recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : interoperability   7

The internet is too big
"Scale produces a vicious cycle wherein size facilitates both the problems and the "solutions."

Similarly, Twitter's userbase of hundreds of millions is what allows for the targeted, radically asymmetrical nature of harassment, where one user can be barraged by thousands of replies. The very interconnection that enables the best of the internet also helps foster its worst.

What are we to do if we want to reclaim the best of the internet while combatting its worst? While the tech giants have work to do, it seems that one way to think about this is to distinguish between the usefulness of infrastructure at scale versus the usefulness of certain networks. On one hand, it's beneficial for everyone to be potentially connected by a neutral set of wires and hardware. On the other hand, enormous, multi-billion user networks like Facebook aren't the only way we can connect.

Now that the internet is normal and accessible for billions, perhaps we need to think about the tech giants as necessary evils that kickstarted the early internet but have outlived their usefulness. In their place, imagine a set of standards — say, a calendar that anyone can access and that is interoperable with others' but doesn't require you to be on Facebook. It's an ideal of digital technology that rests on the concept that the internet is a way of connecting people but companies shouldn't entirely own the networks on which we connect.

Earlier this year, writer Max Read suggested that the best of the internet was now to be found in the group text chat. He argued that they feel so intimate and because their dynamic "occurs at human scale, with distinct reactions from a handful of friends … rather than at the alien scale of behemoth platforms." It's about finding the best of the internet without the worst — connection enabled by how large and ubiquitous the internet is, but without the internet's scale infecting how we use it on a daily basis.

It's not clear how such a change would come about. The tech giants not only wield enormous political and economic power, they have also deeply and perhaps even irrevocably integrated themselves into our lives. But as ideals go, a return to a smaller internet is one worth fighting for."
scale  navneetalang  2019  internet  web  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  youtube  interoperability  chat  maxread  size  networks  networkeffect  calendars  communication  dicsovery  intimacy  groupchat  messaging  email  online  timcarmody  robinsloan  nostalgia  humanscale  humanism  humanity 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Google Docs have quietly revolutionized document editing.
"But Google’s update is far more than just a ploy to lure Office users away from Microsoft’s apps. Google is eliminating the need for distinct file types, making it easier to sign or edit documents regardless of the applications you have downloaded on your phone or desktop. It’s a novel idea, really—just being able to open a file, work on it, and not think about “what” it is. While Microsoft, Apple, and others continue to work in walled gardens, Google is making interoperability one of its primary focuses. For consumers inundated with ever more work but no additional hours in the day, it’s the kind of time and stress savings that are exceedingly worthwhile."
google  googledocs  googledrive  files  2018  christinabonnington  fileformats  filetypes  interoperability  pdf 
february 2018 by robertogreco
From Tape Drives to Memory Orbs, the Data Formats of Star Wars Suck (Spoilers) | Motherboard
"Why on Earth are ports standardized but data storage isn’t? Why are data storage formats wildly variable, but file formats are readable across enemy lines? Why is it that I have to carry five dongles so my Macbook can play a PowerPoint presentation but a decades-old Rebel droid needs zero to stay interoperable with an enemy’s state-of-the-art battle station?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I at least have a theory about why the Empire keeps its backups on magnetic tape.

You see, the Scarif facility is just too badly designed for it all to be a coincidence. It doesn’t appear to be patterned after Old Republic systems. The tape format never appears again in the movies. The incredibly large files contained on the tape can be stored on palm-sized, paper-thin disks, meaning the tapes are unnecessary. The claw-machine system makes no sense. The antenna tower makes the Scarif facility easy to target in a military attack.

In other words, the archival system on Scarif appears to be designed in a deliberate act of sabotage by anti-Imperial archivists attempting to undermine Palpatine’s rule. Like Galen Erso, the archivists chose to remain embedded inside the Empire, and as their act of resistance, build the most useless, asinine archival system the galaxy had ever seen.

As part of their plan, they adopted a magnetic tape format, to maximize the size of the facility and make it necessary to manufacture massive amounts of interoperable technology to support the tapes. Given that the tapes are never seen before or after Rogue One, it may be that the archivists developed the tape format using military funding, in hopes that diverting money away from weapons and into a bad R&D project would, in the grand scheme of things, save lives.

This is absolutely the only rational explanation for the data storage formats depicted in Rogue One, and I look forward to seeing the prequel about the heroic rebel archivists."
archives  media  facebook  interoperability  2016  startwars  rogueone  sarahjeong  archivists  mediatypes  standardization  data  datastorage  storage 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Anti-capitalist human scale software (and why it matters) — Medium
"Twitter launches features no one wants. Parse shuts down. Websites track us to an astonishing degree. Corporations close down open systems. They turn over our data to the government.

Software and services that are supposed to make life better are becoming unreliable and untrustworthy. It is increasingly clear that our interests, as software-using humans, are diverging from the interests of software companies.

I am coming to the conclusion that we simply can’t rely on corporations to produce and maintain great, reliable, human-centered software. The systems and incentives are in direct conflict.

In my mind, one of the core problems is a lack of agency. If Twitter or Facebook push out a feature that is destructive to the way we use their services, or they refuse to create tools that are plainly necessary, we can do little but complain. As individual, non-paying users, we have virtually no leverage.

There’s also a lack of agency on the building side of the things. With open systems, we have the opportunity to create and run our own variants of systems that better suit our purposes. When APIs and app stores are tightly controlled, even our ability to usefully augment the system is curtailed.

So, short of overthrowing capitalism, what can we do?

Amidst the pessimism, I do think we still have a chance to build a different path. The only way to meaningfully diverge from the existing trends is to consciously embrace new values and different constraints. To that end, here are a new set of principles:

The community should have final say.

We need to reintroduce agency. Each particular community (not necessarily the entire user base — more on this later) should be able to decide if they want to accept the latest update of a given service or not. If a community cannot shape systems to reflect their values, those systems are flawed.

Scale is a trap.

So much of the complexity of web engineering comes from questions of scale. But why do we need scale? If we are trying to build humane software, there are significant benefits to keeping things smaller and simpler. If you want to run something for hundreds of people–or even thousands–that is entirely sustainable on a single cheap shared server.

Hubs, not monoliths.

A critical piece of this is creating systems that are somewhere in between the giant, corporate systems and the completely distributed everyone-run-their-own-peer, everyone-needs-to-be-a-hacker approach. I am inspired by projects like Artisanal Integers, which I initially thought was a throwaway joke, but is actually a fascinating model to work ourselves out of these centralized systems.

These hubs can be operated by an individual or a small group on behalf of a community. As long as there is sufficient agreement between the hub operators about rules of interoperability, each hub can maintain a level of autonomy. The community of people using it can control its direction. And, ultimately, if one community chooses to break from the larger system, that is an option that is available to them.

Allow the community to create."
scale  software  socialmedia  community  hubs  networks  distributed  jessekriss  complexity  simplicity  web  online  humaneness  artisinalintegers  decentralization  interoperability  capitalism  twitter  apis 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet - The Atlantic
"You can't kill email! It's the cockroach of the Internet, and I mean that as a compliment. This resilience is a good thing.

"There isn't much to sending or receiving email and that's sort of the point," observed Aaron Straup Cope, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum's Senior Engineer in Digital and Emerging Media. "The next time someone tells you email is 'dead,' try to imagine the cost of investing in their solution or the cost of giving up all the flexibility that email affords." 

Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built. In that way, email represents a different model from the closed ecosystems we see proliferating across our computers and devices. 

Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled "web we lost." It's an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services.

Yes, email is exciting. Get excited!

* * *

For all the changes occurring around email, the experience of email itself has been transformed, too. Email is not dying, but it is being unbundled.

Because it developed early in the history of the commercial Internet, email served as a support structure for many other developments in the web's history. This has kept email vitally important, but the downside is that the average inbox in the second decade of the century had become clogged with cruft. Too many tasks were bolted on to email's simple protocols.

Looking back on these transitional years from the 2020s, email will appear to people as a grab bag of mismatched services.

Email was a newsfeed. …

Email was one's passport and identity. …

Email was the primary means of direct social communication on the Internet. …

Email was a digital package-delivery service. After FTP faded from popularity, but before Dropbox and Google Drive, email was the primary way to ship heavy digital documents around the Internet. The attachment was a key productivity tool for just about everyone, and it's hard to imagine an Internet without the ability to quickly append documents to a message. Needless to say, email is a less than ideal transmission or storage medium, relative to the new services.

Email was the primary mode of networked work communication. …

The metaphor of electronic mail never fully fit how people use e-mail. But, now, perhaps it might. Email could become a home for the kinds of communications that come in the mail: letters from actual people, bills, personalized advertisements, and periodicals.

* * *

Looking at this list of email's many current uses, it is obvious that some of these tasks will leave its domain. Each person will get to choose whether they use email as their primary identity on the web. Work and simple social messaging will keep moving to other platforms, too. The same will be true of digital delivery, where many cloud-based solutions have already proved superior.

So, what will be left of the inbox, then?

I contend email might actually become what we thought it was: an electronic letter-writing platform.

My colleague Ian Bogost pointed out to me that we've used the metaphor of the mail to describe the kind of communication that goes on through these servers. But, in reality, email did not replace letters, but all classes of communications: phone calls, in-person encounters, memos, marketing pleas, etc.

This change might be accelerated by services like Gmail's Priority Inbox, which sorts mail neatly (and automatically) into categories, or Unroll.me, which allows users to bundle incoming impersonal communications like newsletters and commercial offers into one easy custom publication.

That is to say, our inboxes are getting smarter and smarter. Serious tools are being built to help us direct and manage what was once just a chronological flow, which people dammed with inadequate organization systems hoping to survive the flood. (Remember all the folders in desktop email clients!)

It's worth noting that spam, which once threatened to overrun our inboxes, has been made invisible by more sophisticated email filtering. I received hundreds of spam emails yesterday, and yet I didn't see a single one because Gmail and my Atlantic email filtered them all neatly out of my main inbox. At the same time, the culture of botty spam spread to every other corner of the Internet. I see spam comments on every website and spam Facebook pages and spam Twitter accounts every day.

Email has gotten much smarter and easier to use, while retaining its ubiquity and interoperability. But there is no one company promoting Email (TM), so those changes have gone relatively unremarked upon.



And one last thing ... This isn't something the originators of email ever could have imagined, but: Email does mobile really well.



Email—yes, email—is one way forward for a less commercial, less centralized web, and the best thing is, this beautiful cockroach of a social network is already living in all of our homes.

Now, all we have to do is convince the kids that the real rebellion against the pressures of social media isn't to escape to the ephemerality of Snapchat, but to retreat to the private, relaxed confines of their email inboxes."
email  cv  openweb  internet  web  2014  alexismadrigal  online  networks  networkedcommunication  communication  onlinetoolkit  mobile  spam  history  future  smtp  decentralization  decentralized  open  interoperability  webwelost  aaronstraupcope  ianbogost 
august 2014 by robertogreco
We're sharing more photos but getting less in return
"Theoretically, we could have an up-to-the-minute photo database of any popular location. We'd just need Instagram to include more metadata by default and allow users to sort by location (or let a third-party app do the same).

If we were properly organizing the photos we're already putting online, I could see how a festival was going, and Google Maps could show me all the photos taken from the Eiffel Tower in the last five minutes. I could even see if a popular bar is crowded without any official system. We'd be able to see the world right now, as clearly as we see its past on Google Street View, as quickly as news spreads on Twitter.

We have the data and the technological infrastructure, but we're stuck because no developer can access all the data.

If anyone was going to deliver these capabilities, it would be Flickr. In 2006, it was the canonical destination for photos. If you wanted to see photos of a certain place or subject, that’s where you went. But Facebook replaced Flickr as a social network, killing it on the desktop, and Instagram released a simpler mobile app, killing it there too. That would have been fine if Facebook and Instagram kept their photos data-rich and fully exportable. But both services give fewer tagging, grouping, and other sorting options, and they built their photos into incompatible databases. Facebook won't organize photos any way but by human subject or uploader. Instagram has just a few view options and focuses solely on the friend-feed.

We're photographing everything now, building this amazing body of work, but we're getting less and less out of it.

We do get some benefits from not having one monopoly in charge of photo sharing: Instagram did mobile better than Flickr, Facebook can link a photo of someone to their whole social profile, and Foursquare efficiently arranges photos by location. These advantages, however, have replaced Creative Commons licensing, advanced search, and any other tool that relies on treating the world's photo pool as a mass data set rather than a series of individualized feeds.

Twitter, Tumblr, and Imgur siphon off bits of the photo market without giving them back into the mass set. Meanwhile, any photo service that dies off (RIP Picasa, Zooomr, Photobucket) becomes a graveyard for photos that will probably never get moved to a new service.

Why are we giving up this magical ability to basically explore our world in real-time? The bandwidth is lower than streaming video; the new-data-point frequency is lower than Twitter; the location sorting is less complicated than Google Maps or Foursquare. But no one service has an incentive to build this tool, or to open up its database for a third party. Instead they only innovate ways to steal market share from each other. Flickr recently downgraded its mobile app, removing discovery options and cropping photos into squares. The new app is an obvious Instagram imitation, but it won't help Flickr recapture the market. If any photo service beats Instagram, it won't be by making data more open.

Our collective photo pool suffers from a tragedy of the commons, where each service snaps up our photos with as few features as it can, or by removing features. (Snapchat, for example, actively prevents photos from joining the pool by replacing the subscription model with a one-to-one model, efficiently delivering photos straight from my camera to your feed.) We are giving our photos to these inferior services, they are making billions of dollars from them, and what we're getting back is pathetic.

The best agnostic tool we have is the archaic Google Image Search, which doesn't effectively sort results, doesn't distinguish between image sources, and doesn't even touch location search. The lack of agnostic metadata is keeping us in the past. As Anil Dash pointed out in 2012, the photo pool (like blogs and status updates) is becoming fragmented and de-standardized. Everything we're putting online is chopped up by services that don't play well together, and that's bad for the user.

Dash wrote, "We'll fix these things; I don't worry about that." I do. I don't think technology has to work out right. We can build expressways where we should have built bullet trains. We can let an ISP monopoly keep us at laughable broadband speeds. We can all dump our memories into the wrong sites and watch them disappear in 10 years. We can share postage-stamp-sized photos on machines capable of streaming 1080p video.

Even if we do fix this, it will not be retroactive. There are stories about whole TV series lost to time because the network stupidly trashed the original reels. Now that we take more photos than we know what to deal with, we won't lose our originals—we'll just lose the organization. When Facebook and Instagram are inevitably replaced, we'll be left without the context, without the comments, without anything but a privately stored pile of raw images named DCIM_2518.JPG.

Just a heap of bullshit, really."
nickdouglas  flickr  metadata  photography  2014  instagram  tags  tagging  search  storage  facebook  tumblr  imgur  twitter  picasa  zooomr  photobucket  archives  archiving  creativecommons  realtime  foursquare  googlemaps  snapchat  anildash  googleimagesearch  technology  regression  socialmedia  fragmentation  interoperability 
may 2014 by robertogreco
The (other) Web we lost | Web Directions
"Learnability

… Do we honestly want to diminish this network effect by fragmenting the technologies of the web, by creating silos of expertise, with little by way of a common language? We should at least be aware of this potential consequence of our choices. Aware of not just what we (typically as individuals) might gain from our choices, but what we collectively, what the Web, may lose.

Maintainability

… Traditionally, more than half of the cost of a complex system has come during its maintenance phase, and while on the Web we’ve been more likely to throw out and start all over again than traditional software projects, as what we build for the Web becomes increasingly more complex, and mission critical, the maintenance phase of projects will become increasingly long and costly. And again, it’s pretty well understood that maintainability has a lot more to do with the ability of disparate developers to understand and reason about a code base over a long period of time than it does with ease of using find and replace.

Interoperability



Longevity



Small pieces loosely joined

In 2002, one of the Web’s pioneers David Weinberger (among other things, co-​​author of the Cluetrain Manifesto) wrote “small pieces, loosely joined”, a way of thinking about what makes the Web different. I’ve long thought it applies well to the technologies of the Web, and should guide us as we build for the Web, whether it’s our own sites, those for our clients or employers, or the very technologies that move the Web forward.

If each time we came to solve a problem we thought “how small a problem can I solve”, or even “what really is the problem here”, and then solve that in a way that is as modular, compatible, and extensible as possible, we’d be going a long way toward taming the explosion of complexity we’ve seen over the last half a decade or so, and to returning at least in part to the other Web we lost.

Perhaps this Web simple had to grow up, to meet the challenges of the ever more complex artefacts we’re building. When the Web was about documents and sites, perhaps we could be simple, but in an age of Apps that’s a luxury we can’t afford. Perhaps the technical underpinnings of all platforms of necessity fragment over time.

But, before we lose this Web for good, I think we owe it to that Web to really understand it, what makes it tick. And when we make technical, architectural choices about what the Web looks like, we don’t just focus on what we (as individuals) gain, but what costs there are to this Web as well."
learnability  web  webwelost  maintainability  html  interoperability  longevity  smallpieceslooselyjoined  johnallsop  2013  networks  internet  technology  webdev  css  webdesign 
december 2013 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read