Just supposin’ … [Part 1]

… “What you’re proposing“. I’d always wondered whether I’d get Quo into a blogpost, and now I have. However this post is nothing to do with them … it’s all about me!

In my last post I hinted that I was unhappy about large corporates holding my data, and my web experience being controlled by them as well. I had particularly got the hump about the way Google was treating its users. First the way it retires applications that you’d used for many a day, viz. Google Reader, Picasa (and others). Then  secondly the way it changes the functionality of applications viz. Google Photos and Google+, that make them actually less useful and usable.

But it’s not just Google. Apple has killed off Aperture but the replacement, Photos, doesn’t yet have the full functionality of even iPhotos. Ancestry have announced that they will retire their Family Tree Maker desktop application at the end of this year. [They have bowed to user pressure however to try and arrange other software vendors to take existing FTM-users under their wing.] Other apps which I’ve used have either disappeared (too many to mention) or have been frozen, eg the very excellent Everytrail which has had no development and hardly any maintenance since it was bought by TripAdvisor. [It’s pretty obvious that they didn’t want the application – they just wanted the data.]

There are exceptions to this trend and full credit should be given to  a group of committed users for setting up blipfuture to crowdsource the successful (as of this week) buy-back of blipfoto to form a Community Interest Company through shared ownership using ShareIn as the vehicle to raise funds.

So what does, or should, one do about this. You could just throw up your hands and accept that your carefully curated photos, trails, tracks, memories, blogposts (yes, remember Posterous) were always intended to be ephemeral (post-hoc rationalism) and there’s nothing you can do about it (acceptance). Alternatively you could decide to do something about it, and take matters back more into your own hands, to regain control. So that was my plan when I started my investigations into using Open Source Software and alternative hosting arrangements.

I first looked at IndieWeb. Granted this would only give me better control over my social data, but it was a start, and combining this with services I already had in place would future-proof social communications at least. However, I’m afraid I found setting up Brid.gy really challenging and so I couldn’t advocate it for anyone who wasn’t a techie. I did set up a website using the Indieweb Plugins and I intend to continue further along this path to see just where it takes me, but that might take quite a long time.

I’ve now started to look at diaspora* which looks very promising, particularly if I can run it on my Hosted service. I’ve learnt my lesson though and won’t proceed without someone else sharing their experiences with me.

So that’s where my thinking is leading me. I suggested in a presentation I gave at Gregynog in 2010 that one outcome of the increasing use of Social Networking Services and the adoption of Cloud and Distributed services might be for services to take-up and develop more Open Source Software. I hadn’t thought at that time for it to be of value for the individual – more just a way for services to enable the individual to be able to access cloud services; but now I can see the compelling use-case for Open Source to be at least part of the solution for the user to wrestle control of their data back for at least part of “our data”.

Next: What software and cloud service can I rely on, and how should I develop a sustainable digital way of working.

PS In case you were just supposin’ … I do hope to go and watch Quo during their last electric tour, possibly at Caldicot Castle in August.



2 Replies to “Just supposin’ … [Part 1]”

  1. A comment from Brian Kelly [UK Web Focus], copied over from Facebook, by me. I’m afraid I couldn’t edit the gravatar so please be assured Brian hasn’t changed.

    Hi David
    (Ironically I tried to add this comment to your blog, but the Submit button disappeared so I couldn’t!)

    Thanks for this post – which, of course, I saw on Facebook. In the past it would have been in my RSS feed, but although that standard is still available and there are many RSS readers to use, like many others it has simply gone out of fashion. Do you still use an RSS reader, btw?

    Regarding the content of your post, it should be acknowledged that commercial companies such as Google and Apple aren’t alone in switching off services – how many Jisc services have been closed in recent years, and such closures are continuing, I understand.

    As you point out, IT expertise is likely to be needed to manage one’s own data. In addition even use of open source solutions is likely to be costly – domain names; hosting; SSL certificates; etc. I’m therefore not convinced that such approaches will become popular beyond small numbers will expertise and the time needed to manage such services (maybe something for retired people – which would be another nail in the ‘digital native’ model, btw).

    In terms of metaphors for the digital environment, I’m thinking about the ‘post-digital environment’ in which we don’t focus on the IT, which just becomes part of living, along with TV, sport, shopping, etc. These activities will also have political aspects, such as personal boycotts of some companies based on personal beliefs – Barclays and apartheid in the 1970s through to Starbucks and Amazon on avoiding paying tax today.

    But just as I suspect we won’t shop only at the Co-op, we will have a mixed approach, perhaps doing the bulk shopping at Waitrose, but specialist food at a local independent deli (and maybe ordered stuff on Amazon because of the ease of access and affordability it provides).

    So maybe we will have a diversity of approaches to use of IT services As I mentioned recently, I am quite happy to store my music on Google Play Music – and Amazon Music, as a backup in case of changes of policy. I also have my music on my PC and NAs drive (and original CDs in the loft!) but why should I switch on sharing and remote access to my NAS, and then have to ensure I keep the software up-to-date to minimise hacks to the service.

    If you want to use Diaspora, feel free to follow me:
    or Pete J:
    but don’t expect a response – I intend to continue to use Twitter and Facebook.


    PS regarding use of song titles for blog posts, here are some I used in 2007 and 2008:


    Feel free to make a cover version.

    1. So Brian … Madness, Kinks, Queen – I can relate to them too but anyone who knows me will know that my first love is Pink Floyd, closely followed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Lots of songs there for blog titles.

      You make an interesting point about RSS Feeds. I still use them a lot and Feedly is perhaps my most used application on Mobile (iOS) and Desktop (OS X). I scour my feeds constantly and send content on to Pocket (to read later, and offlinetoo), and sometimes Flipboard. I also use Feedly to post articles I like to Google+. So for me, RSS is most certainly not dead, and I’m still adding feeds to Feedly all the time.

      Your comment about JISC is very true, and sad. It must however always be tempered with considerations of sustainability and affordability. JISC was always about kickstarting innovation, and most projects and services were always charged with considering an exit strategy. Unfortunately, academia (and more specifically support services) has never been well endowed with business-savvy staff. So many good services went west.

      I’m amused about your reference to Digital Natives, how right you are. It takes time to sort all this personal infrastructure out. It’s certainly not conducive to having a normal life – whatever that might be I hear my family saying. Do you also remember Tapscott’s Generation X and Y – another load of rubbish which “back in the day” I thought had some sense … before Joe re-educated me. The best we can hope for is that my grandchildren can grasp at least the finer points of digital literacy and hopefully grasp the need to protect their digital identity – something I’ll touch on in another post.

      So … you could be right about creating personal infrastructure, and certainly I think the lack of re-action to my tweet yesterday on experiences of using and more specifically about setting up your own diaspora* pod, coupled with the geekiness of IndieWeb will cause me to continue with mainstream services with the caveat – proceed with care and be prepared to change direction. This will be the subject of my next post in this series.

      I also like your thoughts on “post digital” but there must be a better way to describe what you’re referencing. What about “healthy lifestyle”? Elements of this are of course in place, and again I think I’ll leave a full treatment of my thoughts here for another post. However I do agree with you that “digital” (or as we called it “disruptive”) has changed everything, will continue to change everything, not always for the better, but always in a way that will, shall we say, is interesting!

      I’ll copy this back to Facebook as well.

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