let’s FREE OURSELVES FROM PLATFORMS

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THE GENESIS OF THE HUBL PROJECT

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In October 2014, I crossed paths with Sylvain, an entrepreneur who had recently become self-employed. Professional love at first sight (I said professional), we launched together the Happy Dev adventure after a few weeks, then the Startin’blox cooperative 4 years later and finally Hubl in 2020.

I’ve come here to tell you about this journey which, from conviction to conviction, led us to make this project happen and the vision that’s powering it.

LONG LIVE THE COLLECTIVE OF INDEPENDENT workerS!

When we became independent workers, it was immediately obvious to us that Freelancer-like platforms were an aberration. We hadn’t fled the old world to find ourselves subordinate to a platform driven by interests different from ours. However, we needed to eat, find work and sustain our self-employed activity.

To do so, we needed to regain the advantages of a company: financial stability, a rich social life, strength in numbers and a wide range of skills, financing capacity, notoriety, mutual aid, professionalism, social protection, mentoring and peer-to-peer exchanges.

But we didn’t want to relive the company’s drawbacks either: archaic pyramid system, management by terror or money, inertia of deleterious structure, inefficiency, senseless processes, loss of meaning, inflexible schedules, work-eat-sleep schedule. We perceived the movement of the “liberated company” (entreprise libérée) as half a measure, where very often the small boss remains in place despite good intentions.

The solution was there: the collective of independent workers, by independent workers, for independent workers. A structure that would resemble us and at the service of our professional development and that of our clients. We founded Happy Dev, and the enthusiasm generated by its manifesto quickly confirmed that we were not the only ones looking for this third way, wishing to live our life as self-employed people to the fullest and without concession.

OH, WAIT… LONG LIVE COLLECTIVES OF INDEPENDENT workerS?!

We wanted to offer every self-employed person the possibility to live what we were living thanks to Happy Dev: a stable income stream, a spirit of camaraderie and mutual aid, a fun, rich and fulfilling professional life, trusted colleagues, satisfied customers.

Soon enough, we realized that the right collective of freelancers was the one on a human scale (max. 80 people) where people know each other, trust each other and enjoy working together or take the pressure off at the afterwork by sharing our stories of the day. Happy Dev thus took this form, and became a multitude of local collectives rather than ONE big collective because that was the right model, the one that made us happy and thanks to which we worked well. A multitude of local collectives allows the different local realities to exist and adapt to the needs of each one, rather than the algorithm of a Freelancer.com that tries to treat 100 million independent workers as interchangeable entities.

Photo by Bekky Bekks on Unsplash

COLLECTIVES OF THE WORLD: UNITE! 🙂

The different collectives of independent workers need to connect with each other because unity is our strength. This makes it easier for us to find a project when one of us is out of work. Conversely, it makes it easier to find a trusted freelancer to work with when one of our clients requires a skill that is not available internally at any given time. More generally, it allows for more peer-to-peer exchange, sharing and camaraderie, which are fundamental parts of what we come for in the collective.

By their nature local and human-sized, our collectives need to federate among themselves in order to be sustainable. To do this, and to enable our organizational models to flourish, a digital tool is then necessary, because this involves federating hundreds, if not thousands of freelancers, discussion forums and customer projects.

PROBLEM: THE WEB CREATES MONOPOLIES

Web platforms are on a closed model of collecting more and more data about us in exchange for a service. The more data a platform has, the better its service.

Example: AirBnB is better than other platforms at finding me a place to stay because it has more places to offer me, it has more data than its competitors.

Beyond a critical threshold, the player with the most data provides a service of such high quality that it wins the whole market and becomes a monopoly. To compete with it, you have to be able to offer the same quality of service, and therefore acquire as much data, which is almost impossible. On the Web “winner takes all”.

So we need digital tools to federate our collectives, but if we create a platform on the traditional model, like Freelancer, Airbnb or Uber, this platform will become a monopoly that will subordinate us and destroy our dream of an independent and fulfilling professional life for the greatest number. We need to take the tangent, take a step to the side, and propose new kinds of tools that meet our needs without enslaving us.

Photo by Connor Jalbert on Unsplash

IT’S MY DATA

The platforms capture all the value because we give them all our data, but that’s not a foregone conclusion. To be able to federate our collectives without creating an nth Freelancer, we designed Hubl, an open source tool that allows each collective to host the data generated by their members.

Thus, each of us remains fully independent, autonomous and in control of its data and interface. Hubl is designed in a modular and open-source way so that each community that wishes to do so can develop it as it sees fit, while remaining connected to the communities of its choice.

Hubl is not a tool for predation but, on the contrary, it aims to emancipate our organizations and guarantee everyone’s autonomy.

Page “Annuaire des membres” sur Hubl. Design by Sophie Rocher

WHAT DOES IT allow me to do HUBL?

Hubl is a common, an open-source tool for online collaboration. Hubl is designed to allow communities to work and exchange online, within their own community but especially with others, without any restrictions.

Each community using Hubl decides which other communities it can interact with in the tool. The members directory makes it possible to find people and skills internally, but also among friends in other communities when relevant. The team chat allows you to take part in group or individual discussions and to pilot projects. The job board allows you to share job opportunities with organizations with which you wish to work hand in hand. The events calendar allows us to make our events more visible within this ecosystem, to share our audience and our meeting points according to each person’s appetite.

THE FINAL WORD

Hubl federates an online, decentralized and polycentric meta-community of work. Hubl empowers the collectives and communities that make up this meta-community, promotes exchanges between them and aims to emancipate them from traditional Freelancer-type platforms. Hubl’s vision is to enable us to reclaim the common space through digital technology, to recreate links beyond the borders of our organizations and to emancipate ourselves from the intermediaries of the old world.

These are the reasons why we have embarked on this adventure in which we strongly believe. To start the movement and enable the birth of this ecosystem, Startin’blox hosts and updates every week, free of charge, the organizations that join the Hubl ecosystem and make it their daily collaboration tool.

If this vision makes sense to you, join us! You can contact cyril@startinblox.com who will give you a warm welcome and help you get your foot in the door of our ecosystem, which already has already gathered 50 communities, will soon celebrate out 700th registered member and is growing a little bit more every day.

TO LEARN MORE

The Happy Dev Manifesto (1 min)
Understand the interoperability of Web applications and its challenges (7 min)
Podcast (in French): Ricochet – The GAFAM monopoly (48 min)
Our column in Le Monde (in French) on interoperability (5 min)
One of the many EFF articles in favor of interoperability (80 min)
Startin’blox’s blog (∞)

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Alexandre Bourlier
Alexandre Bourlier

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