Open Tech Will Save Us on PeerTube

I am publishing the Open Tech Will Save Us (OTWSU) talks on an Open Tech platform — namely on my own instance of PeerTube.

To view and listen to the talks, go to my OTWSU mirror channel. Find a list of recent editions at the end of this article.

To watch the next edition live, with the opportunity to ask questions, see the OTWSU home page for details.

The rest of this article explains the why, the what, the who and some technical details.

What's This?

Open Tech Will Save Us is a monthly meet-up organised by Element for the Matrix.org foundation, in which invited speakers talk about “issues relating to technology, especially the importance of Open, Interoperable standards, and how they can enable decentralised tech to keep our data private while still enabling communication.” The audience of the live broadcast is encouraged to join the associated OTWSU matrix room and ask questions, which the speaker can answer.

PeerTube is “an alternative to Big Tech's video platforms, an ethical and open source digital common, not subject to the monopoly of any company”. Developed by French non-profit organisation Framasoft, PeerTube uses the standard communication protocol of the Fediverse (called ActivityPub) so users can follow, like and comment on videos, not only from an account on another PeerTube instance, but also from their own account on Mastodon etc. (microblogging), Pixelfed (photo sharing), Funkwhale (audio streaming), Mobilizon (events), and all kinds of Fediverse servers out there.

All twenty-one existing OTWSU editions are there on the OTWSU channel on my Trax PeerTube, starting at edition 1 from April 2020, and it is set up to import each new edition.

Why?

I uphold free-as-in-freedom technology. I believe it's good for society.

I love Matrix, “An open network for secure, decentralized communication”. The founders of Matrix organise monthly talks covering many subjects of interest to the open tech world, under the name Open Tech Will Save Us. They stream these talks live on their own web site. Fantastic! They also stream on YouTube — OK, they want to reach a wide audience. But they publish the recordings only on Youtube. This last part makes me sad, and of course is rather ironic. “Open Tech Will Be Sidelined”?

Everyone should have the right to run their lives outside the proprietary silos if they want to. That is something I believe more firmly with every passing year. Everyone involved in decentralised tech knows and wants this. It is my opinion that the right way for an organisation to promote open source technology is to get involved also in supporting adjacent open source projects, using open source software and services even where these are not as immediately convenient.

Element and the Matrix Foundation have chosen to use proprietary services such as Microsoft's Github and Google's Youtube for major parts of their interaction with the public. Now, while I would wish this were different, I have to concede I am not running a successful Open Tech business, and they are. Element is successful in the important sense of getting enough funding to sustain Matrix development. Aware how difficult it is to achieve that, and how important it is, I concede it's their choice and they have to do what they believe is best. PeerTube even posted a warning to us zealots not to go piling up on matrix “in our name” and rather “assume people we talk to are already doing their best”.

The OTWSU representatives have made clear that they would love the content to be distributed on Free-as-in-freedom platforms, in addition to YouTube, if volunteers will do it, and “as long as it's clear that the channel is not maintained by the Matrix.org Foundation”. I and others have asked and been given this answer more than once.

So Let's Spin Up PeerTube

I had wanted to do it a while back, but initially had problems installing PeerTube the way I tried it, which was inside Yunohost, and I lacked time to spend on it. In mid-2022, a volunteer called Harald stepped up and began mirroring many of the editions on his PeerTube. Thank you, Harald!

Recently I saw PeerTube v5 announced and was spurred into trying it again. At the time, the Yunohost-PeerTube integration was still on PeerTube 4, with an upgrade to 5 under review, but I tried it anyway, on a different instance of Yunohost than the one I tried before, and it succeeded.

Once PeerTube was installed, I found the built-in facility for importing videos from Youtube to be easy to use, and it worked. It took about three hours per edition to do the downloading and transcoding on my modest VPS.

Technical

When I began my foray into serving these videos on PeerTube, I ran into a few technical issues, misunderstandings, mistakes, learning opportunities. I have documented these in a separate article, PeerTube Technical Issues.

The most relevant issue for users is that I adjusted the transcoding settings. Some of my family are on very slow connections and I want to give such users the best chance to be able to watch these videos. The older editions are recorded in 720p resolution, the newer ones in 1080p. I added 360p and 144p resolutions, and audio-only.

What Next?

I am making this channel available for the time being, as a personal project. I do not promise to keep it available.

I would like to host more non-commercial content on PeerTube, especially where it helps people who are working for the interests of small-tech and own-your-own-data to get their content onto an Open Tech platform.

Recent Editions of Open Tech Will Save Us

Learn more about these subjects from the people building them. Go and watch Open Tech Will Save Us on an Open Tech platform, PeerTube, now!


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