Introduction To Just Trade
January, 2003

Dear Just Trade Discussion Members:

The purpose of this group is collaborate in the creation of a complementary currency network project done entirely as Open Source Software (OSS). The project goal is to create a completely free-of-charge, truly global eCommerce class ecosystem of different complementary currencies. I have called it Just Trade.

The key differences between Just Trade and other projects I’ve looked at are:

* It is designed from the beginning to :
+ Fulfill the objectives of a medium of exchange that has no intrinsic value but still serves as a :
– memory of transaction,
– memory of decision,
– memory of reputation.
+ Resolve the problems of massive scaleability of trade between diverse complementary currencies.
+ Remain entirely agnostic on questions of debit floors, demurrage, units of currency, medium of exchange, etc.
+ Permit easy and consistent implementation and measurable experimentation of the various concepts espoused by designers of complementary currencies.
+ Facilitate reduction of responsibility of group adminstrators.
+ Facilitate reduction of power of group adminstrators.
+ Facilitate adoption by mainstream businesses.
+ Facilitate adoption by the illiterate.
+ Provide a reasonable degree of anonymity for users on the Internet.
+ Provide a high degree of traceability in cases of abuse.

* All project details and activities will be enacted in continuous full public view on the Internet.

* It conforms completely to the criteria seasoned OSS developers expect to see;

+ “Deliver Early. Deliver Often”.
+ Automatic nightly build/test/publish cycle.
+ Full continual disclosure.
+ UML modelling and architectural patterns.
+ Concurrent Versioning System.
+ Continual unit, black box and white box testing.

* It is developed with state-of-the-art distributed systems technologies, including :
+ Digital Signatures.
+ Web Services and “SOAP”.
+ LDAP directory services.
+ Message queuing protocols.
+ Java 2 Enterprise Edition
+ XNS

I have reserved the domain name www.justtrade.net

Quite soon there will be a project on www.sourceforge.net or some other OSS project hosting server, but I’m not quite ready for that. Recent conversations have opened up a number of new perceptions about the architecture of, and directions for, Just Trade, so for a short while at least these will be explored. You have received an invitation to join the Just Trade discussion group, because another collaborator or I perceive you to be appropriately qualified to refine the ideas the Just Trade project embodies. We are open to sound reasons not to do it, to postpone it or change it significantly.

I have been studying all I can about the main themes of complementary currencies and frequently encounter, in the IJCCR especially, remarks in the tone of “… the enormous benefits complementary currencies will bring when they really catch on …”. “The ‘correct’ complementary currency should be based on time dollars”, “No. It should be based on a basket of commodities”, “No, on a unit of energy”, “It should have demurrage”, “No it must not have demurrage”, and so on and so on and round and round and round. There is also plenty of discussion that bats back and forth between “act globally” and “act locally”, “impose it from the top”, “grow it from the bottom”. Meanwhile, community currency groups only appear to have a satisfactory volume of activity, when in too many cases the reality is a large percentage of that activity comes from enthusiastic newcomers who sooner or later drop out disappointed. The attraction of LETS to mainstream small-business is negligible. Argentina, presumably the ideal test bed for complementary currencies is floundering in a morass of inconsistent alternatives, the most widespread being 8000 or more trueque groups, followed closely by new forms of fiat money pushed by power seekers.

It may be that complementary currencies can only begin to gather force when the ‘usury-based’ system collapses massively. I am a highly technological person, highly skeptical of technological solutions to human problems. However, I have seen 1st generation LETS software in action and believe a technological solution is worth a try. Also, I’m a practical, rather than theoretical, sort of person and after enough talk, I want to get something real going. It may seem impertinent of me to talk of LETS as 1st generation, but I believe that once you assess my experience and my plans you will accept my evaluation. I am inviting you to contribute to your concept of a 2nd generation.

I have 25 years as a software developer, ten of those in object-oriented technologies, eight working with relational databases, and six developing interactive web applications. I have also developed software for embedded processors in things as diverse as railway maintenance machines and satellite mounted scientific instruments. I have been using server-side Java for my projects since1996. I have been fascinated by what can be done with digital signatures since 1993 when I began a port of Pretty Good Privacy to the “PenPoint” operating system of Go Corp. When that product was destroyed by Apple and Microsoft vapourware, taking my porting project down with it, I was converted into an OSS enthusiast.

I have been a member of a LETS community since 1995, and close friends with the community’s founders. I have watched their process of discovery of what works and what does not work, both in the middle-class neighbourhood where they began their first group, and in the agonizingly poor indigenous villages where they sowed the seeds
for over 100 more.

I believe my situation to be unique. There may be a very large number of people who can develop interactive web projects. The number of those who have architected a J2EE eGovernment project from requirements to roll-out, is a lot smaller. Of that group, the number who have in-depth understanding of complementary currencies and LETS is small indeed. And the number of those with direct experience of other relevant technologies such as asymetric encryption, bar-coding techniques and other technologies, that are vital to the success of the project are, well, a handful at best. In that little group, I’m fairly certain I’m the only one who does his work while a field outside his window is plowed by oxen. I also write tolerably well and speak French and Spanish more or less fluently.

In the files section of ‘just_trade_discussion’ you will find a detailed white paper about Just Trade. There is a prototype kit with the Java code, UML diagrams and a ‘readme’ that explains the contents.

For the time being this will a closed group with monitored discussion. The key rule will be “participate only if your comments directly contribute to the advance of the Just Trade project”. We won’t tolerate broadcast messages and we will split up discussions into various issue groups; design, theory, development, application, promotion, funding, etc.

I began the project because I came to the conclusion that there is a need for a highly adaptable networked complementary currency system that permits all the various CC philosophies to be experimented with, and can bring on board both prosperous small businesses and the very poor and illiterate. While there are a considerable number of systems currently “out there”, I saw that these are typically CC experts trying to come to grips with software development; a much harder task than a software expert trying to come to grips with complementary currencies. Even when software professionals get involved, they typically have what I call an ‘application view’ of the task at hand. With Just Trade I hope to create a framework upon which others can easily build the applications they want.

I ask your forgiveness in advance if anything I say above appears to be criticism of work you have done, of ideas you have espoused, or ignorance of initiatives I should have known about. Please shrug it off as the faux-pas of a newcomer.

Looking forward to a long and hugely fruitful collaboration,

Hasan Bramwell