Giving people the tools they need to share knowledge and advance open society through social software.


We are a network of people that have come together to give you the tools you need to share knowledge and advance open digital society.


Why 'Barnraiser'?

Barn logoWhen an Amish family needs a new barn their community gathers to build a barn in a single day, a tradition called barn raising. In building a barn together in a day they achieve something that no single family can do.

We share that spirit as we build for society.

  • The Barnraiser project is now frozen. All code is still available for free. A number of forks of the code projects have launched. To find out why, read on....

    Barnraiser started back in 2003 when I was invited to Kosovo to teach a group of students in entrepreneurship. I soon realized that these students have no access to tools to allow them to share knowledge and collaborate. I felt that these tools were essential for young people in Kosovo to share ideas, start businesses and move the country towards independence. Whilst there I wrote AROUNDMe; a small Free Software tool to allow them to social network, blog and search. It also had a forum and a wiki for groups to collaborate. The tool very quickly gained a small gathering of volunteer developers and from that the project grew.

    I was offered the opportunity to co-found a three year project to empower Swedish youth with the same tools. This project was fully funded and allowed for the employment of three people including myself. At the time, the thought of focusing on this project for three years was a dream, however it as a mistake. Whilst the project aims were good I found myself spending time with budgets, wages, organizations and most importantly, increasingly away from the founding objectives. The volunteers soon disappeared and we get caught up in code and business. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. What I should have done was continued to lecture and put time aside for Barnraiser or simply get a job somewhere with time to develop the project within work hours.

    My underlying objective was to see an open social networking protocol, so that people owned their social networks. Look at the mobile phone. It is yours. You have your contacts on it. It is irrelevant to you as too which network or service provider these contacts are on. My goal was that you can create a social network in any platform (website, mobile phone) and share information amongst friends. You can take it wit you from provider to provider... network ownership stays with you.

    I thought that the best project to piggyback on for this was the OpenID project. This takes care of identity. The social networking aspect would use OAuth. Using these two open protocols made sense to me. We could then take many small individualized softwares such as a personal blog, a group wiki or a twitter feel and share them amongst friends and groups of friends whom I wish to exchange interests and project ideas with.

    Meanwhile FaceBook grew and a monopoly was quickly in place. Whilst I wish the people at FaceBook all the best I find myself staring a monster in the face. A private company is now able to influence millions of people whom do not own their social networks nor have any say in what that company does. The FaceBook privacy issues highlighted this. One day we may see FaceBook either innovate open protocols or see a consortium lead by the mobile phone networks crush FaceBook. - who knows what the future will bring.

    Ola has gone on to work with LSU and I wish him all the best (and hope he takes some of our conversations to help other projects). Sebastian flourished as a developer and now with JamesList where he is up to all sorts of interesting things. I wish them both well and thank them both for their countless hours of sharing ideas and thoughts.

    As for me, I moved to Bequia; a tiny island in the Caribbean and now work for a Yacht Club. The schools in Bequia have no working computers so any thoughts I had of teaching technology and entrepreneurship here were scuppered. I\'ve now started a swimming school (swimming, snorkelling and diving is my other passion). As I teach the kids to swim we talk about rights, responsibility, social networking, open society, opportunities and music. They continue to teach me. I\'m happy taking part in them learning to swim - one by one.

    To everyone that supported Barnraiser, the volunteers spread throughout the world, those that downloaded, the Free Software Foundation and to all the students that I have had the pleasure to share my thoughts with, I thank you. It\'s been awesome – stay free.

    Tom Calthrop

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