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Considerations for participant networks

We will be releasing a specification shortly for networks to be able to integrate the PePol tools into their networks. The PePol tools will be compatible with the OpenSocial 0.9 specification.

opensocial logo

This means if your network is already an OpenSocial container, there will be minimum effort involved in becoming a PePol participant. If you're not OpenSocial enabled, by supporting the PePol tools you'll get all the additional benefits that come with OpenSocial.

Benefits and perceived risks

What are the benefits and risks for potential participant networks? The key benefit is being able to provide more value and a better quality of service to their users and at the same time helping to secure a sustainable world, - (good PR for any business). The main perceived risk we anticipate is that PePol could become a replacement for their online community. If anything we believe existing networks will receive an increase in their use and number of new users.

We see a real value in diversity and recognise that what people expect and want from their web experience will naturally be different. People like different editorial styles and will prefer certain ways of looking at and doing things. This means it's a good thing that there are and continue to be many different networks within or overlapping a related area (in the case of PePol, sustainability). Our goal is only to act as a supporting framework on which everyone can do more, within their chosen primary network(s). Of course as more networks share the PePol vision (or indeed adopt similar network connecting services under a different name), there would become a competitive disadvantage for those not participating, as their users will not have access to the large pool of resources and tools that PePol offers.

Types of integration

There are two ways to make use of the PePol tools within a network: Participant level integration and Tool level integration.

  • Participant level integration is the full monty. It allows you to actually host parts of the PePol services and use them within your network - even if the PePol cloud for any reason goes down. It also makes it easier for your users to learn about the new features available to them through your network. Your network will host a 'PePol node' (effectively some code running on a JVM) which communicates with your network via the OpenSocial specification and handles communication to the PePol cloud transparently. This is the most robust and flexible option.
  • Tool level integration means you make use of the PePol tools exactly like you would any OpenSocial 'app'. Users choose to add a PePol tool to their profile and use the tools much in the same way they would use a Facebook app, for example. This is more straight forward, but doesn't allow such close integration as with participant level integration. Generally speaking tool level integration is more suitable for bigger, more general purpose networks, while participant level integration is intended for networks more specifically focused on issues of sustainability. 

pepol tool integration diagram

Want to help us refine the operation and features of the tools? We want to hear from you. Please contact us with an introduction, a description of your skills and any initial ideas you may have. You can also send us a request to contribute directly at our developer site: pepol developer logo

The PePol code is open source and is available under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3).

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Considerations for businesses

What benefits can green businesses and businesses in the process of 'greening' gain from using the PePol service? Naturally individual employees can use it as a resource and share some of that benefit with their company, but what about using PePol as an organization?

PePol will provide an 'organization level' interface for the service, in effect, another tool that is orientated to linking organizations to other organizations, (or individuals) for finding, offering and requesting resources and information. An organization can then have a PePol account that represents that organization on the PePol network. Organizations may also, for example, use PePol as a way of gauging public opinion of new policy, services or products.

Security and Privacy

With potentially so many users, each having several network accounts linked together, how do we address security and privacy?

Regarding security, we don't store user passwords at all, and the checks we use to verify user logins is also unique for each user. This effectively addresses the fear of our servers being hacked and user details being gained en-mass.

The chief concern then is for individual users having their password guessed, thereby exposing all of their connected networks to the abuse of whoever gained their password. This concern is addressed with several measures:

  • Enforcing a minimum password strength to reduce the odds of guessing.

  • Logging when a user account is accessed from a different location and notifying by email when this has happened. A user may designate 'trusted locations' to avoid unwanted email notices.

  • When a user logs in from a location that is not designated as a 'trusted location' they must also enter the answers to a random selection of the 3 security questions (e.g. favourite colour, birthplace, favourite cartoon character, etc.) that they chose when they registered.

  • All login processes are conducted over encrypted web connections.

  • If someone attempts to log in from a new location and fails to answer the security questions after 3 attempts then the user associated with that account is notified by email and if possible by SMS, with a link to temporarily freeze login and change passwords.

There are two ways of enforcing these safety measures. 1. by the participant network adopting them for their own login proceedure. 2. directly through the tools, which present their own checks for PePol features. This flexibility allows joining networks to stagger the process, and networks that will make relatively light weight use of PePol to keep a light weight primary login process for their users.

Regarding user privacy, user data (such as Daily Actions history, Index article submissions and Gather activity etc.) is stored securely and seperately from user contact information (which is itself stored in encrypted form). We use a seperate reference to a PePol account to link users to data instead - in order to enhance the usefullness of the tools. The PePol service is designed to empower individual users, not marketeers.