Give Thimbl the Open Web award!


Why Thimbl should win the Transmediale/Mozilla Foundation Open Web Award

Thimble by zimpenfish @ flickr

The Telekommunisten Collective thinks that people should finger each other as often as possible. Maybe even several times a day, hell, why not once an hour? As often as you like!

People thrive on interaction with other people. Mutual stimulation is a deeply felt human need, a key characteristic of what makes us human. Imagine that instead of reading your status updates on Twitter or Facebook, your friends would just finger you instead.

The Finger protocol was originally developed in the 1970s as a way to publish user and status information, such as who you are, what you’re working on, and what you’re doing now. This is how the relatively few folks with access to networks posted pithy personal bios. From when colourful polyester pants were still groovy until the 90s people used to Finger each other all the time! Finger evolved into a completely decentralized system, where any user could finger any other user as long as they were both on the Internet. There were no big companies in the middle to control these users, or monitor them, or try to turn their personal data into money. Fingering was a personal matter between users, direct and unmediated, and nobody really knew exactly who was fingering who. Promiscuous, right?

Sadly, these heady days of open relationships slowly came to an end. Finger software was developed before the Internet had many users, and before development was driven by commercial interests. The idea was bold, but the software was primitive. Capitalists and their desire for profit have no interest in such freedom and promiscuity and chose to instead fund centrally controlled systems, in which they are intermediaries. Investors wanted control, so that they can commodify and monetize these relationships. Instead of users fingering each other with reckless abandon, people are now stuck with centralized, privately owned services like Facebook; chaperoning their relationships, imposing user policies on them, and monitoring and monetizing their conversation.

Back in June 2010, Telekommunisten had had enough! “People must be freed from these puritanical, controlling, consumerist, profit-seeking cults”, they thought. If witchcraft, wet shaving, rocker hair and skinny jeans could make comebacks, why not Finger? The Thimbl project was born, and immediately started working on giving the project an online identity and releasing tools to create a microblogging platform built on Finger, that groovy 70s protocol.

In October, Telekommunisten received the news that Thimbl was one of three projects nominated for Transmediale/Mozilla Foundation Open Web Award and almost immediately, Thimbl broke on Hacker News and the project started to attract significant interest. Thimbl started popping up all over the place: P2Pfoundation, ecopolis, alt1040, O’Reilly Radar, OneThingWell, Ecrans,… Evan Prodromou from competing service even took a playful swipe at us!

Finger was becoming cool again. The masses were longing to finger each other!

In a few short months, without much in the way of a marketing strategy and with a budget that could be stored in a matchbox, Thimbl has managed to gather over 250 followers on Twitter – the very service it someday hopes to compete with – and has been the subject of hundreds and hundreds of tweets. Thimbl even has a small following on, which is closer to the heart of Thimbl than the service with birds and whales. The website has over 300 ‘Likes’ with its Facebook button and the Telekommunisten Facebook fan page is abuzz with talk of Thimbl. The project has even gathered over 100 votes on the Drumbeat platform. Not bad for a project that was completely unknown to all but a handful of people when the award nominations where announced!

Still, the problem remains: Capital will not fund free platforms like Thimbl. Even with the buzz Thimbl has, building a community big enough to actually create a viable platform without financing is a major challenge.

Wouldn’t it be great if Thimbl could actually win the Open Web award? The endorsement of Transmediale and the Mozilla Foundation would be a tremendous boost for the project, perhaps enough to give the community the needed escape velocity to break free from centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook and make Finger the once and future king of personal status updates! Transmediale and The Mozilla Foundation had a great idea: instead of having a jury decide the winner of the award, present three projects to a community engaged with the open web and its technical, political and artistic dimensions. Mozilla had recently launched the Drumbeat project, just for this purpose, as a hub for projects that embrace the open web to get support and find contributors. So it made perfect sense for Drumbeat to host the voting for the award.

Drumbeat is a fantastic initiative from Mozilla and has a really promising future. However, Drumbeat is a relatively new platform. As a result none of the projects received much attention from existing Drumbeat users or from the Transmediale community jumping on to Drumbeat to participate. The idea that an impartial community would consider the three projects and select a winner didn’t quite work out. Instead, it has become a competition to rally the existing supporters of the three projects to sign up to Drumbeat and vote for them specifically, without genuinely considering voting for the others. This means that, honestly, the vote count is about as impartially meaningful as a Florida election run by Diebold.

Thimbl is up against two cool projects as candidates for the Open Web Award; Booki, the book publishing platform behind FLOSSManuals and many great book writing sprints, and Graffiti Markup Language, a project to enable analysis and archiving of graffiti writing which has the support of many awesome, large and active communities like F.A.T. Lab and eyebeam. If the open web award is really meant to give well-earned support to existing, successful projects like Booki and GML, then we will celebrate their success with them at the award ceremony in a few days. We readily concede that Thimbl has not yet achieved anywhere near what these projects have and that our community is much, much smaller and far less known.

Unless we succeed in our desperate bid to convince Lady Gaga to dump Polaroid and instead dedicate her star power to the cause of ushering in a new golden age of rampant fingering, we are very unlikely to win based on Drumbeat vote count. But if Open Web Award aspires to “clearly demonstrate the unbound potential of the open web in ways that can spark new thinking and practices,” as stated, then, damn it, Thimbl is the most about the open web!

We live and breathe the open web, directly addressing the technical and social issues facing the open web in every aspect of the project, in the code, and in our manifestos. We talk to anyone who will listen about how the open web is not just critical to the future of the Internet, but to society itself. And people are beginning to take notice.

Selecting Thimbl for the Open Web Award at Transmediale would be one heck of a powerful spark. Igniting the new thinking and practice that led to the idea of Thimbl with a clear and bold statement of support for an open web that is truly open! The multitudes are trapped and frustrated, clinging to their social interactions within sterile, commercial platforms, longing for wanton, unbridled realms of contact.

Join us in inscribing upon on our banners the revolutionary slogan, “Don’t be a Twit, it feels good to be fingered!”

Give Thimbl the Open Web Award!

With Kind Regards, Your Telekommunisten. /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

(psst… pass it on)

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