Interview: Meet Solidground

Meet SOLIDGROUNDFederated service platform for domain driven application development. Learn more from this interview with Arnold Schrijver.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your team?

My name is Arnold Schrijver and I live in The Netherlands. After a long career in IT in many different roles and a 2-year stint in bootstrapping two startups, I became full-time engaged with Free Software in 2017, living on my own savings.

Starting 2018, worried about various tech trends, I was among the first to sign up to The Center for Humane Technology co-founded by Tristan Harris (“The Social Dilemma” on Netflix). With consent of the founders I initiated the independent Humane Tech Community on their forum. As facilitator I have been a tireless humane technology promoter ever since.

In recent years my activity shifted towards the Fediverse, based on the W3C ActivityPub and related open standards. I am active across the web and in many communities and forums to help further the technology base and foster community collaboration.

My project started as “Groundwork”, but is now named Solidground.

What is your motivation to work in the data portability field?

For a long time the vision of The Decentralized Web by Tim Berners-Lee has fascinated me. The decentralization of the web, based on open standards is vital to break the dominance of Big Tech companies and ensure a level playing field exists where everyone has inclusive access and equal opportunities. What stood out however was how many initiatives had already come and failed. The decentralized technology landscape is littered with tombstones that are fading in history.

With delight I then found the Fediverse. Already used by millions of fedizens around the world, it showed that real alternatives to the proprietary and corporate web not only are viable, but can truly prosper. Without ads, engagement-driving algorithms and  many passionate Free Software developers this online space represents a true humane technology playground and ‘field experiment’.

I became active in the SocialHub Community of federated software developers, and a passionate Fediverse technology advocate.

In simple words, what challenges does your project address?

We think of Social Networks as these humongous platforms hosted by Big Tech corporations. But in fact social networking is a normal human activity and the Web is how we extend it online. The entire web is social in nature! For the Fediverse the potential and opportunities are huge when we consider this. 

However ActivityPub and related standards have no governance organization, and neither an effective and active community that is able to evolve the protocols. In the grassroots culture of the Fediverse and Free Software movement, this has proven very hard to organize.

Lacking a steering body federated app developers invent protocol extensions ‘on-the-fly’. As a result there’s a growing amount of Protocol Decay and accidental complexity, which is starting to hamper technology adoption and stall innovation. For newcomers there’s a barrier-to-entry that is growing as time progresses. It is here that Solidground project intends to bring improvement.

What solution are you developing?

Solidground aims to make it as easy as possible to create new types of federated solutions, and enter new domains. This starts by shielding creators from complexity and automating many of the chores. Creators should not be bogged down in technical complexity, but be focused on people’s needs. Instead of ‘apps’ which are like silo’s that stand on their own, with Solidground so-called social experiences are delivered. The ability to tightly integrate these experiences in the ‘social fabric’ of the Fediverse is key.

The Solidground product suite consists of a Process, a Designer and a Platform. Solidground Process is like a recipe book where one finds best-practices and guidance. The designer, called Floorplanner, supports these recipes in step-by-step walkthroughs and automates tasks. Floorplanner ensures that living documentation and specifications mature alongside the code. At time of deployment a Floorplanner Blueprint is ejected to be hosted on Groundwork Platform as composable Service Modules.

What are the next steps?

Solidground and the Social Coding Movement will be further prepared for public announcement later this year, followed by a launch event of the movement. A host of people, projects and communities have shown interest to become part of this Social Coding initiative and help shape a stronger future for Free Software development supported by federated services.

Guiding these efforts is a shared vision of a Peopleverse to emerge on top of the Fediverse, where we can Reimagine Social. Fedizens together will redefine “Social” and dedicate to bring social networking back in the hands of The People, where it belongs.