Thintelligence: Why we don’t move to decentralised systems?

Caught with the cookie jar

I recently posted on Mastodon after attending the doteveryone event in Manchester.

Interesting little rant at the doteveryone event.
Basically pointing to our ultimate comfort with propriety & opinionated software & services when complaining about things like Mastodon, Wire, Signal, etc.

All lack the engaged user base to break through because decentralised/federated systems are “just” too hard?

I say balls!

Maybe actually we’re too lazy and rubbish judging long term benefits in the face of short term rewards? Theres a whole industry feeding our short term highs

Our laziness is chronic and I half understand it but then I’m always reminded of the massive industry setup to encourage us to stay safe in their roach motels.

The term which comes to mind is… Thintelligenece?

The state of mind where a person does something without considering the consequences. The idea may seem brilliant at first, but the after-affects usually prove to be deadly. This phrase was invented by Michael Crichton in his book Jurassic Park (the character Malcolm says it)

I’m not saying installing whatsapp, facebook, etc are necessarily deadly but the lack of consideration of the consequences does make me and others worried. Its the short term gain over long term impact? (more cake anyone?)

Something to think about as you write something for the Mozilla Festival this year!

Building your own private cloud?

Head in the clouds

I recently saw this from Gizmodo Australia, and read it with lots of interest.

Movies and TV shows come and go on Netflix on a regular basis, which means you might be half way through your favourite flick when it gets yanked from the service. The solution? Buy all your own content and set up your own private cloud-based streaming service you can get at from any computer or device.

The stand-out contender here is Plex, which we’ve recommended before. It’s new Plex Cloud service, now in beta, lets you use an Amazon cloud locker to store all your movies and shows and stream them from anywhere.

Previously, you had to host the files yourself, so that meant leaving a computer or network drive switched on all the time to get at your content over the web. With Plex Cloud that’s no longer necessary, though you do need to pay for a Plex Pass(from $US4.99 ($7) a month) and sign up for some Amazon storage (it’s $US59.99 ($79) a year for unlimited storage).

We’ve included a couple of other options if you’re not taken by Plex Cloud. They’re not quite as Netflix-like as Plex Cloud, but if you already pay for storage on these services then they’re good alternatives to consider.

Interestingly there was no mention of the friends sharing option which I have been using without the plex pass or plex cloud service. Its the advantage of self-hosting and having plenty of bandwidth at my disposal, but I like the fact you can also switch to have support from them too. Useful if your server goes down or something. This represents a more ideal solution.

I’ve always been interested in what happens when things are much more distributed. Plex is just the start, I already started looking into Emby and some other solutions for media. But for a long while I have been thinking about replacing some of the services I use which I believe I could run myself on my own server.

The whole owncloud thing has always interested me, but I’m weighing up having to be a sysadmin and my time. Although I found Docker which might take some of admin out of this in future. However I don’t want to replace everything, just the things I’m feeling less comfortable with (its about personal choice).

The ones I’m thinking about currently are Evernote, Last.FM and Instapaper.

Evernote I want to replace with something like simplenote (although I admit its not self hostable but my evernote’s recent restrictions have made me wonder why I pay for a pro account?). I looked at using Turtl but its not reliable and mature enough currently. On a related note, I’ve been tempted to install a GIT server at home. Then using a combination of GitignoreMindmup and some kind of GIT repository syncing between home install and Bitbucket; could be great for working on mindmups.

Last.FM with GNU.fm. I only use last.fm to scrobble/track my music playback. I also hooked up Libre.fm but noticed the actual server for libre.fm was just GNU.fm. It seems like a very simple service and useful when looking back for a song or podcast. Especially when placed in a calendar type system, it really triggers my memory. Its also worth noting the last.FM data lost recently has also made me wonder why I even need it. I mean I never use it for music discovery (as I found it rubbish) or anything else. I might as well dump my logs of usage to my google calendar?

41Mxf-vJwzL

I just discovered Wallabag to replace Instapaper. Before I was using readitlater which became Pocket. I switched to Instapaper because of the deliver a mobil ebook to kindle every morning feature (heck I pay for this feature). But since i’m considering a epaper display android tablet which means it could read anything including PDF, RSS, ePub and Mobi. Plus I wouldn’t lose my kindle books because the Amazon app will run on it too. Having a smarter epaper device will squeeze out instapaper and likely mean I will read even more than I currently do (well worth the investment). I still far prefer to read longer stuff on a epaper display.

Theres no doubt I’ll start running more on my own server in future, already considered Open VPN and Zeronet. I think the money saved from certain subscriptions will easily pay for the electricity of hosting it myself?

This is what disruption of online dating looks like?

202. Girl
Be on the lookout, distruption could be around the corner

Elisa of queekd.com recently challenging me about my thoughts on online dating, especially after watching my TedXManchester talk about the same subject.
I concluded that the dating industry needed a serious kick up the backside and the only way this is going to happen is if you change the model. I then mentioned what P2P protocols did to media sharing. Instead of centralisation, you can have a more decentralised and even a distributed approach to online dating.

Easily said, but what do I mean?

I was trying to find examples of what I meant but it’s very difficult googling for them as they get lost in a sea of other stuff, some of it very weird.

There was a period when a whole bunch of sites with domain names like…

youshoulddatejo.com, smartandhandsomeian.com and samwantstodateyou.com etc… (not real sites of course) Were the rage for a short while, they would pop up now and then. These people without knowing it could have changed the dating field. They all seemed to contain similar elements and it wouldn’t take long for someone or myself to modify microformat hresume into a hDating microformat (I’m not going to talk about Microdata or RDF/A as its outside the scope of this post, but yes to both). semantically rich data published on the web as way to bring a distribution model to online dating.

Steven Pemberton @ TWAB2010
Why you should have a website

I am always reminded of Steven Pemberton‘s XTech 2008 talk, Why you should have a Web Site.

The nice man from the BBC filmed it and put it online. “Provocative and contentious” said one reviewer, who later said “I should never have doubted Steven Pemberton” and “Steven Pemberton was right”. Another said “The crowd completely disagreed. In hindsight he could not have been more correct.” and “grows more relevant with each passing year”. Text of the talk here.

Steven was talking about the advantages of machine-readable Web Pages and his point knocks right at door of the walled gardens of the social networks. Swap social networks of facebook, instagram, etc for Match.com, EHarmony, OkCupid, etc’s walled gardens… and you got the same problem and same solutions?

Online dating has taken all its bad habits from social networks and to be fair most of the social networks have learned from online dating in the same way. I once talked about dataportability in online dating and to be fair everybody laughed.

But imagine if profiles were part of the public internet? When I mean public, I mean not hidden away behind a walled garden (hidden/private web). Because really what are you paying for, if you are paying at all?

I can hear you panic or even laugh… Here’s questions which might be crossing your mind

Friend of a Friend project (FOAF)
Think FoaF for dating
  • I don’t want my profile to be public!
    This is fine, I understand some rather not be so open about their status. It doesn’t have to be connected with the rest of your online profiles by the way (this is down to you)
    It doesn’t necessarily need your name or even a public photo of you (there are many ways to verify someone without such information, think about what PGP, GPGP Escrow services, Ebay, Airbnb, etc do). Also like FoaF you can even hash or encrypt parts to avoid spam, catfishers, stalkers, etc. Maybe hide parts of your dating identity till its required. Theres endless possibilities, which I haven’t even explored.
  • How do I message or email someone, and what happens if things go south?
    South meaning, things start breaking up or you want to stop them messaging you. This is a partly solved problem. There no need to have you’re real email address. Services can step in and provide emails or instant messaging solutions which expire or forward on transparency. It could also be done with a standard protocol and encrypted for further privacy. Off the Record already does this, for goodness sake lets not build new protocols (badly or jokey) to do already solved stuff! (Yes this is what most dating sites are doing now)
  • How do I trust what I am seeing or reading?
    The same is true of most dating sites now, how do you know the picture isn’t a catfish, they really are the body shape they say or show? How do you know the picture isn’t 10 years ago? All the dating site/service is really offering you is access to single people (not that is always true of course)
    This is where the idea of a blockchain for online dating could come in quite useful, to verify with reputation, but if you don’t trust the technology. You can opt for something else… or even build your own! You only have to look at the people who have hacked OkCupid (Amy Webb and Chris McKinlay’s). Imagine what they could do if not restricted to the wall garden and the systems they could write for the rest of us.
  • But its easier to pay the money and sit safely within the closed garden?
    Safely…? Total illusions. But yes its easier, but you are limited by how much you are willing to pay. The open way you can have access to many more profiles, better ways to filter them and theoretically better solutions which you can share with friends.
    This way also puts more emphasis on you to do work, but I can imagine systems and services like wordpress, medium, squarespace, etc doing the heavy lifting for you.
  • How would I search?
    You don’t think some startup will jump into this arena? If not one of the big search giants?! The beauty is if you feel one is better than the other, you can easily switch. No rubbish claims, which can’t be verified. Just imagine when gocompare/money supermarket get involved to show you the best sites to find what you seek. Or imagine crowd sourcing this all.
  • But dating site x’s algorithm is great
    Don’t worry there will be multiple services jumping over each other for your money, data or other things to prove they are the one you should use. Some will be highly manual, some will be heavily automated. Currently there is no urgency to fix, innovate or try something different. Its not all bad news for dating services, they can run their magic algorithms on the public data set.
  • But my dating service offers X, Y and Z.
    Thats nice but have you thought how effective X, Y and Z actually are? Are they a distraction or actually making dating life better? Regardless… there is the perfect opportunity to have a ecosystems of services blossom and offer unique services on top of the open, machine readable profile network.
Future of Fabrication
Distributed models are sustainable?

Think about the way search engines innovated on the structured data and offered better matches as a result. The important part is, if you don’t like what a certain service is doing  or how they treat you, you can just move elsewhere without the fear of loosing access to that person still.

Interestingly OkCupid allows you to make your profile public (very few do), so you could see it without logging in. For example, https://www2.okcupid.com/profile/beach-s?cf=regular. I have considered making my profile public before but theres not quite enough benefit to me currently. OkCupid use it as a marketing tool and there’s little you can do once you view it. Its clear OkCupid was setup to break some of the legacy behind online dating but when they sold to the Match group, that drive to change things changed focus.

Me with Canvas
Ownership?

What I’m suggesting is similar but on your terms. There are other advantages such as having access to the biggest market of daters, personalised choice, better tools than one dating site can/want to create, bespoke advice and guidance from people who really give crap. This could issue in a new era in the art of match making!

But it doesn’t stop there, oh I’ve just scratched the surface. I feel a lot of the endemic corruption in online dating is due the centralised model.

Imagine if you could aggregate that profile into the legacy dating services. Almost a IFTTT recipe or Atomkeep? to update parts of your legacy profile on a schedule or manual push.

You could allow tinder to use one photo, OkCupid to upload 4-6 photos and a deeper description, Match.com only my photos marked professional and the deeper description.

What I’m talking about is Vender relationship management applied directly on to online dating, putting the users in control.

All is possible if you rethink the current setup. unfortunately the controlling companies (MATCH group currently own 27% plus of the online dating market and they own, OkCupid, POF, Tinder and many more) have zero interest in changing much. On top of that daters seem quite lazy and less interested in working for dates?

As you can imagine, there isn’t much in this area but I did find fermat. Its a p2p matching platform. I have yet to really look and see if its doing things how I would imagine

Is Medium doing what WordPress dreamed about?

Always wondered if WordPress is missing out to Medium.

Medium is becoming the preferred social platform for thoughtful commentary, provocative essays, and blockbuster enterprise journalism from independent and commercial publishers seeking to instigate meaningful conversations on topics of substance, interest, and import. Here, these conversations push thinking forward where it matters and drive real impact in the world.

Distributed conversations is something I thought WordPress was up to a long while ago. Its certainly easier when you own the platform and can make sweeping changes. Have a look at the way twitter closed off API access to 3rd party apps and services because they wanted to monetize there (literately) platform.

Its what makes me suspect of sinking time and my own thoughts into platforms like Medium and Slack. Yes they can do things which others can’t do currently…

…But I remember platforms like Medium and Slack are not open (even with the XMPP and IRC gateways) and there is a very bad side to this. Chris Messina tweeted recently about a new wordpress move in the middle of the slack fall out

Unfortunately I can’t install Calypso as its OSX only at the moment but its open and theres a hope someone will create a Linux client or even a Chrome/Firefox app?

Maybe WordPress will ultimately show Medium how to do distributed conversations, but in a open way, after all.

As for Slack… I’m still not sure, but I am using it via XMPP instead.

Your Tent, My Tent

Sziget 2008: Tent Interior

Tent.is just launched yesterday… Unlike twitter, its a distributed service which means you can run your own or jump on someone else’s. Its not just Microblogging either, its more than just that.

Tent.is is a Tent host. Tent is a protocol for distributed communications. Tent can be used as a personal data vault, a single sign on service, and/or a distributed social network. Anyone can host their own Tent server and/or write Tent apps. In addition to Tent hosting, Tent.is provides a few basic apps to help users get started, a server admin app, and a microblogging app. This was literally the simplest app we could write for Tent. We started with microblogging because we were personally frustrated with the centralized options in the industry. The next set of apps will take Tent much further beyond Twitter-style functionality. Since developers can define new post and profile types, Tent could be used for file backups, video chats, controlling robots, and probably teleporters. Think of Tent as a way to store any kind of information forever, that you control. You might choose to share some of it with friends or colleagues in real time or long after you created it. Most importantly, Tent is yours.

Ade Oshineye has been posting some interesting things about distrubuted microblogging along with myself.

Of course I’m giving Tent a whirl although I’m just connected to the main tent.is server right now. Be keeping an eye on this one in the near future… Be great to see what new service pop up on peoples tent servers.

Is federated microblogging this easy?

everything you need for decentralised Twitter?

I’m wondering if I should bite the bullet and install these alpha and beta plugins under Cubicgarden.com? In my mind it seems what you need for a federated/distributed blogging system is just a few plugins away?

OStatus for WordPress turns your blog into a federated social network. This means you can share and talk to everyone using the OStatus protocol, including users of Status.net/Identi.ca and WordPress.com

WhisperFollow turns your wordpress blog into a federated social web client.
In it’s current form it aggregates RSS feeds in a page on your blog called “following” which it creates.
The links it aggregates are the ones from your blogroll with rss feed data.

And many more…

These would be a good time to have a duplicate setup of cubicgarden.com to test these and many more plug-ins out on..

The end of open twitter?

IMG_2935

Its been a good load of years since I visited a promising startup in South Park, San Francisco called Twitter. Oh have they changed…

There has been a whole number of stories and posts about how Twitter is locking down the API calls and access to data. Not only that they are being very shirty with some of the clients and services around it.

Its ironic we use to praise Twitter for there business model formed around creating a ecosystem around its self by leveraging APIs. It was one of the web 2.0 darlings but something happened…

Twitter right from the start had people asking how were they going to make money to keep going?

Well what ever direction they decided to go in, its meant breaking what made it hugely popular.

The question is what will people move on to? Since Twitter for the longest time have sucked the air out of the microblogging ecosystem and seen off most of the alternatives including Plurk, Pownce, etc…

Jaiku Engine is a opensource project after Google bought it and open sourced it. However it lacks something which status.net and identi.ca had built in from day one. Federation… Jaiku engine has also gone quiet since Google plus launched too. I wonder, what if distributed social networking also come to the rescue and provide a nice mix of social networking like facebook/google+ and federated microblogging?

Twitter has done some great things but frankly the business model they have chosen is rubbing up against too many of my and other peoples freedom. I now wonder if I will ever be able to get a dump of all my tweets, dm’s and mentions? (Dataportability!) Google and Facebook have actually been quite good about this, Twitter much less so.

Distributed Social Networking, one day soon?

WordCamp 2011 Bulgaria

This has to be the ultimate standing in social networking. Distributed social networking is going to happen at some point but in the meanwhile, we all have to put up with these crappy social networks.

I read a few things recently which got me thinking about this again… The main one centres around this read write web piece.

The prospect of a distributed, interoperable, self-hosted network of publishing, reading and discussion tools is nothing new – but the idea is gaining a lot more support as more people react to recent news like FriendFeed’s sale to FacebookTr.im’s up and down and Twitter’s denial of service attacks. The tide may not be turning, but there’s sure to be some new waves of innovation that come out of this period of frustration.

The one which got me writing is the WordPress.com ability to do real-time blogging

Jabber (XMPP) is an open instant messaging protocol used by millions of people daily. At WordPress.com we use Jabber to instantly deliver new blog posts and comments to subscribers.

It for me is very intriguing… Its a lot more like how Jaiku use to be (I actually wonder what happened to jaiku engine?). The WordPress ability is nice but if they bring the same idea to self hosted wordpress blogs too, now that would be amazing…

Diso the project all about this went quiet back in 2010 it seems, which is a shame.

I fear Matt Mullenweg the great guy that he is, may not be able to provide the ultimate standing. The im.wordpress relies on wordpress.com too much for my liking. It would be great if there was a way to do most of the piping through other distributed means. I’d also love to see the ability to post comments/feedback through im? And why not? You got the persons details, and you can subscribe to the comments, why not replies?

Matt had to said recently in GigaOM

The Internet needs a strong, independent platform for those of us who don’t want to be at the mercy of someone else’s domain. I like to think that if we didn’t create WordPress something else that looks a lot like it would exist. I think Open Source is kind of like our Bill of Rights. It’s our Constitution. If we’re not true to that, nothing else matters.

The independent web is growing quite a bit. Although we have these great cloud servers for WordPress, the software that people run and install themselves is still as popular as ever. Our services are bringing more people online, but they’re also bringing more people who want to own their own space on the web–they want to own a house instead of rent an apartment. When we were first starting out, I thought, “Downloading and uploading software, managing databases, no one wants to do that.” But it turns out, a lot of people do.

Lets hope he follows through on that thinking…

Dabbler, at last someones adding distributed to the mix

Dabble beta

At long last dabble has added distributed back into the mix. Dabble can be thought of yet another video hosting service but actually you would be overlooking its main feature. Its more like del.icio.us than anything else. Simply put its a bookmarking service for online video. So no matter where your video sits, google video, archive.org, youtube or even on your own site, you can bookmark it and share it with anyone via dabbler.

In the usual style you can also add tags and create playlists for other people and friends. Its such a simple idea and although dabble is very rough around the edges, I can see myself using this a lot. I actually rememeber this type of service being applied to Podcasts but it was so simple and clever, it actually is a shame it doesn't do audio too.

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