Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Oct 2019)

Carole Cadwalladr & Paul-Olivier Dehaye's deep dive into the great hackCarole Cadwalladr & Paul-Olivier Dehaye's deep dive into the great hack

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking down at our feet or at the endless twitter fighting.

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 Matt Mullenweg’s comments about a open and diverse web after buying tumblr.

Don’t forget if you find this useful, you will find “Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?” at the RSA London on 21st October  2019, right up your street.

 

Watching the labrats scurrying away

Ian thinks: Recently read Labrats book after seeing Dan Lyons at Thinking Digital. Its quite a raw insider view on silicon valley culture, the laughable and the horrific sides in equal lashings.

The Great Hack Workshop from Mydata 2019

Ian thinks: This was one of the highlights of Mydata 2019. Carole Cadwalladr & Paul-Olivier Dehaye’s deep dive into the build up to the great hack was fascinating. Lots of useful resources were revealed.

Are Boris Johnson’s PR People Manipulating Google Search?

Ian thinks: True or not, our dependence on a single search engine/service makes any potential manipulating even more impactful.

Ted Nelson on Hypertext, Douglas Englebart and Xanadu

Ian thinks: Its always amazing to see pioneers who narrowly missed out pushing concepts which were too early, but could come back.

Look out here comes the hyperledgers

Ian thinks: More ledger/blockchain projects to power your projects than you can shake a stick at. Very happy at least some are open-source.

ReasonTV’s look at the Decentralised web

Ian thinks: I was expecting something light touch but having Cory Doctorow mainly interviewed means its got some depth.

Etiquette and privacy in the age of IoT

Ian thinks: Etiquette tends to be forgotten in the advancement of  technology. I don’t consider it rude to shut off a Alexa, I’m sure others will disagree.

Tipping etiquette set by user interface

Ian thinks: Talking about etiquette, very interesting to see norms set by user interface design decisions. Obviously set to benefit the company but its stuck now.

Exploiting technology or exploited by technology?

Ian thinks: Curious tale, but it does raise a question about digital access and backups. Least we forget about power and when things go technically wrong.

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…

Changes to the experience of mixcloud for free listeners

Rain clouds
Stormy rain clouds are coming?

As you may have noticed I use Mixcloud for uploading my DJ/Pacemaker device mixes. It works quite well because they upload the whole track with a few restrictions and you can listen to the lot anytime. I use to upload them to soundcloud but that didn’t work out too well.

Mixcloud has been pretty good to me but recently I noticed some changes coming into effect.

Some changes are coming to Mixcloud’s free playback experience. As a valued creator of the Mixcloud community, I’d like to personally notify you in advance about why we’re doing this.

We need to make some changes in order to keep running a legal platform in line with our licensing agreements, and a platform that is truly sustainable for the long term. Please read this open letter from myself and my co-founders to understand why and how these changes contribute to building a fair and sustainable streaming model that supports artists. I’ve summarized this for you below:

What’s changing?

Free listeners will only be able to seek forwards while listening to a show.

Free listeners will be able to listen to the same show maximum 3 times in a rolling two-week window.

Free listeners will not be able to listen to shows that feature more than 4 tracks by the same artist or more than 3 tracks from an album.

There more but its clear the pressure is on. Its nothing personal about mixcloud, they have to make money and its pretty fair. But I can’t help but  wondering about dataportability, because although I’m less concerned as I have all the mixes complete with track-listings and mix art on my machines backed up (The only thing I would like is the tags and some of the timings which I may not have directly).

I’m  wondering where I would go if I did move on?

The copyright filter would kill uploading to youtube and archive.org. I wonder if theres a decent alternative which is part of the dweb? The closest I can see is peertube, but its focused on video. To be fair I have enough bandwidth to host my own mixes on a instance of peertube…. Maybe something for a rainy weekend?

New rules, decentralised really means decentralised…

I recently introduced a few friends to Mastodon and tried to explain why I think its a step forward. Others have hinted at this all too.

There are many issues they face and some are highlighted in a blog post I wrote a while ago when talking about mastodon. But recently I had a interesting discussion about a part of the decentralised web I’ve not had for a while. Lack of censorship of dangerous & in some places illegal content.

This might seem as quite a shock to a lot people use to the moderation/gatekeeping of centralised platforms, especially while browsing through the list of mastodon servers to join.

Generally a lot of the people in the Dweb (decentralised web) world understand the advantages and disadvantages of decentralised based systems including this. But it can come as a shock to others who have rarely come across anything like this. I would say this is like the red light district in Amsterdam. Its there if you want it, its better/safer for the those involved and its easier for law enforcement to do their job. Consider this happens regardless is important to note.

Of course it totally depends on the media, content, etc… Theres a sliding scale from stuff which is totally illegal to things which are more questionable depending on your culture, faith, etc. Mastdon has ways to not just filter but also block and ban things. The join an instance is ideal because it sets the tone and makes explicit the rules of whats tolerated and whats not. This gives transparency to the users and should stop things like the Facebook blocking breastfeeding policy.

I do understand its off putting to new Dweb users but like the Cloudflare daily stormer censorship or the British porn block, theres a serious lesson to be learned. Lets not kid ourselves, simply hiding it or pushing it underground will ultimately make things worst for everyone. Law enforcement works much better when there’s cultural and societal norm against the something. This is why the war on drugs has been and always will be a unwinnable war.

Updated 18th Feb

Mozilla’s IRL podcast has a episode which is along the same lines and worth listening to.

Some people believe that decentralization is the inevitable future of the web. They believe that internet users will start to demand more privacy and authenticity of information online and that they’ll look to decentralized platforms to get those things. But would decentralization be as utopian as advocates say it could be?

If you have no control over your identity you are but a slave?

How self sovereign identity could work

Its twice I heard something similar to this now.

First time was from Gregor Žavcer at MyData 2018 in Helsinki. I remember when he started saying if you have no control over your identity you are but a slave (power-phased of course). There was a bit of awe from the audience, including myself. Now to be fair he justified everything he said but I didn’t make note of the references he made, as he was moving quite quickly. I did note down something about no autonomy is data without self.

Then today at the BBC Blueroom AI Society & the Media event, I heard Konstantinos Karachalios say something very similar. To be fair I was unsure of the whole analogy when I first heard it but there seems to be some solid grounding for this all.

This is why the very solution of a self sovereign identity (SSI) as proposed by Kaliya Young and others during Mydata speaks volume to us all deep down. The videos, notes from that session are not up yet but I gather it was all recorded and will be up soon. However I found her slides from when she talked at the decentralized web summit.

This looks incredible as we shift closer to the Dweb (I’m thinking there was web 1.0, then web 2.0 and now Dweb, as web 3.0/semantic web didn’t quite take root). There are many questions including service/application support and the difficulty of getting one. This certainly where I agree with Aral about the design of this all, the advantages could be so great but if it takes extremely good technical knowledge to get one, then its going to be stuck on the ground for a long time, regardless of the critical advantages.

I was reminded of the sad tale of what happened to Open ID, really hoping this doesn’t go the same way.