Interesting stuff from around the web 2008-12-06

Online Identity just got really interesting and really competitive… lets hope the open stack wins not the proprietary

Biggest Battle Yet For Social Networks: You, Your Identity And Your Data On The Open Web
Facebook makes their big press push for their ‘Facebook Connect‘ service, MySpace have ‘Data Availability‘ and Google ‘Friend Connect‘. Sites that use these services make life a bit easier for them, but the real value goes to the social networks. These services make users begin to think about their identity in terms of their MySpace profile, or Facebook login as they use it to sign into their favorite services. That makes it even more likely the users will maintain their profiles on those services, add friends, etc. The real risk with Facebook is the proprietary login and data sharing standards, Myspace is so much better with its use of open standards including OpenID and their willingness to work with Google (Facebook have prohibited Google from getting in the middle).

Crime fighting team by ittybittiesforyou. Some rights reserved.
Crime fighting team by ittybittiesforyou. Some rights reserved.

David Recordon considers “Getting OpenID Into the Browser” [O’Reilly Radar]
Google Chrome did a smart thing: Less. They unified the search box and address bar, since that’s what people do anyway. That gives us back precious pixels for the only thing that’s as important to an average web user as where they’re going: Who they are. Identity belongs in the browser.

Some interesting thoughts on near future of the web

User Styling – bit of custom css and you can get the site to look the way you want [24 ways via @fantasticlife]
Override a publishers styling, remove ads whatever you like. It’s interesting to consider the implications of this if, as @fantasticlife suggests, this goes more mainstream since it will change the role of design – the publisher gives you the data you presented as you want it.

Going Hyper-Local – Location Based Internet [redcatco.com]
Fire Eagle, Flickr, Twitter, Dopplr, BrightKite and many more help you tell the web about where you are – and then find people near you.

The enterprise is about control and the web is about emergence but for how long? [O’Reilly Radar]
I suspect it’s more likely the result of large scale system dynamics, where the culture of control follows from other constraints. If multiverse advocates are right and there are infinite parallel universes, I bet most of them have IT enterprises just like ours; at least in those shards that have similar corporate IT boundary conditions. Once you have GAAP, Sarbox, domain-specific regulation like HIPAA, quarterly expectations from “The Street,” decades of MIS legacy, and the talent acquisition realities that mature companies in mature industries face, the strange attractors in the system will pull most of those shards to roughly the same place. In other words, the IT enterprise is about control because large businesses in mature industries are about control. On the other hand, the web is about emergence because in this time, place, and with this technology discontinuity, emergence is the low energy state.

The Future of Ephemeral Conversation [Schneier on Security]
The Internet is the greatest generation gap since rock and roll. We’re now witnessing one aspect of that generation gap: the younger generation chats digitally, and the older generation treats those chats as written correspondence. Until our CEOs blog, our Congressmen Twitter, and our world leaders send each other LOLcats – until we have a Presidential election where both candidates have a complete history on social networking sites from before they were teenagers– we aren’t fully an information age society.

Some photo stuff

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.

Find Flickr photos my colour [Multicolr Search Lab]
They are extracting the colours from 10 million of the most “interesting” Creative Commons images on Flickr and then use “visual similarity technology” so you can navigate the collection by colour.

Some BBC stuff

BBC Programmes iPhone webapp experiment [Whomwah.com]
Another nice bit of hacking from Duncan – browse BBC TV and Radio schedules on your iPhone, the iPhone way – living further out of London with longer train journeys has improved his hacking output.

BBC builders: Tom Scott, and the team behind /programmes and /music [guardian.co.uk]
That’s me! Jemima Kiss has started interviewing folk at the BBC who are helping to build projects that people don’t hear about. She started with me, which was jolly nice.

Data Portability – the need for DRM

So Robert Scoble got his Facebook account disabled for running a script that scrapped his account for names, email address and birthdays and load the data into his Plaxo account – so that he could match Facebook names with names in Plaxo’s database. On the surface this is no different from Facebook’s own importer – which lets you enter your email address and password for, for example, your GMail account – so that your contact details can be loaded into Facebook (which BTW is a very bad idea).

Facebook GMail upload

It’s worth remembering that what we’re talking about here is basic contact information – the script didn’t try to grab any information from Scoble’s Social Graph – no friends of friends data, not people’s interests, nothing like that – nor did Plaxo sign up those users to its Social Networking application Pulse. Despite that the general feeling out there is that Plaxo are evil and neither Plaxo nor Robert had the right to run the script. I suspect that this is mainly because the early version of Plaxo made it very easy to email everyone in your address book with a request to join Plaxo, this was a bit rubbish and got Plaxo a bad name for spamming folk. Quite right too although its worth noting that this hasn’t been a problem since they rewrote it last year.

But if you step away from people’s prior poor experience with Plaxo what they and Scoble tried to do was no different from what Facebook does. The difference is one of reputation. All Plaxo are trying to give their users are tools to get data into their database. This is harder with Facebook because it’s a walled garden and walled gardens, as the name suggests, makes too tough to get data out. The pertinent question then is who owns the data – is it Facebook, Robert Scoble or each ‘friend’?

I know that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not Facebook. You should be able to move your data between systems. The DataPortability folk have got the right philosophy:

As users, our identity, photos, videos and other forms of personal data should be discoverable by, and shared between our chosen tools or vendors. We need a DHCP for Identity. A distributed File System for data. The technologies already exist, we simply need a complete reference design to put the pieces together.

Unfortunately as the Scoble-Facebook story illustrates access to our online identity is often effectively controlled by others. Robert Scoble has access to 5,000 people’s contact details plus a good chunk of their social graph via Facebook. So while Facebook is wrong to lock your data away behind a walled garden, Scoble or anyone else might do the wrong thing if they export the social graph and profile information of their contacts (not that he did in this instance).

What we also need, in addition to data portability, are privacy controls. As Jason Kottke puts it:

[what’s needed is]…Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.

Or as Robert Scoble suggests a DRM for your personal data:

COMPLETELY OPEN: You’re allowed to take anything on my profile page and import it, use it, copy it, print it, import it.

EMAIL ONLY: You can only take my name, and email address to other systems.

EMAIL PLUS CORE PERSONAL INFO: In addition to email address and name you can also take my birthday and phone number to other systems.

CUSTOM: You choose which fields can be exported or used on other systems.

NAPKIN ONLY: You can use anything you want, but no automated systems, you’ve gotta manually copy everything over by hand.

PUBLIC ONLY: Only data that I put on my public profile can be used elsewhere.

FAN ONLY: I only wanted to see your social network and behaviors here, I don’t want to give you access to mine.

Clearly what I’m suggesting (and I assume so is Scoble) is a rights management system which would be respected by the various social networking applications, not a solution that would encrypt your data into a binary file that required your approval to unpackage. In other words a system that would give you control over your data and allow you to decide how it was shared with others who may or may not be using the same social networking application as you.

Link for 2008.01.04

» Facebook disabled Robert Scoble’s account – ?because he was screen scraping contact or activity data [scobleizer.com]He’s under an NDA at the moment so can’t go into the details but he was running a script on the site that broke Facebooks’ Terms of Use. It looks like the account has been deleted taking with it all his data. This is why walled gardens are bad.

» Promoting ‘Data Portability’ standards [dataportability.org]As a result of Facebook’s decision to delete his account Robert Scoble has signed up to this. Which is good news. Data portability between systems is the key to Web 2.0. If you can’t point to a resource (outside a walled garden) and use it then it’s not a web 2.0 citizen. And if data is about you then you should have control – it is yours after al.

» Frameworks exist for conceptual integrity [204 No Content Blog]When someone uses a framework what they are doing is delegating decision-making to someone else – having too many options in this situation is a bad thing. Frameworks that give developers too many options hoping to maximise code reuse are misguided. Software reuse is not an end. Reuse is a means, and if the available means don’t meet your ends, then find other means.