Marloes de Valk in A pluriverse of local worlds: a review of Computing within Limits related terminology and practice identified a wide discourse around radical computing practices focused around responding to the climate crisis, capitalist excess, and the creation of diverse hacker practices for low-powered, distributed, and computing. On Mastodon, they polled for a common term to cover this with "[[permacomputing]]" and "small tech" each splitting a third of the vote. Many of these solutions are also relevant to [[solarpunk]].
A literary review conducted my Marloes identified several other historic terms.
- Liberatory technology
- From Murray Bookchin. Described an environmentally-friendly radical technology that envisioned small communities integrated into the naturla environment and using small-scale technologies to achieve autonomy. This greatly resembles Solarpunk
- Appropriate Technology
- Technology designed for the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political and economic aspects of the community it is inteded for. Emphasized robustness of software.
- Convival Computing
- Software that can be changed by the user, simple and moduler in order to avoid being opinionated about user needs. Sounds similar ot the Unix philosophy
- Emphasizing achieving greater computation results from existing computing resources. Instead of counting on Moore's law to compoensate for software bloat, it encourages developers to write efficient software with the resources at hand.
- Revisiting pre-industrial and industrial scale technologies and practices with an emphasis on low environmental impact. Rejects technological solutionism, planneed obsolecence and conusmer capitalism. Creating technologies that respect the limits of the planet by living better with less.
Aral Balkan, The Small Web within the Context of Engineering
The "Small Web" is a term coined by Aral Balkan in his essay What is the Small Web. It encompasses several behaviors that lay in contrast the existing "Big" Web.
The Big Web is:
- Centralized (cloud)
- Corporate owned
- Rents space to "users"
- Engages in [[surveillance capitalism]]
The small web in contrast is:
- Decentralized (single tenant servers)
- For and built by people
Furthermore, Aral posits, but doesn't fully explore the architectural implications that Big Web trusts servers and distrusts clients; but small web distrusts servers and trusts clients.
Ben Hoyt in The Small Web is Beautiful further explores the concept of the Small Web by categorizing it as both the efforts of small teams and companies, but also small websites and architectural decisions. This gives you less moving parts and a faster application with reduced processing resources
A small architecture he argues rejects microservices for monoliths. Monolingual development, transactional requests (since there is only one database or even just a filesystem or SQLite), and limits orchestrational and networking problems.
A small architecture limits external dependencies in favor of standard libraries. Cares about the size of the application and resource requirements (CPU, memory, etc.), reduces the overall feature set, uses progressive enhancement on the front end and compiled languages on the back-end (Rust, Go).
As creativity on the web declines, we see the rise of the bureaucrat under the heavy-handed tooling of Web 2.0 Social Media. The best internet is a community engaged in communication. In particular, a community of artists, David Schmudde says in On the Internet, We are Either Artists or Bureaucrats, who invites others to respond in kind. A bureaucrat, however, is a slave to the machine. They opine because it is required -- favorite, retweet, boost and register their engagement in the most formal and banal of processes. Shouting into the void is not the basis for a community.
The App as a Home Cooked Meal
Robin Sloan relates a story of a commercial messaging app that his family used until the company running that application went under. Instead of searching for an alternative messaging service, he resolved to create a messenging application just ofr his family.
By building the application as a personal service from inception he was able to do away with many of the complications that a commercial application requires. It can forgo a complicated authentication service or user management. The infrastructure for the back end remained very simple since it only managed messages for four users.
He relates this exeperience to the difference between the production of a commerical kitchen and a home cooked meal. Furthermore, he relates that learning to cook does not imply that one intends upon becoming a chef; and learning to code should not imply that you intend upon becoming a software engineer.
Sloan cites an early work related to the home cooked app: Clay Shirky's Situated Software.
Situated software is software designed within a particular social situation or context. It contrasts with commercial web software designed for scalibity, generaltiy, and completeness. This is softweare designed loosely for small groups typically to meet their particular social needs versus development for a large set of generic users. It is much easier to develope an application for a small group than it is at scale.
The N-squared problem is only a problem if N is large, and in social situations, N is usually not large.
Such software is vastly cheaper and faster to build. It doesn't suffer scalability issues and will likely satisfy it's users much better. On the downside, if expanded beyond it's initial group, it may need to be rewritten using enterprise designs.
Issues of trust can be resolved out-of-band because the body of users is small, localized, and socially interconnected. Thisgreatly simplifies the feature set of situated software.
IndieWeb is also a movement with a similar collection of ideas surrounding anti-corporate web influence and encouraging the creation and keeping of personal authored websites.
One idea that comes from IndieWeb is POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site Syndicate Elsewhere which advocates that you should publish your work (writing, film, images) to a site that you control. A blog, a digital garden, a home site, a portfolio etc. and then syndicate this publication into various media sites: Twitter, Facebook, Mastodon, etc.
In this manner the canonical version of your work is maintained under your control. But it is shared to places where people are and those people can be drawn into visiting your site.
[[Webmentions]] a W3C standard for sharing replies, likes, and reposts.
- Balkan, Aral. What is the Small Web?. Aral Balkan. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
- Hoyt, Ben. The small web is beautiful. Ben Hoyt Technical Writing. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
- Sumner, Jarred. Why isn't the internet more fun and wird?. Jarred. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
- Schmudde, David. On the Internet, We Are Either Arists or Bureaucrats. Beyond the Frame. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
- Lambert, Pete. HTML is the Web. Pete Lambert. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
- Tunius, Hugo. On Being a Front-End Engineer. Hugo Tunius. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
- Nuthalapati, Joseph. [SmallTech]. Knowledgebase. Retrieved 2021-09-10.
- Sloan, Robin. An App can be a home-cooked meal. Retrieved 2022-04-01.
- Shirky, Clay. Situated Software. Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet. Retrieved 2022-04-01.
- Valk, Marloes de. A pluriverse of local worlds: a review of Computing within Limits related terminology and practice. Computing within Limits. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
Permacomputing is the practice of developing computation resources for long-term or generational usage. The [[Small Web]] can be seen as permacomputing applied to web architecture.
Other elements include: [[permaculture]], [[post-work]], [[rewilding]], [[small web]], [[permacomputing]] and [[degrowth]]