Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (May 2022)

This land is your land

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed reading about the not well known dangers of databrokers, likewise the surprise? inequality effects everyone, and hearing the details of Facebooks paid smear campaign,

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 the power of community, Reddit’s /place working together and different ways to do notifications.


Community door deliver fills in gaps

Ian thinks: This reminds me of the community WiFi initiatives, which filled in the gaps of big internet companies which refused to support smaller communities. However I can see these growing, with the backlash against generic speedy delivery systems.

The metaverse’s architecture is simply lazy

Ian thinks: In my recent Mozfest session about the metaverse vs public service internet. I was highly critical of repeating the same mistakes of the physical world in the virtual world. I’m not the only one.

Lessons for a metaverse

Ian thinks: On a similar note, there are plenty of lessons for virtual space creators, but I wonder how many are actually paying attention?

P2P fashion renting, focuses on the community

Ian thinks: Not my usual interest but shrinking fast fashion’s carbon footprint is interesting. However its the community focus and peer 2 peer model which elevates it into this line up this month. Expect this business model to be duplicated over and over again.

Sunshine technology

Ian thinks: This BBC Click episode is focused on solar technology and there are some impressive developments. The limits are made clear but frankly I’m reconsidering my next pair of headphones.

Channel 4 sell off shows the misunderstanding of public service business models

Ian thinks: Much has been written about the recent announcement to sell off Channel 4 but the misunderstanding of the business model of Channel 4 isn’t just embarrassing but shocking that people assume the model is one way.

Leap frogging with 3D printing and communities

Ian thinks: I always liked the idea of leap frogging in tech but things tend not to stick unless there is influence from governments or a ground swell of community support.

Secrecy as a means of monetization?

Ian thinks: The joy of tinkering, making, and sharing is part of the human condition. In modern times, this creative freedom too often is stifled by secrecy as a means of monetization – from non-compete laws to quashing people’s right to repair the products they’ve already paid for.

Twitter is not a digital public space

Ian thinks: The whole Elon and twitter saga is simply boring, and I do not buy Elon’s idea of Twitter being the public square. Paul’s piece sums up some critical thoughts around this all.


Find the archive here

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (April 2022)

 

EULA for the Ethical Dilemma Cafe

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing Apple’s lack of regard for the Dutch ACM, understanding the motivations of young people hacking now and people being reminded about cafe working etiquette

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 people dumping their smartphones along Cloudflare providing a free webservice firewall and Twitter joining TOR


Mozfest Ethical dilemma cafe Manchester tickets are now live

Ian thinks: Understanding the ethical dilemmas we face every day online has always been difficult to explain the harm. Putting them into physical spaces really brings home the dilemma. If you are in Manchester in late April, grab a free ticket and join us.

Rallying call for a equitable digital public space

Ian thinks: Reading this piece, I couldn’t help but think about the digital realm with the ever growing divide between rich/poor. Not only with money but time and knowledge The digital divide is live and sadly growing..

The inspiring documentary about internet life for young people in the Netherlands

Ian thinks: I was able to watch the whole documentary at Mozfest this year and was impressed with the different methods used by parents and young people working with the current internet.

Who is really looking at the infrastructure of a metaverse?

Ian thinks: Found via this years Mozfest while talking about the metaverse vs the public service internet. The folks at Matrix, are building a truly interoperable infrastructure for a real metaverse.

WordPress is the dark matter of the web?

Ian thinks: This good interview with Matt Mullenweg, WordPress founder and so much more. Really makes clear how wordpress is not only greatly estimated but also its positive impact on the web.

Indigenous teachings finally influencing our sustainable future

Ian thinks: People turning towards the deep learning from indigenous people is a good thing. I would like to see much more of this sooner rather than later,

Its all about the Scenius?

Ian thinks: I first heard about Scenius at Mozfest this year, Brian Eno coined the term to summarize how communities not individuals are responsible for innovation.

Europe makes its intentions very clear with the Digital Markets Act

Ian thinks: The EU’s Digital Markets Act is a very bold legal policy which could have the similar impact to GDPR? Although people can’t stop talking about opening Apple’s iMessage, its worth remembering the DMA hasn’t been fully drafted yet!

Cory and Ethan chew over a better internet

Ian thinks: A lot is covered in a short amount of time. However they both settle on the practical problems of the current and future internet. The legal battles, societal frameworks and the web3 bubble is used to chill what the future internet could be.

Keeping the Ukraine cyber secure early on

Ian thinks: The mission to harden and keep Ukraine as secure as possible earlier, has played a big role in stopping the cyber invasion of Russia and maintaining a functioning country.


Find the archive here

Beeper makes Matrix bridges into a business model

After the long wait and some wonder if anything was going to happen. On Monday I got my invite to join a very small number of people on Beeper.

I am impressed…

I thought I had a blog post about Beeper but I didn’t write one. So in short this picture sums up Beeper in one go.

Beeper bridges

Imagine if you could use one client to access all these different networks, but unlike pidgin or trillian which needs software plugins to connect to them all. Beeper is actually a Matrix client which connects to specific Matrix bridges (server based, instead of client based) to other messaging networks.

Its one of the thing which blew me away when I saw Matrix at Mozfest 2017.

Matrix is open source and you can run it on your own infrastructure (we will get back to that soon). You can even install your own bridges.

In short Beeper is the Matrix dream in a managed service which you pay $10 a month. You can self host it and its something I may do after a while but right now I’m happy to give some money to get use to things

First thing I did is install the appimage for Linux, set it up using the code I had received via email. Then setup a few networks. Within a few minutes I was replying to friends

I tested Slack using Storyteller United and was quite impressed, although I ended up disabling it due to the amount of channels and how busy the slack can be.

I may enable it again for a few slacks I am part of but don’t want the whole of slack on. Currently I have the Slack app on my laptop and work phone but I like the idea of the messaging parts without the heavy slack app.

I noticed you can input Gifs, emoji’s, attachments, etc in almost every single message in a unified way. I haven’t hooked up my SMS yet (mainly because there is no RCS bridge yet which I would miss). I also would like to see scheduling as I’m so use to it now.

Of course the phone interface for beeper is similar, Gif and all. You can use the unified inbox which puts everything in one timeline. The spaces cuts everything by network.

To be frank, Beeper is impressive and if I could change a few things they would be.the ability to have multiple accounts. For example I would love to be able to finally have one client for the multiple Signal accounts (I have one for my personal and work mobiles). This might be a limitation of Signal, but it would be great if I could spin up 2 bridges. I say this as I added 2 slack accounts and could add more with ease.

Right now Beeper is very much work in progress, but its got most of the key features.  I don’t feel like I have fully added the networks yet as I hold on to apps like Android messages due to RCS and scheduled messages. I could add Twitter and Discord but I’m quite happy with my Mastodon clients and cross posting to Twitter. Although I might hook up my ianforrester account on twitter just to see what its like in beeper. I even consider setting up Telegram, i-message, etc accounts just because I can now without the stress.

I forgot, Beeper doesn’t replace the existing messaging systems, meaning when I finally hooked up Android messages, I can still send scheduled messages and RCS from the app. But reply and send general messages from Beeper.

The network diagram at the very top is actually slight wrong because Beeper sits within the Matrix network and once I understood this via the support channel. It became clear I could easily share things between all my mobiles and laptop with ease. Bit like how I use Signal’s personal space/notes to yourself. I haven’t tried connecting to any of the Matrix systems I’m part of like publicspaces, sdeps or redecentralise. But I’ll give it a try over the next few days.

I like Beeper, but do long to setup my own bridges in a docker container or rasberrypi in the near future. Is 10$ a month quite a bit expensive for this? Maybe but only because I am still getting use to it and not fully using it. I think if I was using it for everything, 10$ a month would great value. Its a good business model, as most won’t or can’t run their own bridge server. (I have already looked to see if Yuno host has support or not)

I look forward to the regular updates and seeing it mature into something unique.



Funny enough I heard Beeper on Twit.TV’s all about android too. The person who wrote in didn’t blur any of his conversations and contacts which I would say is super brave or not thinking things fully through? However its interesting to see someone else also using Beeper and the reaction to it from people not fully aware of

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Sept 2021)

Metaverse

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the lack of coverage for facebook whistleblower sophie zhang, thinking about those batteries and yet another data breach.

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 seeing twitter crop bias bug bounty, the discussion about removing the landline and the social dilemma free on youtube for a month.


Tech Crunch gets on the moving train

Ian thinks: Reading this, I can’t really take Techcrunch seriously, because for every one of these startups focused on privacy and security. Theres at least 20 more startups covered the opposite. Maybe its just me?

Envisioning the future of social media

Ian thinks: This interview with Ethan Zuckerman is full of some great points to get you thinking, I find it hard to disagree with Ethan especially around using affordances and setting up small town based on Mastodon.

Values not eyeballs please

Ian thinks: Its always interesting to hear from experts in the space, on the work you are involved in. Its a really good read especially if you haven’t come across the Human Values, which also has new podcast interviews.

Apple cares about your privacy?

Ian thinks: I do find it so ironic, Apple making a song a dance about their privacy changes but their own browser Safari, not including any strong level of privacy? Of course Apple are in privacy hot water for much more too.

What is really behind Only Fans new policy? and its Uturn?

Ian thinks: There is a important question about the platform and who has influence over the platform. As this twitter thread says, you really need to think about the platform & infrastructure,

The dystopia which is the metaverse

Ian thinks: There is so much talk about the metaverse but few looking at the privacy, security, infrastructure and trust within this space. Till then I can’t help but think Vice is kind of right.

Its started with a MP3 player

Ian thinks: Dan Hon’s rant starts with a want and spans the internet media ecosystem, pointing out so many of the problems we all know too well.

Blackhat & Defcon happened, here’s the scary flaws

Ian thinks: I always love seeing what comes out of these security events. You can also watch the full videos from Blackhat and Defcon online here.

Web Monetization showcase

Ian thinks:The webmon showcase is a nice summary of some of the projects which came out of the Grant for the web initiative

Mozilla thumbs down Facebooks claims about Ad Observer

Ian thinks: Its so interesting to see Facebook’s concerns around Ad observer squashed in one post by the privacy first Mozilla. This is deeply concerning behavior, what is Facebook worried about?


Find the archive here

What is Bluesky doing which others can’t do?

A leaf, blueskies and clouds

Following Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey’s discussion about de-platforming Trump, there was mention about Decentralisating twitter and BlueSky.

He first made mention of this in 2019 in a number of tweets.

Researchers involved with bluesky reveal to TechCrunch an initiative still in its earliest stages that could fundamentally shift the power dynamics of the social web.

Bluesky is aiming to build a “durable” web standard that will ultimately ensure that platforms like Twitter have less centralized responsibility in deciding which users and communities have a voice on the internet. While this could protect speech from marginalized groups, it may also upend modern moderation techniques and efforts to prevent online radicalization.

When I first heard about Bluesky there was little information then at some point during the pandemic I heard about the iOS only app Planetary. My instant thought was oh no there going to try and bypass all the excellent work which has been done by others already. Especially with ActivityPub now a W3C recommendation.

I looked beyond the Techcrunch post (which is full of little odd bits) to see what I could dig up about Bluesky. Looking at the Github repo from Planetary it seems to be based on the Scuttlebot.io protocol? Its good to also see Scuttlebug to ActivityPub and RSS too. As its Scuttlebot, theres other clients for many other platforms.

So my question is what difference does it make over what already exists?
I get if twitter was to be a client of the protocol that would be generally a good thing and I imagine the publicity for decentralised systems would be welcomed but beyond that? Will their business model change? Will anything change? I guess does anything need to change from Twitter’s point of view?
On top of this all, will all the efforts before hand be forgotten now Twitter throws their hat into the ring? That would be awful for all the hard work others have put in for years and years.

The/our social dilemma documentary

The social dilemma

I just watched the social dilemma.

I have to say its actually very well produced and gets the points across in a way which I feel might actually cause some thought. We have heard this before in many different places but I liked the family story which gave it some well needed context. Although it does go maybe a bit too far in the story. Heck I was wondering if the son was about to get himself a gun…

My only really issue is its very American focused except Myanmar which received a short segment. The insiders don’t reflect the diversity of wider society but of course that speaks volume. But Cathy O’Neil said it best,

Do we really want to hand this problem over to technologists who helped create this problem?

Unfortunately that kind includes the well meaning Tristan Harris and many others on the documentary. Its interesting who isn’t in the documentary, such as people like Douglas Rushkoff, Doc Searls, Clay Shirky, etc.

Is it the business model, is it the economic model, shareholder value, lack of governmental pressure, legal regulation, monopolistic practices, undemocratic markets? Or is it actually a bit of all of them?

So its a 7/10 its good but I feel After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News (2020) has the edge.

I guess the biggest question is what happens next? Will people actually act after seeing the documentary? Thats the big question.

Little note: I enjoyed the older sister reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism on the sofa. I didn’t spot Cathy’s Weapons of math destruction and there was attribution to Natasha Schüll’s Addicted by design

Special editions of Tech for good live podcasts coming your way

Black Lives Matter - Cancelling cultur

About a month ago a few friends cc’ed me into a conversation with tech for good live on Twitter by friends

After a while we finally got talking agreed a schedule and I went about getting people to join me on the agreed 3 podcasts. I won’t lie, getting time with busy people in the middle of lockdown was difficult but I managed.

Now I’m very happy to see the first one with David EastmanErinma Ochu, Ethar Alali and Naomi Mwasambili

Enjoy it, email and rate techforgoodlive on google podcasts and itunes. Look out for the next two and thanks to pod.co for sponsoring techforgoodlive

I did talk about doing more around previously and now you can see some of the action I took to date.

Signal what are you up to?

I love Signal and never used Whatsapp because of many reasons included in this great opinion piece. Its gotten better and better but the recent pin number is a worry. I’m not the only one.

“Notably, things we don’t have stored include anything about a user’s contacts (such as the contacts themselves, a hash of the contacts, any other derivative contact information), anything about a user’s groups (such as how many groups a user is in, which groups a user is in, the membership lists of a user’s groups), or any records of who a user has been communicating with,” Signal wrote in 2016.

That, according to critics, has now changed.

“They should have a dumb network that knows nothing because it can’t be compromised then,” The Grugq told Motherboard. “[Having contacts] is a lot. It isn’t messages, sure. But I don’t like it. I don’t want them to have anything. Make the networks dumb and the clients smart.”

I do understand why they have done it, but I don’t know where its going next. Marlnspike (head dev of Signal) replies.

Marlinspike defended the decision to enable PINs and give users a way to migrate to a new device and keep certain data, and will increase the security of users’ metadata, “new features Signal users have been asking for.”

“The purpose of PINs is to enable upcoming features like communicating without sharing your phone number. When that is released, your Signal contacts won’t be able to live in the address book on your phone anymore, since they may not have phone numbers associated with them,” Marlinspike told Motherboard. “For most users, this also increases the security of their metadata. Most people’s address book is syncing with Google or Apple, so this change will prevent Google and Apple from having access to your Signal contacts.”

Smartphone use
Photo by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash

The changes Signal has made show how there can be a tension between messenger usability and feature set and security. It’s too early to say whether you should stop using the messenger. For most users’ threat models, it’s still one of the best options. But one of the key things that set Signal apart—that it collects almost no information about its users, appears to be changing.

Convenience is the enemy of security and I would say privacy. I wouldn’t be surprised if signal gets forked.

It was always clear to me Twitter direct messages was never secure in anyway, hence why I tried to move private conversations over to another medium. If thats not email or signal what else? Recently I have been looking at a couple others…

Session which is decentralised messaging and Criptext, which is actually secure email. Both need work but have decent security.

Flokk contacts app

I recently gave flokk a run on my laptop as a snap. I was surprised how different a concept it is and also the decisions they made.

Its simply a google contact manager but its focused around social. Its not perfect but I wasn’t sure about it at first, I didn’t want to enter in additional information if it wasn’t actually syncing with my google contacts. I checked and all the details I entered into my contacts were correctly synced and not dumped into additional data. They were!

Quite a few friends have complained that I don’t follow them on twitter. This is a really neat way to see what they up.

Its got some work to do on the contact management but as a social tool its good. Currently it only supports Twitter and Github but I can imagine Mastodon could be easily added in the future. I know Facebook would be interesting for other people too I guess.

Looking at flutter more and more now

Is it about time twitter was put under a public remit?

Twitter: Handle with care
Photo by Ravi Sharma on Unsplash

You can’t have missed the twitter (social engineering) hacks.

It was pretty bad but no where near as bad as it could have been. Others have thought exactly the same as I have, bitcoin and direct messages was just the start, they could have started world war 3.

Ok this is still a live hack with new information coming out every hour but its clear as sight. International and even national politics shouldn’t be announced on twitter or any social media really.

However lets be clear, that level of power in one place is just too great one  company. Another example is Facebook and what happened with Cambridge Analytica.

I know Jack was talking about decentralising twitter a while ago but something as big and powerful likely needs two things.

  1. Be decentralised or federated
  2. Be something more like a public utility than a profit making company

I know many will disagree but honestly I would feel much more safer with twitter under a different remit, a public remit? (I do not mean government control)

Not to say the social engineering wouldn’t have happened but there would be a stricter understanding of the importance and more accountability for the attention & power it has currently.

Mastodon shows, social data-portability the way it should be

https://mas.to/@cubicgarden/104231400255269868

I recently moved from Mastodon.cloud to Mas.to. My main reason was for some (political?) reason mastodon.cloud was no longer accepted as part of the crossposter accepted domains.

I looked into hosting my own crossposter but decided there might be a reason why mastodon.cloud isn’t supported anymore? I had a look around the fediverse and read quite a few of the terms for each instance/domain. Mas.to looked good.

The actual moving was easily done as per the instructions here.

So easy and quick, if only it was always like this…?

Bezos’s possible trillionaire status is the worst of capitalism and inequality

There is a lot wrong with the world especially our western capitalistic society. The very thought/notion of one person being personally worth one trillion (in less than 10 years) is just unthinkable with all the problems in the world.

Bill Maher sums it up nicely in new rules. Although not a fan of relying on these rich white men to share the wealth, Jack Dorsey recent pledge did take me by surprise. Especially how transparent he is with it all.

The whole Bezos issue reminds me of the talks and books by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, especially the spirit level. (I still haven’t read the inner level yet)

In their influential 2009 book The Spirit Level, the epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett demonstrated conclusively the pernicious effects of economic inequality. In more unequal countries, outcomes are worse for almost everyone in areas such as public health, education, obesity and social mobility.

Demostration of inquality in action
From Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s the spirit level book, this cartoon is just perfect.

 

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Jan 2020)

Greta Thunberg

Good day, happy new year and looking forward to a new decade with you all!

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the next US election or at the endless denial about explainable algorithms.

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 Finland’s new prime minister, Sanna Marin at the age of 34, focusing on climate change.

 

The threat of quantum computing explained

Ian thinks: This is a serious challenger for so much of the encrypted systems we rely on daily.

Why do people listen to Greta?

Ian thinks: Makes a really strong point about creativity. It something I also worry we forget as it doesn’t conveniently fit our tired metrics.

A critical look at economical value

Ian thinks: Mariana makes some great points about different types of value.

Anarchy, Federation, IndieWeb the Fedverse

Ian thinks: Defining yourself in opposition to something else, doesn’t give you enough conceptual space is why I always quoting Buckminster Fuller

EFF’s deep dive into public key encryption

Ian thinks: Its one of those things which is banded about but few people when asked can explain it as well as the EFF

Webxray gives an insight behind the webpage

Ian thinks: The Webxray tool which runs on Linux & Mac is quite impressive to use. Gives a real insight into whats going on in the web when it comes tracking and the advertisement ecosystem

Decentralisation isn’t just about the internet

Ian thinks: The importance of decentralised networks applies to more than just the internet

Jason Silva interviews Kevin Kelly

Ian thinks: Technology, drugs, spiritualism its all in there and its quite a interview too.

Real People, Doing Real Things segment on teamhuman

Ian thinks: The new segment is welcomed on teamhuman and botsentinel is a good project to start with.

Jack Dorsey funding a decentralised twitter

Ian thinks: When I first heard this I almost fell off my chair, then thought this is classic innovators dilemma or twitter seeing the writing on the wall?

Why one client is a bad idea

 

I recently saw this in my email and elsewhere…

We recently fixed a vulnerability within Twitter for Android that could allow a bad actor to see nonpublic account information or to control your account (i.e., send Tweets or Direct Messages). Prior to the fix, through a complicated process involving the insertion of malicious code into restricted storage areas of the Twitter app, it may have been possible for a bad actor to access information (e.g., Direct Messages, protected Tweets, location information) from the app.

We don’t have evidence that malicious code was inserted into the app or that this vulnerability was exploited, but we can’t be completely sure so we are taking extra caution.

We have taken steps to fix this issue and are directly notifying people who could have been exposed to this vulnerability either through the Twitter app or by email with specific instructions to keep them safe. These instructions vary based on what versions of Android and Twitter for Android people are using. We recommend that people follow these instructions as soon as possible. If you are unsure about what to do, update to the latest version of Twitter for Android. This issue did not impact Twitter for iOS.

We’re sorry this happened and will keep working to keep your information secure on Twitter. You can reach out to our Office of Data Protection through this form to request information regarding your account security.

Its clear to me, twitter’s plan to restrict API access to limit the clients and ultimately force people into using their own appis and always was a bad idea!

Jack talks a good game about a decentralised twitter but lets be honest, its not going to truly happen. Their company interests are too tightly wound up in this all. Of course theres already standards for this, just that twitter refuse to support micropub, activitypub, etc… Rosemary mentions this on a twit recently.