Breath in, Breath out. Another DWeb Camp has come and gone.
Held at Camp Navarro in Northern Pomo Territory, DWeb Camp is something between a celebration and a caucus. “Conference” doesn’t really sum it up. Five days at an immersive woodland camp, hosted by the Internet Archive and attended by the best minds of the distributed web, is a special time. “The work” is not at DWeb Camp, it’s back at our organizations, deep in our codebases, and with our communities. The relationships, the cross pollination, the alignment between projects, policies, and people? That’s DWeb Camp.
Why DWeb Camp?
DWeb Camp is an opportunity to support and build with the broader distributed web community. From conversations with Tim Berners-Lee to learning from the DWeb Fellows about the actual needs of communities, DWeb Camp makes us and our work better. A testing ground for ideas, this event marks progress towards a web truly built for all.
How we Showed up
Holochain came to DWeb Camp with an aim towards collaboration. Many of us have our own pet projects for saving the world, but what we can agree on is that a better world is possible. Working with humility, and in cooperation, we want to build the relationships needed to walk in that direction. As a sponsor of DWeb Camp it was important to us not to be overbearing, or to push a particular agenda, but rather to partner with the Internet Archive and DWeb community in order to host a fantastic, experiential week.
At the same time, we talked to a lot of people about Holochain, showed and asked people to try Holochain apps, connected folks to our work, and held space for deep questioning.
Panels, Talks, and Workshops
Participation was a big theme of how we held space at DWeb. Every event we hosted invited the community to speak, ask questions, or get their hands onto the technologies and ideas.
Co-founders Art Brock and Eric Harris-Braun held a fishbowl on the Grammar of Intelligence which explored the evolution of complex adaptive systems as they relate to AI, sensemaking, and coordination. The fishbowl format sets up four chairs in the middle of the room, one of which must always remain empty. This arrangement invites participants to sit in the empty chair, requiring someone else to step out, encouraging a participatory conversation where anyone has the opportunity to be heard. Thank you to those who took the chance in the hot seat and joined the conversation.
Paul d’Aoust and Collin McClain held a workshop titled Thinking Differently: How do distributed patterns affect the way we do things? Building from a design exercise that helped illuminate the relationship between our technical tools and the social effects of our innovations, they pointed to the need for a new toolbox of distributed patterns.
On Saturday, the last full day of the conference, the event transformed into a series of emergent sessions, where anyone could propose and hold sessions on anything they wanted. During this, the Holochain team and our community held six separate, intimate sessions. We opened with The What, Why, and How of Holochain, an audience question focused panel discussion between Ferananda Ibarra, Art Brock, Mary Camacho, and Collin McClain. Throughout the rest of the day we held a rolling Hands on Holochain session where we let DWeb participants try out and use Holochain apps. Simultaneously Zacchaeus Scheffer (a tiny machine learning expert), Holochain dev and trainer Guillem Cordoba and a group of other participants, worked through possible Designs of Distributed Machine Learning with Private Data; Paul d’Aoust and Michael Dougherty held a Holochain Under the Hood AMA; Eric Harris-Braun ran a Holochain Dev Session; and Mary Camacho and Matt Schutte discussed how to Build Businesses with Holochain.
Outside the Holochain team, community projects ran wonderful sessions such as Neighbourhoods demonstration of their Distributed Groupware Framework and Harlan Wood’s talk Trust Graphs in the Age of AI: Privacy, Sovereignty & Collaboration, both on Thursday.
One reason we went to DWeb Camp was to break things — often called stress testing. The distributed web community has been building fantastic technologies in the last few years, but the situations in which we need this tech to work are not always readily available for testing at scale. And so DWeb Camp decided to shut off the connection to the internet for the day and focus on the implementation of peer-to-peer technologies in the real world. Running solely on the local meshnet, Holochain and many other projects brought technologies for people to use in this environment. We want to build things that work out in the real world, with real people, who have actual problems, and so we need tests and challenges that mimic those contexts to get there.
Folks from the Holochain team as well as volunteers from the community worked for months building the Emergence app, specifically to support Saturday’s emergent sessions. We are planning another blog in the coming weeks that will explore the technical hurdles we faced and the lessons we learned, but we want to call this a success in terms of the leaps forwards for both development of Holocahin apps and what we learned about using a Holochain app in the world when trying to solve real problems.
We had more people than ever before log in to a Holochain application at once, this while working entirely off a local network. Running multiple team and community tests over the week, we saw the improvements and challenges with the system we custom designed for DWeb Camp. Our prototype wasn’t perfect, but it broke in fantastically informative ways.
We appreciate the community of DWeb Camp for being on this adventure with us. This new pattern of testing and using peer-to-peer apps ‘in the wild’ feels like a massive win for the DWeb community, and one that we hope will be continued into the future.
Community and Growth
The Holochain community showed up in force at DWeb Camp with eight team members and over twenty-five community members, making us perhaps the best represented project in attendance. Connecting with our community was a key goal of Holochain’s at this event. As a distributed team and an even more distributed community, we don’t get a lot of face time. It’s our intent to always work with our community and to create a healthy ecosystem of both builders and users, but we recognize that this is tough without clear spaces for that to happen within. DWeb Camp both provides an incredible example of community nurturing in action and acts as an opportunity for us to connect with many of the people building a more distributed web.
We are also growing our capacity for community development. If you haven’t seen our recent announcement Welcoming our New Head of Developer Relations Mark Franks to the team, we encourage you to read it and to hear his remarks on meeting our team and community at DWeb Camp.
Beyond our immediate community we found allyship with others across the distributed web, digital identity, Web3, and more. We see the need for policy work in these spaces and the importance of collaboration with other aligned projects to achieve real change.
We are excited for what the future of the distributed web holds. There is more to say about how we do that work and what next steps look like, but that will have to wait for another article.
In the meantime…
Thank you. To the Internet Archive and particularly Wendy Hanamura; to the DWeb Camp volunteers, fellows, and staff; to the Holochain and DWeb communities; to the builders and the dreamers. Thank you for another year of magic, in the woods where we celebrate and in the world where we live.