll run it like a real graduate seminar complete with lectures or interviews (with plenty of opportunity for Q&A), serious readings, and in-depth (written) discussion. We’ll learn a lot together.

The seminar will not just be educational. It will also help organize people to try out new decentralized systems, such as decentralized social media and video systems, and to deliberate seriously about the policies defining a decentralized encyclopedia network. Many of the issues we deliberate about will be applicable to other sorts of decentralized systems.

And sorry to all the blockchain fans, but this is not a blockchain seminar, although we will spend some time covering that.

The seminar is free because it is an essential part of the KSF mission to educate people about these things, and we think this will be a great way to organize people to build a centerless, leaderless, truly decentralized encyclopedia network—the encyclosphere.

How to Join

(1) Register for the seminar above. This will add you to the seminar mailing list and the general KSF mailing list.

(2) Optional: Donate to the KSF.

(3) Get ready for our launch date of March 29, 2021, by doing the first reading (see below).

(4) To join the first session, follow the instructions you’ll receive.

General information

Start date: Monday, March 29, 2021 (see below)

When: weekly lecture/Q&A, Thursdays, 12 to 2 p.m. EST. Written forum discussion as and when you prefer, with new questions posted every Monday.

Where:

  • Lecture/Q&A: Discord server…?
  • Written discussion: Encyclosphere forum

Format: See details below.

Instructor: Various experts who know and care a lot about decentralized networks, introduced and sometimes interviewed by Larry Sanger.

Total course length: Undetermined. Probably several months, at least. Stay tuned.

Prerequisites: No formal prerequisites, but plenty of Internet experience and the ability to read semi-technical material written at a fairly advanced college level would be useful. We might arrange special practica (“how to” sessions) for programmers, for which various types of programming ability might be necessary, but these will not be expected of all participants. In general, we want this seminar to be highly interdisciplinary, serving people of a wide variety of types of preparation.

Graded? Evaluated? Certification? No. On written work, you can ask for feedback from the broader seminar community. In lieu of any sort of certification, if you do a lot of excellent work that the community clearly appreciates, Larry or some other frequent/senior seminar leader might write a short paragraph of acknowledgment that you could use on, e.g., LinkedIn.

Breaks, holidays, changed days: Expect breaks or changed days when a meeting time conflicts with a holiday or other important event. If Larry is not available on some day, either a substitute will be found or the session will be canceled.

Course requirements and format: Since this seminar is free, results in no credential, and is not graded, it hardly makes sense to say there are “requirements” as such. But Larry will himself do all the work and will informally expect full participants to do all of it as well. This includes:

  • Readings and videos: Specific book chapters, web pages, and videos might be assigned for each week. We will strive for quality over quantity.
  • Participatory video conferences: We will have a weekly two-hour video conference (with a 10-minute break halfway through), like a Zoom call but using Discord. At the choice of the guest speaker, possibly this participatory session will take the form of a lecture, possibly a guided interview by Larry or someone else, possibly open participant Q&A and discussion. We will encourage the guest to leave time for a half-hour of questions at least. If the latter is much in demand, we might add a second weekly session just for discussion.
  • Written discussion: On a web forum, each Monday, Larry (with input from the guest and participants) will post a number of questions, each question being its own board topic. Participants (and Larry and the guest speakers) can then answer the questions, and discuss each others’ answers. Questions will concern both the readings and the broader concepts and questions raised by the reading and the week’s topic.

 

Reading list

Seminar FAQ

Seminar planning details (old!)