Tech

on online relationships (well, at least the tools)

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IM, Jaiku, email, blogs, Facebook, SMS, Flickr. These are the tools I use to communicate and coordinate with friends. The interesting thing is that each one gives me a very different way to interact with people in my life. This post is actually more about the tools, than the relationships.

I started using Facebook as kind of a joke about 1 year ago. Ariane and I were up at whistler chilling out with some wifi and I was like, "what's up with this facebook thing?". She's like, "I dunno... I think you like keep in contact with old friends or something." So we both signed up. And now what? Search for old friends? Me: "who should I search for", Ariane: "how about shauna?". Kind of random, but what the hell? Turns out she'd joined only a few days earlier. One obvious aspect of facebook is that it lets you find old friends, most of who I simply added but never to talked to again, with a few I was lucky enough to get back in touch with. Facebook also helped to redefine the way people interact with each other. Closer friends I stayed in a bit closer contact with, easier to organize things, share photos and other interesting things. Of course, Facebook is dead now, so time to move on...

You know when you're talking to someone, and they're nodding and appear to be listening to what your saying. And then when you stop talking they start talking about something totally unrelated and it was obvious they weren't listening to you and just waiting for their "turn" to speak? This is why I like personal blogs, it gives people the right to do that in a socially acceptable manner. I read a few peoples blogs whom I've only met a few times in person, and it's interesting to know relatively personal stuff about someone who very likely has no idea who you are.

Over the past year I've sort of grown to hate most personal communication with email. It's tedious, relatively slow, and doesn't give enough reference to properly understand tone. Yeah, that's right, I'm getting my hate on for email.

Last February I got a cell phone. Finally. I found SMS kind of interesting. Low commitment communication. Way lower commitment to sent a text to someone then to actually phone them. And the fact that you can text 10 people "brunch @ mel's @ 11" makes planning so much easier.



Props to A.

I remember in University IM (specifically ICQ) got very popular. It sort of faded away for a few years and seems to have been slowly making a come back. Well, it seems to have made a full comeback now. I spend a *lot* of time IM-ing with people now. It seems like there's very little miscommunication in IM. Unlike email, the conversation is happening fast, and you can almost always tell what the person means based on the feel of the preceding text. Actually looking back at some of my logs, I can tell how much I enjoyed chatting with someone based purely on how many :-) I used. Everyone has their own quirks online and after a little while you get a feel for how their feeling. :)

It seems weird to put Flickr in this list... but it belongs just as much as blogs. And hey, a picture's worth a thousand words, right? Flickr does let you have a sort of micro-conversation... but more than that, I think a photos/pictures a person uploads do tell a story about them. A lot more literally with some people.

Jaiku... I don't feel like explaining it in this post if you don't already know what it is. Jaiku and Flickr are the two most interesting to me. Probably because their the newest tools to me. Both of which I've only started using actively in the past few months. The funny thing about Jaiku is that I've actually met new people because of it. A friend of a friend starts a conversation, your friend adds to that conversation, and then you get drawn in and start writing with that friend of a friend.

jaiku_snap.jpg

One thing that all of these tools have in common is that each of them seems to aid in bridging the gap between acquaintance and friend. People who I never would have felt comfortable saying anything more than "hi" to have become someone I can comfortably start a conversation with. People who I could comfortably start a conversation with have become closer friends. All are very low commitment forms of communication. I can comfortably text, jaiku, or facebook someone I would not be able to comfortably phone (and even if I was, they'd probably think I was a little odd for doing so).

Anyway, this is fun. And I hope these tools can grow integrated more with each other. Well, except for facebook, which is totally OUT in 2008.

Google Summer of Code

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As some of you already know, I'll be doing the Google Summer of Code this summer. For those of you who just asked "WTF is Google Summer of Code?", it's basically (to sum up in one sentence) Google sponsored and organized open source development. Basically, Google is paying me (and ~900 other students) to work on an open source project. If you're still curious, you can visit here or here, for more info. The basic premise is to raise awareness for open source and get more people (specifically students) involved in open source development.

GSoC officially begins on Monday and I'll be working on the Drupal project, my project proposal consists of developing a framework for allowing Drupal admins to load test their sites and more easily determine bottlenecks and such. I have a more detailed description on the Drupal SoC group, if you want to learn more. I figured it made good sense to do a Drupal project... considering about 90% of my contract work at the moment is Drupal related. What's Drupal? I think you already asked that question, Carla. It's a content management system (CMS). What's a CMS? Yeah, I don't know, really. But basically Drupal helps you build ultra sweet community based websites in like no time at all, and that's all that really matters.

Anyway, I'll probably be posting other random tech stuff here about my project... so fell free to ignore my posts tagged with Drupal and GSoC if you don't wanna hear about benchmarking, bottlenecks, scalability, load balancing, unit testing, or other such terms, my feelings will only be mildly hurt.

Blog Readership

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So in two recent posts I got a little more reader feedback than I had thought. Figuring that only about 4 people read my blog (half of which are probably not very technical), I was a bit surprised when 9 people whom I don't even know posted comments on my OpenID entry. Half of who apparently didn't even read the entry as they started arguing the 5 points I was presenting as invalid arguments. Not to mention the subject said "openid disinformation time". Now, if 9 people are posting comments, how many people are reading? 13, maybe 14?

At Northern Voice this year I caught a talk by Darren Barefoot on Why Do You Blog. One thing that was discussed was readership, "how many readers would you be happy with?" and another topic that came up was "how do you feel when your blog gets popular". Some people mentioned that it's scary when you start getting people commenting on your blog that you don't know. I can definitely re-iterate that feeling. But at the same time, it's cool that other people read your blog.

I think the coolness outweighs the scariness. I figure I'll get more readers if I start writing more controversial posts about new hot topics

Next post "why Net Neutrality is bad and DRM is good".

Why OpenID will fail. AKA OpenID disinformation time.

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I'm not sure how many of my blog readers know what OpenID is, or I guess, even who reads my blog anymore. But anyway, it seems like I'm reading about or hearing someone talk about OpenID every other day now, all of whom seem to be talking about why openid will fail. Actually... today I heard/read two people describing why OpenID will fail or why it's a bunk idea. One on a random blog, the other at a discussion lead by Cory Doctorow at SFU (which was an awesome discussion, btw). The reasons why OpenID will fail are usually the same:

  1. Privacy: If you use an OpenID provider for all of your logins then that provider knows exactly which blogs you read, which sites you visit, and which companies you shop from (assuming all the sites you use, use OpenID). That kind of information is very valuable to marketer and likely to get sold or stolen.
  2. Trust: Just because someone's identity provider says that the person logging into your site is Bob, how can you trust that the person is actually Bob. No large companies will every trust third party OpenID providers. Perhaps they'll become a provider themselves and you'll need to setup an OpenID with them. If all large organizations do this, you defeat the purpose of OpenID.
  3. Buy-in: OpenID is useless unless everyone buys into it. When even many technical experts have never heard of it, everyone will never buy into it, even if it is an amazing technology.
  4. Corporate control: OpenID is a solution for corporations to solve single sign-on problems and more easily gather user data, not a solution for individuals. It is not made for individuals, therefore even if it catches on it will be a Bad Thing (tm).
  5. Phishing: 'nuff said.

Those seem to be the most typical arguments I've read/heard. The corporate control one was a new one today though. So, why do I think OpenID will fail? One reason:

People don't understand OpenID or the problem it is trying to solve. Sure, maybe the people developing it do, but not the people who will be most influential in its adoption. Of the arguments I've heard and read very few have actually pointed out real issues with OpenID, and the good ones have mostly been demonstrating that the problems OpenID are trying to solve have already been solved in other identity technologies. Sure OpenID may not be the be-all end-all of identity on the net, and it's not trying to be, but OpenID may have no future if its scope and goals cannot be clearly articulated to the people who could be advocating it, instead of bashing it.

EDIT: Perhaps I was too subtle in this post, but just to clarify... the 5 points I listed above are not my arguments nor do I believe that they are valid. They are simply the most common arguments I hear against OpenID.

Security talks

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It seems odd to me that I would be giving a talk on security. I am not a security expert, and admittedly have been known to not even keep my own servers up to par with standard security practices (due to laziness, lack of time, you know, all the standard reasons). But today, I found myself giving a talk on security and measures that need to be taken to secure the servers and network infrastructure for my former employer. I guess I've always taken an interest in security and "hacking" and after years of playing around, maybe I'm finally starting to learn a thing or two about it. But then again, maybe I'm just good at pretending I know something about network security.