Open Collective
Open Collective
Scuttleverse Newsletter Interviews: Āhau
Published on October 13, 2021 by Alexander Cobleigh

Scuttleverse Newsletter Interviews: Āhau

Hello butts nouveau & vieux! It's been a while!

I confess, my editorial duties fell a bit by the wayside. I was busy working as part of the SSB NGI working group (more updates on that in another edition of the newsletter) and had a difficult time putting out unrelated work in my spare time. Alas! The grant has ended and my writing faculties have cleared up! 

For this edition of the newsletter, I offer an interview with community member Mix Irving: community gardener-at-large and senior programmer on the Āhau application built ontop of SSB. In the interview we talk about what Āhau is, its connections to the mainline Scuttleverse, what type of work on Scuttlebutt it has funded, the app's plans for the future, mix's personal reflections and more.

If you want more of these views inside the Scuttleverse, chip in to the SSBC Open Collective which is enabling this and other initiatives to take place. Every little bit helps 🖤

Interview with Mix Irving on Āhau

image of ahau team  

image of ahau app showing tribes screen

Hi Mix! Would you mind sharing a paragraph of who you are & where you’re coming from (ideologically / physically / whatever comes to mind)?

image of mix in dark clothes with a wreath of red and pink flowers, green trees and light wooden structures in the background

Hi I'm a first generation kiwi, with roots running back to Scotland and England. I grew up on the Heretaunga plains - next to Te Mata Peak, under big open skies - and live in Wellington with 2 kids and my wife. My name is Mix. Context before individual is the traditional way to introduce yourself in Aotearoa. Other useful things to know about me are I'm part programmer, social entrepeur, and teacher.

In a sentence, what is Āhau about?

image of ahau profile screen

Āhau is about helping reconnect whanau (extended families) so that they can coordinate collectively, and build a richer future.

It takes the form of a p2p app for building family trees and archiving records, but that's just the beginning.

How is the project funded?

The majority of the funding has been through government grants and philanthropy. Some initial funding came from equity in the company being given.

We're currently exploring something like support contracts for large iwi (tribes) who want setup/problem solving/custom development.

Are people—outside of the devs & the direct project stakeholders—using it in an organic fashion?

We're in alpha at the moment, which for us means testing with our families, and with tribal partners we've been collaborating with.

The plan is to move to beta this month [August], and a full release in September 2021 sometime.

How do you see Āhau tying into the rest of the Scuttleverse? Where does the project intersect & overlap with what has come before? How is it different?

Āhau runs using a different network and signing key than the main Scuttleverse so the two will never interact. This is deliberate, because while the data in Āhau is social it is not public.

  • Āhau funded the development of private groups (the JS implementation, and the specs that is built in) 
    • these allow for private messaging among any number of people (classic ssb was limited to 8!)
  • we're the first app to abstract profiles away from feeds
    • we needed this because we need to represent ancestors who are not necessarily alive to make their own feeds 
    • the side effect is that we're building the path towards multi-device support (we have also helped fund the fusion-identity spec)
  • all our records are is tangle-based, using a standardised spec format 
    • tool ssb-crut (create read update tombstone!) makes it easy to consume a spec, and takes care of building json schema and reducing tangles for you 
    • adds concept of authorship permissions with ssb-crut-authors 
  • we link all our data using link records 
    • e.g. we identify a parent-child relationship by publishing a new record 
    • this allows us to record meta data on the link, edit it, and point at the link to comment on it's integrity 

Basically we've built the most complex architecture on ssb to date. This is the major overlap I see—shared tools and learning

mix describes the image as following in a post on ssb: a pātaka on show in the Dowse Art Museum. Pātaka means “store house”, used for collective food and I think sometimes taonga (treasures). This is the name that we give scuttlebutt “pubs” in the #ahau context, and the name of the desktop app we’ve made to help non developers run their own pubs from home %khVbT3Kjf/boZ+pKbedAKvlnsgAxgVXf68K/rvGpbPI=.sha256

What is in the near-term future for Āhau? What is in the longer-term future?

  • launch, work with tribal partners to continue to learn and adapt
  • add new features: maps, decision making?

Longer term
  • integrate some money handling tools, to allow people to run projects together and launch companies

Where can people find more information on the project (docs/repo/talks)?

Do you have any finishing thoughts or reflections you’d like to share?

New Zealand is really unique - it's a colonised nation which is also founded on a treaty.

There are wrong parts of our history (and present), but there's also hope for the future, and for building a future which is rooted in Te Ao Maori. The world views informing what we're building this project are radically different, but I think there's a deep alignment I feel between the Sovereignty of indigenous movements and pro-social peer-2-peer community.

For me, it's imperative that we build for real people, and for those to be people that we want to support to grow.

There's a saying that came from a local marae:

The house that is built by the people, builds the people

I think the same is true for our tools. By building apps for indigenous communities, we shape ourselves, and we shape our tools to that service. The people we become, and the memories and tools we leave behind will shape more of what follows.

- Which people are you supporting to grow?

- How is your software connected to those people?

this interview was conducted at the end of august; it has been lightly edited for clarity—primarily fixing one-off typos