The answer to “the web we lost” is more than self-hosted blogs

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Been watching all the reaction to Anil Dash’s posts on the web we lost and rebuilding the web we lost.

The alternative to living in the closed ad-driven spaces like facebook, twitter, tumblr seems to be firing up your own self-hosted blog. At least this is what I see in the circles I am close to. There’s a lot to say about owning and building your own personal content repository, but there is also a huge value add in being able to easily place your work in the context of a community. I know of examples at Penn State where faculty and students found it much more useful to all contribute to one shared space than each create their own blog.

Let’s take flickr as an example. I feel my photos are much more useful as objects in flickr then they are just sitting on my website. Flickr hosts billions of photos, rich with associated metadata, weaving an insanely huge photographic tapestry depicting life across the globe in the early twenty first century. My work there is discoverable and aggregated many different ways along with other photos from the community. I am glad to contribute to that. There is value there for me and it makes my content more valuable for others. And let’s not forgot that flickr is one of Dash’s examples of the good old days of the web.

Will flickr disappear one day? perhaps. What happens to that data? Will there be some organized effort to preserve it? A coalition of archivists creating a non-profit foundation to protect it? I could see this happening.1 I don’t see this happening to my little self-hosted corner of the internet. Do I want my stuff to live on forever, archived for the historical record? I don’t know. But it might have a better chance happening by contributing to a large repository of content.

Right now we need less controlled public spaces for gathering and archiving online.

One of my goals in bringing WordPress to Penn State in the form of sites.psu.edu is to create a community which can make everyone’s content more valuable than the sum of their individual contributions.


1. See Dave Winer’s the flickr API is a national treasure.

Penn State’s Introduction To Visual Studies on iTunes U

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Penn State Art 10 Featured On iTunes U on iPad

For the past months I have watched many of my colleagues here at Penn State as they have developed this course. It has a custom iBook, utilizes apps for artwork projects, and even has some guidelines for connecting with an ad hoc community of people working through the material and assignments. I’m planning on exploring the course more over break. Very impressive work from the team. You can find the course on iTunes U, but you’ll need the iTunes U iOS app to get the full effect. See also my previous excitement about the iTunes U app.

on instagram’s new terms

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The Verge on what instagram’s new terms of service really mean:

First, like every other company on the web that stores user data, Instagram has always had an expansive license to use and copy your photos. It has to — that’s how it runs its networks of servers around the world.

As Cole also mentions, this is stuff found in almost every TOS. Without giving instagram rights to your photos, it can’t store and transmit them. Yet about once a year there is a new public outcry focusing on some new service for trying to claim ownership of your IP.

more from the verge:

And Instagram’s existing terms specifically give the company the right to “place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content.” Instagram has always had the right to use your photos in ads, almost any way it wants. We could have had the exact same freakout last week, or a year ago, or the day Instagram launched.

The new terms actually make things clearer and — importantly — more limited.

So what can Instagram do? Well, an advertiser can pay Instagram to display your photos in a way that doesn’t create anything new — so Budweiser can put up a box in the timeline that says “our favorite Instagram photos of this bar!” and put user photos in there, but it can’t take those photos and modify them, or combine them with other content to create a new thing. Putting a logo on your photo would definitely break the rules. But putting a logo somewhere near your photos? That would probably be okay.

I am not trying to defend instagram, but am trying to place the latest hubbub in a little context. It is still important for us to examine the impacts, both positive and negative, of the mass participatory infrastructure of the culture being funded by ad revenue.

on the tension between freedom and an armed populace

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From this widely circulated piece from the nyt’s philosophy blog (they have a philosophy blog!) on the tension between freedom and an armed populace:

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

Our gun culture promotes a fatal slide into extreme individualism. It fosters a society of atomistic individuals, isolated before power — and one another — and in the aftermath of shootings such as at Newtown, paralyzed with fear. That is not freedom, but quite its opposite. And as the Occupy movement makes clear, also the demonstrators that precipitated regime change in Egypt and Myanmar last year, assembled masses don’t require guns to exercise and secure their freedom, and wield world-changing political force. Arendt and Foucault reveal that power does not lie in armed individuals, but in assembly — and everything conducive to that.

mind blown by searching google and evernote at the same time

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In this video that shows how this dude saves everything to evernote – all the stuff he finds interesting, his comments on it, etc – there is a part towards the end where he shows how his browser is set up to search both google and his evernote at the same time. He is searching both the external world and his own personal world simultaneously. So simple, yet mind blowing. Is related back to Vannevar Bush’s memex. I am feeling inspired to start aggressively saving everything to this site. Feel it is more interesting to think out in open.