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Theory Overview

This page provides some extra detail on how Babbling Brook works.

Social networking is comprised of a handful of activities that are presented in a variety of ways. Babbling Brook abstracts these different aspects into a list of generalised components that can then be recombined to make any social networking experience that you desire.

Babbling Brook is not a website, it is not like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It is a method that allows any website to take part in a shared social networking experience.

There are two kinds of website that can use the Babbling Brook protocol.

Client websites look like the social networking websites that you already use. They show you a bunch of posts that users have made and enable you to make your own content.

Datastores are websites that hold all the information that the client websites use.

Separating these two roles provides many advantages. A multitude of client websites can exist that use the same data, giving the user a choice over the interface that they use and the kind of social networking activities that they can engage with. It prevents users from being locked into a particular service and it also prevents you from loosing your data when a site you use goes offline. It also creates a competitive environment for client websites, encouraging them to adapt the features that their users want.

All content in Babbling Brook is made by you, the users.

Whenever you submit some content to a client website you are making a post. This could be an image, a status update, a blog post, etc...

All posts reside in streams. The stream defines what kind of posts can be made inside them. They provide a topic and a structure for the posts. For example, the posts a user makes to Twitter or a subreddit could both be streams.

Streams can then be combined into deltas to provide a richer experience by combining multiple streams together. Your Facebook wall - which combines all your mates' personal streams into a single page, or the combination of multiple subreddits into a multireddit are both examples. Say you like music, but there are hundreds of different streams about music. A delta enables you to combine those streams that most interest you onto a single page.

Other users can then take your post. This means that they are assigning a numerical value to it. When you ‘like’ a post on Facebook, follow a user on Twitter or star a review on Amazon, you are taking a post.

Whenever you use a social networking website, pieces of computer code called algorithms are working to organise and sort the information that you see. They sort the order of the posts that you view or they suggest new people to you that you might want to 'friend'. In the Babbling Brook network these algorithms are called rhythms and can be customised by the users. This makes it possible to completely customise your view of your social networking data to include what you want and remove what you don't. Anyone who can code JavaScript can write new rhythms, but you don't need to be able to code to be successful at Babbling Brook. All rhythms are automatically made available to everyone with plain language descriptions and popular ones filter through the network for you to select from.

Suggestions are a special kind of rhythm that are used in order to simplify the Babbling Brook experience. They take the legwork out of searching for new interests, such as users, client websites, streams or rhythms. Suggestions automatically search through your network to find features that will interest you. Perhaps you are interested in gardening and are subscribed to several streams related to it. However, your suggestion rhythm might search through your network for related interests and discover that you might also be interested in making soup. How the suggestion of a soup stream is presented to you is entirely up to the client website you are using. It might only show it if you are searching for new streams, or it might be more noticeable, like a friend suggestion on Facebook.

Suggestions can do much more than point out the obvious, they can search deeply to find hidden connections that you are not even aware of yourself, seeking out users you didn't know you wanted to meet and introducing you to topics you had never heard of before.

Your kindred are those users who are closest to you in the Babbling Brook network. A special rhythm is constantly processing the takes that you make to create relationships between you and other users.

The kindred relationship might represent a real world friendship or a virtual one. It might represent a relationship with someone you share interests with, even if you have never communicated with them directly. If the relationship is negative, then they could be your nemesis. The nature of a kindred relationship is not defined by the Babbling Brook protocol but by the kindred rhythms that you use.

Kindred rhythms make it possible to know when you can trust a stranger. On their own they just describe your relationship with a few other users, but all together they represent a web of trust. A map of how everyone is connected that enables you to know if someone has a reputation that is worth listening to.

You select your kindred rhythms in the same way as other rhythms - by searching for them, having them suggested to you, or writing your own.

Your kindred relationships are then used by other rhythms to customise your experience. Almost everything in the network can be influenced by your kindred, from the posts you see in streams, to the suggestions that are presented to you. They customise your social network to reflect your desires.

Rings allow users to group together. A ring might represent a group of friends, a circle of people following a subject, or a business interest. Unlike kindred relationships, which are individual to every user, rings are more static, formal representations of connections with other users. Rings make it possible for a group of users to have private interactions whilst presenting a public face. This makes it possible to share secrets and have a private social life without completely disconnecting it from your public side.

Rings can be used for many purposes e.g. they can be employed to moderate posts that are spam or unsuitable, or to label/tag posts and users in unique ways. As Babbling Brook grows into a larger social system they can come to represent a company or a political group. This makes it possible to anonymise transactions, facilitating activities such as obtaining medication whilst respecting privacy.

Babbling Brooks privacy system is both simple and open ended. The user chooses whether a post should be public or private. If a post is public then it is given a creative commons copyright and anyone can make use of it. If it is private then it is encrypted and only the users it is sent to can see it.

Posts made within a ring are only viewable to members, but the ring can also present a public face. Rings are used in order to navigate between the public and private realms, e.g. if you want to advertise your knitting group, letting non-members know what you do, but you also want to keep the gossip private.

Babbling Brook is designed to evolve

This system is designed to be as simple as possible whilst also enabling an open feedback mechanism. Feedback is when the result of a process is fed back into the begining and then the process is repeated. With each pass though the process, the result is slowly changed. The system is 'open' because the protocol is designed to be peer based and bottom up, making it hard to be subverted and controlled by powerful individuals.

The open feedback mechanism enables the network to grow organically: Kindred relationships develop and become nuanced, making it possible to have complex and changing relationships. Rhythms are adapted to handle specific requests so that users can view the precise posts that they want to. Client websites become specialised so that users can access the network in a way that they want to.

As the trust between users grows, it becomes possible to start exchanging material things such as books, clothes and ultimately houses. Trust also makes it possible to build new forms of social structure, from local community groups to fully fledged political systems. These systems are built and maintained by the will of the people using the system. Their power is directly related to how trusted they are by the users of the system, making them very hard to subvert and easy to replace when they are. It is a similar system to a democracy, only instead of voting for who is in charge, everything we do influences who has power in society - from which political opinions we agree with, to who we like, to what we consume.

Babbling Brook enables us to build a society where our actions in the world and our political power are transparently connected. One where our voices really do count, but even more importantly, one where our actions rather than just our words effect how much power we have in society.

Babbling Brook is launching with a crowd funding push.
Gain early access and support Babbling Brook on Indiegogo.

Support Babbling Brook become a reality with a crowd funding push in the near future. Follow updates on Twitter, Facebook or the RSS feed.

If you would like to know more about the theory that has inspired Babbling Brook, then you can read about it here.

Gain early access and support Babbling Brook on Indiegogo