🔖 Back to the Future: The Decentralized Web, a report by Digital Currency Initiative & Center for Civic Media

Back to the Future: The Decentralized Web, A report by the Digital Currency Initiative and the Center for Civic Media by Chelsea Barabas, Neha Narula, and Ethan Zuckerman with support from the Knight Foundation (Digital Currency Initiative / MIT Media Lab)
The Web is a key space for civic debate and the current battleground for protecting freedom of expression. However, since its development, the Web has steadily evolved into an ecosystem of large, corporate-controlled mega-platforms which intermediate speech online. In many ways this has been a positive development; these platforms improved usability and enabled billions of people to publish and discover content without having to become experts on the Web’s intricate protocols. But in other ways this development is alarming. Just a few large platforms drive most traffic to online news sources in the U.S., and thus have enormous influence over what sources of information the public consumes on a daily basis. The existence of these consolidated points of control is troubling for many reasons. A small number of stakeholders end up having outsized influence over the content the public can create and consume. This leads to problems ranging from censorship at the behest of national governments to more subtle, perhaps even unintentional, bias in the curation of content users see based on opaque, unaudited curation algorithms. The platforms that host our networked public sphere and inform us about the world are unelected, unaccountable, and often impossible to audit or oversee. At the same time, there is growing excitement around the area of decentralized systems, which have grown in prominence over the past decade thanks to the popularity of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a payment system that has no central points of control, and uses a novel peer-to-peer network protocol to agree on a distributed ledger of transactions, the blockchain. Bitcoin paints a picture of a world where untrusted networks of computers can coordinate to provide important infrastructure, like verifiable identity and distributed storage. Advocates of these decentralized systems propose related technology as the way forward to “re-decentralize” the Web, by shifting publishing and discovery out of the hands of a few corporations, and back into the hands of users. These types of code-based, structural interventions are appealing because in theory, they are less corruptible and resistant to corporate or political regulation. Surprisingly, low-level, decentralized systems don’t necessarily translate into decreased market consolidation around user-facing mega-platforms. In this report, we explore two important ways structurally decentralized systems could help address the risks of mega-platform consolidation: First, these systems can help users directly publish and discover content directly, without intermediaries, and thus without censorship. All of the systems we evaluate advertise censorship-resistance as a major benefit. Second, these systems could indirectly enable greater competition and user choice, by lowering the barrier to entry for new platforms. As it stands, it is difficult for users to switch between platforms (they must recreate all their data when moving to a new service) and most mega-platforms do not interoperate, so switching means leaving behind your social network. Some systems we evaluate directly address the issues of data portability and interoperability in an effort to support greater competition.

Download .pdf

h/t Ethan Zuckerman
Related to http://boffosocko.com/2017/08/19/mastodon-is-big-in-japan-the-reason-why-is-uncomfortable-by-ethan-zuckerman/

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👓 ‘20 seconds of burning’: Friends partly blinded after watching solar eclipse warn of dangers | Washington Post

‘20 seconds of burning’: Friends partly blinded after watching solar eclipse warn of dangers by Amy B. Wang (Washington Post)
“We thought we were invincible, as most teenagers do,” said Roger Duvall, who briefly looked at a partial eclipse without protective eyewear.

I was wondering where these stories were hiding. I was surprised that I hadn’t seen more of them prior to the eclipse today.

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👓 ‘Psychologically scarred’ millennials are killing countless industries from napkins to Applebee’s — here are the businesses they like the least | Business Insider

'Psychologically scarred' millennials are killing countless industries from napkins to Applebee's — here are the businesses they like the least by Kate Taylor (Business Insider)
Millennials' preferences are killing dozens of industries. There are many complex reasons millennials' preferences differ from prior generations', including less financial stability and memories of growing up during the recession. "I think we have got a very significant psychological scar from this great recession," Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger told Business Insider. Here are 19 things millennials are killing.

There could be some more solid data in here, particularly since some of these businesses have been declining for more than a decade and some of that decline began during the recession.

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👓 More on My LinkedIn Account | Schneier on Security

More on My LinkedIn Account by Bruce Schneier (Schneier on Security)
I have successfully gotten the fake LinkedIn account in my name deleted. To prevent someone from doing this again, I signed up for LinkedIn. This is my first -- and only -- post on that account. Now I hear that LinkedIn is e-mailing people on my behalf, suggesting that they friend, follow, connect, or whatever they do there with me. I assure you that I have nothing to do with any of those e-mails, nor do I care what anyone does in response.

More than any other network, I’ve been hearing more and more people quitting LinkedIn for security and other reasons.

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👓 Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable by Ethan Zuckerman

Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable by Ethan Zuckerman (My heart’s in Accra)
Most distributed publishing tools are simply too complex for most users to adopt. Mastodon may have overcome that problem, borrowing design ideas from a successful commercial product. But the example of lolicon may challenge our theories in two directions. One, if you’re unable to share content on the sites you’re used to using – Twitter, in this case – you may be more willing to adopt a new tool, even if its interface is initially unfamiliar. Second, an additional barrier to adoption for decentralized publishing may be that its first large userbase is a population that cannot use centralized social networks. Any stigma associated with this community may make it harder for users with other interests to adopt these new tools.

Like many others, I can see many more and stronger reasons for a decentralized web than not. This article takes a look at a little bit of the downside of the model. (Though to be honest, I think the downside for this is even bigger in the siloed model.) Naturally the long term effects are far more complex than described here, but this is also very interesting during a week when there’s a continuing resurgence of neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and other white supremacists in America as well as a growing list of major companies that aren’t allowing them a safe harbor.

The US Government subpoena to DreamHost this week for visitors of an anti-Trump website and backbone internet companies like CloudFlare kicking off “The Daily Stormer” are particularly intriguing in the larger ecosystem as well.

I think there’s a lot here that’s both interesting to the IndieWeb community and from which we can all learn.

As I’m thinking about it, I wonder a bit what happens to the role of “community manager” in a larger decentralized and independent web? I hope it’s tummelers like Tantek Çelik, Kevin Marks, Jeremy Keith, Martijn van der Ven and others who continue to blaze the trail.

Mastodon is big in Japan

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👓 Subscription Attrition | Brooks Review

Subscription Attrition by Ben Brooks (The Brooks Review)
I’ve been running this site as a “member” supported site since July of 2012. That’s what I call my subscription based, paywall model, a member-site. I’ve tried a lot of different methods to what I charge for, over the years, so I know a thing or two about subscriptions. I’m not selling software, but the consumer mindset on most any recurring payment is similar across the aisles. I’m sure Amazon could tell you some amazing stories about people being unwilling to use ‘Subscribe and Save’, but we are going to have to wait awhile for that TED talk.

Some interesting thoughts on diminishing returns and subscription pricing for personal blogs and related content.

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👓 The Blockchain for Education: An Introduction | Hacked Education

The Blockchain for Education: An Introduction by Audrey Watters (Hacked Education)
Is blockchain poised to be “the next big thing” in education? This has become a question I hear with increasing frequency about a technology that, up until quite recently, was primarily associated with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The subtext to the question, I suppose: do educators need to pay attention to the blockchain? What, if anything, should they know about it?

A facile introduction with some interesting directions that education could take with it. Still, none seem so strong as to be worthwhile/valuable.

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E-book “Education and Technology: Critical Approaches”

E-book "Education and Technology: Critical Approaches" (Diálogos sobre TIC & Educação!)
Following months of hard work, we are finally ready to publish our 2017 e-book, Education and Technology: critical approaches. This bilingual collection brings together 12 chapters written by researchers based in Brazil, Australia, Scotland, England and USA. The work has been edited by Giselle Ferreira, Alexandre Rosado e Jaciara Carvalho, members of the ICT in Educational Processes Research Group, who maintain this blog (mostly in Portuguese – at least so far!). From the editors’ Introduction: "This volume offers a measure of sobriety in reaction to the excesses and hyperboles found in the mainstream literature on Education and Technology. The pieces (…) tackle questions of power and consider contextual and historical specificities, escaping the usual euphoria that surrounds digital technology and adopting different perspectives on our current historical moment."

Available as a free .pdf download.

👓 Pivot time: searching for an Open Web blogging model | AltPlatform

Pivot time: searching for an Open Web blogging model by Richard MacManus (AltPlatform)
We launched this blog less than three months ago to explore the latest in Open Web technologies. Things like the IndieWeb movement, blockchain apps, API platforms, Open AI, and more. AltPlatform has always been an experiment, as I made clear in our introductory post. However, from a publishing point of view the experiment hasn’t worked out as we had hoped. To put it plainly, the page views haven’t eventuated – at least in a sustained way. So it’s time to try something new. We’re going to pivot into something a bit different…soon.

I’m a bit saddened by this, but it’s always fun to try out new things. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

I love ricmac’s conceptualization of blogging and hope it comes back the way he–and I–envision it.

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👓 Phở Networks, an experiment to create a singularist & truly scalable social platform | AltPlatform

Phở Networks, an experiment to create a singularist & truly scalable social platform by Emre Sokullu (AltPlatform)
An open source, MIT licensed project that I’ve been personally spending a lot of time on, for almost a year. – In a nutshell, Phở Networks lets you create independent social media outlets. – Phở Networks is singularist; because it allows you to create any form of social media, with a simple language that many sysadmins have already familiarized themselves with in the UNIX world; ACL — access-control lists. You may use Phở Networks as your blogging engine, but you can also create a whole new Facebook. Need proof? Just visit the pho-recipes Github repo. – Phở Networks is lightning fast and massively scalable, because it takes an unorthodox approach as to how it handles data. With Phở, data is stored and served warm right off the RAM, as it is built on top of Redis. With this unconventional RAM-first design choice (in contrast to caching, which most high-scale web sites have opted into), Phở Networks won’t be cheap (for now), but it will be blazing-fast and super low-maintenance by avoiding the limitations of sharding and hard-drive friction.

I’d heard of this a while back, but never spent much time on it. Perhaps it’s time to delve in a bit to play around?

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👓 Steve Bannon to leave White House | PBS NewsHour

Steve Bannon to leave White House by Joshua Barajas & Erica R. Hendry (PBS NewsHour)
In a statement, the White House said "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."

Ding-Dong!…

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SFI and ASU to offer online M.S. in Complexity | Complexity Explorer

SFI and ASU to offer online M.S. in Complexity (Complexity Explorer)
SFI and Arizona State University soon will offer the world’s first comprehensive online master’s degree in complexity science. It will be the Institute’s first graduate degree program, a vision that dates to SFI’s founding. “With technology, a growing recognition of the value of online education, widespread acceptance of complexity science, and in partnership with ASU, we are now able to offer the world a degree in the field we helped invent,” says SFI President David Krakauer, “and it will be taught by the very people who built it into a legitimate domain of scholarship.”
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👓 Scripting News: August 17, 2017

Scripting News: August 17, 2017 by Dave Winer (Scripting News)
Another shift happened a few years ago, when I decided it was okay to develop just for myself, with no intention of ever releasing the stuff I was working on. That led to a new style of product, and a happier developer. I was always doing it for myself, and fooling myself into believing it was for other people. I'm no less a narcissist than anyone else. Once you own that, you get a lot more powerful, I have found.

A great advertisement for selfdogfooding.

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👓 Weniger Social Media, mehr Mensch by René Meister

Weniger Social Media, mehr Mensch by René Meister (renem.net)
Seit ein paar Wochen schon mache ich mir Gedanken wie ich der Flut an Informationen in sozialen Netzen entfliehen kann. Wobei Informationen hier vielleicht nicht das korrekte Wort ist, denn der größte Teil was auf Twitter & Co. geteilt und veröffentlicht wird, ist Content nach dem ich überhaupt ...

The title of this piece translates as “Less social media, more people”.

My favorite quote from it, roughly translated from German is:

I would like to see contributions for which I am really interested, which stimulate me to think, in which I can learn something.

This is about as good a reason to join the IndieWeb as one could want​​.

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👓 The Friendliest Lawsuit Ever Filed Against the Justice Department | Law Fare Blog

The Friendliest Lawsuit Ever Filed Against the Justice Department by Benjamin Wittes (LawFare)
In February, speaking before a joint session of Congress, President Trump declared that: “according to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” There's a lot of reason to believe this statement is a compound lie—both to believe that the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism-related crimes did not come here from elsewhere and to believe that the career men and women of the Department of Justice did not provide any data suggesting otherwise.
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