Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

P2P Platform For Grassroots Political Participation: GNU Media Peer

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About a year ago, I was briefly consulted by Italy's RadioRadicale, to review and analyze a new challenging and very ambitious project.

The goal was the creation of a software-based technology platform to allow the easy editing, commenting, remixing and online re-distribution of all of the tens of thousands of hours of video and audio recordings of the Italian Parliament daily proceedings that the Radical Party maintains.

Photo credit: Charis Tsevis

What the organization wants to achieve, is to facilitate and motivate access to these huge digital collections as to promote greater awareness and understanding of the political processes and to expose issues and facts that do not normally get coverage from traditional mainstream media.

Though my initial estimate and evaluation for how to proceed was not accepted, I remained in touch.

Their strategic team went on to meet for the last six months in the effort to define as closely as possible the characteristics and specifications of this new cultural and political communication tool.

Thanks to them, and in particular to Diego Galli and Emmanuele Somma, who have kindly authorized me to share some little bits of this project, I am sharing here today the general profile and traits of this innovative P2P publishing and distribution platform that will be developed in the coming months.

As far as I know, this is the first time that P2P technology has been planned to be used to facilitate a democratic and open-ended political discourse, where not only those who traditionally had access to the media, can have a word about what the Italian politicians do, say and turn into law.

You are certainly welcome to comment, criticize and suggest further ideas and revisions to this initial spec sheet, while taking this idea further into other directions and applications.

Here is the initial public GNU Media Peer profile specification:

Media Peer is a P2P personal information publishing and sharing tool which:

  • is copyleft free software (released with GPL)
  • is an open infrastructure plugin-based for information production and sharing
  • is multiplatform, based on native GUI on Windows (Win32), Linux (X11/GTK, X11/QT) and Mac OS X (Cocoa)

With Media Peer you will be able to share data, audio/video, textual documentation, or any other kind of digital artifacts by using P2P technology and supporting P2P networks in a secure and controlled way.

Media Peer will allow the setup of trust relationships between sharing and working groups; it will also allow to evaluate, to redistribute, and to modify and enhance downloaded material, which will be re-editable, compilable, remixable and re-publishable (always in the respect of the specific content relative distribution licenses).

Media Peer architecture is based on the integration of configurable plug-ins to facilitate the publication of greater number of resource types, and it also integrates advanced research and cataloguing tools to archive all downloaded materials.

Media Peer supports interactive live text chat/instant messaging, and audio/video communication channels.

The Media Peer software framework will allow users to decide on which P2P networks to publish their files, and whether to store files locally on their computers or in a distributed-fashion across the network itself or on Media Peer servers.

Depending on the P2P network selected as a destination for publishing, a matching input form will allow the user to provide reference information for any rich media content to be published including title, contents, duration, description and allowed re-uses.

The Media Peer software will include client and server technologies, such as:

  • a web client to access XML/HTML4 compliant Internet resources with full DOM, Java, JavaScript, CSS and SSL support (based upon KHTML and OpenSSL building blocks)
  • an http server to push local interface pages (apache)
  • a databaase interface library (otl, dtl or libdbi)
  • a database management system for resources (mysql, postgressql or nosql)
  • a generalized plugin based client for doing live searches on the P2P networks
  • a generalized plugin based server to share resources on peer to peer networks
  • a generalized plugin based client for internet discussions (IRC, DC++)
  • a telephony/teleconference VoIP and videoconferencing client
  • firewall
  • simple text, audio and video editing tools
  • advanced programming interfaces (APIs) for multiple languages (Perl, Python, Scheme, C, C++, Java)

Media Peer will support the provision of detailed metadata for each resource, specification of access parameters (who can access this content) and the integration of a blog module allowing Media Peer users to publicize and inform other networkers about new digital content that they have made available.

Multiple identities for each user will be supported, as well as the ability to associate specific files, access to resources and rights according to each unique profile.

What I personally see as the main risks in the development of such a tool, are the following:

a) inadequate quality interface design and ease of use of the product. I my humble opinion this is of all, the key area that can make or break the popularity and usefulness of a digital tool like this, which is clearly not directed or targeted at technical users. Adoption of best lessons learned from existing P2P software tools must guide the new UI specification while involving real non-technical users/testers.

b) overloading the tool with to many tools and functionalities, and making it therefore more difficult to master, heavier in size and possibly slower in performance.

My key points here are essentially these: Unless this tool can be made fun and easy-to-use by adopting a very well-thought user interface design approach, it may be difficult to motivate and incentivate non-technical users to invest time to install, learn and adopt such new technology.

Media Peer and other similar projects that will follow open up an evolutionary thread in the history of political discourse and true participatory democracy that will radically change people perception of politics and will motivate desire to participate and makes each and every voice be heard.

How to market it?
Once this technology becomes available it is necessary to seed good content, created through it, for people to see and appreciate what can be done to expose, understand or question the political universe we individually support.

It is also necessary that users of this technology are empowered not only in accessing and republishing selected material, but that they themselves can use this platform as a vehicle to package and re-distribute pre-selected collections complemented by news feeds, discussion boards and other interactive communication and collaboration tools.

By allowing the end users as much ownership on content production and customization, as well as power to personalize/brand and re-distribute it to others, can significantly incentivate adoption and viral adoption.

There are many aspects of this technology that connect back to my original proposal for a personal media aggregator having strong P2P access, publishing and communication abilities, and probably there, you can find some further useful ideas that could be used here as well.

If you can read Italian, you can track the development of GNU Media Peer on Emmanuele Somma's blog at:

If you would like to support, volunteer or contribute your time to the development of this new P2P platform (python volunteers particularly welcome), please contact:
Emmanuele Somma esomma[at]

Readers' Comments    
2006-02-19 02:17:42


where can I download it?

2006-02-19 02:16:10


It is a good news for peer 2 peer media streaming.

posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, July 19 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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