Getting the Word Out, Building Mesh Communities

I am starting this thread as a place to discuss ideas designed to help build and maintain the communities that sustain mesh networking. The first post here discusses several interlinked biopics I’ve been thinking about, but your ideas on promoting mesh at the local level are also invited.

goTenna Mesh provides a great way for people in various organizations, communities, and shared interest groups to communicate. Sometimes these groups are tightly bound together already, so its easy and effective to pass info to them through various traditional means like newsletters, email groups, and word of mouth.

Others belong to groups that make it rather more difficult to bring everyone together. They are composed of people who have one thing in common and everything else takes a backseat. They may have no past shared interests but can see one going forward. Or they are in close proximity because of where they live, but otherwise share little else.

New goTenna Mesh users often expect the Shout feature alone to open up the world to them, summon help in an emergency, bring fresh pizza and do all the other things that they can possibly imagine a radio could do. Shout works well for what it is, which is discovering those nearby whose goTenna Meshes are on the air and listening for others.

Like with voice over conventional radio, Shout is great for discovering those who keep a unit on the air and an open ear (eye?) out for what’s going on around them. These advantages stem from two attributes of the goTenna Mesh radio protocol. Ordinarily all P2P and group messages are encrypted and all are exchanged between parties who know the other party’s address, similar to what email is like. Unlike the POTS “party line” and CB radio, Mesh offers a reasonably reliable and secure means of sending SMS text over distances of several miles or more if a mesh network is available to forward messages. It does this best when it can take advantage of several potential paths, rather than hoping to make a “lucky leap” via Shout.

Because the addressing feature of goTenna Mesh firmware sends messages specifically to an intended receiver, it goes a long way toward limiting the impact people choosing to abuse the commons for their own purposes. Think it’s an opportunity to spam? Only those close enough to be reached directly would have to put up with such an action and they have the option of turning Shouts off.What’s not good for spammers is good for users here. This also explains why forwarding of Shouts is limited to specific needs like an emergency.

Those organizing mesh networks locally should give some thought to how to spread the word about goTenna Mesh, because getting to know other users and exchanging UID numbers is the way to help people use the network more efficiently while minimizing the potential for bad actors to impact the mesh.

Arguments for expanding Shout by making it available to relay often cite the needs of emergency use. Certainly, in an emergency you would want to have direct contact with others nearby available for all sorts of reasons – and it is via Shout. However, unless an emergency was so local it only affects a few mesh relays, letting Shouts propagate out via multiple relays might quickly shut down the backbone of the mesh as the relays pickup and echo them.

That is why if your concern is facilitating emergency services in your area it is best to get people on the same page by meeting them somewhere other than the mesh itself and exchanging user IDs as the way to prepare for an emergency. You don’t want to have to figure that out on the fly in the event of an emergency when everything has already gone a bit crazy.

This is also a good argument that emergency dispatch centers should have a dedicated goTenna with a publicly available address in areas that are covered by mesh networking already on hand even if not in 24/7 operation. Somewhat against the grain of my argument so far, it’s also the one place where I see the need to consider modifying the limitation for Shout to Direct contacts. Many such dispatch centers are located in basements or otherwise reinforced buildings to protect them against tornadoes, hurricanes, and (unfortunately still relevant) nuclear war. The likelihood of a Shout or even a typical non-Shout message being relayed getting through can be questionable.

How to deal with the paradox set-up by the need to find a way to get signals into and out of a dispatch center suggests allowing Shouts to use one hop to permit a link between an originating sender unit and a relay used as a better located antenna. There has been some discussion about the need for a permanently dedicated relay node model of the goTenna Mesh. If it could have this capability of acting as an active antenna via one hop as another desirable feature this could solve a number of problems with relying on Shout from inside buildings.

Pending that, I came across a way to encourage people to get together and exchange UIDs. This video explains more:
[Scrolling Message Board Ideas](

goTenna Scrolling_IMG_2586 from Mike Lehman on Vimeo.


The middle scroller is something to consider as a conversation starter whether you’re at a conference, concert, or just out on the street as it gets that all-important UID out to others.

The other two simply try to start a conversation. What IS goTenna Mesh? What does UMESH do? etc But a conversation doesn’t even need to start. People can Google things like UMESH and experienced meshers can add your UID to their contacts list just by seeing this info available.

I suspect there are similar items out there, but these came from (item# 1220458) and cost about $13 with free shipping.

1 Like

The internet? Started as a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) project. NOT what most would consider “open source.”

Agreed, too much greed has come to dominate the internet and its regulation. There’s always another election though, so choosing more wisely next time would make a big difference. Just remember who killed net neutrality. And remember that goTenna is just about the ONLY concrete action to oppose the creeping corporate takeover of the internet with a viable alternative.

There are very good reasons why parts of the firmware are off limits. The rest? Get the SDK keys and the rest is pretty much open. The two most salient closed areas here are FCC requirements and the need to preserve the commons that mesh relies on.

There is a set group of frequencies, a set max ERP, and a number of other aspects of the firmware that must remain off limits in order that the GTM can be available for sale. Sorry, that’s just the way things work. The same law applies to everyone, no exceptions just because you want to invoke “open source” as you do. If it uses the public airwaves, then the gov’t regs must be met unless you choose to do it as an underground project.

An example about why the firmware works as designed so that any single user can NOT lock up the mesh is by preventing spamming out messages at an excessive rate for instance.

Now, if you want to be specific about something that people actually have a problem with, go ahead, I sure people are willing to listen and consider. Here it doesn’t sound like you’ve got much of a factual case beyond a unsubstantiated rant.