Today, as reported in the Guardian and elsewhere, Twitter suspended accounts of several journalists who had reported on Elon Musk and have also suspended accounts related to Mastodon as well as banning or “shadow-banning” people who talk about or link to their Mastodon profiles. Everyone should now be “reconsidering” their engagement with Twitter at this point. Personally I’ve stopped Tweeting. I’ve been removing links to my Twitter from across my other identities on the web. I’ve also been encouraging the organisations I’m involved with to move their social media engagement to the #Fediverse / Mastodon / ActivityPub and away from being Twitter-centric. By the way, I’ve been on Twitter since 2006. For context the iPhone debuted in 2007. I’ve spend a significant portion of my social media energy on Twitter. So it’s painful for me to say this, but Twitter is now dead – dead to me, at least. I’ve been on Mastodon since 2016. After witnessing the migration of people to Mastodon and other open federated platforms over the past months and how well the federated approach has been working, I’m more convinced than ever that this is the way forward. I think closed services like LinkedIn can also continue to play a role in the social media landscape but when it comes to filling the hole Twitter leaves, the #Fediverse is the way forward.

Consensus. It shouldn’t be a dirty word, but in some circles it seems to have become one. I was on an industry working group call the other week where someone presented a series of governance models and “consensus” was presented as the worst model for decision-making – something to be avoided at all costs. The speaker was promoting a more “consent”/voting-based approach where the majority rules. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the consensus-based approach to decision-making dragged through the mud. I have to say, I take a different view. Decision-making in groups is hard, especially when those groups are made up of people who do not have formal working relationships such as “boss/employee.” Industry working groups (such as groups at World Wide Web Consortium) are often peopled by software professionals, peers, from industry competitors. Nobody can tell anyone else what to do. I’ve been the chair of a few such groups and I can tell you unequivocally that the chair cannot tell people in a working group what to do. If the chair of such a group were acting as if they did have authority I would see that as a sign of dysfunction. In absence of this kind of formal authority, industry working groups must function using some kind of collective decision-making process. In my experience, consensus-driven decision-making achieves the best outcomes in these kinds of situations. So what is consensus? First of all, consensus does not mean “everyone must agree.” It means making decisions based on general agreement. In practice, it usually means …

Let’s Talk About the C Word Read more »

Browsers play a pivotal role in the web, but does the web need multiple browsers? I think most web professionals would say yes, but how about browser engines, the underlying software platforms that browsers are built on? Does the web need multiple engines? If so, why? To unpack this a bit, we need to talk about “open.” In the web standards world, we like to make a big deal about how the web is open. But what does open mean? The web is open in the sense that anyone can build something with it – that there are no gatekeepers. It is also open in the sense that it’s built on top of open standards. There are many definitions out there of what makes a standard open. One I particularly like is the UK Government Open Standards Principles which partially defines an open standard as one that has: • collaboration between all interested parties, not just individual suppliers • a transparent and published decision-making process that is reviewed by subject matter experts • a transparent and published feedback and ratification process to ensure quality You could say the web is “open” because the process by which it is developed and maintained adheres to these simple ideas of transparency, collaboration, and wide review between many stakeholders. It’s also open in the sense that you as a web user can choose what browser you use, and you can make that choice based on criteria that matter to you. Today, in one of those Twitter arguments that I usually …

Diary of an Engine Diversity Absolutist Read more »

Does the URL need defending? The URL has been under attack seemingly since the beginning of the Web. When I was busy launching web sites for magazines and journals in the mid-90s, I remember a radio ad (have no idea what they were advertising) where a clueless sounding guy complained: “I just double-u double-u double-u don’t get it!” Back then, the future of the Web and indeed the Internet as a ubiquitous communication medium was far from certain. Scores of voices, including big successful companies like AOL and Microsoft, were still pushing a more “cable TV” type approach to the delivery of digital content and services. In this model, service providers got to control the experience,  and be a funnel for delivery of services to people. Content providers that partnered with AOL would publish their “AOL keyword” on advertisements. Then AOL-competitor Microsoft Network tried to sew up exclusive content deals with newspapers – they wanted to be the sole source for news online. And remember – at this time, if you wanted to use AOL or Microsoft Network (or any of their competitors) you would have to “dial up” to that service, use their client and  then everything you saw from then on would be controlled by that company. People rejected this approach in favor of the open web. People learned to decouple Internet access from the services they used, the web browser became the way people experienced online services giving those providers direct control over the user experience without any intermediary, and the URL became the cornerstone of …

In defense of the URL Read more »

Jeremy Keith’s post on owning his own words has reminded me about the importance of running your own blog in your own space that you control. Of course, I’ve long been a supporter of this idea, but I’m afraid the ease-of-use of Medium has pulled me over to the dark side where I’ve recently been more prolific. Of course, the “barrier to entry” that Jeremy cites is not the only reason I moved to Medium. It is easier to compose there, largely because of the great work they’ve done on a web-based editor. But the main reason I started posting on Medium has been engagement. I simply get more engagement (views, ??s, comments, re-shares, tweets) on my Medium posts than I ever did on my blog. Case in point: I wouldn’t have read Jeremy’s original post if I hadn’t seen it on Medium (sorry, Jeremy). There’s a value to the platform that Medium provides. But there’s also a value to owning your own words. I’m also a little disappointed that Medium keeps trying to push their app on me when I’m on mobile devices instead of building a great progressive web app, but that’s a different story. I run this blog on a self-installed WordPress. So today I’m experimenting with a WordPress plugin for Medium which may allow me to have my cake and eat it too. I’m going to use the blog as the primary platform and see whether I can still get the same level of engagement on Medium. Update: After making this post, …

Sigh… Read more »

I posted the following on Medium earlier today. Basically I have just had it with Lanyrd’s downtime and the seeming unwillingness of parent EventBrite to make any investment in this important service. Let me know what you think and more importantly suggest some alternatives. Dear EventBrite and Lanyrd: WTF?

According to The Verge, the “Anonabox” Kickstarter is Trying to be a One-Stop-Shop for Internet Privacy. So the hacker in me loves the idea of this, but actually I think it’s probably over-kill (and an over-promise) for most people’s web privacy needs. First of all, if you want to surf the Web through the Tor network you just have to download an install the Tor browser bundle (https://www.torproject.org/download/download – also see this Guardian article from last year: http://gu.com/p/3k569) . This application download actually pairs a heavily customized (with additional anonymity-enhancing features) Firefox browser with the Tor networking software. But even that is overkill for most casual “private browsing.” If you are just trying to search privately (for example, for medical-related topics that you don’t want showing up in your ads the next time you search the web) then the private browsing modes that now come as standard with modern browsers (Chrome calls it “incognito”) are perfectly fine. What these modes don’t protect you from is your network provider (ISP) snooping browsing. Tor does encrypt your network traffic (to the Tor service) but it comes with major downsides such as slowness. Because of the way Tor works, routing your traffic around the Internet until it finally pops out onto the public Net at an “exit node”, your traffic will also appear as if it’s coming from another country than the one you live in. So for example if you live in the UK you will find BBC iPlayer will not work through Tor. Also if you run …

“Anonabox”: One-Stop-Shop for Internet Privacy? Read more »

One of my main hopes for 2014 is that things should start working better. In many ways, I feel that both iOS and Android have taken a step backward in achieving this ideal this year. One notable example I ran into was in trying to get photos off of my wife’s Samsung Galaxy (Android) phone and into iPhoto on the Mac. Intuitively, it should just work. You should be able to plug a Samsung phone into the Mac via a USB cable and iPhoto should just start importing the photos. This is how it would work if you plugged in a Samsung (or any other brand) camera. When I took to Twitter with this issue I was told by some Googlers (“Oh – it’s easy! Just download Android File Transfer for Mac!”). Riiight. That’s kind of missing the point. There already is a perfectly good way of doing this – a way that “just works.” The introduction of a new step, or series of steps, or new pieces of software, move us away from that ideal. How exactly are regular people supposed to use this stuff? How would I, as a non-technical user, know that I am supposed to download this special application, which is not mentioned anywhere on the phone’s interface? If the answer is “you just have to download XYZ application and install it, then go through an extra set of procedures whenever you want to get photos off of your phone into iPhoto (which is the Mac application that most people use to …

Can More Things “Just Work” in 2014? Read more »

This was originally posted to Facebook – now I am posting a summary post here, as it relates to a previous post I’ve made on this same issue on the G+ service (“Shared Endoresements”): As reported in the NYT over the weekend, it seems like Facebook is about to expand the use of personal “likes” and endorsements on ads it shows to other users. If you “like” something, your image could appear next to an advertiser’s message if one of your friends sees that ad – and now they are planning to extend this practice to ads placed on sites outside of the Facebook site itself. As far as I can tell, you can opt out of this by visiting your Facebook settings, clicking on “Ads” on the left-hand navigation bar and clicking “Edit” to set the setting to “no-one” for both “Third Party Sites” and “Ads and Friends.” Personally I have chosen to opt out as I am not comfortable with my image being displayed along side of an advertiser’s message just because I happen to have “liked” a company or product in the past. I’m also not happy with the lack of communication about this new service from Facebook to its users. Google have rolled this out as well on Google+ as “Shared Endorsements” and I’ve also opted out of that – but at least they offered some clear instructions on how to opt out. For this, I’ve got to read about it in The New York Times? (http://nyti.ms/1bKYAxB) The subtext here about teens being …

Facebook’s Price Hike (and How to Opt Out) Read more »

I’m proud to be a part of an activity called “The Open Agenda” as part of my work at +Telefonica Digital. It’s a combination of blog posts, video interviews,  panels and media and events that will all focus on the topic of openness in technology, starting with a topic that is close to my heart, the open Web. We kicked off with panel at +Campus Party Europe yesterday (https://twitter.com/tefdigital/status/374912105012809728) which will be followed up with content at http://theopenagenda.com and other events and activities in the coming months. Have a look at my blog on the official Open Agenda site and get involved in the discussion by using hashtag #TheOpenAgenda. The Open Web is under threat -we need a debate about its future. Telefonica Digital’s Daniel Appelquist shares his thoughts.