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An Interview With @glyph

a lawnmower could he heard out the window, at the time of the interview.
website: mycelial.technology, mastodon: @glyph@merveilles.town

You can download an mp3 (73.6 MB) of the interview here or read the transcript below.

Table Of Contents

II: Terence McKenna, "Find The Others", Network Weaving, The Standardization Of Time
III: Mycofiltration, Urban & Rural Exchange
IV: Open Source & Decentralized Cooperatives, Income Sharing



max: I'm going to start recording again. OK, nice.

glyph: That's my first time using this software.

max: Big blue button?

glyph: Yeah.

max: It's really nice. There's a nice paper someone wrote about their intentions for it too, as this self-hostable software that is supposed to be particularly designed for learning, I think, like in classrooms and stuff.

glyph: OK, nice.

max: But yeah, we're kind of gorilla occupying this big blue button instance at the moment. Because I haven't talked to the people at domainepublic.net. Alice just noticed that they had an open instance that you could sign up for. So we wanted to email them and confirm that they were OK with us using their instance for our class, which seemed like good etiquette. Rather than just arriving. Like if someone just noticed you had a yard where some stuff was happening, and all of a sudden started teaching a 30 person class on it...

glyph: Yeah, might be a breach of etiquette.

max: So anyway, we started talking about your recent work with p2panda, but then paused so that we could turn on recording. I would love to hear more about what's going on there and with libp2p. And maybe even just to introduce the project a little bit.

glyph: Yeah, so hopefully I do it justice. I'm told p2panda was born out of festival organization. I think that's what Sam and Andreas and their friends were involved in originally. They kind of have backgrounds as musicians and are quite active in the art space. So they wanted to be able to to organize festivals and build software to aid in that, like how do you share information relating to a festival and how do you allow participants to communicate with one another? And I think there may be some commercial offerings for that. But eventually that led them to build p2panda, which is a toolkit for building decentralized applications, and they've done their best to make it really flexible at the lower levels so that the sort of shape of the data for your application can be quite dynamic. It's not predefined by p2panda software itself.

They were funded by an NLNet grant. So it's Andreas and Sam and Vincent and I think Pete and @sophiiistika were all involved and maybe Aljoscha a little bit as well and now they've gotten a second NLnet grant to extend the work that they've done and part of that is networking and replication. So I was originally brought on board to write a connection manager. That was something that I'd voiced to Sam that I was interested in. We have a weekly... it's called a P4P meeting, like peer-for-peer, mumble call that we have every Monday, which is kind of like a, I guess, like a peer-to-peer coffee meeting. It's kind of got that vibe of sitting down with your friends to have some tea. So we chat a little bit about personal stuff and then we share what we're working on at the moment.

Gwil from EarthStar, is also a part of that. And I'd mentioned in those calls, like: "Oh, I want to write a connection manager, like just for the sake of learning". And then it was also going to be applicable for solar, which is this Scuttlebutt node that I've been contributing to. So that was sort of my entry to the project.

And one of the cool things about the p2panda team is they really put a big emphasis on research and reading and planning before any code is written. So we did quite a stack of reading in terms of what our options were for the networking layer and libp2p was coming up in those conversations. It's kind of interesting because I think in some of the, at least amongst some of the — what I call the Scuttlebutt crowd — maybe libp2p had this, I don't know, there's some tension about it or animosity or dislike. And I think I'm missing some context to understand quite why that is. Maybe because of the association with Protocol Labs and IPFS? But the more research we did and the more folks we spoke with, we thought actually this is a really good fit for what we're trying to build because libp2p has basically created this toolkit for the networking layer of peer-to-peer applications.

Like "Okay, we realize that this is an inherently difficult thing. You have nodes with kind of different levels of connectivity; a lot of the nodes are behind NATs or firewalls". So there's some really smart engineers working on solutions to this for several years. And there are implementations in many languages. So we just thought: "Wow, this actually meets our needs and allows us to focus on other parts of the stack and other parts of the development process rather than having to rewrite everything from scratch ourselves". So yeah, that's what I've been working on — getting the transport up and running and the connection layer done and then starting to work on the discovery layer. So we're using mDNS, for example, to do local peer discovery.

max: What is mDNS?

glyph: mDNS, yeah. So it's... I think it's often used for network attached devices like printers, for example, where they can advertise a service using UDP multicast; just broadcasting on the local network. And then other devices can listen for those broadcasts and automatically discover the services on the network.

max: Gotcha. I feel like that's a great overview. For me personally, I'm curious about the connection manager. That's a term that I don't really know what it means. So maybe we can make it a little more concrete. Like, is it sort of like, you have different devices or users that are running some type of p2panda thing and you need to find each other and start communicating?

glyph: Yeah, so the connection manager...so there's quite a spectrum of definitions. So what I think of is like a minimal connection manager. It comes before the kind of peer discovery stuff. So let's say you're using TCP as the kind of transport protocol to make connections between your node and another one or your application and another one. So you sort of have to manage the lifecycle of that connection. So you could imagine it going through various phases. Like, at first, maybe the connection is pending; you know, you're reaching out, trying to make the connection. And then it could fail or you could have a connection established. And then when the connection's established, at one higher level, you want to be aware of, like, how many connections in total do we have established? Because you might be dialing multiple peers at the same time. And if you had lots of peers, you may end up with hundreds or even thousands of connections open and that might swamp the resources of your device, or your computer. So that's part of the role of the connection manager is saying like: "Okay, let's set a maximum, maybe a maximum and a minimum limit on how many established connections we can have at one time". That's the sort of very core of it. Then you can extend that functionality a bit by saying: "Okay, maybe we wanna keep track of all the peers that we've tried to connect to and we want to persist some state for each peer". So maybe I've tried to dial you five times in a row and it's failed every time. So I wanna keep track of how many failed attempts have there been, when was the last attempt? That kind of a thing. So that's sort of separate from discovering peers because discovery has to do with "What is your address? How do I find you?", and the connection manager is almost like a level below that.

max: I'm getting a little bit confused about below or above. So it's like once you already know who the possible peers are, managing the connections with them?

glyph: That's right, that's right.

max: And then my next question there — so probably then, if the connection manager is starting and stopping these connections, are those actually calls to libp2p functions? So are you working with libp2p as a tool that the connection manager uses?

glyph: Yeah, that's right. So libp2p has the concept of a swarm, which is sort of, I guess, the network abstraction. So they give you tools whereby you can create a transport. So this is where you're defining what protocol you're using to make the connections in the first place. So that could just be simple TCP, for example, or for p2panda, we're using QUIC, which runs on top of UDP. So you could create your transport and configure a swarm and then you start the swarm and that emits events. So you have this kind of event-driven model. And then you can act on any of those events which occur. So let's say one of the swarm events, if you're running the mDNS network protocol, would be "peer discovered" or "mDNS discovery". So a peer is discovered and it triggers this event. And then you can take some action, you could match on that event and say, "Okay, once we discover an mDNS peer, we want to dial them. We wanna try and make a connection." And then if that connection is established successfully, you can run other protocols on top of that. So that's where replication would come in, for example. Okay, once we have this connection established, then we can match on that event, and then we can start our replication protocol, which might be something just very straightforward, like: "Oh, I've got this information, and what have you got? Let's trade."

max: Cool, I think I'm following. It's reminding me that I was reading the blog and research of Julia Evans in the past couple days. Have you seen her research before by any chance?

glyph: Yeah, I have. Some of the zines I've taken a look at.

max: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, those ones. And I was learning a lot about networking and the internet from reading that stuff, but sometimes it would kind of end up veering into like big-tech scale level networking. And I was realizing there's a little bit of an interesting issue trying to figure out how much of our current tech stack works the way it does because it's something inherent about networking or does it work this way because this is how you need it to work when you have this centralized model where you have to serve millions of users from particular nodes. And then the degree to which I was wondering how much these networking primitives and tools were going to have to be reinvented or have new people working on them for the context of self-hosted software and peer-to-peer software. And that kind of sounds like that's a little bit what the work you're doing is with the libp2p stuff and even I guess p2panda could also be understood that way too kind of.

glyph: Yeah just trying to make it a bit easier. I mean I think because of the way the network is we have to add in all these things. If the internet were like one big local area network then we could just pull a whole lot of this stuff out, like we just wouldn't need it. So one of the big issues that I mentioned earlier is NAT traversal; when you're behind a home router or firewall and you're not able to make these direct peer-to-peer connections through the internet. So then we have to come up with all these fancy techniques for getting around that, and that often involves a sort of third peer with a clear accessible IP address that can either act as a tunnel or a relay or it can help with some synchronization to create a direct connection.

max: I would be curious to talk with someone or read something to understand NAT Traversal in more detail, at least some of the common ways that people go about that. Because I guess it comes up for me when we were talking about self-hosting, because we had to do port forwarding, which is basically one simple way that we make a local IP address accessible to the internet. But I guess it's more complicated when you're doing it with multiple peers and continually and stuff and not just one server.

glyph: Yeah, I think that's why we sort of have this need for... I guess I think of it as a heterogeneous network where some peers do have enhanced capabilities, or in the context of Scuttlebutt we had pubs and now maybe more prevalent or certainly more popular in a contemporary sense are room servers. You know, some other node which has these additional features which can kind of bridge the gap as it were.

max: That's a super interesting pattern you're observing kind of zoomed out across different protocols that there are these special actors in this heterogeneous network but that, yeah, the special actors don't need to have all the powers of the corporate centralized server model. They can maybe have lesser powers.

glyph: Yeah, they could have a subset or what we're trying right now, we'll see how it works out with aquadoggo, which is the node of p2panda, is to have switches for all these capabilities so that actually you're running the same node, you're running the same software, but with some configuration switches you can say: "OK, I would like this to run as a rendezvous server or a relay server". So that we still have one piece of software which can adapt and be kind of plastic to meet the needs.


II: Terence McKenna, "Find The Others", Network Weaving, The Standardization Of Time

max: Is there more that you want to say about what's going on with p2panda or potentially we could switch to talking about Scuttlebutt a little bit?

glyph: I think I'm good on p2panda for now. I guess I was trying to subtly or not so subtly communicate this by mentioning the P4P mumble group, but that's part of the really interesting thing for me of how I got involved in the work of getting to know people over years on Scuttlebutt and then being like: "Oh, actually a bunch of us are working on projects with overlapping interests, even if we have slightly different goals, you know, we should really be talking to one another more often". And then through that kind of community that arose from that, that was how I had the opportunity to work on p2panda. So it's just kind of like, yeah, speaking about patterns; like applying these same things to one's social life as well and bridging gaps between networks and different groups and seeing the opportunities that come from developing that trust.

max: Thank for bringing up the social dimension of the open source and peer-to-peer world. I think of you as someone who is a really inspiring network weaver in terms of the way you've actively cultivated and maintained connections within projects, within Scuttlebutt, but also between protocols. And it's cool that that is panning out with concrete effects for you, like this work with p2panda. And also, like, going back to the way we met, the spell you cast by creating the solarpunk.network Scuttlebut pub, I think was how we originally connected on Scuttlebutt.

glyph: Hmm, yeah, thanks. Yeah, I guess it is... So I listened to a lot of Terence McKenna recordings in my university years, like a lot. And one of the things that Terence was famous for saying was "Find the others". And when I heard that, I was particularly interested in consciousness and psychedelics and I didn't know many people who were interested in those things. So the internet gave me a way of reaching out and connecting and being part of forums and that kind of thing. And I can sort of apply the same thing to those of us who are interested in peer-to-peer and decentralized socio-technologies. Oftentimes we are the only ones in our physical vicinity. And so it's a case of reaching out, trying to find those with similar interests and then trying to take it a step further 'cause it can be slightly lonely and isolated work. So, trying to just lean on my sense of empathy and what others must be feeling and trying to create opportunities to work together and to share and just travel together.

max: For some reason, when I think of this topic, I sometimes feel exhausted, but I haven't fully analyzed why. But there's almost this feeling of I would love to help weave multiple networks together. And I know that sometimes I do, just through existing in the world and my interests, but it also reminds me of when I was younger and I used to feel like I wanted to read all the books in the world and sometimes I would freak myself out that that was never going to happen. And sometimes for some reason feel like the active maintenance of networks is also daunting to me.

glyph: Yeah, it's a lot. It's a lot. And yeah, I guess it sort of comes and goes hey? So like there are times where maybe you are quite inspired by that and you have the capacity and energy and the timing is right and other times where it is daunting and a bit exhausting. I tend to think, the sort of thing I have in my mind, and I think it's something you've seen through your travels and your experiences. It's something certainly that Luandro has spoken about, and Erick as well, is the power of doing this kind of work in shared physical space. Like having a farm or a village or a place where people are doing this work on a continuous basis, even if it's just one or two people, and then there are of waves of other people who come to join in and practice and learn together. I really think that's gonna lead to a flourishing peer-to-peer future. Yeah, I mean, we're all trying to build local-first software and that can be most powerful when it's kind of homegrown and meeting local needs, right in the context.

max: Totally. And yeah, I guess I've also felt once you get this chance to meet and be in person, even for some short period of time, it then makes the network richer in its online form often too.

glyph: Absolutely.

max: Yeah, and I feel you about having different energy at different times for this type of network weaving or cultivation. And it also reminds me that, I guess ever since I left Instagram — I haven't deleted my account but I don't use it so much — I noticed I don't manage to maintain connections with certain folks, but through Scuttlebutt and the Fediverse there have been some digital connections that stayed. So I also do see the power of these networks for kind of like passively keeping connection alive. 'Cause like, yeah, maybe even if it's great, if you have the energy to organize in-person meetings or like this mumble call where you're really actively, consciously getting people together, that's obviously like a really powerful way of keeping things alive. But when you don't have that energy and you're kind of more passively just like posting, that still can keep things alive. Or sometimes, yeah, you just see someone who you haven't thought about in a while post something and you're like, oh yeah, that person, you still feel like you're connected in some way.

glyph: Yeah, totally. In the question prompts in the document you drew up, you spoke a little bit about biomimicry and observing non-human beings and processes and then applying those observations to one's life and one's work. And I think this quality of ebb and flow, or like — pulses and waves, is something that I see in the world around me. Like there's nothing... there are no constant outputs. And I think in contemporary times, and maybe it's a product of capitalism and many parts of the world now having always-on internet, always-on electricity. It kind of creates a sort of pressure and it can be a little bit more difficult to time one's actions in a way that's balanced and healthy because the capacity to connect is always there, right? Even if it's making a post or liking someone's post. I think of it as quite unnatural and I think it throws us out of balance in a lot of ways.

max: That's really beautiful.

glyph: Like now in South Africa, well for at least a decade we've had power cuts. And so on a daily basis we have, in daylight hours, anywhere between two and four hours of no electricity. That actually helps me be more balanced because it's like "OK, it's 2 p.m, power is going out. What am I gonna do? I could read or I could wash dishes or I could go for a walk". It sort of breaks that unnatural cycle

max: Yeah, I wonder how we can connect more with healthy timing? Yeah, because you're right that does seem like very much how all of nature works. From the seasons to the day to life cycle evolution and it's pretty funny that with 24/7 stuff we can get disconnected from that and get into sort of weird relationships with time.

glyph: Yeah, totally. It's like the standardization of time. I guess maybe it's a Cartesian thing of wanting to measure and divide everything neatly and then an hour is sort of standardized. An hour is an hour. So then nine to five, Monday to Fridays; it's kind of easy to impose. And yeah, so that's what I think like: gardening, long bike rides, anything where you're sort of outside of that form of time and you can observe, like I say, non-human processes and beings and just see what they're doing. And then you can learn from that. I know in Taoist philosophy, timing is a big... is quite an important point. Sometimes timing is of primary importance and action is a secondary thing. Then it's a case of cultivating some kind of intuition for timing and when is the appropriate time. Because then the activation energy is that much lower. I kind of think of it like, I don't know, if you're a surfer trying to catch a wave. If the swell is 100 meters away and you start frantically paddling, you're going to run out of energy by the time it actually reaches you. And so by initiating your paddle at just the right time you can catch the wave with the smallest amount of energy, and then from a third party perspective it looks effortless. And that can be applied throughout life.

max: This is making me think about how my initial reaction to how to cultivate timing is just to sensitize the perception and to be in a place where we can notice things. Like your tips of gardening or getting out, but then for my own journey I was thinking about sobriety and other ways to just try to become more aware of what's happening. So that when you do have to do some swimming, hopefully you can do it at the right moment.

glyph: Yup, totally. And I guess part of that is guilt as well. Because this was something that I was thinking about a lot in years gone by. Like after my travels in South America and then when I was basically working for myself and I didn't have any external time constraints, then it's like: "Gee, how do I organize my time?" And there was this part of my mind that was highly critical and I would feel guilty about like: "Ah, it's 10 a.m. on a Tuesday and I'm not working, like I should be working, you know, I should be doing XYZ". And then again, observing the creatures around me, I was like: "Well, when the cheetah is taking a nap under the tree, I don't think it's berating itself for not hunting". You know, it's not like: "Gee, I'm a terrible cheetah. I'm just laying around. I should be trying to catch some dinner, but I'm not. I'm the worst". I don't think that happens, somehow.

max: That also makes me think of a chipmunk I was watching the other day that was just like going up and down some tree. This was kind of a reverse issue, but I was just like, what are you doing? (laughing) Like you just keep, like what are you looking for? You're so active. I assume he or she had some good reason for going up and down this tree, so frequently. Maybe not.

glyph: Maybe it just felt good.

max: Yeah, yeah, he just needed to move around a bit. Well, that's a cool topic. I'm looking back at the notes now to see. It's good that we took a winding journey through it so that we could get to some good stuff even if we don't get to everything. Timing is interesting with planning software projects too. I was thinking about this with our work on PeachCloud, but like figuring out when is the right time to build on top of something, or the timing of all the different Scuttlebutt components working together or not working together.

glyph: Absolutely. Yeah, that's an interesting lens to look at it with and again this kind of activation energy thing of like, okay, well if all the components are available then you can build something quite quickly and without having to put too much energy in. But if you're trying to build something when those other pieces are not ready then yeah, you can end up expending a lot of that extra energy. It's difficult, I think especially if you are creative in some capacity, or have something visionary in you, then sometimes you might enjoy that thrill of being on the edge, being like a front runner or something. And you're trying to sort of explore this possibility space that maybe is relatively... it's just not mapped out. You've got to go and check it out for yourself. And sometimes you can bring something back for the group from your adventures and say, "Okay, we learned something, we have something to share." Sometimes you're able to build something that really works and other times it might be relatively fruitful in terms of fulfilling your mission, but you gain other things in the process.

max: Totally. And like you said about this, even getting into other protocols, I feel like when you're exploring that unknown territory and you're meeting the others who are also exploring that unknown territory there's like something that's happening that goes beyond any fruits of one particular project or mission

glyph: That's it, totally. Yeah, so if you're able to take that holistic perspective, which I mean for me it's not not always easy, but then there really are no failures in sense. If you are prioritizing community and sharing and fun and just the joy of discovery and creation, then if the product you were trying to build fails, it's just one more learning experience. I think if I were approaching software as a kind of venture capital funded startup and we were like: "We just need to build this product and grow this thing as as quick as possible so we can be acquired and then we'll put our feet up". If that failed, it would be crushing, right? Because it would be like: "Oh, geez, we didn't get our goal and we didn't have much fun". We didn't meet these other basic nice things about existing on this planet.


III: Mycofiltration, Urban & Rural Exchange

max: Do you still have a little energy? I was thinking it would be cool to talk about mycofiltration because I'd love to hear about that and I also thought maybe, yeah, it was a cool prompt to mention other solidarity infrastructure projects too — those were two ones I was thinking about.

glyph: Yeah, that's good. I've got energy. It's the morning for me so I'm feeling good.

max: Nice. So do you want to talk a little bit about what's going on with the mycofiltration?

glyph: Yeah, so it hasn't really gotten past the kind of planning phase. Essentially right now I live in — I guess it's called an eco-village — but a friend of mine who lives here says it's really more akin to an eco-estate in terms of there's not a kind of community body that decides on who can buy in or not and there's no community vetting process. It's more like willing-buyer, willing-seller in terms of the properties that are here in the village. But there is certainly a trend here towards living harmoniously with the surroundings, trying to leave a light impact. There's a lot of rainwater harvesting. There's some solar for electricity generation, these kinds of things. And one of my neighbors, I think he has an engineering background, and he is putting together kind of like an artificial wetland installation for gray water filtering. And he's been doing the research on the plants of like: "Okay, which plants can we use to clean the water?" And I think he'd read a little bit about using mycelium for this purpose and integrating it into a gray water filtration system. And that's something I'm quite interested in. So yeah, I've sort of looked at the site and what he's working with. I think there's a bit of a pause while he works on other aspects of his property. And then we would likely — because we're in quite a forested area, there's no lack of biomass. Any kind of tree trimming that goes on, which goes on frequently, that generates a lot of material which can then be chipped so we have a lot of woodchips. And so there's a species called Stropharia rugosoannulata which is commonly known as 'King stropharia' or 'wine cap' which is particularly capable as a filtration mechanism because the mycelium exudes antimicrobial compounds which are able to control the population, for example, of E. coli. So you could inoculate woodchips and have this myceliated woodchip bed which the water flows through and in the process of flowing through — that water is kind of cleaned in a sense that makes it healthier to flow out into the ecosystem, into the ground or towards a stream.

max: When we talk about gray water filtration does that mean the water that's not drinking water that's come after we've used it for showering or other things and when you're trying to filter it, is it to be drinkable again or just to return to the land?

glyph: Yeah, in this case it's just to return to the land and your characterization is accurate. So: dishwashing water, shower water, yeah those are the main things I guess, maybe from the laundry, clothes-washing water. So yeah, then it's just a case of cleaning and filtering that water before it goes back to the land. You could do a... maybe if we were in an arid area and we were trying to recapture and cycle as much of our water as possible, then you could filter that grey water with the aim of having it be drinkable again at the end. But that objective would influence your design choices. You'd have to do some extra steps, I think, to ensure that it was safe for drinking.

max: And so you're more at a site survey stage and not at a stage of inoculating wood chips

glyph: That's right. Yeah, that's right. Just kind of, yeah, just observing the site, seeing what's going on, doing a little bit of research into best practices. And then the next steps would be contacting a local mycology supplier and seeing first of all if they could cultivate the species we want on sawdust and then using that sawdust spawn to inoculate locally-sourced wood chips, probably in big plastic totes — like big containers at first just to have a contained environment for the mycelium to become acquainted with the types of wood that make up the woodchips here and to expand that mycelium from the sawdust onto a larger amount of biomass and then to inoculate the woodchip bed with that.

max: Cool. Well, I'm curious to hear more some time where it goes next.

glyph: Yeah, I think it's probably the next on my list. Like, we're about to do a small oyster mushroom workshop, just kind of doing the classic cardboard and used coffee grounds thing. So I'm hoping that'll be a nice springboard for amplifying the interest which already exists in this place and passing on some knowledge and skills so that hopefully when I leave here there can be a continuation of cultivation efforts.

max: How many people are around in this eco-estate?

glyph: Yeah, good question. So if I think of like households, there's probably 20 or 30 households I would say. And there are quite a few families with young children. So there's a learning center that's been established nearby and there's probably a dozen children there. So yeah, maybe about 30 people, maybe a bit more.

max: It seems like an interesting model and size of people to come together; enough to have some unknowns to it, some town-like feelings, but not so much to be anonymous.

glyph: Yeah, exactly. And I think that's kind of a place where... a lot of the people who've moved here have moved from Cape Town and some of like the outlying areas of Cape Town. So they've sort of undergone this journey from the center of a busy city or suburban life to more of the quieter suburbs and then they make the big jump out here which is more of a semi-rural place. There's some cool stuff like communal buying groups, for example. Okay, someone says: "I'm going to do a big food order. Is anyone else interested?" And I think those kind of slightly low-stakes communal efforts are a nice stepping stone to build trust and practice working together. And that could lead to — I hope it would lead to bigger communal projects where there is more cultivation and emphasis on the commons. Trying to break out of this kind of privatized model of being.

max: So this is my random thought from my travels and spending time in rural areas: I guess, before I was imagining rural and urban ways of life as more separate. And for some reason I've been having this perception recently that they're not really separate. They're like so entangled because mostly the rural areas are providing food to the cities. But also urban industry is often providing phones and other forms of knowledge that go back to rural areas and they feel more connected to me than they did in the past. So it's cool hearing about this pathway of a group of people from the city going to the suburbs and then to somewhere rural. I guess also this sharing comes from meeting some folks in more conservative rural areas where among young people there's some really genuine desire to go to the city and learn about the world or even like people where they aren't allowed to have independence or like certainly not queer people and there could be some kind of cycle and return of a movement of people wanting to go to the cities to meet other people and learn new things but also maybe not wanting to stay there.

glyph: Yeah, yeah, I think people, I think humans have always moved and certainly there are these flows of goods and people that link these areas. I think in the South African context there's a massive draw. Like, the city holds a powerful draw and it's often around employment opportunities, education opportunities, which is, I think, quite common in a lot of parts of the world. But the city tends to have this kind of magnetism and if you are coming from a background of limited means, especially limited financial resources, you can get stuck in the city. And yeah, I've met some people and heard some heartbreaking stories of people just really wanting to go back to their home village and be with their mom and their friends and family, but they're kind of stuck in this.

max: They're stuck because they get a job in the city, but then they don't have the mobility to leave that job? Or something else?

glyph: Yeah, or even sometimes not having a job and being stuck in the city, basically being stuck in poverty. Yeah, being a long way from home without the financial resources, without the stability of a set income, and then it's like: "Okay, well, my village is on the other side of the country" or "My village is several countries away" and just not having the means to make that journey. And there's also often the pressure of: if you are the one who's leaving the rural area to go to the city, there are a lot of expectations on you. And excitement. It's like: "Ah, you're going to the city, you're going to get a good job, you're going to be making money, you're going to send some of that money back to us and help us", and if that works out then it's awesome and if it doesn't then I think it's just a lot of pressure.


IV: Open Source & Decentralized Cooperatives, Income Sharing

max: Do you want to mention some references of other projects that inspire you when we're talking about solidarity infrastructure, stuff you're dreaming of or have been keeping an eye on?

glyph: Yeah, I was thinking about this a little bit. Strangely, I don't have a really long list. I think there is Co-op cloud, involving decentral1se and KawaiiPunk and aadil. That's cool to see a cooperative, you know, doing good work and trying to build things on a different model — still run a business but with a different model where it's non-hierarchical and there's solidarity amongst the workers.

Inspiring projects: I mean, it's a lot of the community-networking projects and community mesh-networking projects. So, some of the work that Luandro's involved in in Brazil. Some of the wider efforts that Digital Democracy are involved in; like the Earth Defenders Toolkit, the Mapeo project.

I know @cblgh, who you just interviewed the other day, came up with a nice idea for a mutual aid experiment amongst members of Merveilles, the Merveilles Mastodon instance or Fediverse instance. So that hasn't quite gotten off the ground yet but I'm interested to see how that works out.

The idea there was like: Okay, we already have an Open Collective for the instance, what if we received contributions to that Open Collective? And during the court, we run the experiment for three months and any member of Merveilles can say, "I would like to participate as a recipient." And then at the end of the month, the total amount of donations would be divided equally between all those who said they'd like to participate as recipients and they receive that money. So it was just really straightforward. And I think it came out of the observation that many of the members of Merveilles, because they're creative people — maybe they have a music project or an art project, and they might have a Patreon account or a Kofi account or something like that where they are trying to receive support for their work. And @cblgh was like: Well, maybe we could utilize our kind of community reach to receive contributions for the collective. So I'm quite interested in simple experiments like that, just to almost create a safe-space to practice shared earning and different models of income. I know some years ago, I don't know if it's still active and I guess I won't name them, but there were some friends of mine that I met through Scuttlebutt who had a kind of shared income system where I think there were maybe four or five of them where every month they would put their income into a pile, into a joint account, and then draw a salary off that. So especially for freelancers, if you have a variable income, you're going to have some good months and some bad months. And this was an attempt to try to flatten that out and add a bit more security and knowledge of what will be coming in.

max: Are you personally interested in participating in some of these shared schemes? You're kind of also in this open source freelancer route right now it seems like, just developing a network and finding different projects. Or do you have any dreams of changing how you work?

glyph: I'm really happy. I'd love to keep doing this. I've been very, very fortunate to be funded to work on open source peer-to-peer stuff for the last few years. So I guess part of my personal strategy and approach is to continue building relationships and friendships amongst those who are working in this kind of direction. And I'm really happy that this year I'm contributing to p2panda. I'm going to be contributing to Cabal and then I'm doing some Scuttlebutt stuff. So that feels really good in terms of just having a little bit more resilience. But I would like to take that next step and do some kind of collective finance management. I think in some sense, the relationships that I've been developing over these years and the work that I've been doing is building towards that because I think it is something that requires a lot of trust. But certainly it's also something that human people have been doing for a long, long time. There's all kinds of places around the world where there are collective savings pools and different kinds of community finance structures. So I think that would help because that is the tricky thing with freelancing, is having that security. Or I've also heard it spoken about in terms of — especially if you're getting a lot of your income from grants — maybe halfway through a grant project and you're already having to think about grant applications for the future.

max: This was a topic on Alex's mind as well.

glyph: Nice. Yeah, I think Alex has thought quite a lot about this kind of thing and has some really good ideas.

max: It's cool to hear and to imagine more decentralized or open source focused groups, whether autonomic or p2panda. And yeah, I feel you too that the work you're doing already is maybe creating the groundwork that could blossom into that later.

glyph: Yeah, I guess quite a few of us who work on peer-to-peer open source stuff, we're already used to having... well put it this way: we don't lead extravagant lives. We're not driving fancy cars and living in expensive apartments and that kind of thing. We're, I think, generally fairly simple people in terms of our material needs and expenditure. So we're already used to living quite cheaply, but just that level of stability and security that comes with knowing like: "Okay, at the end of this month, I'm going to receive X amount and for the next 12 months that's going to be what's happening", just to even things out a bit. But yeah, we'll see what the future holds.

max: Well, I think this is good. Won't go on forever and ever. I guess maybe this small question: if there's any books, videos or references that you would like to share?

glyph: I might have to come back to you on that one — especially about technology stuff. I wouldn't call myself a fraud, but I feel like I know so little and many of my inspirations come from other places. But yeah, let me think about this.

max: Outside of technology, that's fine too. The inspirations could also be not directly related to technology.

glyph: Well in that case I'd say read more mycology papers! Really dig deep into it, get outside of the human realm and learn about those things and then try apply them to the human work you do.

max: Thanks a lot for taking the time, I will end the recording, but that seems like a good note to end on.

Cool, cool. Thank you very much. Thanks. Thanks.

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