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.