danah boyd : ideas for thought

Symposium for the Future » It is easy to fall in love with technology… (by danah boyd). – danah boyd is an absolutely fantastic researcher and teacher in the realm of technology and social interaction. She deeply studies this stuff…well, well worth following. Her personal blog is a must-read for anyone who follows social interaction on the Web…or who has a teenager. *grin*

tr.im and Friendfeed: a whirlwind couple of days

Wow. In a quick 48 hours or so, the Interwebs have dealt a double whammy. First, the closure of the url shortener tr.im has highlighted the danger of the url proxy…without some carefully built safeguards, the loss of a shortening site means the loss of lots and lots of lookups. And with Friendfeed purchased by Facebook out of the blue, I expect an aggressive attempt to merge my two accounts and social networks coming…an attempt that I will absolutely rebuff. If necessary, I’ll remove or freeze my friendfeed account; I simply have very little overlap in the two networks, and I don’t WANT them merged. As I’ve said before, the constant online push to merge every type of friendship, acquaintance, co-worker, and family member into one or two buckets is completely unacceptable to me. When faced with no way to avoid it other than account deletion, I’ll delete the account. (I certainly hope it won’t come to that in this instance, and I expect that we’ll be able to leave legacy FF accounts around for some time. *fingers crossed*)

What have we learned? *sigh* Well…as sources as diverse as Dave Winer and autonomo.us have declared, we need decentralized services that allow personal control over our data. We need the ability to pick up and move our network information, our saved preferences, and our corpus of shared status, comments, and conversations. There may be disagreements on the exact best way to accomplish this (community-owned sites, Free and Open Network Services, or even a plain ol’ market-based service ala Jon Udell’s hosted lifebits concept), but there’s growing agreement that it’s a good idea. It’s our data.

I like the idea of ‘Free Services’ (as is usual with me, that’s free as in speech, not [necessarily] free as in beer). Although I’m not going to limit myself to GNU Affero GPL choices while I’m exploring, but I hope to be able to settle on a open tool in the end. In addition, I dig federation…the ability to avoid a centralized authority, yet allow separate instances of a service (or related services sharing an API) to communicate, authenticate, and pass information back and forth.

For purposes of Friendfeed replacement, I’m currently interested in identi.ca (where I already have an account), as well as laconi.ca (the F/OSS software behind identi.ca, which can be set up and used in a federated microblogging network), Google Friend Connect, Ning, the DiSo Project, and perhaps some WordPress plugins. At a minimum. We’ll see what shakes out once I start playing around.

URL shortening is a little trickier…it’s a dangerous proposition however you do it. If the service goes down, you’re pretty much out of luck. The best safeguard I’ve seen is that used by ur1.ca (a service by the same company that runs identi.ca…see a pattern here?). ur1.ca provides a safeguard by enabling a download of the entire shortened database of links directly from the site at any time. This is a powerful backup, allowing the data to be safeguarded in multiple places, and the links to be rehydrated by almost anyone, if need be. Great idea!

Even though I’m open during this experimentation phase, it’s notable that two of the most promising tools I’m looking at (identi.ca and ur1.ca) are both services of a company (Control Yourself) that espouses the concept of Open Network Services – sites that use Open Source software to create and distribute Open Content. That resonates with me.