Tag Archives: Wordpress

Conversations in “social” media (and why OStatus rocks)

So, what’s more social than having a conversation? Two or more participants in an exchange of words or acts that relate to a common subject. It’s called communication and as human beings we have a natural born talent for maintaining several subjects in our mind at once.

The conversation is very important for humans and our social life. We not only want to interact with others – we want to understand the context of a conversation we’re not immediatly being a part of. Be it a political debate, people on the street passing by or when reading posts on an internet forum. Quotations are a great example of how maintaining the intended context is important, as many phrases have multiple interpretations. With the age of books, physically printed literature, keeping the context has been a hard task – but with computers, the internet and hypertext on the world wide web it is no longer difficult.

So one may wonder why websites that are portrayed as “social” are so bad at presenting communication. Lately we have started seeing one-level threads that contain comments and mentions in the “social media”. Not much more than bulletin board systems did during the ’70s and ’80s. The visual representations, event the metadata, of these digitally stored conversations are limited to relatively short bursts of chaotic chatter in the realtime-adapted webservices. Not a very socially sustainable style of communication.

The two major players in the area of asocial media services in Europe and the US are Facebook and Twitter. Both fail to respect human conversation in their own particular way:

  • Facebook has a single-thread style conversation. A user initiates this with a post or link. This notation may be quite long and occasionally sparks an intense debate. However, any replies that are made are only linked to the original post.
    Should a thread get multiple conversation participants that reply on several invisible subthreads it doesn’t take long before it is too chaotic to follow. Even for a trained robot or human being.
  • Twitter conversations are built on reply-to notifications. An original tweet, limited to 140 characters, can often gain attention and be subject to discussions. Any replies to this post will be required to contain a multi-character mention (@username) of the user replying to, while still being subject to a character limit.
    Assuming, contrary to experience, that a 140 char-limit is enough the available characters are quickly reduced with conversation participant, effectively disorienting any third-party that tries to follow up.
    To make matters worse there’s not even a method of linking tweet follow-ups in metadata, which has caused some clients to add any “>>”-like signature to indicate humans to continue reading in the next tweet.

Compare it to mailing lists. Any mailing list or e-mail client can handle threads, replies, carbon-copies and even blind carbon copies since decades ago. That’s like space-age technology compared to the asocial media services’ scrapbooking kit which even lacks a proper glue.

Google+ also uses the single-thread style. There are of course also many other services out there, even some of which have learned from (or even incorporate) mailing lists. Usenet for example should reasonably be an early example of an open social media, lacking only a flashy front-end, a marketing department and better anti-spam measures to be successful.

WordPress is probably the best example of a social web media and sports appealing multi-threaded comments with proper computer-readable markup. However, WordPress currently lacks integrated federation. It’s more of a social oasis, where you park your camel and talk for a while before you head off to the next water hole. Besides, that structure is better used for the topic of a discussion rather than the place of a discussion.

So welcome OStatus, the federated social web protocol. Its main implementation, the software StatusNet (see it in action on identi.ca or freesocial.org), already does threading and proper in-context metadata. It has the backbone for cross-domain notifications and replying without clogging the post with the @-mentions. As opposed to WordPress, the social bit is integrated both up- and downstream so feeds you subscribe to get pushed into your timeline and from there you can post comments upstream and interact with replies.

The OStatus protocol is open and free for anyone to use, works across domain-names and gives you control over what you share, how your data flows and especially where it is stored. You’d never give up control of your “real” social life to someone else – so why give up the digital representation of it? OStatus is an easy solution to maintaining this control.

So if one wants a true social media service, I think it is important to choose one that is not only open and free as in speech but also compatible with how humans really interact with each others. A system that not only respects the user by keeping the user in control, but also something that understands our social interactions – where conversations are a very important part.

The social web is nothing but communication anyway, so why not make sense out of it and keep its context open, transparent and clear?

WordPress addresses SOPA/PIPA

Having wished for WordPress to move away from GoDaddy as a registrar and SSL certificate supplier, I am very happy to see they now express a public opinion. WordPress do not like [PDF].

We are not a small group. More than 60 million people use WordPress — it’s said to power about 15% of the web. We can make an impact, and you can be an agent of change. Go to Stop American Censorship for more information and a bunch of ways you can take action quickly, easily, and painlessly. The Senate votes in two weeks, and we need to help at least 41 more senators see reason before then. Please. Make your voice heard.

Posted January 10, 2012 by Jane Wells.

This makes me proud(er) to use WordPress.

Will you help WordPress move away from GoDaddy?

So the drop-GoDaddy-campaign seems to have gone pretty well. Some larger sites, and many smaller sites or personal users went to another registrar. One service I noticed however that started giving me errors after distrusting GoDaddy as SSL CA was Gravatar.

Gravatar is an email-to-avatar service from Automattic – the same company that’s the main driver behind WordPress. Automattic is known for supporting free software, open web standards and the company founder Matt Mullenweg is a trustworthy supporter of both objectives. As it showed however, their domains and SSL certificates were all registered through GoDaddy. So I did a whois check and sent an e-mail to the domain administrator:

Hello, I’m curious whether Automattic has a stance on SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act- which is in a heated debate all over the world right now.

Why I’m asking is that I noticed (after removing GoDaddy from my trusted CA database) that the SSL certificate for wordpress.org/.com as well as domain names are registered at GoDaddy – who helped write the suggested piece of legislation. automattic.com also seems to be registered with them.

Several websites have already moved their domain names away from GoDaddy, as part of a worldwide boycott since yesterday:
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/12/godaddy-faces-december-29-boycott-over-sopa-support.ars

So what can one hope for in this case? An answer with “why yes of course, we will spend several work hours changing registrar and certificate authority just to make you happy”? Or a more modest “it is in our interest that blah blah, but you know they did change their mind about SOPA” or something along those lines? Well, the response was one of the more modest ones:

Hi,

Thanks for your suggestion. We’ve registered your suggestion and will keep it in mind.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Best,
Karim – Happiness Engineer
Automattic | WordPress.com

“Sorry for the inconvenience”? I sincerely enjoyed that expression! In any case, I was hoping that this post might generate some interest with my readers to send off an e-mail to support@wordpress.com or domains@automattic.com requesting they leave GoDaddy’s services. Wikipedia and many others have already done it or are in the process of doing it.

Begäran om kopia av temat från folkbladet.nu

Mailat till redaktionen@folkbladet.nu – Västerbottens Folkblad alltså:

Hej!

Jag skulle önska att få en kopia av det tema, samt eventuella övriga ändringar i källkod, för WordPress på folkbladet.nu – alternativt få veta varifrån jag kan ladda ner det.

Sedan tycker jag att det, i enlighet med licensen GPLv2 som WordPress ligger under, bör tillgängliggöras en kopia av temat till besökare på ett smidigare sätt än att behöva maila er.

Fast att tillgängliggöra kan jag ställa upp med, då jag ändå ämnar patcha/vidareutveckla kopian.

Mer finns att läsa om GPL och dess inblandade fri- rätt- och skyldigheterna på följande länkar:

http://wordpress.org/about/license/

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html


Mikael Nordfeldth

http://blog.mmn-o.se/

mmn@hethane.se
070-5657637

Detta ska gå eftersom temat är en del av källkoden. GPL skyddas av den viktigaste delen av upphovsrätten – den ideella rätten.

WordPress requires themes to be GPL

Andrew Warner at Mixergy has published a discussion [MP3, transcript] between Chris Pearson (founder of Thesis, a very advanced WordPress theme) and Matt Mullenweg (who I’d call Mr. WordPress). This is a perfect example of what the debate between the copyright industry vs. iPirates (intellectual property pirates) is like. A very interesting software license and copyright debate, if you ask me.

Matt responds well to a long rant (blah blah, can’t make money if it’s freely licensed) by Chris. Start listening at 16:30 if you wish to hear the end of the rant and the response. The bottom line is that Chris Pearson sees Thesis – which requires WordPress – as entirely his own property which no one can use. He’s just out to state that “he’s not a follower” and says that Matt is trying “to dictate” usage through the GPL.

Chris Pearson refers at 8:30 to “Mike Wasylik” (he says Brian), an attorney who has written “Why the GPL doesn’t apply to premium WordPress themes“. However not related to the same kind of dilemma WordPress vs. Thesis is about. Mike Wasylik’s examples are related to the Game Genie’s modification of running binaries of Nintendo games – which does not apply at all to the source code license which the GPL is.

Also, Chris mentions that WordPress “is only a backend” and that “WordPress [on its own] only serves a blank page”. What he forgets is that WordPress also serves an API over XML-RPC etc….

But, to the point of license debating. Mark Jaquith posts the most convincing argument in this debate:

It isn’t correct to think of WordPress and a theme as separate entities. As far as the code is concerned, they form one functional unit. The theme code doesn’t sit “on top of” WordPress. It is within it, in multiple different places, with multiple interdependencies.

Basically: Thesis (or any WP theme), when used, becomes a part of that running copy of WordPress. At source code and PHP interpretation level. Thus, at that specific point, the GPL must be followed. To clear things up, Mark Jaquith also mentions the API system:

WordPress has many external APIs that spit out data. Interacting with these APIs does not put your code on the same level as core WordPress code.

(Oh, and Thesis have actually copied large pieces of code from WordPress.)

Update: Thesis now has a split license PHP code is GPLv2, everything else (CSS, images, added JS etc.) . Probably because of the bad press. Unfortunately this means that Chris Pearson probably didn’t learn anything in the process except perhaps humility. It’d be cool though if the license for CSS and images were Free too. At least it’d mend the community’s wounds a bit.

Design, content management and the software

Naucler Design wanted a website matching design preferences found in their clothes' designs.

Earlier this year I “finished” (kill your darlings…) a redesign for the latex designer Naucler Design. This post was initiated right after that, but I haven’t gotten the motivation to finish it yet (killing another darling). The result is a hasty manifest to usability.

Naucler Design had long hoped to get a new website, but their first alternative as web designer wasn’t really appropriate. No agitation towards the original designer, everyone has their purpose in this world, but when the fundamental idea seems to be “bling-bling”, my inner minimalist gets brain-aids. The designer’s example had commercialism written all over it (FOLLOW THE BLINKING RABBIT) which in turn causes information to drowned in a sea of unintuitive design.

The other day I talked with a friend about the usability guru Jakob Nielsen. He usually knows best regarding design, accessibility and such, which many Web 2.0 fans forget about. He is a constant reminder that websites should be adapted for people who are blind, disabled, epileptics and deaf as well as search engines. Also the site should work for ordinary sheeple (IE), fashion bloggers (OMG PONIES!!!) and CEOs (iPhone) – all without giving the webdesigner brain aids.

Myspace is a good example of a site which has tried hard to ignore all critera for good usability. Not even the bands who use the site could possibly think it’s easy to use or even usable.

But I digress, back to Naucler Design. Their first alternative was to use Joomla!, a free and GPL’d CMS (Content Management System) which can do just about anything. The problem is that the general feeling I get is “hack upon hack” and in the end you have the world’s most bloated CMS. The administration is confusing and horribly inefficient and the codebase is generally slow. It’s my strong opinion that a content manager should manage content and not much more – am I wrong?

Personally I prefer WordPress for just about everything but static pages. I share their philosophy, the developers write beautiful code and they try hard not to add bloat. The design – both appearance and administrative – is also easy, concise and appealing. By contrast, Joomla is kind of like a xenon filled Hindenburg driven by a coal power plant and has to be modified with a blowtorch and sledgehammer.

Pöh.

True, there are many plugins for Joomla! which allow you to avoid the heavy tools. But the fact of the matter is that just about every single plugin is even worse than the original codebase, as well as they often promote Flash and other bloaty, proprietary technology. The bling-bling is also there in the background no matter how much you peal off. That’s what Naucler Design appreciated did not exist with WordPress’ standard design and philosophy. This simplified my task immensely.

(With that said, Naucler Design uses osCommerce for their webshop. osCommerce is old and stable but has an incredibly patchy and ugly codebase, by far worse than Joomla! But there are really no alternatives in that department, neither free nor proprietary software. So let’s leave that aside for the sake of this post.)

So please, people who are about to create or remake a website. For a greater good – including web standards and such – please choose a solution where you choose rather than remove components. If you find yourself “adding too much” – despite a site engine like WordPress – you’re already doing it wrong. Remember that the information flow on today’s internet is huge and that people ignore most of what they see – especially advertisement. So make sure what you’re offering is clean, simple and informative.

“Nokia wants to link to your Flickr account”

I’ve aquired a Nokia 5220 from a dear friend of mine. It’s a rather cheap, simple phone but it sports a camera, capacity to play music and video etc. It doesn’t support 3G connections, but heck GPRS is good enough for low-bandwidth stuff. So I’m thinking about starting a photo/fashion blog embedded into my deep, political criticism and other crap I almost manage to write down.

The phone has a Flickr application, which I’m guessing was installed by default rather than the previous owner. This Flickr application allows me to upload images to the account, which is then retrievable from the internets of course. Pretty basic and probably useful for most people who want to easily share their images. Personally I’m not quite satisfied and will probably write my own interface for a photo sharing module to WordPress (or stand-alone) myself…

Anyhow, the first question I get when I’ve newly registered a Flickr account and access it with my mobile phone is: “Nokia wants to link to your Flickr account”. Now, what does this mean?

This is a third-party service. If you don’t trust it with access to your account, then you should not authorize it.

Right. That’s all sound and stuff. But one might be curious as to what would be authorized if you accepted this third-party agreement… Boy was I surprised when I scrolled down and read the following:

By authorizing this link, you’ll allow Nokia to:

  • Access your Flickr account (including private content)
  • Upload, Edit, and Replace photos, and videos in your account
  • Interact with other members’ photos and videos (comment, add notes, favorite)

Wow. Nokia asks permission to become me. Interestingly enough, this is followed by the statement that “Nokia will not have permission to: Delete photos and videos from your account”. Then, I ask myself, what do they mean by allowing them to replace but not delete? And who the fuck would ever authorize them to do this?

I of course clicked “NO THANKS” and uploaded my pictures after logging in to Flickr. But the question appeared once again when I started the application a second time… I wonder if they ever stop nagging. (Was I merely using a fallback HTTP interface? I guess I’ll never know…)

I understand that they need this access to allow their third party application to manage your account details. No human interaction is needed, but still it is not denied. The company Nokia might as well employ 5000 Chinese who do the “management” manually, rather than automatically through software.

This is also why “cloud computing” is bad. It’s the same theory. Outsource/export your control, rights and supervision to a third-party company. No, it’s much better to keep your computing to yourself. You wouldn’t ask a stranger to manage your family photo albums, right?

Update 2010-03-10: As the comment for this post have pointed out, it’s not Nokia the company who are asking for permission, it’s the Nokia photo sharing software. I’m still confused as to why I can’t just hand it my username and password, or better yet a private API key, and be done with it… It should be obvious for people that when you use third-party software it’s distributed “as-is”.

“Social media” does not mean “Facebook and Twitter”

There’s a constricted idea of what the internet is capable of. Social media is immediatly attributed to Facebook and Twitter because they’re the biggest players on the field. In Sweden, Spotify is getting great press even though Jamendo is the superior choice for music distribution. The internet is not trade or services – it’s communication.

Someone suggests teaching Facebook to schools to make them understand social media. But if we attribute it the label “social media”, do we not suggest much more than a lucky US-based company which merely offers a centralised, restrictive, surveilled and censored service? This post is not aimed at that specific article however. It’s much more general than that.

What we see today are only a proof of concept for a baseline of possibilites available by way of the internet. The current “globally used” (what about Brazil and China?) services are all centralised and restrictive. We are bound to see future development in even more awesome social networking technologies available to common internet users – similar to Google Wave. Today we have user-created services with user-generated content and the key of the future is decentralization. This implies even more social interaction, resulting in greater user-based filtering.

Personally, I’m seeing the world from a technical point of view. Unfortunately, for the end-user, the development process is often irrelevant. Free software is thought of as “free as in beer”, not free as in speech. Culture is copied and fileshared without regards to copyright laws, and thus Free culture is also viewed just as if it wasn’t priced. The steps to a common understanding of librethe right to use, modify and share – seem long and far away. Nevertheless they’re prerequisites for future development in online social networking.

Then how do we change this nihilistic, disrespective view on social media’s true nature? One might start with presenting Twitter’s main open source competitor identi.ca, using Creative Commons Attribution licensing. Also there’s the open source WordPress, which I use, that is superior in all aspects to any proprietary platform such as Google’s Blogger or Sweden’s popular “blogg.se”. Another service is the unfortunately closed source Flickr, but at least CC-licensing is a given choice there.

If the general public starts recognising what separates these services from the proprietary and restrictive ones, we are not far from a social media revolution. One might not immediatly think about it, but copyright issues today enforce a noticable restriction on social media development. Sites like YouTube are more successful than progressive open source alternatives simply because they have a legal department financed by Google. Free licenses, however, effectively reduce the amount of bureacracy needed to come up with new ideas.

A lighter copyright regulation would immediatly spawn several new internet top sites. To catch a glimpse of the future-to-be, compare the all-praised Spotify with its direct libre counterpart, Jamendo. The latter allows you to listen without registration, payment or advertisement. Jamendo also allows you to choose your music player of choice, embed it on other web services, download entire albums for offline-access. Heck, Jamendo even lets you support the artists and easily share your own works! From what I hear, Spotify can’t do any of those things.

The future is decentralization. With my above conclusions, users can soon also take part in the distribution, not just generation, of content. It’ll be harder to make mad profit, so there’ll be resistance – but this also introduces significantly lower costs. Given that the internet isn’t crippled along the way, we’ll be getting there site by site, API by API. Open standards, one by one. Shortly followed (or introduced?) by Free – libre – software implementations. Paving the path for true social networking.

Update 2009-12-31 14.23: I forgot to mention the most important part about Jamendo – they allow you to upload your own, independent work to benefit from the entire Creative Commons community.

Cory Doctorow, I found through the EFF, mentions that anyone against DRM-free e-books by consequence wishes to abolish the printed book, since printed books have an ancient history of being shared regardless of copyright. That’s exactly why social media can’t be social as long as we’ve got specific laws which are different from afk social behaviour.

Importscript från blogg.se

Jag håller på att knåpa ihop ett import-script så man kan mata över blogg.se till WordPress. Förmodligen kommer det att sparas i en WXR-fil (dvs RSS med extra metadata).

Jag googlade runt lite men hittade inget vettigt verktyg för just detta. Det krångliga är väl att även bevara bilder och sådana bifogade saker, men det borde inte vara omöjligt att fixa rätt kvickt. Kommentarer känns jobbigt att meka in, men är ju en nödvändighet… Känner ni förövrigt till ett verktyg (med god funktionalitet) som gör detta redan så jag kan strunta i att koda det så hojta!

Detta hoppas jag i alla fall kan hjälpa folk att byta från den proprietära, utdaterade crap-blogg.se-plattformen. Frågan är om jag släpper källkoden till själva verktyget dock, med tanke på vilket fulhack det verkar bli. Man kan ju inte visa upp kod man skäms för ju! :)