Telecommunications Reclaimed: Hands-On Guide on Community Networks

This book is a guide on how to build a community network, a shared local telecommunications infrastructure, managed as a commons, to access the internet and other digital communications services. It was written collectively by a group of community network pioneers in Europe, activists and researchers during a writing residency week held in Vic, Catalonia in October 2018.

Meant for a wide audience, the book includes practical knowledge illustrated by several hands-on experiences – a set of 32 real-life stories – as well as legal, technical, governance, economic and policy material extracted from netCommons, a three-year-long research project supported by the European Commission. Its goal is to guide the reader through a set of actions aimed at setting up and fostering the growth of a community network, but also, for policy makers, local administrations and the general public, to create the right conditions to let community networks bloom and flourish.

Telecommunications Reclaimed: A Hands-On Guide to Networking Communities“, netCommons. Open access. Via John Thackara. Previously: How to build a low-tech internet?

Can the Internet Survive Climate Change?

“Engineers within the nascent community of sustainable web design agree on a few core tenets: Advertising is bad, the growth of video streaming must slow, web pages are too bloated, and corporate surveillance has to end.”

Read more: Can the Internet Survive Climate Change? How a warming world is sparking calls for a greener web, Kevin Lozano, The New Republic.

Web Bloat Score Calculator

Most people are probably aware that image files, as a rule, are bigger than plain text files. Yet, as the Web Bloat Calculator website explains, one of the weird things about the way websites have evolved is that their text is frequently so overloaded with superfluous (hidden) coding that they actually consume more energy than they would if the pages were presented solely in image form (ie, if a screenshot was taken of the webpage, and that was what was displayed when people looked up the webpage, rather than the original text). Such code bloat tends to build up in layers over the years and can lead to frenetic, and almost completely meaningless, exchanges of information between servers and browsers.

Web Bloat Score Calculator. Quoted from: Our Lighter Website, feasta.

Another Day, Another Low-tech Website

French designer and researcher Gauthier Roussilhe was inspired by our solar powered website and built a low-tech website himself, documenting the process in detail (and in English). It’s a great work, and there’s some interesting differences with our solar powered blog.

First, Roussilhe built his site with a user friendly content management system (Kirby), which is then converted into a static website. Compared to our approach, this makes it easier to build a light-weight website for those who are accustomed to working with WordPress.

Second, the designer also tackles his videos, which are hosted on Vimeo and Youtube, and manages to reduce their “weight” by 75%. This is a major contribution, because video takes up the largest share of internet traffic.

Here’s his own conclusion:

If we take stock: I reduced the weight of my site by 10, the average weight of a page by more than 3 and I reduced the weight of my videos on third-party services by 4. I have a site extremely simple to administrate, very light so very fast, which consumes very little electricity and therefore emits little GHG.

The site also follows all the canons of today’s digital design: mobile-first, accessibility, loading speed. In fact it is quite surprising to realize that structural limitations (weight / energy) lead to navigation experiences much more accessible to all audiences regardless of their equipment, their connection or their imperative motricity or vision.

Read more: Digital guide to low tech.

Hardware & Software Info for Solar Powered Website

For those who want to build their own solar powered website, we have released the source code and a manual outlining all hardware and software details.

The Internet Unplugged

“At first glance, it seems like the ultimate paradox: A magazine that exists only on the internet, filled with content that can only be consumed once a would-be reader has disconnected from the internet. But that’s exactly the kind of contradiction founder Chris Bolin says he was going for when he created his new magazine, The Disconnect, which launched in February.” Read more: A new digital magazine forces you to unplug from the internet.