A Few Cool Decentralized Projects Recently Stumbled Upon: Blockchan, Syndie, Utopia and Shirah. Adding More Momentum to Decentralization.

A Few Cool Decentralized Projects Recently Stumbled Upon: Blockchan, Syndie, Utopia and Shirah. Adding More Momentum to Decentralization.

By rhyzom | rhyzom | 23 Jan 2021


Blockchan: 4Chan-Like Image Board on the Ripple Ledger Using IPFS

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                     Blockchan's front page, with a set of boards pretty much almost identical to 4chan's and the option to create new ones as well.

Most of us are familiar with the troll academy of 4chan and its disinhibited anon mentality and public toilet graffiti style aesthetic. 4chan eventually went on to spawn other similar image boards, like for example, the non-ironically ultra-right wing and extremist neo-nazi 8chan (where in 4chan you can be never sure whether they are serious or not, ironic or sarcastic, getting some newb to bite the bait or organizing around the latest project mayhem initiative, 8chan is dead serious about its ethos and statements and is considered an online breeding ground for such lone wolf terrorists as the New Zeland mosque shooter and other such incidents). There are also other less popular chan-like image boards out there, 7chan for example used to be a more drugs and junkie oriented one, etc.

Most recently blockchan has been released, which is a 4chan-like image board of similar spirit, style and aesthetic, but without central server hosting of content or keeping of logs. Instead, blockchan constitutes a client that interacts with the Ripple ledger on one hand (for plaintext content) and IPFS on the other, for hosting of media. The client is available for free, distributed on GitHub. Otherwise, there are live instances running at blockchan.ca and blockchan.link. For running your own client locally, instructions are provided in the repository's README.md.

Being blockchain-hosted means that all posts appended to the ledger are stored there permanently and cannot be changed, modified, edited or deleted. Which is why in the About section the creators claim they will appoint a few with the responsibility of moderating illegal content which does not comply with the "Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material" law (US). This includes kiddie porn, advertisement spamming, NSFW material on explicitly SFW boards and filmed videos of murder, gore, snuff and the like. The creators emphasize, however, that all posts are the responsibility of the posters themselves and other than what has been explicitly stated as offensive, undesirable and/or illegal, blockchan is dedicated to censorship-free discussion without restraint or disciplinary measures, free to spill all the vitriolic resentment and insults you feel like (same as 4chan and their unique jargon and vocabulary of racial and other slurs).

To connect to blockchan completely anonymously however, it is suggested that you use the Brave browser in a private TOR-enabled window, additionally shielded with a VPN (which Protonmail, among others, provide for free - Tunnelbear being another recommended VPN service). And lastly, if paranoid enough to want even further anonymizing, you can access the Internet via a burner phone tethered to your laptop for connectivity. For anonymous image uploads to IPFS you can use the Pinata service.

 

Syndie: An Open-Source System for Operating Distributed Forums, Providing Consistently Secure Interface to Both Anonymous and Non-Anonymous Networks

Syndie can work with anonymizer, circumventor, JAP, I2P, Tor, mixminion, mixmaster, Freenet, gnutella, OpenDHT, and other networks

Syndie is a forums/boards and blogging system that provides anonymity by design and is flexible enough to fully operate using small ad hoc mechanisms that do not necessarily depend on other services like IPFS, I2P, TOR, Freenet, etc. (though it can implement, exploit and make use of them where appropriate). It also does not rely on real-time interaction, so latency is not such a big concern.

Syndie allows for decentralized forums of different groups to form, using different ad hoc methods and techniques (say, one makes use of IPFS and another of OpenDHT for posting messages - by the way, a similar variation of USEnet, implementing DHTs has long been proposed, and Syndie overall seems very much reminiscent of the old USEnet newsgroups message boards), yet staying interoperable and mutually compatible, given awareness of each other's existence. 

Syndie can be implemented either as a private or a public forum, allowing for the possibility of offline participation (synchronizing changes and updates upon coming back online) and browsing (packaging web sites into Syndie posts as text), as well as ensuring security by protection against unwanted, unnecessary or even invisible exposure to the sniffing out and gathering of personal data and meta-data by third-parties and web services whose entire business model depends on the amount of personal data they can gather and analyze at scale.

You can download Syndie from the official download section here. It provides an installer for Windows, Linux, OSX, a ready-to-run CLI version and a Debian (.deb) package. It is built on Java, so it requires Java 1.5+ to run.

 

Utopia: A Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Ecosystem

https://miro.medium.com/max/1614/1*UfV680UVnnu6UdXgd8GVXg.png

 

Utopia is yet another decentralized peer-to-peer ecosystem using Curve25519 high-speed elliptic curve cryptography for network communication and data transmission (making it not yet quantum-proof, but that is still a rather secondary concern today). Utopia basically offers an entire suite of services based on these fundamentals and primitives, including instant text and voice messaging, file transfers, chat channels and groups, news feeds and a decentralized alternative to traditional e-mail called uMail, as well as a web browser (called Idyll) which accesses web sites within Utopia's p2p network and can be used as an alternative to TOR. And if all that weren't enough, there is also a (mineable) cryptocurrency involved (called Crypton) and a built-in wallet for transacting and making use of whatever financial features and functionality it offers.

In some ways such all-in-one application suite reminds me of some kind of decentralized non-government controlled WeChat, but in others as perhaps just another multi-functional Swiss army knife that does everything, but nothing well enough. And the presence of its own cryptocurrency that is also mineable is the one thing that actually really turns me off - but I may also be wrong. I haven't yet neither downloaded, nor installed, yet alone tried it. But screenshots of the interface and the various features that it offers are available here.

And there is also a manifesto, which I haven't taken the time to skim through as I suspect it wouldn't be anything too substantially different from all the other hundreds of similar manifestos out there. Either way, and if having time to waste, no harm in giving it a shot.

 

Shirah: A Curses-based RSVP Speed Reader For Ebooks in the Console

Okay, this one doesn't fall in the same category as the rest, but still thought it cool enough to share and even try out. Shirah is a terminal-based ebook reader using the ncurses library that supports what is known as Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) regime or (controversial) method of (peripheral) speed-reading that the creator claims has given him great results regardless. It supports only epubs and txt files in its current version.

Written in Python, it is installed via either:

pip install shirah-reader

or:

pip3 install shirah-reader

(That is, works regardless on whether it is running on Python 3 or previous versions.)

To read a book, and set a speed, enter:

shirah /path/to/book

Not so much more to say about this one at this point. :)

Few More Words In Conclusion

It seems there are more and more frameworks, applications and network topology designs following decentralized and distributed models of organization and communication, many/most of which also putting strong emphasis on privacy and anonymity - which further confirms and validates that a whole new paradigm is picking up momentum, a Web 3.0 closer aligned with the design principles and ethos of the earlier web, before the Eternal September and the arrival of the current siloed and highly centralized Web 2.0 that emerged from the aftermath of the dot com bubble.

And this trend appears to be slowly picking up momentum the more people realize the malicious nature and damage done by the Web 2.0 feudalism of corporate for-profit monopoly within the centralized server-client model of somebody somewhere "taking care of all this complexity for you", while you just keep on having a good time revealing more and more about yourself, as they've gotten the mechanisms of addiction down to the precision of science, following in the steps of B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism (a particularly disturbing persona of a creep that went way beyond Pavlov's dogs with his obsession over a "technology of human behavior" at scale - or scientific totalitarianism, if you prefer). Which, to me at least, means that, as Plato was known of saying, necessity is the mother of invention. And re-constituting a decentralized Internet working in the service of the public is a necessity, particularly when contrasted with where we've gotten to today in how short a time, without even paying attention for the most part.

Anyway, while Blockchan sounds/looks cool - and far as experiments and things done for fun go, it is - the one that really caught my attention here was Syndie, which I will most definitely try out these days.

 


rhyzom
rhyzom

Verum ipsum factum. Chaotic neutral.


rhyzom
rhyzom

Ad hoc heuristics for approaching complex systems and the "unknown unknowns". Techne & episteme. Verum ipsum factum. In the words of Archimedes: "Give me a lever and a place to rest it... or I shall kill a hostage every hour." Rants, share-worthy pieces and occasional insights and revelations.

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