Let me offer another scenario for academia’s future. As is usual with the scenario forecasting methodology, this is based on extrapolating from several present-day trends – here, several trends around open.
In the past I’ve called this “The Fall of the Silos.” It’s a sign of our urban- and suburban-centric era that this rural metaphor doesn’t get a lot of traction. It’s also possible that contemporary American politics leads many to embrace silos. So I’ve renamed the scenario “The Triumph of Open.”
tl;dr version – In this future the open paradigm has succeeded in shaping the way we use and access most digital information, with powerful implications for higher education.
The rise of the massive corporate-run social networks—silos, where everything was stored inside and nothing left—changed distributed online social relationships. The silos replaced distributed with centralized; all of your social connections were now in one place, making it faster and “easier” to keep up with everyone. Easier in some ways, yes, but now everyone could see every aspect of you, even if you didn’t want them to. Worse, your constant software talk annoyed your bowling-league friends, and your one uncle could not stand the fact you supported the Democratic Party. All of that didn’t happen at once; it took time for these corporate social networks to consume all of your communities, to seize ownership of all of your connections and relationships, transforming something very human into mere pieces of computer data, eventually hollowing out your communities and your humanness in the process. But once it had happened, and once you realized those downsides (and others, such as abuse, Nazis, and anti-democratic propaganda), how could you escape? Was there even anywhere to escape to?
To a large extent, some of the questions and observations in this article are the things that drive me to have my own domain and have my own website. I and many others in the IndieWeb are still working on the infrastructure to support the web we’d like to have instead of the web we’re given. We’re still not there yet, and it may never be the utopia we’re hoping for, but we’ll never get there if we don’t try.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
Just like in real life, where your bar trivia team doesn’t really overlap with your work softball team or your church bowling league, all of your online communities gathered in their own places, ones best suited to them, and you didn’t have to act as all facets of yourself simultaneously when trying to only interact with one. ❧
August 21, 2018 at 01:19PM
our brains have been trained to believe that we want, that we need, a single place where all of “our people” can gather, where it is “easy” to keep up with all of them: a massive network service, just without all the “bad stuff” of the existing ones. ❧
August 21, 2018 at 01:21PM
You find them in a place that you curate yourself, not one “curated” for you by a massive corporate social network intent on forcing you to be every part of yourself to everyone, all at once. You should control how, when, and where to interact with your people. ❧
August 21, 2018 at 01:23PM
web we lost ❧
August 21, 2018 at 01:24PM
we can’t just recreate the same thing we’re trying to escape, and we can’t expect the solution to be precisely as easy on us as the problem was. ❧
August 21, 2018 at 01:25PM
A perfect example of a Hamiltonian internet for maximum control
Leading thinkers in China argue that putting government in charge of technology has one big advantage: the state can distribute the fruits of AI, which would otherwise go to the owners of algorithms. ❧
Such thinking has also been gaining some traction in the West, although so far only at the political fringes. The underlying idea is that some types of services, including social networks and online search, are essential facilities akin to roads and other kinds of infrastructure and should be regulated as utilities, which in essence means capping their profits. Alternatively, important data services, such as digital identity, could be offered by governments. Evgeny Morozov, a researcher and internet activist, goes one step further, calling for the creation of public data utilities, which would pool vital digital information and ensure equal access to it. ❧
When it comes to democracy and human rights, a Jeffersonian internet is clearly a safer choice. With Web 3.0 still in its infancy, the West at least will need to find other ways to rein in the online giants. The obvious alternative is regulation. ❧
Click a link in a web browser, it should open a web page, not try to open an app which you may not have installed. This is what Apple does with podcasts and now news.#
Facebook is taking the place of blogs, but doesn't permit linking, styles. Posts can't have titles or include podcasts. As a result these essential features are falling into disuse. We're returning to AOL. Linking, especially is essential.#
Google is forcing websites to change to support HTTPS. Sounds innocuous until you realize how many millions of historic domains won't make the switch. It's as if a library decided to burn all books written before 2000, say. The web has been used as an archival medium, it isn't up to a company to decide to change that, after the fact. #
Medium, a blogging site, is gradually closing itself off to the world. People used it for years as the place-of-record. I objected when I saw them do this, because it was easy to foresee Medium pivoting, and they will pivot again. The final pivot will be when they go off the air entirely, as commercial blogging systems eventually do.
A frequently raised warning, and one that’s possibly not taken seriously enough.
I suppose I’ve had a few dozen domains and sites at earlier points, but three years ago today was when I began conglomerating it all here at boffosocko.com. It’s amazing to see the changes (big and small) I’ve been able to effect since I celebrated last year. It’s had a profound effect at how I interact on the internet and consume content.
For those who aren’t aware of the broader concept of Indieweb, here is a great introduction with some history by Tantek Çelik entitled The Once and Future IndieWeb
This is also a good time to remind those who are interested, that the annual IndieWebSummit is coming up soon and RSVP’s are now open:
June 24-25, 2017
The seventh annual gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.
I hope to see people there in person, though I’ll note that remote attendance is possible as well.
A Brief Look Back
This post started out initially as a brief status update and I extended it with the video and notice about the upcoming Summit.
Now that I’m past what I would consider “note” length, and since it’s a milestone of sorts, I thought it would be interesting to take a nostalgic look back at my last year of Indieweb. I didn’t think it would be quite so much, but it’s really amazing what you can do if you take things in small steps over time. So here’s a quick review of some of the things I’ve done in the last year on my site. (Thank goodness for documentation!)
- I’ve made some reasonable changes to my theme and CSS
- I’ve now got a built in RSS feed reader and better own my bookmarks of things I want to read
- I’ve added a few new post types which I use more regularly: checkins, jams, listens, wishes, and watches
- I don’t tweetstorm often, but when I do, I’ve changed how it happens
- I’ve improved archiving my content to Archive.org as it posts
- I’ve added some custom RSS feeds for better content discovery and subscription
- I support subscription by web-based Push notifications
- I’ve started owning my highlights, notes, and marginalia from books, e-books, and online articles.
- Changed the way I own my Instagram posts (still via PESOS), but with better metadata and display of maps when location is added
- I continue to own my Twitter archive and have detailed how others can too
- I own my reading status updates and don’t rely as much on GoodReads.com
- I now own all of my content from Tumblr and now only syndicate content there when I do use it
- I downloaded and owned my TwitPic Archive in case it shuts down
Other Indieweb activities, which don’t necessarily appear on my site:
- I started local Los Angeles Homebrew Website Club meetups to help others
- I helped co-host and attended my first IndieWebCamp
- I’ve also written a lot about Indieweb in the past year as it relates to other areas including education and journalism and done some reasonable work improving the Indieweb wiki, particularly with regard to indiewebifying one’s WordPress site.
As a separate statistic I made approximately 1,071 posts to my (main) site in the last year compared to 136 in the same time frame the year prior. There are over 2,400 posts on my social stream site this past year. It’s great owning it all here now instead of having it spread out all over hundreds of other sites and thousands of URLs over which I have no control.
To my recollection I’ve only joined 6 new silos in the past year (to which I really only syndicate into). In that same time frame at least 15 services of which I was a member or used at one time or another have shut down and disappeared. Entertainingly (and perhaps miraculously) one which had previously disappeared came back to life: Upcoming.org!Syndicated copies to:
We are excited to announce that the Mozilla Corporation has completed the acquisition of Read It Later, Inc. the developers of Pocket.
Some say to get independence from silos, users have to run servers, but that's not true. A small new connection can break the logjam.
Scott, as someone who’s studied evolutionary biology, I know that specialists in particular areas are almost always exponentially better at what they do than non-specialists. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need alternate projects or new ideas which may result in new “Cambrian explosions,” and even better products.
I also feel that one needs the right tool for the right job. While I like WordPress for many things, it’s not always the best thing to solve the problem. In some cases Drupal or even lowly Wix may be the best solution. The key is to find the right balance of time, knowledge, capability and other variables to find the optimal solution for the moment, while maintaining the ability to change in the future if necessary. By a similar analogy there are hundreds of programming languages and all have their pros and cons. Often the one you know is better than nothing, but if you heard about one that did everything better and faster, it would be a shame not to check it out.
This said, I often prefer to go with specialist software, though I do usually have a few requirements which overlap or align with Indieweb principles, including, but not limited to:
- It should be open, so I can modify/change/share it with others
- I should be able to own all the related/resultant data
- I should be able to self-host it (if I want)
- It should fit into my workflow and solve a problem I have while not creating too many new problems
In this case, I suspect that Wallabag is far better than anything I might have time to build and maintain myself. If there are bits of functionality that are missing, I can potentially request them or build/add them myself and contribute back to the larger good.
Naturally I do also worry about usability and maintenance as well, so if the general workflow and overhead doesn’t dovetail in with my other use cases, all bets may be off. If large pieces of my data, functionality, and workflow are housed in WordPress, for example, and something like this isn’t easily integrateable or very difficult to keep updated and maintain, then I’ll pass and look for (or build) a different solution. (Not every tool is right for just any job.) On larger projects like this, there’s also the happy serendipity that they’re big enough that WordPress (Drupal, Jekyll, other) developers can better shoehorn the functionality in to a bigger project or create a simple API thereby making the whole more valuable than the sum of the parts.
In this particular situation, it appears to be a 1-1 replacement for a closed silo version of something I’ve been using regularly, but which provides more of the benefits above than the silo does, so it seems like a no-brainer to switch.
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