What is BOINC? I need help explaining to my friends/family.

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Message 92771 - Posted: 11 Sep 2019, 10:53:29 UTC

So, I was recently talking to a family member about having attended the BOINC workshop in Chicago. Right off the bat they asked the big questions: BOINC? BOINC what? What’s a BOINC?

I answered as best I could, but ultimately I realized that “it’s a middleware system that networks everyone’s computers together to form a supercomputer that anyone can use. SETI uses it.” was seriously insufficient, particularly when it came to keeping the attention of this science loving technically illiterate individual -- let alone driving their desire to learn more or participate.

I’ve spent some time thinking about it and I have a few different answers now, but even they feel limited. I’ll share a few ideas if the discussion gets going.

So yeah, I'm curious what everyone else thinks:

What is BOINC?
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Profile Gary Charpentier

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Message 92772 - Posted: 11 Sep 2019, 13:27:23 UTC - in response to Message 92771.  

What is BOINC?
A PITA we love to feed, grow and have fester. :-)
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Message 92787 - Posted: 12 Sep 2019, 20:32:20 UTC

Wow. Okay. I posted this question on several forums and have admittedly received a lot more response than I expected. There’s no way I can reply to everything so I’m just going to absorb and reply in general.

I’m providing the links to all the threads (ordered from most responses to least). I would highly recommend reading them. There are very insightful responses that approach the question from several different perspectives. I have no doubt that they will help anyone looking to spread the Word of BOINC. I plan on integrating a lot of the ideas into my personal elevator pitch.


My own answer to the question was lightly touched on by Mod.Sense over on the Rosetta@home forums when they said:

“BOINC is also the client which makes it easy for participants to connect to projects…”

Lumendan from the Gridcoin community on steemit also shared something that resonates with what I’ve been thinking:

“There is a network of people who contribute to research by volunteering some of their PC's spare computing power to solve massively difficult problems. BOINC is the backbone of that network, it's the system that links research projects with volunteers.”

To elaborate:

BOINC is the middleware software, but it feels like there’s more... particularly after having experienced the BOINC workshop... after sitting in a room (or walking along a lake) and discussing the worlds of BOINC and science with only a few dozen of the engineers, scientists, researchers, professors, contributors, builders, leaders, crunchers, thinkers, tinkerers, students, publishers, enthusiasts,... whatever, involved with BOINC...

it feels like there’s more to BOINC than the code that handles the data.

It feels like there’s more in that when I explain BOINC to my friends we never end up discussing the software or how it works. And when I force them to start crunching and we start talking about BOINC again, we almost never talk about a feature or a coming update. And when an update is released my friends really don’t care.

But when DHEP was spun up… or when DHEP was spun down… or as BlackHoles@home gets closer to release or when WCG teases new climate change projects… or when they realize that IBM runs WCG, or that DHEP was hosted out of the University of Sussex… or that LHC runs data with BOINC… or that some projects are hosted on laptops in closets by people just like them…

What I’m getting at, I suppose, is that these folks really couldn’t care less about the tech behind BOINC, supercomputers, or even science and research in general. Their interest seems to focus on the human network behind BOINC and the potential to become part of that network.

First they seem to think:

Here’s this human network established by and around a program that seeks to better humanity through the advancement of science, understanding, and knowledge.

Then they seem to think:

Here’s this program developed, maintained, and utilized by this human network that lets me immediately participate, contribute, and interact with scientists, entities, and other like-minded individuals by completing real world scientific and data-analytic tasks.

So what is BOINC? Well. What is the internet, what is Linux, what is Bitcoin?

Maybe BOINC is a human network anchored by a grid computing technology that enables seamless and immediate participation in and contribution to that network.

One thing I’ve learned for certain over my years interacting with the BOINC community is that BOINC feels like far more than just some software.
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Message 92791 - Posted: 13 Sep 2019, 0:34:58 UTC - in response to Message 92787.  

I like your summary.
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Message 92796 - Posted: 13 Sep 2019, 7:16:52 UTC - in response to Message 92791.  

I like your summary.

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Profile Tom M

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Message 93329 - Posted: 27 Oct 2019, 10:09:12 UTC - in response to Message 92787.  

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Message boards : The Lounge : What is BOINC? I need help explaining to my friends/family.

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