Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Jan 2021)

Snowdon tells us we can fix the internet for all

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed, hearing how much Salesforce have spent on Slack, the news about Solarwinds and Airbnb’s IPO (why exactly?)

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 emerging with Snowdon telling us its possible to fix thingsthe Economist’s look to 2021, this inspiring list of books of hope and the final end of proprietary Adobe Flash.


The Solid project hits a mile stone in development

Ian thinks: Following BBC R&D’s new forms of value, one of the key research aims is using personal data stores. Solid is one such personal data store and its hit a mile stone with a number of different partners.

The ODI Summit 2020

Ian thinks: The ODI’s summits are always full of great talks and discussions. This years virtual summit is no exception with talks ranging from how we collaborate across border (perfectly timed as the UK leaves the EU) to Elizabeth Denham on who decides how we can use data.

The 3rd way: liberalism, Europe and a antivirus for the mind

Ian thinks: Yuval Noah Harari’s speech about the state of liberalism and Europe is worth listening to even if the panel is less so. Its a German conference but the subtitles help, while Yuval speaks in English throughout. His points are strong and worth remembering, especially the Netflix one.

Nicer businesses reap the bigger rewards

Ian thinks: A good summary of different businesses which operate in a more human fashion and the benefit they gain from this approach. Doesn’t include the usual B-corp names like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia.

Has your local Coop been tracking you and fellow shoppers

Ian thinks: We hear so much about this happening elsewhere, not your local supermarket. Although its adopted a closed loop system, there’s still questions about the bias set in the algorithm being used.

Facebook is another US Corp avoiding EU privacy laws around UK data

Ian thinks: Brexit has far reaching ramifications, but many didn’t foresee their personal data being moved to American law. First Google and now Facebook. Look out for more in the new year.

The nation state as a subscription?

Ian thinks: It was during a conversation with the Future Today Institute about my Estonian e-residency and potential digital nomad visa. Than the notion of a subscription to nation states was considered a possible future. Might seem strange but its clear the idea of a nation state is overdue a change.

TechCrunch editors choose their top stories of 2020

Ian thinks: I found the choice of stories quite different and varied for 2020. I imagine every other year previously in Techcrunch would be much less focused on the effect of technology on society.

The biggest hacks of 2020

Ian thinks: Hearing the numbers of affected people increasing as Shannon gets closer to number one, is just unbelievable. I expected Solarwinds to be number one but yes number one is absolutely deserved. So clear how integrated the digital & physical are.

The future of social media, content moderation and censorship with the EFF

Ian thinks: Good honest discussion with EFF on topics affecting the internet right now. On a similar vein, you may also like a podcast Manchester Futurists recorded with Derek Caelin too.

Some things to take forward into 2021

Ian thinks: Lets be honest 2020 was a awful year, but there was lots of good things within the year which do need to be remembered and taken forward into 2021.


Like this, find the archive here

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Dec 2020)

Jessica gordon nembhard

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed, watching people shaming others for not working extra hard during the pandemic, employers spying on their employees and our continuing reliance on centralised servers.

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 Google implementing Signal’s open source E2EE protocol and Google loosening control of the Chromium project


BBC R&D’s New forms of value research explained by MaxAlexLianne and myself

Ian thinks: Yes this is a bit meta but its great to deep dive into the cutting edge research of BBC R&D’s lab. Remember its all for the benefit of the citizens of the UK and far wider. Worth also listening to the Human Values podcast series if you want to know more about what Lianne talks about.

The Solid project hits a mile stone in development

Ian thinks: Following BBC R&D’s new forms of value, one of the key research aims is using personal data stores. Solid is one such personal data store and its hit a mile stone with a number of different partners.

Hacking society for the sake society

Ian thinks: Bruce Schneier’s talk from Tech Open Air is well worth 20mins of your time. Its a combinations of what goes into these notes. Security, privacy, hacking, dis-information, policy and the internet.

The key for securing our shared water future

Ian thinks: In this sobering Tedx talk, Seth makes clear we are running low on shared water. Seth talks about a rethink of our policy, technology and cooperation around this space.

What black ideas from the past we could take into the future

Ian thinks: Jessica and Douglas talk about how black communities already developed circular economic mechanisms and how effective they have been.

Technology always transforms ethics

Ian thinks: Juan’s thoughts are important to take in, he touches on so many points from ethics to politics. All framed within alongside technology disruption. I did find it strange he never used Brexit in his last reply about example of breaking up a nation.

An unscientific look at algorithms and my phone is still listening to me

Ian thinks: Wired magazine creates a quick and dirty test looking at Youtube’s recommendation algorithm. Plus that classic notion that your phone is listening to you.
Both are crude but if the social dilemma has taught me anything these actually help convince people

The challenges of IP in the coming world of ubiquitous game engine use

Ian thinks: Found via Simon Lumb, a real in-depth look at the challenges around IP in a world of game engines. There is also a podcast if like me you prefer audio

A musical trip into Nerdcore *explicit language

Ian thinks: Hip-hop artists talk about their reality and Nerdcore is no different. Its impressive and fascinating to hear how integrated internet & hacking culture has become in these artists life.


The archive is available here

Personal data stores are the new grey?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/slightlyeverything/8227615319/

If I had some money from all the people who sent me details of Tim Burners-Lee’s Solid I would have enough to buy a cheap flight to somewhere in Europe with a cheap airline.

Solid is meant to change “the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we’ve all discovered, this hasn’t been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance – by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way.”

Solid isn’t a radical new program. Instead, “Solid is a set of modular specifications, which build on, and extend the founding technology of the world wide web (HTTP, REST, HTML). They are 100% backwards compatible with the existing web.

Main reason why people seem to be sending it my way is because of another open source project I’m involved in called Databox.

For me the Solid is a personal data store, its like a secure vault for your data. This is good but like 2 factor authentication over SMS, not as secure as other ways. Put all your personal data in one place and its a central point for those who want everything at once. Think about how many times you have seen leaks of databases which contain credit cards, numbers, emails, names, etc… Its the eggs/data in one basket problem…

This came up at Mydata 2018, there was quite a lot of discussion about this through out the conference and touched on in Mikko Hypponen’s talk.

The data in one place is just aspect, others are more about the value proposal to people and technically how verified claims work; as expressed in how solid is tim’s plan to redecentralize the web.

The comparisons between Solid and Databox have been asked by many and I would certainly say Databox (regardless of its name) isn’t a place to hold all your personal data. You could use it like that but its more of a privacy aware data processing platform/unit. I remember the first time I heard about Vendor relationship management (VRM), it was clear to me how powerful this could be for many things. But then again I also identified Data portability as something essential while most people just didn’t see the point.

Everything will live or die by not just developer support, privacy controls, security, cleverness, but by user demand… and it feels like personal data stores still a while off in most peoples imagination.

Maybe once enough people personally experience the rough side of personal data breaches it may change?

For example today I received a email from have you been pwned saying…

You’re one of 125,929,660 people pwned in the Apollo data breach.

In July 2018, the sales engagement startup Apollo left a database containing billions of data points publicly exposed without a password. The data was discovered by security researcher Vinny Troia who subsequently sent a subset of the data containing 126 million unique email addresses to Have I Been Pwned. The data left exposed by Apollo was used in their “revenue acceleration platform” and included personal information such as names and email addresses as well as professional information including places of employment, the roles people hold and where they’re located. Apollo stressed that the exposed data did not include sensitive information such as passwords, social security numbers or financial data.

Till this is a everyday occurrence, most people will just carry on and not care? Maybe theres even a point it should be part of the furniture of the web, like the new grey?

Expectation control on deploy or die!

Joi Ito at SIME'08

Somebody pointed me at a piece from Oreilly’s Solid conference. Like most others I would have loved to have gone but to be fair there would have been people I would rather have gone ahead of myself.

Joi ito I have a lot of respect for and I remember meeting him in London over 10 years ago. But I take a little issue with something Joi says

the Media Lab’s emphasis is on projects that go all the way to manufacturing and distributing: moving from “demo or die” to “deploy or die,” as Joi puts it. Projects that deploy can be vastly more impactful than those that just demo — putting thousands of devices into the hands of users rather than just a couple. Plus, the manufacturing process is a crucial source of both constraints and creative possibility. Joi says, “Understanding manufacturing is going to be key to design, just like understanding the Internet has become key to running a company.”

Deploy or die is a nice idea but there’s issues which are associated with deployment. I understand the cost of manufacturing is getting cheaper however you need to be open and honest with the end user. User experience needs to be great otherwise people will simply drop it or kick it to the bin. Whats the point in putting it in peoples hands if they just put it in the bin?

Saying this is a demo, beta or prototype sets the expectation and this is a important stage which you shouldn’t ignore. Its the reason why Gmail had a beta tag for 10 years.

I’m in agreement the prototype shouldn’t be thrown away once you go into production. The prototype should embody as much of the real thing as possible. Its important to remember, someone needs to support the final thing. If you’re a research institute, this is not what you should be doing… This is the kind of thing which gets in the way of progression and researching the next problem/question.

Also I would point out that Joi is mainly talking about physical things which has always had a problem with being open and putting things out there for people to play with. This is something the internet has over the real world… A place to try stuff in the comfort of your own home.

Whats really needed is a safe place where people can play and try new things, which people understand don’t have the complete story or supply chain behind it. That space shouldn’t be a lab tucked away, it should be somewhere neutral like the number of community spaces which are popping up all over the place. In such a space, you can deploy or die to your hearts content. It shouldn’t be a genius bar either, it should be something comfortable and welcoming.

Yes it doesn’t scale too well but I think you will get more qualitative and qualitative feedback as a result