Prioritizing certain apps over others to sell a "killer app" vision

Summary
I think there should be a prioritization of certain applications on Freedombox over other applications.

Pick an app like Synapse (matrix) and make it the “killer app” of Freedombox. Then advertise freedombox as simply the easiest way to have a free/open personal communication platform (even easier than setting it up on digital ocean).

Or pick an app like Photoprism and make it the google photos killer, for example.

I know that this is an open source project and thus people are just gonna work on whatever they feel like. But I don’t see a use for 80% of the software on freedombox. And the software that I would use on a daily (or hourly basis) receives minimal support.

Problem
Freedombox is a jack of all trades, master of none.

Solution
Pick a small number of use cases that affect normal people on a daily basis (intelligent photo management, messaging with friends, etc) and focus all efforts to make those particular use cases “best in class” experiences.

Tasks

  • assess most common use cases
  • determine if use cases are already covered
    • if they are, determine how to improve them (use better apps, improve install experience, add plugins, etc)
    • if they aren’t, identify good apps to cover them
  • possibly partner with app development teams to help each other out mutually
  • focus Freedombox marketing around a tool that covers your daily use cases and does it well
2 Likes

I’ll start a discussion of use cases just from my own perspective:

  • Photo Management
    • I don’t know if there are any apps for this yet, but I would want something like Photoprism that includes object / face recognition like Google Photos
      • This app would have to be packaged (I think they are working on adding Photoprism as a Nextcloud plugin though?)
  • Messaging apps
    • Matrix / Synapse package exists
      • There are no bridges or bots to go with it. Bridges should be included somehow to really let people experience the best aspects of matrix.
  • File storage / collaboration
    • Nextcloud package exists (I think?)
      • I don’t know if anything needs to be improved here
  • Social Networking
    • Activity Pub / Fediverse world would actually work well if every individual had their own server. I think there might be a Mastodon or Pleroma package already?

Out of all of these, I really only care about photos and messaging tbh. Messaging is quickly replacing social networks in general.

Your idea is solid. It, interestingly, reflects a lot of the things our core team discussed at our annual FreedomBox Summit. Please read our report to learn what we view as our priorities: https://www.freedomboxfoundation.org/news/report_2019_summit/

We set Nextcloud integration as a goal for 2020. This is discussed in the report.

We also set as a goal for 2020 the exploration of ActivityPub-compliant microblogging services for FreedomBox. This is discussed in the report.

Your point is well taken. We have spent years creating breadth because there were so many use cases that seemed important. After all, the original vision of FreedomBox was to create a system that replaces all major cloud services; it is, thus, no surprise that we have so many services.

But I agree with your overall point: for a project to succeed, it needs to communicate how it meets a prospective user’s needs. Focusing on a few, high-demand killer apps is one, probably effective, way to do that.

3 Likes

Awesome!

I’m not dead set on ActivityPub being a good way forward, but it is a way. For example, because of the limited RAM / CPU power on the freedombox, it may be better to focus on apps that have multiple functionalities. Nextcloud does have an activitypub plugin now. But something like Movim can also handle chat and social as well (and it has a debian package already). To an extent, Matrix is a social network already too.

I agree.

I assume you’re referring to the current A20 Olimex bundle. I’m not discounting your perspective but let’s be mindful that people use FreedomBox on a variety of processing platforms.

I agree from a usability standpoint. However, I would also argue that applications should be more targeted and limited in scope on hardware with more limited processing resources in a way that users may cherry-pick only the features they require. The best approach would then depend on the average user’s expectations and intentions for performance optimization.

1 Like

You’re correct. When I imagine FreedomBox being successful, I imagine it being a physical box that simply sits next to someone’s router in their home.

I briefly mentioned elsewhere, but I believe FreedomBox should aim to be easier than using a VPS. Part of this, in my opinion, should be the focus on the physical box that you simply turn on, and follow the prompts for.

Oh yes, I agree. But if you include Next Cloud, that already is a ridiculous behemoth of software haha. But in general, I do agree with you. I guess with Next Cloud though, you can configure the parts that you want to use and not include the parts you don’t.

hey jrm4 here for the first time, I was on the conference call.

For my money – the killer app is Syncthing, hands down. It’s the easiest to use (far and away the most ‘set it and forget it’ thing I’ve seen there) and also incredibly easy to explain to regular humans.

“Dropbox without dropbox” is usually enough, but if they push it, then I hit them with the ol’ “Oh, you do realize they literally scan everything you put on there, right? This is so they don’t have to keep 5 million copies of the latest Drake record, but who knows what else they’re looking for?”

1 Like

Can you set up Syncthing as a cloud data source in iOS?

I understand that you personally find syncthing to be useful, but I don’t know anyone that is desperate for a way to sync files. Not a single person I know even has what they would call “meaningfully important” files, except for photographs.

Really? I’m a very technical person and even I found Resilio Sync to be incredibly confusing. The only way it makes sense is if you have one “master device” with a maximum amount of storage and then you have other devices that just occasionally request files.

But let’s be honest, most people (if they have multiple devices at all) do not have one device with a huge amount of storage and others with less. They probably have multiple devices, each with 512GB of storage or less (because that’s how companies make them these days). And if that’s the case, Sync systems (as opposed to cloud storage) becomes a lot more complicated!

Actually, with Sync systems, you do keep “5 million copies”. Or at least you keep a copy on each device. Whereas with cloud storage, you just keep one master copy and it’s on the “cloud computer”.

The issue is that there is no “master copy” with sync systems. There’s just multiple copies that are synced and it’s difficult to tell when it is safe to delete something or not.


As I understand sync technologies, the only use case for it is if you have a desktop computer with multiple terabytes of storage that acts as you “home base”.

I don’t know anyone other than myself that his this setup. All of my friends and family just have small storage laptops and phones. And in this situtation, actual cloud storage that gives them added storage as a “home base” in the cloud is the most beneficial.

Yeah, “photographs from your phone” is actually the thing I’ve seen get at least some traction. I’ve gotten a few people with precisely that: as in, “you never know when your iCloud will get taken down.”

And I’m not familiar with Resilio, but https://syncthing.net/ is the one. Set up CAN be slightly tricky but there are QR codes and such.

I think you’re missing my point though. Syncthing is not a replacement for cloud storage. It requires a set up that most people do not have. They pay for iCloud because they don’t have storage and need it, not because they just want to share photos between devices.

hehe, I might be confused as to what iCloud precisely is because I’ve never used it. But here’s what I’m seeing, anecdotally. (pretty much all the time, I’m referring to college students in my IT program, which is a bit more of a mix than you’d think because at FSU, IT is separate from CS, and we get refugees from Communications, etc etc.)

I tell people – you care about your photos, right? And you could lose your phone, but your pictures are in the cloud so you think you’re okay? But, and y’all have seen it, sometimes these things just go away. Why not keep your own backup. First, the easy thing to do is to just plug your phone into a computer and copy them over – but hey, also, check out syncthing, this basically does it automatically. (And also, does the stuff dropbox does)

Now, where I may be unclear is that, re: freedombox, it may not do the person-to-person stuff freedombox seems to be oriented towards, but I really think Syncthing is a good gateway drug, mostly because it mostly “just works” TODAY.

This is where we disagree.

  1. Treating photos as if they are files is a terrible experience. It’s ugly, formats get messed up, nothing is organized.

  2. Most people do not have computers with enough storage for a lifetime worth of photos and videos. Think of your students. They probably have a 256GB macbook and a phone. That is why they use Google Photos and iCloud. Because they get extra storage that they don’t have.

In order to solve 1 and 2, we need a solution that gives users dedicated, reliable storage that they don’t currently have and we need a solution that helps to organize and display images in a clean way that they are accustomed to with Google Photos and iCloud today.

Nobody will go from the ease of use of Google Photos to sorting photos manually in folders. That is awful. That’s why I would rather suggest something like photoprism or piwigo.

Perhaps we’re thinking of two different “markets” of people? I very much see what you’re saying on Joe Q. Public; what I’m saying is – I presently do deal with a group (groups) of young people who are interested in tech and linux and etc and are probably a touch more geeky than average college student.

But moreover, I’m not theorizing on what they would do; I’m telling you what they are actually doing; and I can tell you that (especially if you do it more carrot than stick) you can absolutely get people interested in “photos as files on a drive” if you simply explain what they subconsciously already know:

Yes, iCloud is convenient. Go ahead and keep using it, I’m not asking you to get rid of anything. BUT ADD THIS, because, as you know – as you have seen --, they will take away this stuff or otherwise screw you over if it doesn’t fit their business model.

If I don’t have enough storage for my photos / videos, I cannot. I’m talking about removing that roadblock by offering a solution that adds canonical storage. A true “home base” for your photos / videos and not just a taxi driver for them.