Universal SHared INformation

Universal shared information, ushin, is a structure for mutual understanding based on distinguishing different kinds of meaning.

USHIN, Inc., a small registered US nonprofit, is currently developing software to facilitate public deliberation of important issues using the ushin system.

Seven shapes for comprehensive understanding

When important issues arise, we often get lost in a jumble of feelings, thoughts, needs, actions, facts, people, and topics. We form judgments without performing a systematic examination of our experiences. We get triggered. We speak without considering the value and effect of our words.

These seven shapes are a mnemonic to help us formulate clear, comprehensive messages as well as understand the merit in what others have to say.

Hover/tap the shapes below for questions to spark deliberation.

Four shapes for interpersonal connection

Ushin builds on the Nonviolent Communication method, developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. NVC encourages us to take responsibility for our experiences by expressing observations, feelings, needs, and requests with honesty, vulnerability, and simplicity.

  • Facts include personal observations and cited references to trusted sources.
  • Feelings include emotions and sensations like gratitude, pain, love, curiosity, and all their nuances. (list)
  • Needs include physical, emotional, mental and spiritual conditions for health. (list)
  • Actions include specific plans and requests for individual or collective pursuit.

Three shapes for deliberation

When considering an action, we acknowledge the people who take part in carrying it out as well as those who are affected. A careful analysis of our thought process, bias, and logic opens us to hidden possibilities. We stay focused and present by recognizing other potential topics which we can discuss later.

  • People include individuals and groups, as well as their roles and relationships.
  • Thoughts include attitudes, judgments, and methods of reasoning and knowing.
  • Topics include related subjects to consider separately.

Ushin in a digital context

We are currently working on a digital system for using the seven shapes to deliberate important issues free of censorship, bots, and trolls through community curation.

u4u - a first draft

Over the last few years, we developed a tool called u4u, a static React webapp where you create messages with a user interface based on the seven shapes called the "semantic screen." Messages are shared with other peers on the hypercore network. A trust system inspired by TrustNet lets you mark other peers as "sources," "blockers," and "blocked." When searching, you get messages from your sources, and depending on how many "hops" out you go, you also download from your sources' sources and their sources' sources. Blockers are used in a similar way to determine a blocklist of peers from whom you don't want to download messages. This dynamic blocklist gives you total control over your network of sources without the tedium of blocking every spammer. We also created an interactive trust graph visualizer so you can see how you connect to all of your sources, blockers, and blocked peers.

It eventually became clear that the semantic screen design does not work well with branching conversations. Now, we're changing the interface and the runtime environment (from web browsers to Emacs).

Ushin's first foray into p2p with u4u was fruitful! In working on u4u components, Mauve Software pioneered advances in p2p database indexing. It's possible that we will reuse u4u's trust interface in the future, but for now it's a good prototype for our Emacs work.

Emacs for p2p deliberation

We are now working on a series of Emacs packages for ushin. Emacs comes with org-mode, a fully-featured tool for authoring plain-text documents which is easily extended to incorporate the ushin shapes. Emacs is a long-lived, community-driven, free software project that's lots of fun to use and hack on!


hyperdrive.el is an interface in Emacs for working with hyperdrives. A hyperdrive is a secure, real-time distributed file system designed for easy p2p file sharing. While hyperdrives can store data of any kind, hyperdrive.el also extends org-mode to handle links to files inside of other hyperdrives.


ushin-shapes.el replaces ushin tags with ushin shapes in org documents.

Last updated 2023-01-05 Thu 02:01 PST. History