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<br /> <b>Strict Standards</b>: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method unfancy_quote::strip_quotes() should not be called statically in <b>/home/martingo/martingordon.org/blog/wp-includes/plugin.php</b> on line <b>166</b><br /> Martin Gordon's Blog / web 2.0

My Data, Your Data and Our Data

Mr Scoble is making headlines again, this time for getting kicked off of Facebook (now he's back in, although I wonder if someone not as high-profile been given the same luxury?). He got caught scraping data off of Facebook using a feature of Plaxo Pulse, a competing social network. I'm all for data portability, but this of course raised the question of who actually owns the data in your social graph.

Clearly what came out of this is that it's no one's data but Facebook's. It's clear they control access to it, so there's nothing stopping them from keeping it from you. After all, Robert wasn't just restricted from accessing the data he was scraping, he was also restricted from accessing his own profile, including photos, videos and other content that no one would argue he doesn't own. And it's in Facebook's interest to make it their own. Their top two (only two?) competitive advantages are closed access and momentum and the former drives the latter.

Facebook is being pulled from opposite sides by the push for open access and by the necessity to ensure privacy. They get in trouble for not doing enough of both even though the means to achieving both are often at odds. To that extent, there are three levels of open access Facebook (or any social network, for that matter) could offer while maximizing privacy for those who require it:

My Data
First things first, let me pull my own data out - my list of favorite music, my photos, my videos, etc. I let the network borrow it and I have a right to take it back (and take it with me). Furthermore, all of this is stand-alone data and does not reveal any information about my social graph. My pictures might reveal other people in my social graph, but tagged friend data is explicit revelation of that shared data and doesn't come along for the ride at this level.

Our Data
Second, let me pull out my links. This is shared data, but since the existence of the link is usually public knowledge and doesn't reveal any real identifying information other than your name, letting me take this data with me is probably okay in most circumstances. It would be safe, though probably unpopular, to make this shared data opt-out instead of opt-in.

Your Data
Finally, there's your information. This was the stuff Scoble was pulling out en masse and rightfully got in trouble for. I can take your favorite movies to my Netflix buddy list or your work info to my LinkedIn network, but only if you let me. Here's the kicker though: I have to let you have my data too. I shouldn't be able to post your pictures on HotOrNot (or explicitly say you're you in one of my pictures) unless I give you the ability to do the same.

Facebook doesn't currently let anyone do any of this. It's easy enough to get away with grabbing my own data, although it comes out in a non-standard format. Pulling out my links is a still quite trivial, though somewhat useless given the current state of things (meaning I can't do much with just your name and there isn't much to do even if I could). Robert proved it's feasible but risky to pull your data. For all Facebook knows all 5000 of his friends would happily let him have their email addresses and birthdays.

It's clear that a solution that maintains privacy and provides open access exists, I came up with one in less than an hour (though admittedly implementing it is a huge task). The problem isn't that a creepy old (just kidding on both counts :-p) blogger wants to wish me a happy birthday. The problem is that under the guise of protecting privacy, Facebook continues to block open access to data that wants to be free when all they're really doing is protecting their business model.

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Hating to Love Facebook

The blogosphere just hates to love Facebook. It took almost three years after it's launch for people like Mr. 5000 to notice it, (although in all fairness only a year after it became open to the public) and now the second something newer and shinier comes along people to start proclaiming that Facebook is dead.

Guess what? The 99% of Facebook users who don't care that Facebook is closed as long as it's not exclusive won't switch away; I also doubt that the 1% who do care won't switch either. App developers won't suddenly leave Facebook because OpenSocial is more widely supported; at best, an OpenSocial (curiously OS for short) app will supplement an existing Facebook app. Apps follow users and the users are still (and still will be) on Facebook.

Users may be fickle in their taste, but so many of them have invested too much of themselves in Facebook (by way of routine, photos, videos, wall posts and other content) to go running for the doors even if something tremendously better came along. The lag between the introduction of a better alternative and the abandonment of the old is long enough that Facebook will have time to react; just look how long AOL stuck around despite much better alternatives in both content and connectivity. Facebook's lock-in, while fragile, is in no way as big a disadvantage as everyone makes it out to be.

If OpenSocial does take off, Facebook can adopt it without much hassle and we're pretty much back to where we are now. If it doesn't take off, then it's probably because of Facebook and Zuckerberg and the gang have nothing to worry about.

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When River of News Doesn't Work

Since I switched to Google Reader, I've read my feeds all at once in the trendy "River of News" style. This past week, however, I was on vacation and while I did have internet access, it was spotty and I didn't get a chance to keep up with my feeds (on a side note, Google Reader doesn't play well with half-working 'net connections; I lost a lot of starred posts and read/unread statuses).

It's unfortunate that three big events took place this week: the Geneva Motor Show, SxSW, and PMA. River of news just isn't working for the ton of posts I have to sift through. So I'm currently plowing through my feeds one at a time and learning new key commands ("?" works well as a reminder). It's no longer j, j, j, s, j, j, shift+s, as Scoble puts it; it's now j, j, j, shift+n, shift+o, j, j, etc. It does take some getting used to and I'm going slightly slower, but at least my brain doesn't get as tired jumping from cameras to cars back to cameras and everything else sprinkled in between.

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Jump on the Bandwagon - Backup Your iTunes Online

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Aaron Swartz points to Bandwagon, an OS X app that seamlessly backs up your iTunes library to a service built on top of Amazon S3. It'll be available on Feb 22, and bloggers can get a free account for posting about the service before it launches.

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Gmail Now Does 3rd Party Accounts!

Google has finally rolled out a feature that allows users to get email from other POP3 accounts right into their Gmail inbox. This is great since I won't need Outlook once I'm out of school and work uses POP email. Instructions on setting up "Mail Fetcher" are here.

In other Gmail-related news, Lifehacker has a good howto on setting up an automatic nightly backup of your mail using the command line program, fetchmail.

I've recently switched to Google Reader (more on that later) and now my transition to an all-Google life is almost complete (and is a bit scary).

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Twittering

I am on Twitter, but I don't know why. At least for me, Facebook status updates are much more convenient and more readily accessible to anyone that would care to know what I'm doing, if not equally useless.

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Hugh's Random Blogging Notes

Hugh of gapingvoid has posted some "Random Blogging Notes". At first glance, it looks like a typical "How to get more traffic/become rich/etc." After actually reading it, you'll quickly learn it's typical Hugh MacLeod "f**k you and the world you live in" style (which I enjoy thoroughly), and so by definition doesn't sugarcoat any of the realities both A- and Z-listers face. Some of my favorites:

8. So you a read lot of A-Listers. Congratulations. You now know a lot of stuff everybody else knows.

9. It’s damn hard not to read a lot of A-Listers. They got to where they are for a reason.

16. The day you can write as compellingly and consistently as say, Kathy Sierra, Jeff Jarvis, Guy Kawasaki or Michael Arrington, will be the day I start taking your complaints of low traffic seriously.

40. When people ask me what the future of media is, I always answer, “RSS”. Thank you, Winer & Co. Seriously.

And to top it all off…

41. Most of the stuff on this list is wrong.

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Web 2.0's Next Big Step: Unplugged

Unplugged Socialtext announced Socialtext Unplugged at Le Web 3 yesterday. The idea is to allow for offline wiki edits that can be synced back to the system once the user is online again. This is similar to Scrybe's biggest selling point, OfflineSync, which allows users to work offline.

Working offline is the next big step for Web 2.0 apps. We've gotten to the point where web apps have become mature enough to actually replace traditional desktop apps, thanks to AJAX and the collaboration bonuses that come with a centrally-stored application. I use GMail for non-critical email (basically everything non-school), but I use a desktop client and my Treo for the emails I need ASAP or have a need to review later whether or not internet access is available. I use NetNewsWire because reading feeds keeps me entertained and in the loop if my connection is down or I'm in a place where no access is available. Syncing between my laptop and desktop works about 95% of the time, but on occasion I have to deal with having read items marked unread or getting subscribed to the same feed multiple times.

The thing I need to make the jump: offline access. If I could go to GMail whether or not I was online and find an old email, I'd use it over my desktop client. If I could catch up on my feeds in Google Reader while sitting on a plane, I'd use that over NNW. I don't mean to pick on Google, they're just the one with apps most likely to solve my current needs save for this one drawback.

I really hope the unplugged icon catches on and we get some type of standardization for offline mode. Imagine it being as simple as subscribing to an RSS feed: click on the blue icon and Firefox automatically downloads the sync information. Next time you hit the site, Firefox checks for the live site; if it finds it, you go to that, otherwise you go to a locally cached version. Now you can answer emails, star your feeds, whatever, and the changes are updated next time you get online.

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Reality Outside The Echo Chamber

We briefly discussed the Google/YouTube deal in two of my classes (MGMT 230: Entrepreneurship and FNCE 250: Venture Capital and the Finance of Innovation) this past week. In both classes, either I overheard or someone asked the professor, "What's YouTube?"

Now, I don't necessarily expect the average person walking down the street to know what YouTube is, but the people in my classes aren't particular average. For one, we're at the best undergrad business school in the country. Second of all, these are classes focused on entrepreneurship and VC, so I hope that the people in these classes have an interest in the subject. Yet there are some people in this very specific group who had no idea what YouTube is.

I'm still not sure if I've lost faith in my fellow classmates or gained faith in the power of the echo chamber.

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Does anyone read Slashdot any more?

I'm pretty close to unsubscribing from the Apple Slashdot RSS feed. In the age of Digg, del.icio.us, Newsvine, etc, having a service model where an editor picks what to post just seems so antiquated. This is a perfect example of the pre-filtering vs post-filtering that Chris Anderson talks about in The Long Tail. For what it's worth, the Apple Slashdot site has had only 8 posts in the past seven days and pretty much all of them brought news that I saw hours or even days before they showed up in my Slashdot feed.

The most recent example is Phill Ryu's fake Leopard screenshot contest results, which were announced Wednesday 7/26 at 1:44PM. While I did see it straight from his blog no more than 30 minutes after it was posted, had I not been subscribed to his feed, Digg picked it up less than 90 minutes after so I would have seen it then. If I happened to miss either of those two sources (highly doubtful, considering one is the primary source) a link to the blog post appeared on many, many other Apple-related blogs. When did it show up on Slashdot? Tonight, Thursday 7/27 at 10:54 PM. It's "only" a day in real world time, but in blogosphere time that's an eternity!

And what about the tens or even hundreds (on a good week) of Apple stories that showed up in the past week? There's no mention of them anywhere on Slashdot. They bill themselves as "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." but there's a lot more that matters in a week than 8 stories. But I suppose that tag line became as irrelevant as Slashdot itself did a long time ago.

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