Hello IndieWebCampEast

Republica 2019 and IndieWebCampBerlin 2019

Thanks to Chris Aldrich, I became aware of IndieWebCampEast

After the first one I attended in Berlin, it seemed like a good time to attend. Especially as I’m at home locked down like all of the UK right now.

When I first saw east, I did worry if it would mean a early morning start but of course its east as in America (GMT+5), meaning I still get my nice long sleep in. Whats not to love?

I have been wondering about the Indieweb community, especially with the increasing use of the fediverse and what decentralised models can provide to the public & civic space. Its also perfect timing as I had planned to have a play with Yunohost on my new Raspberry Pi4 on the weekend anyway.

Looking forward to seeing whats changed and meeting the new adventurers in the web space.

Ian Forrester's photo
Ian Forrester

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Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Nov 2020)

How the fediverse deals with trolls

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the next big social network using the exact same centralised model as the existing ones; while us privileged dive into our exit pods.

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 do not track being rethought and getting some legal muscle.


The curious past and future of Signal CEO

Ian thinks: Good to hear more about the mysteries figure which is Signal’s CEO Moxie Marlinspike. His views of taking back our privacy, moving systems into the public infrastructure category and making encryption the default; is quite telling looking at his past. Unlike most, he has the knowledge and system to actually implement with others the reality he thinks about.

Is scale the enemy of human kind?

Ian thinks: This interview with Marina Gorbis from the institute of the future with Douglas Rushkoff is full of status-quo busting thoughts. The centre idea is how the allure of scale is actually the main problem the human race faces.

How to fight black box algorithms together

Ian thinks: Openschufa a project which aggregates your GDPR requested financial data with others to reveal bias, is the type of services I was hoping would come out of GDPR’s data portability rules. Look forward to seeing more like this.

Decentralized Social Networks vs. The Trolls

Ian thinks: This video is excellent and one of the reasons I have always been keen to use fediverse services like Mastodon and Pixelfed. This is another good talk from the Activity pub conference

How Ghent removed cars from the city

Ian thinks: When I visited Ghent last year I did notice the city centre was very quiet from the lack of cars. I had no idea but it felt like a place to live and walk. Lessons for other European cities?

Techdirt experiments with web monetization

Ian thinks: I personally have been following the web monetization protocol and grant for the web project for a while. Even adding it to my own personal blog, but its great to see Techdirt taking up the same protocol. Web monetization is growing and growing.

The role of design during Covid19

Ian thinks: This is a impressive list of 7 design based innovations which have helped and aided during the pandemic. All very different and all inspiration.

Understand digital identity beyond self-sovereign

Ian thinks: Centralised digital identity is easy to understand, but self-sovereign identity is being pushed as the way forward. However this essay by Philip Sheldrake, really shakes up the notions of identity in a way I’m still struggling to think about now.

Facebook won’t take the social dilemma lying down

Ian thinks: I thought Facebook would ignore the social dilemma as its not that great compared the great hack or after truth, plus there are many issues. But Facebook have hit back claiming the documentary as sensationalism. Seems to have touched a nerve I think?


Find the archive here

Telepath, yawn…!

Friendcamp

I have been hearing a bunch of stuff about a brand new social network called Telepath.

…Richard Henry and Marc Bodnick are. The duo, who previously worked together at the question-and-answer community Quora, today announced a wider release for Telepath, a new app for discussing your interests. The app, which like Clubhouse is available only in private beta and requires an invitation to use, resembles a hybrid of Twitter and Reddit. As on Twitter, the app opens to a central scrolling feed of updates from people and topics that you follow. And as on Reddit, every post must be created within a group, which Telepath calls a “network.”

Hearing about it, I was almost yawning. Another centralised social app trying to make its self bigger and better than whats come before using the tried, tested and very abused dark pattern of growth hacking.

For a very short moment I thought, maybe this is built on decentralised technology or works alongside other fediverse platforms? Something like hometown which powers friend.camp but heavily funded? That moment passed very quickly.

Who cares???

Its the same centralised system with a new face, its boring and I’m fed up of it all. Seriously! Don’t send me an invite, it will go straight in to my virtual bin.

 

What centralised systems could learn from the fediverse when it comes to trolls

This video from the activitypub conference 2020, is a perfect example of what I have tried to explain to friends and colleagues. The moderation isn’t just people but a system which is baked into the infrastructure of the fediverse. As the video explains its not perfect but its likely more effective than the centralised systems of Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I do remember when I heard about gab joining the fediverse and the outcry by many who didn’t fully understand how the fediverse works.

The ActivityPub Ecosystem talk, some quick thoughts

I was watching Evan Prodromou giving a talk at the ActivityPub conference and jotted down a few rough thoughts along the way.

Slide 3 – We don’t need to do things the way commercial social networks do.
He’s right theres an opportunity for different types of business models but everybody keeps comparing it to the commercial business models. Heck even myself, I have been writing a presentation and have a slide with number of users.

Slide 5 – What kind of experience would you have with the provider of the software if it was trusted?
This is a good question, my experience with different software and systems is quite different because its under my control or is more trusted. It does change the way you use and what kind of data I’m willing to share?

Slide 8 – What kind of client apps? Evan talks a lot about the fun type of client events which would benefit from a good client API. Reminds me what ever happened to the poking or the old twitter nudge

Slide 9 – More free accounts.
Evan talks about many different local and small groups which could do with something more smaller and local. For example churches, neighbourhoods, cities, families, schools and universities. I would add teams, leagues, local committees, residents committees.. This is something which drives me bananas that we have to use facebook groups for a local residents group. Then have to protect it from external others. Most of the residents are sitting on high speed fiber. It should be super easy to run a local system. Slide 10 – Talking of running a local system, Evan is right, there is something good and powerful about simple self contained devices. I would happily buy a raspberry pi like system where I plug it into my network and I get a activitypub/fediverse server. Add the ability for zeroconf and zero-maintenance and you got something which could have a great user experience and that would be very welcomed. Its why I use Xbian for Kodi on my raspberry pi. Right now I’d happily install Funkwhale on a Raspberry Pi because trying to use docker has been a endless battle.

Slide 11 – Federation of things not internet of things.
Its something I’ve been thinking about a lot, in a recent project with Lancaster and Edinburgh University, I described a system which sucks up your personal data and just makes a copy of it but under your control.. That device (we ended up calling the pebble) is pretty much what Evan is talking about but at a larger scale and static within the home.
The pebble device was meant to copy your personal area network (PAN) communication like your phone, headphones, smartwatch, smart ring, steps, etc.

Slide 12 – Quantified Self
Perfectly timed Evan describes the project for the pebble system I just mentioned. Capturing, runs, food, heartbeats, etc.. But what for? Slide 13 – Lifestreaming! One of the reasons for is because of lifestreaming. If you haven’t heard this term for a long while, its something I and others use to talk about a lot. Iys lost its meaning a bit but also fell out of favour.I do collect a lot of data and maybe for the same reasons as Evan, some kind of digital legacy? The last 3 slides make this much more possible than currently requesting data or scraping it.

Slide 14 – We don’t have to get people hooked!
This goes without saying right?

Slide 15 – Optimize for happy
I like where this is going, always thought there is something in the long time de-funked happiest network. The network seemed to fail because of the weight of investors and the need for a business model. but if we take some examples from slide 16, like helping people, making things, getting enough sleep and wrap them up in a network which doesn’t need business model as such. Now that could be something.

Seeing feel gratitude, also got me thinking about a simple gratitude client which posts in activitypub. Feels like something I could write but surprised no one hasn’t already done it? Been also thinking about a mashup of happiest, gratitude status, google’s defunked schemer and the BBC R&D human values.

Slide 17 – Optimize for connection.
Yes indeed, right on the  human values train. The deepening of friendships and relationships can be massively powerful. And likewise…

Slide 18 – Optimize for meaning
Love the idea of Awesomescrolling oppose to doomscrolling! Not like Tiktok but something with substance which isn’t about entertaining you or being popular (what ever else the tiktok algorithm is optimised for).
Something which aids you in finding purpose and finding out whats really important to you, not just what advertisers want to put in front of you. Also love the idea of walking away with a sense of accomplishment not just happiness (not that this alone wouldn’t be enough of course).

Lastly Evan makes a good point about scaring people into the network. Important point made well…

A better way to review books online?

A good read

Angela is absolutely right in her post about the sorry state of Goodreads.

Last year, I lamented the poor design of Goodreads — a much-needed platform where readers can review books they’ve read and track those they want to. Poor search functionality, ugly aesthetics, an embarrassingly terrible recommendation algorithm, and buried club and group features make the site unpleasant to use. Since the story came out, Goodreads hasn’t done much to improve its deficiencies. Instead, it seems content to rest on its laurels as a near-monopoly owned by Amazon, benefiting from its massive existing user base while being, apparently, deserted by its design team.

It is a joke, even ebay has made changes to improve not just the look but experience of their system (not to say its great however). Goodreads feels like sites before web 2.0 boom. Regardless it has a massive audience, I can’t work out why either?

The post talks about all the different examples people are doing to create their own goodreads alternative using sites like Glitch and Medium. Its a good-read (pun intended) but I found it interesting there was no mention of some of the indieweb (hreview microformats) and fediverse systems (Bookwyrm).

Of course all of them require more technical effort than a webly, glitch, etc but I thought it would be worth mentioning.

Some interesting Indieweb developments

Person with chromebook
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Update with more conference details

I’ve been keeping an eye on whats happening in the next/web3/fediverse/indieweb space, here are a few things I found interesting

Theres a virtual conference about everything Activitypub.

Activitypub.rocks

A conference about the present and future of ActivityPub, the world’s leading federated social web standard.

Looks like a good virtual conference, and don’t forget to register for it.

One to mark the calendar and another one…

I  noticed there is a Fediverse , sessions and sign up here.

I was mentioning webmentions to someone the other day and wondering if there was other places webmentions could work beyond the typical scenarios. So when I saw Whim (a command-line utility for sending, receiving, and working with webmentions) with these features

Daemon to receive and store incoming webmentions
Webmention verifier, suitable for scheduled operation
A tool for sending webmentions, individually or en masse (given a source URL)
Commands to query a local database of received webmentions
Simple webserver to display webmention-powered comment sections as HTML, suitable for JavaScript-driven insertion into an otherwise static webpage

Talking about indieweb and fediverse software, I’m impressed the long list of other software projects. Theres some neat projects there including

  • dokieli looks good as its hits so many of the standards I’m interested in, especially the web annotations.
  • reel2bits looks like funkwhale but maybe more webby
  • gath.io is a quick and easy way to make and share events. Events are public with the special link, its like what doodle.com does.
  • bookwyrm is a federated book reviewing system, aka a fedi-goodreads

Lastly a couple of things, although loosely indieweb/fediverse related.

I was interested to hear Kaliya Young on Floss weekly recently. Kaliya I have met a few times at the Mydata conference. Self-sovereign identity and the use of verifiable credentials and decentralized identifiers is a interesting area. I get the concept but haven’t had the chance to set one up yet. Last year after going to the Indiewebcamp, I setup indieauth which works in a similar way? In actual fact, it finally worked for me on retrying it.

I felt Kaliya did a reasonable job of explaining it but you can tell by the questions she was getting, people were not following. I recommend the Mydata 2018 talk although its moved on quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong its a very difficult thing to get, especially with audio only.

However I did catch Kaliya saying how important standards are and some kind of implementation. I very much agree, this is why I love what the indieweb community do. It also reminded me of something I heard on the twit podcast network too. Protocols not platformsProtocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech.

Lets also not forget the experiment I’m part of with Web Monitization. So far its pretty good without having to block access to my postings. I’m sure there will be an update in a future blog post.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Feb 2020)

Smartcity - Wakanda

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the sorry state of the UK during our EU withdrawal or the tech press panic over the coronavirus.

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 young people leading the way on climate change.

Anonymous still legion?

Ian thinks: Nice summary podcast about the book, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

Curious about hacking?

Ian thinks: Excellent growing resource explaining the origins of hacking in a balanced way through different interviews and press coverage

Fediverse Is here to stay

Ian thinks: English language CCC (Chaos Computer Congress) videos I found. Really good points made about open society and Aaron Swartz

I imagine Vice’s journalist has a awful uber rating

Ian thinks: So clearly outlines the case for Uber to disappear in to the past and what ride sharing really could be.

Cities which work for their citizens not the other way around

Ian thinks: Citizens as sensors, rather than a thing to be sensed; is a good primer for future smart cities

Tracking through podcasting

Ian thinks: Interesting talk from the CCC about tracking and advertising through podcasting.
[English audio stream in downloaded video]

The real drug dealers get away with murder

Ian thinks: Its so easy to point the finger at the darknet markets, but Jack really hits home with the true crime lords.

How is that advert following you around?

Ian thinks: If you don’t understand how cookies work and why you really should reject those cookie banners, this is idea for you.

Sexual harassment, anonymity and

Ian thinks: Sigi’s story told by herself is a powerful one in the era of Background on the story.
[English audio stream in downloaded video]