Designing SAFE/Solid Social Networks

Lots of people are currently arriving in the Solid chats and getting inspired at the idea of decentralised systems, taking back our lives from the monopolies of Google, Facebook, et al, and wanting to start building apps.

It is worth watching and being part of, so while I post this initiative here because I think it has interesting thoughts on a Solid social network, I encourage people to head over to, read, explore and maybe join in.

I’ve learned a lot in the Solid chats, but apart from that I think we risk being left behind once Solid gains momentum, and I don’t think that will be good for anyone, not just us, but users in general, because Solid without SAFE seems to me to remain very vulnerable to all the forces that got us where we are.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on better, user empowering social networks by someone who was inspired after learning about Solid recently:


In what way do you see them as being in competition, or do you just mean for attention?


If solid apps can easily be ported to SAFENetwork, then any adoption of solid is good for SAFENetwork too.

IMO, we have to continue to bide our time until a beta network can more fully realise the potential. It is hard to enthuse SAFENetwork on users when it is relatively incomplete though.


Yes, that’s a big part of it. If they and others think that Solid is the solution because nobody is there pointing out the dangers (and the solution, ie SAFE) momentum builds and it will be much harder to regain after the fact.

Also, those building on Solid and those building tools to build on Solid, will be creating things that will likely not be ported to our usable with SAFE, whereas if they are building with the benefits of SAFE in mind, the synergies and mutual awareness will be amplified.

I think the lack of engagement of people from the SAFE community and Maidsafe with the Solid team and its community, is a problem for us as much as them. How can we develop competent RDF and Solid solutions without that, and how can we build something that benefits from the synergies?


Solid is in a similar state to SAFE. A little ahead in some ways but behind in others.

The problem I’m most concerned about is a lack of mutual awareness or building of a joint vision, or at least understanding each other’s visions and priorities, capabilities and limitations, rather than a lack of readiness in either project.

In a year Solid may well be the goto standard for self ownership of data, but without SAFE it will lead people away from SAFE and into a poor second best, vulnerable and centralised again. And what’s been built with it will be much harder to meld with SAFE.


I’m sure pointing out dangers makes sense, but I’d rather focus on pointing out the added benefits of working together and being compatible with SAFE.


I agree @happybeing. Collaboration is an easy word to say but a much harder thing to put into practice. We should all perhaps make a point of putting in a more regular appearance on the Solid forum - strike while the iron’s hot and all that. I wish they’d get themselves onto Discourse though, conversations just get lost on Gitter.


Are the high-level concepts clear to everyone?

The SOLID team recently released this resource to help developers to learn the concepts.

One of the core concepts is the ability to share data in a common way so that other users and applications can easily query for it and use it. The common way to define relationships between data points/nodes/resources and the resources themselves will be through RDF.

But what’s the purpose?

RDF technology is very powerful in setting standards on how to publish, classify or report information. Its strongest feature is the ability to share and publish data in an open way.
If you want to expose data so it can be easily consumed by other users, federated across different information systems, or linked by a third party system, it’s a technology without many viable alternatives actually.

Of relevance to one of the goals of SAFE is this study of the application of graph databases to molecular biology (Spoiler alert: RDF was considered more ideal for this particular application. I know, “Confirmation bias”, but I’ve really not wanted to like RDF and I found this article with that mindset.).

The first component that is required to implement RDF is URI’s to define resources and relationships:

Human-EN: Pluto’s atmosphere is composed of Methane.
RDF: <About: Methane> <About: atmosphere composition> <About: Pluto>

So our first step in SAFE is the ability to access and link to resources via XOR URL’s, soon to be an RFC, PoC presented here.

Once we have XOR URI’s on the network. We need know how to help developers compose RDF data. What do they need to comply with RDF on SAFE? How do we design the API?

We spoke with an application developer to start the process of learning what we need to provide to make RDF compliance easy. In particular, I’d like to connect with developers from the biological fields where RDF is already in extensive use, to receive their feedback and to find out how we may serve them.
Keep your eyes and ears out.

One advantage SAFE may have is that we may be able to provide the missing incentives for RDF adoption with proper marketing around:

  • Well-defined data and therefore highly shareable, searchable, and usable, can potentially earn more money for application developers.

Something along those lines. That may be the incentive that developers need to learn to think and code in Turtle or at minimum to not completely ignore RDF.

I don’t see lack of engagement. There’s been a lot of time and mental effort, not on my part, already in that regard.
What I see is a complex subject that is difficult to convey.
The Gitter chat can be highly academic at times and requires much contextual preparation to ask a useful question. Even when prepared it can be difficult to find answers to very practical questions.

That’s the point of this post then is to start to get everyone else, along with myself, up to speed so that we can engage more.
That was the partially the purpose of our PoC Patter app.

I’m wondering if we need to create our very own tutorial/educational piece on RDF and linked data over at DevHub?


That’s an awesome idea to bring it front and center!


Thanks Hunter. I don’t understand the lack of engagement for so long. Not wanting to knock you or the team here, I sense some defensiveness and that’s quite likely justified because I don’t see all that is going on. But I don’t understand why so much is hidden if so.

I’m presenting my impressions, understanding and experience. Mostly I’m the only SAFE/Maidsafe person posting and interacting on the Solid chats and on the internal Maidsafe Solid slack channel except when somebody has pushed for it to happen.

I’ve always had the impression that there was interest, discussion and research going on among the team, but that for some reason mostly just internal, and perhaps just within a small group. I hoped to see what that was when I was included in the new Solid slack a few months ago. I’ve learned a bit from having that access, but generally only when I’ve asked specifically for information, and I’m the only person who posts bits and pieces there as part of my research. It’s generally silent for long periods with me posting the odd thing.

Anyone can post in the Solid groups, any level of question, suggestion or idea. The visitors there range from absolute newcomers, technical and non technical, through to experts. All kinds of questions and discussions, and all are welcome, so I don’t recognise your description or accept that there’s something about what is acceptable in the Solid gitter that makes it difficult for anyone from Maidsafe to join in there. I recall the Maidsafe team saying they had struggled quite a bit with getting to grips with RDF at first. That was a surprise to me because I didn’t see anyone asking for help there. The Solid chat is there to help with exactly that. I used it while learning, but the team did so hardly at all in that period and only briefly since when ‘encouraged’ :slight_smile:

I realise that I can become the bad guy here and am afraid of creating a negative feeling around something that I want people to be enthusiastic about together. So I hope my frustration doesn’t have a negative impact - I’m not trying to undermine anyone and trying clumsily maybe, to help.

Maybe it’s me. Seriously. Perhaps the way I charge around and tackle this discourages people from feeling OK about getting more publicly involved? If so, I would like to know. Any feedback, public or private, is welcome and I will bear and deal with it myself. If my stepping aside or shutting up and giving space for others would facilitate other’s involvement etc I’ll certainly do it, or if there are better ways of working together, all suggestions welcome. I thought I’d been doing that while focusing on other things and that after DWeb in particular things might start to change, but I’m not seeing it.

I’ve learned an enormous amount about how to interact and work with people while here, but it is still something I feel unsure of and wonder if I tread on people’s toes without realising. So I’m still wanting to learn and improve.

So I’m sorry if I’ve been doing that in any way and hope we can all find ways to work together, build this and enjoy it at the same time.

EDIT: And as soon as I post this I see @joshuef has made a proposal to the Solid team to help developers get to grips with rdflib.js :slight_smile: Great stuff. Moaarrr, moaar!


I am looking forward to the day when I can create a feed for something like “Safe Network” + “Solid” and not just get some articles from medium, but also get recent forum postings and comments to which I could then potentially respond. I bring this up because I’m sure that I’m not alone in being overwhelmed with having to track multiple people, groups, and forums across the web. I’m also fairly sure that the Maidsafe team are quite interested in what’s happening with solid development … but because we are all drowning in the data of the net due to 1) how difficult it is to filter it, and 2) the complexity of the problems we face today and likely on into the future … it will take a larger and larger team of more and more highly specialised individuals to cope with it all and given humanities economic problems I suspect we are all up against the wall in terms of our attention span being fully occupied to the nth degree.

So I don’t think there is any lack of desire by the maidsafe team to look at what the solid team is doing - I think that, like most of us on this little blue dot moving rapidly toward the singularity - we are really all just on the verge of being overwhelmed with things that are demanding our attention.

As a liaison of sorts between the solid forums and maidsafe forums @happybeing I am certain that your sharing of information here from the solid forums is highly appreciated by all.

So thank you!


I think you’re doing great @happybeing and the discussusions may be more internal but the proposals, experimental presentations, as well as example apps are some of the fruit that is bearing from that. I popped into the gitter chat and was thinking of posting and I agree with Hunter that it seemed really technical and acedemic so I was a bit intimidated. I’m not exactly sure what I could contribute but I’ll come up with something worth discussing or at least share with them what JAMS is up to and how we plan on working with RDF if anything to show their work along with the SAFE team to make it most accessible has been the inspiration. Keep up the great work Mark and props for being so open and sharing your self awareness. As the kids say nowadays, you are “woke” :yum:


Thanks Tyler, I do feel my efforts are appreciated, no question, and the team have been incredibly helpful and supportive of that - so in many ways I get credit for things that they, and others here have contributed a lot towards. And I’m grateful for and want to acknowledge that.

I also agree with you that we are trying to track a lot and I do appreciate that for folk here, and for the Maidsafe team who are working hard, often on several things at once, it becomes difficult to hang out in several places and something has to give. Just don’t let it be this! :wink:

Today @JPL (supportive as ever, thank you John) took my concerns and jumped in to try Solid out by signing up for a Solid Pod (it’s free) and asked for help on the Solid gitter. If anyone wants to join him (us), head over to and sign up. We could then figure out how to set up a Solid on SAFEnetwork discussion group using our Solid PODs and invite other Solid users to join us.

This would help us understand Solid, where their project is, where it fits wrt SAFE, what we can add, what we can borrow, and what we could build together. While learning we will be increasing awareness of SAFE and its great community, values, goals and capabilities with people involved with and learning about Solid.

How about it? Who will join @JPL’s SAFE Solid crew?

I’ve move the remainder of this post to its own topic, sign up and share your Solid WebID here:

@JPL maybe the posts below this should also be moved to the new topic?


Doh! I see what you did there. :wink:

I’ve just tried to sign up but it keeps giving me invalid username error-message … is there a trick to it? I was just using the same username I have here.


Thanks Nigel, you are kind and supportive as ever. :slight_smile:

Clearly this is an issue and I was very cautious myself to start with, feeling a lot of responsibly not to mess up early contact with Tim and his team. So I do get this.

I can say though it is not necessary!

If you or anyone arrives and behaves, and even if not tbh, you will be treated with respect. Any level of honest question, suggestion or idea will get a respectful welcoming response. They are almost as welcoming as us. :wink:

Some discussions are technical, so maybe people see that and think it’s all like that but it isn’t.

So put aside your fears and reservations. If you would like to get to know Solid and the characters there, jump in!


How can I join @JPL? I’m signed up with Inrupt as nkoteskey WebID is Nigel

These are ideal questions for the Solid gitter!

So I’m not going to help :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Agreed! Keep up the great work!

I think we just have to consider that maidsafe is a relatively small team, which is being pulled a lot of different ways. Your contributions to keep the torch burning are undoubtedly a positive thing, @happybeing!


Great push @happybeing. I’ve actually tried to register on a few times over this week, and it’s just not working for me. I repeatedly get the error “invalid username” even after trying various combinations. Would you happen to have run into a similar issue and know how to get around it?


No sorry. I think Nigel is having the same problem but Hunter has registered at some point. I already had a pod elsewhere. I suggest you post about it on the Solid gitter.

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