Here’s our Nov. 30, 2021 “Giving Tuesday” announcement.
We’re building the universal network of encyclopedias.
The Knowledge Standards Foundation, as you probably know, is making the technology of decentralization. We’re focused especially on what is needed for a decentralized network of encyclopedias.
FUTO.org, a new nonprofit committed to the technology of freedom, supported the KSF with grants of $200,000 in its first year after incorporation. FUTO has committed to an additional $1 million in 100% matching grants in December, 2021!
In other words, if you give $25 before the end of the year, they will give $25 too. And they’ll do that up to $1M. This is incredibly generous of them. Thanks to them, and to you, for your generous support!
And we’ve got more big news.
We are now officially a 501(c)(3) non-profit!
If you’ve already donated, that means you can claim a tax write-off. And thanks!
Let us explain why your tax-free donation on Giving Tuesday (that’s today!) is a sound contribution to a solid and credible cause.
A lot of people have complained to us about how biased Wikipedia is, how there needs to be an effective alternative or a decentralized network of encyclopedias. They often say that without even having heard of the KSF.
We keep sending them to the KSF’s organizational website, Encyclosphere.org. And they keep signing up. We have over 7,000 people on this mailing list now.
But we are not building an alternative encyclopedia. We are networking together all the alternatives. Nobody has ever done this before, and it’s about time somebody did. This is what we should have done with Wikipedia in the first place.
So, what exactly are we building? We’re starting with encyclopedia meta-search engines, and standardizing encyclopedic content. That means you already have no reason to give your traffic to Wikipedia. Read on.
Tools you can use already—help us accelerate!
We’ve got a bunch of early stage projects. We’ll explain each one and that will help you understand our overall strategy for making a decentralized, universal network of all the encyclopedias.
Vision: we will create software, but not serve as an encyclopedia publisher. For now, this is our flagship project. It is (well, it is becoming) OSS that enables anyone to set up a selection of encyclopedia articles from any sources you like. The vision: the KSF won’t host any reader/search software ourselves. Instead, we will maintain the software and network tools to enable 1,000 different search engines, with many much bigger and more inclusive than Wikipedia ever thought of being.
The ZWI format. Thanks to over $200,000 in donations received since 2020, we have an operational (but not finalized) encyclopedia article file format—the ZWI format—which zips together everything you need to transmit and display a single encyclopedia article.
Decentralized encyclopedic content. EncycloReader’s aggregator software locally creates and indexes over 100K ZWI files (soon to be orders of magnitude more) from multiple free sources. Within a few months, we will be pushing these into a decentralized network, probably BitTorrent, and encouraging the content owners to digitally sign and take ownership over the files. We’ll be creating software to let them do that, too, and will work with encyclopedias (several of which we’ve already talked to) to enable them to sign and transmit their own ZWI files.
Contribute from anywhere. You’ll be able to do this from every WordPress and MediaWiki install. Just install a plugin, write an article, press a button, and voila, your article will be pushed into the encyclosphere. In that way, we want to make a network for encyclopedias that works the way blogs work. Of course, various competing encyclopedia aggregators will have to decide whether to include submissions. But all will have access to the entire body of work.
The first encyclopedia content aggregator. In the next year or so, the KSF will make all the free encyclopedia articles, and search-enabled metadata about proprietary encyclopedia articles, available in the evolving ZWI format. We will run the first encyclopedia aggregator, and our free software will also make it easy for others (such as the internet publishing startups Ology and Everipedia) to run their own aggregators.
How EncycloReader now works. Now, already, if you search EncycloReader, we grab articles from multiple sources and make ZWI pages out of all of them. Since we index and serve local copies of the content, it’s very fast. Articles not yet indexed are indexed whenever you search, so our index is growing all the time. Examples:
Personnel. We’ve got a top-notch CERN developer working on this. He has been volunteering with us for a year, and then we hired him part-time at a generous cut rate last month. We’d like to pay him more. Another senior developer who is also the secretary of the KSF Board, Christian Gribneau, is working on some of the elements (specifically identity and network) of the system as well.
Alternative encyclopedia search engine. Since we do not want anything centralized in this network, we have two encyclopedia meta-search engines. This one was created by another new employee—my 15-year-old son. He is working for minimum wage at present. Before you scoff, try it. It is also OSS. It has 27 sources (and counting), permits people to upload articles, and has other nifty features.
Test bed for independent indexing of ZWI files. EncycloSearch does not yet use ZWI files. Our plan is to pull down the EncycloReader-generated ZWI files and separately search over them. While EncycloSearch could use EncycloReader itself as an API, our aim is to make at least two completely independent search engines available. (If you want to make another, let us know. We will support you.)
The KSF does not own this. While we support its development as an OSS project, the KSF is committed not to compete with any encyclopedias and not to settle any editorial policy itself; we do not want the KSF to become a natural target for the forces of censorship to capture. Therefore, in the long run, we will divest ourselves of all search engines and readers. We simply want to bring the world free tools.
The progenitor of EncycloReader, FactSeek, is another encyclopedia meta-search engine, which for now doesn’t use ZWI files, but simply queries the search functions of many different encyclopedias. The plan is that the current EncycloReader will move to FactSeek, and EncycloReader.org (the domain) will then be used simply to share and promote the software. Like EncycloSearch, the KSF does not own FactSeek, but is supporting FactSeek as long as the software remains open source.
Encyclopedia-building platforms, which draw on articles from all around the internet. Together, EncycloSearch and FactSeek will give users at least two different and quite independent encyclopedia search engines and readers to use, adapt, or develop further. When the software is farther along (though it is already usable), we hope academic and professional organizations of all sorts will create their own encyclopedias, with content drawn from articles hosted all around the internet. Our software should make this easy.
This proposed architecture is extensible. We hope it is not lost on you that there is nothing about the infrastructure of signed ZWI files distributed via BitTorrent that is unique to encyclopedias. What we are doing is developing a new decentralized content architecture for the internet, an architecture that by design cannot be censored by huge Silicon Valley corporations.
Decentralizes social media. Minifeed is early-stage social media software built on the biggest blogging platform, WordPress. Basically, you should own and control all your social media data, and all your lists of people who follow you, and whom you follow. By the way, for trademark reasons we will soon be rebranding this.
RSS, a lingua franca for social media? There are plenty of alternatives to Facebook and Twitter, but what we need is a way to make all the various social media networks interoperable, with user-owners at the center. For that, we need a way to make all the social media networks “speak the same language.” We propose that RSS is that language, or a part of the solution anyway. So we have created a plugin for WordPress that converts a regular old blog into a social media-style feed.
Version 2 will make it possible for these “miniblogs” to talk to each other. That will set the stage for tying together all the social media networks into a single mega-network that you can never be shut out of. Version 2 begins development soon. Personnel. The developers here are very experienced, located in Europe, and they are really, really good at design. Again, they are working for peanuts.
Newly-donated to the KSF and launched on its own domain. This is just a little forum that I (Larry Sanger) donated to the KSF. With this announcement it is being relaunched on its own domain. The forum hasn’t been used much recently, but with this announcement we’re encouraging everyone to use it for discussion of all your decentralizing ideas and projects.
We are looking for managers for decentralizers.org! But for now it is managed by me and John Hampson, who is my “right hand man” at the KSF.
New projects for developers to code
(and a couple of other jobs)
We often hear from developers, and their first question is, “How can I help?” You can either start a new project or help with an existing one. They’re all open source. Either way, if your work is mission critical for the development of the encyclosphere, we’ll probably support you, if we can afford it.
Want some new project ideas?
- We need someone to make a WordPress plugin that will make it possible to create and log in using a self-owned identity as defined by the W3C DID:Web standard.
- We need a WordPress plugin that will convert blog posts to properly-formatted ZWI files, sign them with the DID:Web identity, push them to BitTorrent, and alert an encyclosphere aggregator (one or more) of the content.
- We need a MediaWiki plugin that will do the same.
- A later iteration of the latter would be a configurable plugin that would convert an entire existing article database into ZWI files. It would be wonderful if you (or wiki owners) would use that plugin on their content and actually publish their content in ZWI format soon.
- The KSF could use a very good, committed part-time (paid) designer.
- We sure could use a technical-minded, boldly self-starting, and excellent editor for all the text (not encyclopedia articles) that our projects generate. While a volunteer position, we’d start paying when we could.
There are any number of other projects that would be nice.
To get involved, sign up to our Slack group <– that’s an invite link), and be sure to follow up by regularly joining our Friday jit.si call.
Help us succeed!
Today is “Giving Tuesday.” Please donate generously!
If you are interested in giving $5,000 or more, I’ll have to meet you in person and do a fairly extensive background check (this is our self-imposed rule). Sorry, but we will refuse large donations from governments, corporations, reference publishers, or others with a direct conflict of interest.
Thanks for your interest and support.
Larry Sanger, Ph.D.
President, Knowledge Standards Foundation