A Rallying Cry for a Free Digital Future

I watched a part of the ThisIsUnfinished conference (partly because I assumed the timezone were New York time and made the manual change to my calendar and I attended another conference in person on the Friday)

Anyway all the talks are online (Vimeo) to watch now. I did a little sum up for work but found the conference fascinating, especially when Baratunde Thurston filling in for time asked a member of the audience what they felt so far.

You couldn’t hear the reply but it was longer than expecting. Baratunde summed it up, saying the member of audience had found the contrasts of the talks interesting. I would agree, because in some talks you had people talking about web3 (internet 3 really) in the scope of DLTs (blockchain tech) and on the other hand you had talks like Eli Parser’s section of talks about what we can learn for the future.

I’m still going through the ones I missed but this insight is summed up in A Rallying Cry for a Free Digital Future.

This is great quote from Anil Dash

Take a look at the phone in your pocket. Take a look at the tabs in your browser. Ask yourself. How many of those apps were made by people who you know, of know who they are there from your community. Maybe they’re local homegrown organic, just like the food that you eat, you know, where it’s tourist and do they share your values and care about the things you care about? And if you don’t feel good about what you’re putting in your eyes, when you put it in your mouth and make some changes. We do have a lot of power to make that thing a lot better.

This leads nicely into the potential of web3 beyond the short sighted put  everything on the blockchain stuff.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (July 2021)

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing Amazon’s destroying unsold goodsICO’s concerns over facial recognition and Tiktok sneakily changing there privacy policy.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with ethical ratings for fashion brandsthe introduction of the solar protocol and even Google has temporarily halted their privacy sandbox plans.


The future of the browser conference

Ian thinks: There is so much to take away from this community run conference, as I wrote in a blog. I’m sure you will find lots to take away too.

We know what you did last lock down

Ian thinks: The FT’s short black mirror like interrogation feels like drama but its all real and possible now with the cloud of always on IOT devices. Makes some seriously good points

Report those dark patterns

Ian thinks: The Electronic Frontier Foundation goes on the offensive asking you to report those dark patterns. Similar to what Mozilla and others have done too.

Vestager’s vision for the a digital Europe

Ian thinks: I highly recommend the Re:publica conference and seeing Margrethe Vestager again in her new role outlining her vision (with some tech hiccups) is good. I also recommend looking around the playlists to find other good talks including these audio essays and this talk about Silicon values.

Ian thinks: The ICO makes a big change to the EU cookie banner, interesting to hear the American tech view on this all.

When people can sit together

Ian thinks: Enabling physical public spaces with more thought and care for the community. You can’t help but smile and wish playful public spaces existed near you too.

Mozilla puts your data to use for a better society

Ian thinks: This is impressive, although not completely new there no better time to have a trusted company shepherding your data into good causes you choose.

Another internet outage, raises questions

Ian thinks: The outage of Fastly earlier this month has stoked fires about how centralised the internet is for lots of people. I personally didn’t notice much due to the decentralised services I use.

Social graph as a key to change?

Ian thinks: Every once in a while a start up makes some bold but well meaning claims. The notion of the social graph on a blockchain although not new is worth keeping an eye on to see where it goes.

Experience some fairly intelligent machine learning

Ian thinks: A.M. Darke’s piece makes all those silly harmless throw away decisions, very real by the end. There is also a Q&A hosted by the ODI well worth watching to understand more.


Find the archive here

Plotting and harvesting Chia cryptocurrancy for a more green crypto future?

My Chia farming setup

I have admit over the last 2 months I setup a cryptocurrancy rig in my flat. Now when most people think about cryptocurrancy they think of bitcoin and the absolute insane amount of power going into mining bitcoins. This is why when I saw Bram Cohen (creator of BitTorrent) talk about creating something different (proof of space+time) I was always interested. To be fair I since BitTorrent I’ve been watching what he’s been up to, Bram is just one of those serial entrepreneur I keep an eye on.

After hearing about Chia, I downloaded the Linux app and got it up and running on a old laptop I use for bits and bobs. I would have used one of my my Raspberry PIs if I had Ubuntu installed. I plugged in a external USB to SATA SSD which I was using to run my old Dell XPS13 work laptop, when the internal drive got screwed up. Then plugged in a old USB to SATA caddy/docking bay with one of my old 2TB mechanical hard drives from my old server (pre NAS).

My Chia plot

Then left it plotting and harvesting my 1 single plot for a month or so.

At the time, the estimated time to win a Chia was 8 months. As I had the laptop on doing other things all the time, it wasn’t a big deal for me. Actually removing my server and replacing it with the NAS, 2x Raspberry Pis and this laptop  is actually less electricity than my single home made server with 7 drives and 4 fans. I hear most of you say wtf! I do have a lot of devices on in my flat and my electricity is high compared to typical single person but everything else (heating, water, etc) is low.

It was about 4-5 weeks when I was telling someone about Chia and noticed I had harvested 2 chia’s unbeknownst to me. To be clear I have 1 single 100gig plot and although I tried setting up 2 plots afterwards in parallel, I decided it was too much for my old laptop’s little quad core CPU and switched back to a single 100gig plot again (to be clear its more the parallel part which was the problem and CPU is only really used)

Chia CPU and Memory load in Htop

With all this in mind, I was introduced to the Reddit subthread for Chia, where I saw people building massive rigs to plot and harvest. Its quite insane and then hearing how Chia is being blamed for shortages in HDDs and SSDs. Of course why most people are interested in Chia (including myself) is the proof of space & time rather than proof of work. This realistically could be far more sustainable than proof of work models like Bitcoin. I say “could” because seeing these massive rigs seems to throw oil over the notion of Chia’s green attributes.

Although its tempted to add some more plots, I’m not going to change my setup because its sustainable for me. Little has changed on my network or on my physical desk. Getting in early was something very good but I got lucky with 2 Chia already.

Yesterday a friend mentioned Elon had tweeted about Tesla not taking Bitcoin for their electric cars.

I can’t say anything profound about Chia except I’m more than interested because its not just a speculated currency like Bitcoin. Although the price is super surprising for a new cryptocurrency. I said similar about Ethereum because of the smart contracts, NFTs and other things. The currency side is only slightly interesting while things like ChiaLisp for Identity spikes my interest.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Aug 2020)

Dark estonia
Photo by Kevin Lehtla on Unsplash

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed watching the twitter hack fall out and the cult like increase in conspiracies theories.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this happening with the new Estonian digital nomad visa and a steady drive of transparency questions levelled at Facebook.


Protocols, Not Platforms

Ian thinks: This paper really sets out the problems of the current mainstream internet. Platform building opposed to open protocols which everybody can use. Its well thought out and substantial in its arguments.

The growing changes in robot technology, iot and 3D printing

Ian thinks: I am impressed with the bio-mimicry in some of the robots. Its certainly the way to go, learning from nature. If only we could save it too.

Estonia launches a new type of visa for digital nomads

Ian thinks: Estonia was the first country with e-residency and they have flatten the world one more time with a new type of visa, allowing people to work for a remote company for up to 90 days.

If I earn a bitcoin everytime some asked me about the darkweb…

Ian thinks: Although the speaker doesn’t do himself any favours with a blurred out face, he crushes a lot of the typical questions I have been asked about the darkweb

Insight into the dark world of shadow brokers

Ian thinks: Its fascinating to hear about the unsolved puzzle of shadow brokers who sold NSA surveillance tools on the open market. Another reason why government encryption back-doors are such a bad idea.

What are the applications using blockchain technology right now?

Ian thinks: There is a lot of scepticism about crypto technology but I found this video from Crypto startup school, useful looking at the direction and focus of the actual applications which currently exist. The questions are pretty intruding too.

An atlas of surveillance

Ian thinks: Ok this is mainly American but its quite a unique database of different types of surveillance, how they are used and for what purpose. Good work by the EFF.

Emerging tech overview with Node

Ian thinks: Starting with drone delivery and ending with human assisted tech. Node is a great place for summaries on emerging open tech advancements.

Mozilla wants your advice on how to make the internet healther

Ian thinks: If you had only one question for Mozilla, what would it be? Well here is your chance to think and submit that one question.


Find the archive here

What is Web 3.0 and Why Do We Need It?

Web 3, Parity, Polkadot, Substrate, ipfs, blockchain? Wtf?

While visiting Republica 2019 and writing my presentation about it, I was trying to make sense of the deeper decentralised web stack. Jutta Steiner gave a talk at Republica but I was a little lost in what she was talking about. It was clear it was important but I was lost in the terms.

Watching her talk from tech open air (TOA19) was a lot clearer.

She also reminded me about the web3 summit, which I wish I could attend but always felt like I might not be quite the right person for it. I look forward to hearing what comes out of it however because its clear as Jutta says

…The first time I interacted with the web like everything was open and somehow that was the the perception like we now have this great tool and sort of thought like it’s not this these closed intranets. But it’s the information superhighway we can do whatever we want but what happened really over the 30 or so years afterwards was we replicated or built a ton of intermediaries that basically sit between us and anybody we want to interact on the with on the web online, be that through what’s that when we text to someone through Facebook, venmo, whatever you use you buy anything there’s always an intermediary for something that really should be a general p2p interaction. So the problem with this really is what’s underneath this and what led to this mass these mass centralization and of power and data in the hands of very few people is the fact that we had to do this in a very centralized way because this is just how the Internet technologies of where to work so we have an underlying architecture with centralized servers where all the data is gathered because of network effect the power accumulates and accumulates, and this is a very fraught way of doing things because you have a central point of failure and that was massively exposed by the Snowden revelations I mean partly because also backdoors are built into it but partly because it’s it’s centralized architecture…

Clear reason why web 3, I think…

Riding the Bitcoin bubble up and out?

Bitcoin market price over last 8 years

Bitcoin is something everyone is talking about right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents asked me about it soon.

It was a while ago when I received some bitcoins from a friend via tipjar.  I added the tipjar link on my blog and every once in a while I received a very small amount of bitcoins as tips. The amounts were so small that I didn’t really take note till I needed to move the wallet.

That was when I noticed the amounts were adding up to less decimal places  in bitcoin and the value in British sterling was also starting to add up to a few coffees. After the move to blockchain.info (no matter what I thought about the founder), I decided to keep an eye on the figure but forgot about it. Wasn’t till about a week ago, when I decided to have a quick look at the amount it was worth and was pretty shocked.

The tips were adding up to something quite big and thats when I decided maybe I should convert some to sterling and ethereum. I have never put any money into bitcoin, its all been donated or paid to me in return for something, I treated it as a bit of a joke to be honest. But over the last few weeks it became very real as I transferred quite a bit out and still had some left over, just in-case the bitcoin bubble keeps growing. But i’m simply not motivated enough to track its progress and put money into it. Ethereum I’ve found interesting since I first saw the videos about it so I’ll keep an eye on that too.

Thanks to everyone who tipped my blog or paid into my wallet over the last 3 years,  I owe a great gratitude to all those people. I’ll keep writing… feel free to keep tipping.

Storj: A p2p decentralised storage model

Storj: Decentralizing Cloud Storage from Storj on Vimeo.

Storj is an open-source, decentralized, cloud storage platform. It is based on the cryptocurrency Bitcoin’s (BTC) blockchain technology and peer-to-peer protocols. The Storj network uses its own cryptocurrency, Storjcoin X (SJCX), while its front-end software supports the use of other digital currencies such as Bitcoin and more traditional forms of payment like the dollar. Unlike traditional cloud storage providers, Storj keeps data spread across a decentralized network eliminating the problem of having a single point of failure. It also encrypts all data making it impossible for anyone, including Storj, to snoop on users’ files without having a user’s private encryption key. In return for offering storage space to the network, users are paid cryptocurrency.

Imagine storing all your private data across other peoples drives in encrypted form? Imagine getting paid to store this encrypted data?

Well this is Storj and its frankly quite an amazing concept whoses time as come.

This is a very attractve setup for someone like me with many terabytes of storage and hyperfast broadband. Unlike the risks of running an Tor exit node, everything is strongly encrypted and the host has zero knowledge of whats being stored or transfered.

I already have an account as I’d be interested to see how it works. First heard on Steal this show, how the swarm will beat the cloud.

Blockchains for online dating?

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

I was listening to Sarah Meiklejohn from UCL talking Blockchains at Thinking Digital Newcastle 2016. I tweeted an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while…

Blockchains for online dating… The crux of a blockchain or a distributed ledger is a way to encourage trust in a sensible networked way. Chris asked…

So here is some logic behind my thinking… I’m doing that dyslexic trait of having to reverse explain how I got to where I am at; although I recognise not the only one thinking about this.

There is a problem with online dating (not pointing to the white elephant in the room, as I have many times before); how do you know who you are contacting is really who they say they are? This has given rise to not only the 419 scams, catfishing but also sexortation scams. Also most of the research/hacking (amy webb/chris mckinlay) has been done through the loop-hole of people being able to just fire up (you can automate this, I’ve witnessed scripts) another profile.

There has been questions in the past why online dating sites haven’t done more to protect their users? Some of the Asian dating sites have started to verifiy their users, others are following, Tinder did so for celebs and even Badoo just launched photo vertification. Each is a very clunky solution and usually an after thought added on.

How about if you could see the interactions between the people on the dating site? There actions verify who they are, the patterns speak volumes. Want to send the same messages out to 1000 people, go ahead but we (all) will see. Currently that data is only accessible by the owners of the site/service. Would that be a step too far into radical transparency?

Would that influence the way people interact? Knowing the interactions (not the actual messages/content) were publicly logged and could be looked at by anybody in the site?

One of the things I quite like about OKCupid & POF is the notion of the visitor. basically you can see everybody (unless they are paid members and turn off the visitor option). I quite like this because it makes you more careful about who you click on and view, knowing they will see this too. But with a public ledger system, others could see this too. This would solve my issue when trying to find the most popular person on OKCupid and throws up the question Hannah Fry talked about in a TED talk about finding love with mathematics and I experienced at MOSI.

Too many steps forward? Ok how about we hide the end points, like in a traditional blockchain system. You don’t see the interactions but you do get stats about how many times that person has fired out messages, what kind of reaction they got, etc.

Basically blockchain or distributed network ledgers could tweak human behaviour slightly towards something more positive for everybody? It’s an idea but something I’d like to see tried at the very least, expecially because its a total wild west out there right now.

Some accountability for some of our actions, isn’t a bad thing I have to say.

Your home needs a blockchain

Grandpa's Pocket Ledger & My Field Notes

The internet of things or web of things has always been quite interesting,, even with the terrible ideas to marry the internet with certain objects in bad ways (cue the internet connected fridge).

Even myself have started to purchase a number of objects and appliances which are internet connected, such as my philips Hue lights. Not necessary so I could turn them on and off anywhere in the world but I like the colour control and have ambitions of doing something similar to redshift/flux/twilight Still need to work on this part.

I’m very peed off that Philips just pushed an firmware update which blocks 3rd party support for their bulbs. Luckily they saw the error of their ways.

This is only the beginning of course….  (don’t even go there about ethics of data). Something I have been keeping an eye on using Diigo groups.

Thinking about this quite a bit, especially during the build up for Mozilla Festival this year. We planned to connect as many things  together via their open API’s (now you see the connection with the Philips Hue lights), log it to a life-stream and then printed out into a number of books.

Global Village at Mozfest

Why?

Part of it is making data physical, one of the underlying ideas behind the iotsignals idea, which drifted into the ethics of data. Which is fitting because….I can point you to Alexandra and Aleks in the ethics of data.

Aleks – If we had a status life for every single time that light over there was communicating with that lift, or that thing over there was talking to that thing at the bank. If we had a status every time we would just be completely frantic and totally dizzy with inputs.

There is a trend to internet enable everything.

Alexandra – I think the potential of IOT emerged when technology was cheap enough that you may want to put it anywhere.

The Nest thermostat, Smart TV, Smart fridge, Hue lights, etc, etc… You don’t want to know the up to date status of everything.

Nest Thermostat

But you may want to know or understand why your heating keeps turning off just as you finish cooking dinner?

Smart devices should log all communication/transactions/decisions with other devices. If the Nest decides the temperature is too high, it should be logged somewhere. Giving an insight into the underlying algorithm and decisions. Why and what triggers it… This is one step on the very long road to build trust with devices.

Of course if you haven’t guessed lifestream isn’t the right thing. What is needed is a home wide blockchain system.

From reading, about blockchain.

In essence it is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls. The participants in a blockchain system collectively keep the ledger up to date: it can be amended only according to strict rules and by general agreement. Bitcoin’s blockchain ledger prevents double-spending and keeps track of transactions continuously.

This could be the perfect ledger/logging technology for building reputation and trust with devices/things. Of course the participants would be things, who all agree to update the home blockchain..

This level of transparency in what the systems and things around you are doing allows for inspection by people. I don’t assume most people will care till something happens. Same as when people have their identity stolen or compromised in some way. Like the GPL (general public licence) enables, you can have somebody else inspect, consult, recommend, etc on your behalf if you allow them permission.

This should be a start to the little black boxes appearing one day. Worst than Doctor Who is the little black boxes can change their function based on a external demands. Yes you may get a email saying read our new EULA update but honestly most people delete it or ignore it. Its only once something stops working or acting differently from before, people may actually start to wonder.

It seems pretty obvious to me but I’d love to hear why I’m wrong or how it can’t work…. Even Big Blue gets it, somewhat.