Bill Spornitz on 18 Jan 2001 21:36:06 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] re: boring texts

Title: re: boring texts
I sent this letter to Tim O'Reilly (publishers of those computer books with the black and white animals on the cover), but he never wrote me back. That's boring.

(btw I don't know if the logo that is embedded in the middle of this email will reach you - but if you want your own pig, just drop me a line and I'll send you a small one directly...-bill)


I've been following the developments (and the hype) surrounding p2p on I have my own idea that seems to have p2p written all over it. Please take a moment to suspend disbelief... ;->

The Lumpy Labs Story

At 06:45 CST On 12 Jan 2000 I released my company, Lumpy Labs, to the world as an *open source* corporation.  My intent is that anyone could start their own Lumpy lab - in other words, anyone could use the logo and the name for anything they wanted, royalty free. They could download the logo, print it onto iron-on transfer material and sell them - whatever.

Why oh why?

First, why Lumpy? As a musician by profession I found myself doing all kinds of other work to help make ends meet. I worked in film and theatre, I worked at the local museum/science centre, I learned html, Perl, browser scripting... I was doing many things and I found I needed a company identity that was extremely all purpose and one that said *creative*. Lumpy Labs was born.

But wait. Customers were confused. Lumpy? A Pig? I found that as the nature of my business was changing, Lumpy Labs was not as useful an identity. I didn't need the pig any more - maybe someone else could use it.

I've always been a fan of the story of Onka's Big Moka - the story of an indigenous tribal leader in the islands of south Asia who organizes a big party where he manages to give lots of pigs away and thus rise in prominence in his community. I like the idea that giving can make you richer and, as the promise of open source became a reality, I was inspired to be a part of this movement.

We have a three year old son and I couldn't help noticing that all his toys and books seemed to be the product of vertical integration and marketing - Playful creatures represented in these toys only played with their own kind and often were shills for merchandise or services, almost always owned by a horking big corporation. I wanted my pig to be (as we say here on the Canadian prairie) a Free-range pig.

I'm an artist at heart. This Lumpy gift also has it's foundations in art - the idea that, possibly, something as simple as an image and an associated name could mean many different things to many different people, things that were completely out of my control. In a sense, it's an experiment about itself.

Lumpy Labs is the opposite of a trademark - a logo and identity that could represent a multitude of different things. A Public Brand.

What does this have to do with p2p?

Okay, I released the name and logo under the GPL. Big deal. What would make this system stronger? I asked myself.

I figured: If people are going to have their own Labs, they're going to want to share information about their Labs with others and they're going to want to feel a part of a larger organization, one rich in complexity and variety. They are going to want to form allegiances, and comment on the progress of others.

I had investigated Jon Udell's dhttp perl module and I got to thinking - that it would be neat if people could have their own weblog-style portal for their lab served from their own computer. Perhaps they could syndicate content from other Lumpy Labs. Using rss/rdf, Labs could subscribe to other interesting Labs' rss streams, but one could even have a Lumpy dtd so that metainfo about the streams could make sense somehow in the Lumpy context. (Whatever that turns out to be.)

I figured I could use to build an easy to use content management interface (a la Zope) so that people could make their weblog simply by filling out a web-based form. If this got fancy, a form-based interface could even be used to update the dtd for that particular Lumpy Lab. Sort of point-and-click xml authoring.

Then I found radio userland - here's an *off-the-shelf* way to quickly set up a lab. And Jabber and Groove - like you said in your *memes* article - a dial tone for xml transfer <- people could use that.

There are ways around the dynamic IP address problem - static pages that automatically point to assigned IP addresses, or store requests for content until such time that the lab goes online and checks for messages (as it were) then deals out (or brings in) content. Pre-arranged times for connection. Centralized brokering of addresses - again, whatever.

The bottom line is that I really do want to just *give the pig away* - I don't want to write a piece of software that is Lumpy, I want people to start their own Lab and then simply using a basic xml structure - text-based, extremely portable - start living the life with it. I don't care if it's written in perl or visual basic (did I just type that?  ;-> ) and I don't care if people design their own pig for that matter.

As I think about this, I'm greatly encouraged by the progress in discourse about p2p as outlined at I'm writing to say - what do you think? You know a lot about this. Advice? Direction? Flame? I'm ready, and I appreciate anything you have to say about this idea.



ps: here's your pig:

pps: I'm just now redesigning my portfolio pages, so there's very little on the web about this at this time. Hopefully by next week...