How I came to collective intelligence

I plan to share some thoughts about Collective Intelligence from a software perspective. But this comes from an old story that I thought I should make public first.

The origins

When I first began to program web applications, it was mostly for my own needs as an activist (freedom of speech on internet, cryptography, and such matters). Around 1998 I had a fully working solution called ‘Collaborative writer’ or cWriter for short, written in PHP. It was like a sort of wiki geared towards small groups self-organization.

When I got to Claranet I deployed it as an internal solution, and worked on a full company intranet called ‘in’. It was the occasion to release cWriter as open source in 2000 on Sourceforge.

At that time it appeared obvious that my area of preference was about engineering collaborative work. I was putting a lot of thoughts into that. I had this clear understanding that the tool shapes the usages, especially in this new realm that was internet communication.

Later on, I dedicated my time in various projects, mostly Tikiwiki groupware in 2003. That experience was also rich in valuable experiments. I became leader in that community because being unemployed at that time, I took the occasion to just invest time in open source (being payed by labor insurance money). And I was just very prolific. I established various bases for that community that still thrives today. I had a recorded interview with the guys for the 10 years for the project in 2012.

The discovery

Somewhere in 2004 I met with JF Noubel, that had some need for help on his own Tikiwiki instance, called thetransitionner.org. His website (not available anymore nowadays) was dedicated to promotion and exploration of Collective Intelligence, following the work, among others, of Pierre Lévy.

I quickly identified this area of research as something that I was practicing and aiming at, without having formally identified it. So I got more and more interested into that field in the following years.

Jean-Francois became a friend, his approach evolved since then but I still got stuck with his original presentation describing the basics of Collective Intelligence.

Anyways it led me to some other kind of activism, revolving around some alternative currency projects (like openmoney), other projects concerning governance (like democracy 2.0, from Mikael Nordfors cited in the transcript on archive.org), and various other topics that would be too long to list here.

Ultimately it led to get involved in Angenius with Than Nghiem in a background of sustainable development between 2006 and 2008. Including going to live in a farm in Normandy. Which was amazing but I was just not made for it.

The migration

In 2008 I decided to leave France and go live in Taiwan. I wanted to take a break and learn Chinese. It was my decision for my 40th birthday. Since then I got various jobs in development and then in system administration, grinding more programming languages and technical skills. But I still kept all this time the background thinking on collective intelligence.

What I wanted to experience was just another cultural background. I wanted to see patterns a little better about open source communities and collaborative work in a different context. Well. This could be the topic for another post. I got some surprises.

What’s next?

Now, 9 years after, I feel it’s more than time I get back to my past ventures. Well, I didn’t live like an hermit, I’m involved in various local and global communities. But I feel I could share a little more about what I learned in my past experiments. Now that I reach my 50’s, maybe I just feel like I have to begin writing stuff.

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