Thursday 15 November 2007

Shortcuts - an open source framework for mobile community creation

This idea was developed during autumn 2006 when I started to look into all these community networks and services as a subject of my postgraduate studies.

I noticed then that most of these new Web 2.0 services concentrated in developing a community around some specific use case and not so much on creating a platform, on which one could build different kind of communities and especially the kind of communities, which would work both online and offline mode. When mobile terminals are considered, a continuous Internet connectivity, required by many services, is not feasible because of the mobile data and battery costs. Instead a mobile-friendly community software or service should concentrate more on synchronising the content with intermittent connections and storing the wanted community data also on the mobiled devices, where it is accessible, even if Internet is not.

The existing communities also do not provide their internal frameworks as open source as they want to protect this their most valuable asset. They also concentrate more on growing and developing their own community instead of cooperating or connecting with other communities. Google's OpenSocial framework is refreshing change in all this, but it might be, that it is because of Google does not have a leading community service, so it has to look more into interfacing and interconnecting with existing communities.

In my opinion Google is, however, on the right track in this, but even they have not (at least yet) announced synchronising open source framework for building mobile friendly community services. They have however a lot of interesting technologies like Google Gears and already mentioned OpenSocial framework, which could possibly be utilised in creating the concept I am presenting here, so I guess I will be looking into also them in the near future.

As a solution to the presented issues I am proposing is the development of SHORTCUTS concept, which is described briefly here:

SHORTCUTS is a Community Concept (application, framework and
architecture) designed for Mobile Terminals.
  • an application in the sense that the basic functionality can be utilised to build communities, share and control the sharing of information between them
  • a framework in the sense that the application will be designed to be extended andused also through a defined open API from other terminal software
  • an architecture in the sense that SHORTCUTS is capable of functioning both in off-line and on-line modes as well as with the help of centralised servers or completely in the peer-to-peer mode.
SHORTCUTS makes it possible
  • for corporate and private mobile users to build both nomadic and infrastructure supported communities and share all kinds of information securely between them
  • for service providers to offer centralised both advertisement/advertiser revenue and subscription based community services for users
  • advertisers to focus their advertisements to the certain communities and interest groups
  • terminal and platform software developers to utilise community API to make their software community aware and capable of utilising community based access control and distribution of information
  • Web 2.0 service providers to add offline and mobile terminal to their serviceswithout having to change the existing service
And with a more detailed description and presentation of Shortcuts concept available also here.

I personally, and we at the Tampere University of Technology or in Arch Red are currently looking for developer partners and/or funding to develop the Shortcuts idea further first to a proof-of-concept implementation and then to an open source product, on which community services can be built.

If you are interested in learning more or discussing about the concept, feel free to contact me with firstname dot surname at or address.