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November 13 2018

Where is Anahita heading to?

It's been a while since I've written about the direction to which the Anahita project is heading towards. A lot of research and silent development has been happening during the last year with a focus on maintaining the existing codebase while planning the upcoming releases.

The idea of Anahita came to me over a decade ago when I was working as the lead architect of a software project to develop a Learning Management System for K12. The system we built closely resembled the traditional education model. After we launched and used the system for a while with a large number of schools in the US and Canada, I went through the survey results. The responses indicated that we've been enforcing an archaic education model via technologically challenged administrators and teachers to students who had the least power and most technical aptitude within that environment. During the same time, I was involved with an open source project called Joomla. Collaboration with other open source developers around the world was in contrast with what I had learned in school. In the academic world, sharing the fruit of knowledge was forbidden and punished. Students were not allowed to read other students code and projects or else it would have been considered cheating. In the open source world, however, reading other people's code, improving it, and sharing it back with the community was encouraged. I must say that I learned most of what I know about system design and project management from my involvement in open source communities. 

After reading student responses to our learning management system, I dreamed up the idea of an open source knowledge sharing platform in which everyone could be both students and teachers, where information and knowledge could freely flow from person to person. Where leadership was earned and not appointed. I walked away from that job and started working on early versions of the Anahita project. During the same time, I met Ash which joined me for 6 years. His knowledge of design patterns and previous experience in building social networks applications came useful. He made great contributions to the Anahita project and its core graph architecture. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity of working with him in one of the best 6 years of my life. 

Back then, Facebook and the idea of building social media services was exciting. It made sense that we focused our attention on developing tools for nurturing online communities. We truly believed that this was the ultimate model to bring people together for social progress and open source collaboration to make the world a better place. Today we can see the cracks in the social networking architecture. The rise of anti-intellectualism and how easily alternative facts can spread quickly on social media is an evidence of that. Social networks mimic the architecture of a brain and therefore they are susceptible to group thinking and biases. It is reasonable to say that a social network can develop mental health problems too. 

I personally think that ad-supported social media services are even more likely to facilitates the spread of negative biases and alternative facts. That's because they profit from high user engagement regardless of the quality of content that is being exchanged.  Any polarized and controversial topic can be a profitable opportunity for ad-supported social media platforms.

The universe of social networking systems isn't all grim and filled with disappointments. While services such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are the largest examples of social networks, they don't represent the category. Social networking architecture is now the foundation of most multi-user platforms where people are being productive and getting things done. The best example is GitHub, which rather than distracting us and chewing away through our daily time, it is making millions of software developers and teams more productive. If you think Google Plus is dead, you are mistaken. The architecture is now at the base of all Google services such as Google Drive and Youtube. Most modern project management and Intranet systems are using social networking approach of building multi user environments. This is how we can save social networking and knowledge sharing. Utilizing the architecture to augment productivity and education rather than keeping people distracted and engaged by playing on their psychological impulses. 

During the last 4 years, the company that I've found in a university dorm has specialized in developing applications for scientific, healthcare, and industrial sectors. So to bring focus to the Anahita project, we want to build collaboration and knowledge sharing tools for researchers, scientists, healthcare professionals, and those which who do fieldwork. We are also interested in learning management systems where users learn via collaborating and communicating democratically. Think open source, open access, and open data when you are looking at Anahita.

The next question is whether we want to build mega giant platforms of knowledge sharing and collaboration using Anahita?  While the existing Anahita codebase can be scaled up for a lot of business case scenarios, we want to do the exact opposite: our goal is to build the minimum viable unit for setting up a social networking foundation for building knowledge sharing apps and services. We want to build the Raspberry Pi of social networking platforms with brutalism and minimalism design philosophies in mind.

As for the call for action, I would like to ask you to follow the Anahita project group ( I am posting another article shortly that describes the action plan. You can find the link in the first comment. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

#Anahita #Vision #OpenScience #OpenData

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November 13 2018 Permalink
Where is Anahita heading? The Action Plan:

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