Complementary Currency Open Source Software in 2010

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* Article: Complementary Currency Open Source Software in 2010. Matthew Slater D 82-87

URL = http://matslats.net/ijccr-software-review [1]


Abstract

"This report briefly covers the field of non-commercial mutual credit software, discussing the issues and challenges the projects collectively face in meeting the needs of the movement. There is a clear cultural divide between commercial barter software which helps businesses exchange spare capacity within the law, and free open source projects which help neighbours to exchange under the radar of the tax man. There is almost no cross-fertilisation between nonprofit, idealistic, community projects, and the business barter. The aims of both cultures are very different, though their methods are similar." (http://www.ijccr.net/IJCCR/2011_%2815%29.html)


Summary of some of the main conclusions

Excerpted:

First conclusion: Cc activists are trawling the net trying to work out what each software package does, how they compare, and which is best for them. The only information available to them is in the form of a few poorly maintained lists on the web with no review and no attempts at balanced comparisons.* Implementers find themselves sifting through lists including dead projects, ready rolled services, and hard-core applications and there is very little actual information from users' perspectives.


Second conclusion: One of the major barriers to achieving scale in a decentralised mutual credit economy is the fundamental inability of members of currency groups to exchange value between groups. however it is critical for the usefulness of the network that members be able to trade outside their local groups, across the network firstly with adjacent local groups


Third conclusion: there is almost zero investment in software itself, any investment is always directed at implementations, and most of the software is built by busy people in their spare time. The movement is hardly organised enough to use its own issued money for funding (hat tip to CES), yet it needs highly professional skills to advance. ... Of all the software under discussion, only Cyclos is insulated from the possible demise of its primary programmer. All the others are still dependent on the altruist who initiated them, and have been unable to professionalise. No investment means no staff, no reliability, no guarantees for the future. A viable business model needs to be established for a CC software project.


Fourth conclusion:There is much talk about 'virtual' currencies. These may broadly fit the definition of complementary currencies, but they offer none of the benefits which we are concerned with. Some are direct proxies for hard currencies which are paid for in advance, and then spent using a plethora of widgets and enticements. The distance of virtual currencies from national currencies allows operators to introduce games and incentives which blur the value, and make it easier to spend.*** It should be possible to use virtual currency tools such as the Opensocial API to quickly build a CC ecosystem, though an appropriate context would need to be found. One proposal on my back burner is a mutual credit bank, which would offer secure hosting of many currencies via an API. There may be a social network on which all trading takes place; instead everyone would trade through payment widgets on their own sites. Facebook makes an obvious platform for a complementary currency, but it might be a false investment. (http://matslats.net/ijccr-software-review)

The playing field

Before getting to the issues, here is a synopsis of each of the main projects, in order of age. These projects are selected on the basis that they are open source, have multiple implementations, and support community exchange using an arbitrary measure of value.

Cyclos

Language/ platorm Full time developers Implementations Plug 'n' Play? Url
Java 4 Many No www.cyclos.org

Cyclos is the software implementation arm of the Social Trade Organisation. It is an open source, java, comprehensive accounting package used in increasingly large projects around the world. The German Tauschring network picked up Cyclos and now use it routinely, contributing back code. Many other 'one-off' projects also use it as a back end accounting package.


Comunity Exchange System (CES)

Language/ platorm ! Full time developers Implementations Plug 'n' Play? Url
MS asp 1 200 in one Yes www.ces.org.za

Arising from a grass-roots movement in Cape town, CES is a free web service that hosts 200 'Exchanges', each with its own currency and separate database. Some exchanges charge membership fees in the national currency, some in the currency of the exchange and some use the optional transactional levy feature. Trade is possible between exchanges.


ccLite

Language/ platorm Full time developers Implementations Plug 'n' Play? Url
PERL 1 No www.hughbarnard.org

Cclite is a Perl package for local exchange trading systems (LETS), banking and other alternative money systems. Multi-registry, multi-currency, web services based transactions and templated to give multi-lingual capabilities.


Fourth Corner

Language/ platorm Full time developers Implementations Plug 'n' Play? Url
Php <1 More or less www.fourthcornerexchange.com

Fourth Corner Exchange is a small family of LETS like groups. Their php/MySQL application was written for multiple implementations of that specific model. LETSlink UK has forked the software and done several implementations.


Drupal & Community Forge

Language/ platorm Full time developers Implementations Plug 'n' Play? Url
Drupal 1 + 1,000 35 No / Yes drupal.org/project/mutual_credit
www.communityforge.net

A Drupal module for web developers to implement a complementary currency with total flexibilty over usability, design, wireframing etc. Community Forge is a non-profit hosting Drupal implementations tailored for LETS.


oscurrency

Language/ platorm Full time developers Implementations Plug 'n' Play? Url
Inoshi 1 2 No www.opensourcecurrency.org

Developed by members of the Austin Time Exchange, this project is now under development for the Bay Area Community Exchange. While the platform, Insoshi is not well known, much attention has been given to openness, so that the system plugs in easily to the rest of the web.

Also worthy of mention is Time Banks whose membership includes a special license to use the proprietary 'Community Weaver' software.