Tag Archives: identi.ca

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?

Internetfonden ger stipendie till StatusNet Sverige

Jag har tillsammans med Umeå Hackerspace gett mig in på att utveckla den fria mjukvaran StatusNet. Beskrivning av projektet finns hos Internetfonden. Ni kan även lyssna på ett radioinslag i P4 Västerbotten med mig pratandes om fritt flöde av information på nätet:


20120611 – P4 Västerbotten – Internetfonden stöder StatusNet Sverige

För att möjliggöra decentraliserad sociala media har OStatus-protokollet utvecklats och implementerats i AGPLv3-form genom mjukvaran StatusNet. Det är med detta i grunden som StatusNet Sverige vill bidra till en fri, decentraliserad communityplattform för att göra det användarvänligt, tilltalande och allra mest sömlöst att migrera.

Projektledaren ska i samarbete med Umeå Hackerspace buggrapportera, laga buggar, förbättra användarvänligheten i StatusNet samt skriva ny funktionalitet. Arbetet sker i en egenkontrollerad upplaga av StatusNet-källkoden, men aktiv kommunikation och syncning kommer att ske tillsammans med StatusNet Inc, ett litet utländskt företag som idag är de huvudsakligen drivande.

Målet är att 2013 ha en mjukvaruversion av StatusNet som dels har egen valbar funktionalitet motsvarar slutna communitys mest populära funktionaliteter samt att det även ska vara lätt att migrera till för nybörjare. En ännu djupare integration med andra communitys API:er ska också utvecklas, där StatusNet Sveriges mjukvara i praktiken går att använda som en klient mot de slutna sidorna samtidigt som man är en nod i ett decentraliserat globalt OStatus-community.

Om man vill börja experimentera och testa StatusNet kan jag rekommendera huvudutvecklarens egna instans identi.ca samt den jag driver med hjälp av Piratpartiet, Free & Social.

Vi kommer att hålla i hacknights hos Umeå Hackerspace där vi letar buggar, mekar och trixar för att skapa en bättre och mer lättanvänd mjukvara utifrån StatusNet med ny och förbättrad funktionalitet.

Ledarskribenter om “sociala media”

Jag börjar bli less på snacket om “sociala media”, när man gång på gång på gång på gång refererar till instängda, inlåsta och exkluderande media.

Extra viktig kommer denna distinktion att bli i och med bl.a. biståndsminister Gunilla Carlssons nyligen påtalade svenska bistånd till nätaktivister. Jag är rädd att förståelsen för vad som är öppet, fritt och demokratiskt går förlorad till det som snarare är slutet, inlåst och opålitligt. Än mindre tror jag ministern kommer att belysa vilka nätaktivister som faktiskt kan göra en skillnad.

Så jag reagerade på Daniel Nordström, chefredaktör på Västerbottens Folkblad, när han i ett blogginlägg betecknade Twitter som social media. Förvisso “gör ju alla det”, så det är mest en slump att det var han som fick följande kommentar ikväll, men likväl anser jag det viktigt att upplysa om det kontroversiella i hans ordval:

Min direkta fundering är hur någon kan hävda att Twitter skulle vara ett “socialt media”. Om något låser det in användarna till att vara ohyggligt asociala.

Att använda Twitter är typ som att ha Telia, men inte kunna ringa Comviq. Att använda Gmail men inte kunna skicka något till Hotmail, eller någon företagsmail för den delen.

Tänk om daniel.nordstrom@folkbladet.se endast kunde nås från andra människor med adressen @folkbladet.se

Nä, sociala media fungerar över olika domäner och med öppna standarder. Kika gärna på http://identi.ca/ t.ex. där vem som helst kan starta en egen – interkommunicerbar – mikrobloggingtjänst. (och prata med folk på t.ex. http://quitter.se/ )

Jag förstår verkligen inte hur något som låser in människor kan betraktas som socialt.

Förhoppningsvis reagerar fler folk snart på problematiken med asociala system som orsakar att användare inte ges valmöjligheter. I kommentaren nämner jag det som att identi.ca är var man kan starta en egen tjänst, men jag menar egentligen att man kan ladda hem den mjukvara som sidan kör – nämligen StatusNet. Eller som sagt använda en annan, kompatibel sida utifall man inte själv är systemadministratör.

Quitter är ett exempel på några som startat en egen instans av mjukvaran där allmänheten inte kan registrera sig pga spam-skäl – men man kan kommunicera med inbjudna användare över t.ex. Identi.ca eller en egen instans av OStatus-kompatibel mjukvara.

Tidigare har jag även påpekat denna kritik om Twitter genom mitt konto på identi.ca över den länkning som erbjuds därifrån till Twitter – och på så vis förhoppningsvis envägs-nått webutvecklaren Christoffer Larsson hos Västerbottens [Kuriren|Folkblad].

Hur man besegrar Piratpartiet

Det absolut lättaste sättet att kvälja Piratpartiets möjligheter att ta del av riksdagen är att besegra aktivismen.

Varje ny röst på Piratpartiet är en förlorad sekund av verksamhet.

Eftersom PP är absolut mest mobiliserade och förmodligen bestyckat med flest unga, engagerade och aktiva politiker är det förstås svårt att stoppa oss. Men det finns en Akilles häl: Internet.

Vår styrka är vår svaghet. Plötsligt när det dyker upp något nytt och efterblivet på internet så är Piratpartiet där. Nu senast är det Valkampen som enligt Twitter (dåligt. proprietärt. använd identi.ca) verkar vara något som folk tror får partiet att tjäna politiska poäng.

Skjut mig.

“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.