Commons Network

Christian Siefkes

August 2008

Sources of Inspiration

Existing forms of Commons-based peer production, especially:

Wireless Community Networks

A FreeNetwork is any computer network that allows free local transit, following the guidelines of our peering agreement. By “transit”, we refer to information flowing through the network. While most of our members specialize in wireless networking, a FreeNetwork can be built using Ethernet, fiber optics, or any other kind of networking technology. A FreeNetwork is defined by what its users can do with it, rather than the particular technology it is built on.

-> Sharing of a “physical”, non-copyable resource (Internet access).

Peering Agreement

Basis for cooperation in community networks:

This document is an attempt to connect those network islands by providing the minimum baseline template for a peering agreement between owners of individual network nodes - the Peering Agreement (FNPA)….

…Peering Agreement

Mesh Networks

Large community networks such as Freifunk are mesh networks: Multiple computers (nodes or peers) form a network without needing a central authority or hierarchical structures. Data “hops” from node to node until it reaches its destination.

Mesh networks are “self-healing”: Whenever a node leaves or joins the network, the network structure reconfigures itself so that all data still reaches its destination (unless the network splits into two parts because the lost node was the sole connection between different regions).


Generalize the approach of wireless community networks to co-produce and share (almost) everything that people like to have.

-> Build an open network for sharing and shared production:

Elements of the Network

… Elements of the Network

Sharing Constraints

Based on an idea by Thomas Kalka.

Family of constraints which shares may apply (family of “sharing agreements”, similar to the family of Creative Commons licenses):

… Sharing Constraints

Why Participate?

For the same reasons that motivate people to develop free software or participate in community networks:

… Why Participate?

Private and Common Property

Shared goods and the necessary means of production are either:

Note: How can we safeguard the status of common property within the current legal framework? -> Requires a “legal hack” similar to the GPL.

Common Property

How things become common property:

… Common Property

Common property (goods that are partially and totally community-owned) are still maintained by the initial sharers, but they can't be sold/re-privatized—if the initial sharers choose not to maintain them any more, they “float” to somebody else within the Network.

Common property is always transitive: goods produced using them are common property, too.

Costs only arise when something must be bought since it isn't available in the Network. Ideally, costs should become lower over time, as more and more goods and tools are produced and freely distributed in the Commons Network.

The Problem of Priority

How to deal with conflicting demands for the same good?


… The Problem of Priority

Favorable Conditions for Starting

Suitable Areas for Starting

Network Infrastructure

… Network Infrastructure

Hypothesis: people like to do things that are useful for others and to be part of an active community.

-> Create suitable infrastructure (for sharing designs, for sharing goods, for organizing shared production, for spontaneous cooperation and stigmergic interaction), and production will follow.