December 1, 2008
Let me quote the highlights for you:
If the initial development race of Web 2.0 centered around “building a better social network” then the next phase will certainly focus on extending the reach of existing social networks beyond their current domain. How? By using the elements of the social graph as the foundational components that will drive the social Web. Where we once focused on going to a destination – particular social network to participate – we will now begin to carry components of social networks along with us, wherever we go. In the next phase of the social Web, every site will become social.
Agreed. That’s been the vision and promise of much of my work for more than a year.
Here’s the scary part
Facebook Connect proposes to make data and friend connections currently held within the walled garden of Facebook accessible to other services. This has two distinct benefits, one for the sites and one for Facebook.
For the participating sites, Facebook Connect provides more social functionality without a great deal of additional development. A new user can opt to share the profile information in Facebook instead of developing a new account. This gives the user access to the site and its services without the tedium of developing yet another profile on yet another site. In addition, users can use the relationship information in Facebook to connect to their friends on the other services. In short, it makes the new partner site an extension of Facebook.
Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.
The most scary part of this, is that while Facebook is quietly and methodically building out this vision with massive partners, the standards community is busy squabbling about naming the open alternative.
Is it Data Portability? Is the Open Web? is it Open Social? Is it Federated Identity?
At the start of this year one would have thought that the open standards movement got a huge boost by the massive explosion of the DataPortability project. It’s set of high profile endorsements catapulted the geeky standards conversation into the mainstream consciousness and helped provide a rallying cry for the community to embrace.
Instead of embracing it, though, many of the leaders in the community decided to squabble about form and style. They argued about the name, about the organization, about the merits of the people involved – on and on it went.
Instead of embracing the opportunity, they squandered it by trying to coin new phrases, new organizations and new initiatives.
The result is a series of mixed messages that have largely diluted the value of DataPortability’s promise this year. The promise of making the conversation tangible for the mainstream – the executives who are now partnering with FaceBook.
Will we let this continue into 2009? Will we continue to allow our egos to get in the way of mounting a real alternative to Hailstorm 2.0? Are we more interested in the theater of it, the cool kids vs. the real world or will we be able to reach the mainstream once again and help them to understand that entire social web is at stake?
I’ve not lost hope. There are countless reasons why Facebook and it’s Hailstorm 2.0 are not inevitable.
I have, however, lost a lot of respect for a lot of people I once admired. Maybe they can clean up their act and we can work together once again in the new year.
I put a call out to all those who are interested – technologists, early adopters, bloggers (especially bloggers), conference organizers, conference speakers, media executives – let’s get our act together and take this party to the next level.
I, for one, am looking forward to it.
June 7, 2008
As many of you know – I have been visiting in the US now since the end of January (with a short stint in Europe in the middle). I am loving it. Particularly here in San Francisco and the Bay Area specifically. It’s an amazing place where amazing things are getting done every day.
But I have made an observation in my travels that I thought I would write about today.
American Politics is a fascinating spectacle. And I don’t just mean the politics of government, but the politics of business, community and culture as well. These patterns, trends and reactions are consistent in all sorts of other political interactions here.
The themes go something like this.
If you have been doing something for a long time and talk about very practical, operational things, then you must be good at whatever you do. You typically talk about being against something than for something else.
If you are new to the process and/or attract large crowds of new people, then you are interesting and inspirational but you surely can’t have any substance to your message. You typically talk about being for something rather than against something else.
These two positions are always seen as polar opposites. Many people seem to refuse the idea that someone who is new can also have substance. Or something that is experienced may actually need new blood and new ideas.
It’s a politics that fights not the ideas on their merits, but the way those ideas are derived, or who proposes them.
There’s also a tendency to focus on what ‘has worked’ rather than what ‘could work’ – or what has worked in other organizations or other structures outside the immediate scope of inquiry.
Universal Health care for example. Surely the government can’t look after our health right? They couldn’t even look after the victims of Katrina. Of course, if we look beyond the borders of the United States it’s clear that every other 1st world country does have Healthcare backed by the federal government and it works well to create a safety net for their people. It’s a simple observation that allows the conversation to move beyond ‘could it work’ to ‘how could we make it work for us’.
There’s often a lack of subtlety – a sense that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater rather than taking the good and building on it. Making what is work for us.
As I said, I love this country and my experience here has been amazing – I hope it continues in fact. But as always, I will continue to look for patterns and see if they can be improved. At least in my little corner of the world.
Some of this also comes down to an idea I posted on Twitter the other day – I think it explains some of my thinking in this area.
“We need to extend the time frame inside which we evaluate what is in our best interest”
Everyone acts in their best interest. It’s inevitable and irrefutable. But if you open the window from 1 month or 1 year to 5 or 10 years you realize that what’s actually in our personal best interest is actually in the best interest of many other people too.
But that’s a post for another day.
February 23, 2008
In the past few months I have been reminded by many that hoping for a thing does not make it true. Watching the US Presidential Election I have heard the same theme emerge as Hilliary Clinton attempts to question Barack Obama’s ability to convert lofty and eloquent speeches into real change. I even posted a Seesmic video about it recently.
The question I have, though, is if hope does not make something happen, then what does?
Doesn’t all action involve hope? Is not hope a key ingredient for change?
Before one can achieve a thing, they must first imagine it. Before they act on their imagining they must first dare to hope that they could actually have some impact on the outcome.
Even decisions made based on fear involve a hope to avoid that which we fear.
Hope is a powerful driving force. It enables us to act. Without hope, we are often paralyzed.
Most people I talk to who ‘wish’ they could do something better, or more ambitious, have a common refrain. They dare not hope that their more lofty goals are attainable. They therefore do not act.
Imagine if you could gather a large enough group of people to hope for the same outcome. If you had the right mix of participants and the right critical mass, is there anything that hope, followed by action, can not achieve?
Criticizing hope is actually a thinly veiled claim of naivety or unjustified idealism. If one’s hopes are too big, too ambitious or too lofty, then surely they must be too naive to understand the complexity of the issue and the magnitude of the challenge ahead.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe those who start with hope and push for change have not yet been sufficiently jaded by a broken system or violent resistance to their ideas.
Maybe, though, if those idealistic and naive people (if in fact they are those things) can somehow encourage others to hope, and then still others; maybe, just maybe, hope will turn into action, and action will turn into real change.
To paraphrase the West Wing… “Do you think a small group of dedicated people can change the world” “Of course, it’s the only thing that ever has”.
Hope is not empty. It can never be false. Hope, well expressed and shared, is the beginning of something new.
Dare to hope. Then act.
January 23, 2008
The news today is that Microsoft intends to join the DataPortability Project.
So where’s the beef? Why are long-time influentials from all these large vendors joining the cause? What are we offering? What are we trying to do? What’s in it for them? What do they bring to the table?
Many of these questions are already answered in the Project Charter, on the FAQ page and in the excellent video by Michael Pick. but I thought that since I am getting much of the blame credit for this that I might put it all in context in my own words.
First, I’d like to clarify that DataPortability is not mine. It is an initiative that was co-founded by many people who all believed that something was missing from the existing Identity/Data/Standards landscape. Something very small, but very important.
A message. A simple rallying cry for the mainstream that would:
- Explain the problem in simple terms
- Help contextualize existing efforts to solve it
- Encourage inter operable adoption by users, vendors and developers
That’s exactly what DataPortability brings to the community. A neutral, community driven forum in which standards groups can champion their technology in the context of a solution, vendors can raise their concerns and get answers and end-users can get a easy, safe and secure experience.
So back to the original question. Where’s the value?
The value is in the exciting and critically important work that standards groups have been doing for years. It’s in the new conversations being encouraged between standards groups and vendors both inside the DataPortability Project and independently 1 on 1. It’s in the Action Groups that are bringing diverse people together. It’s in the Action Packs we are developing to help tell the story to Executives, Developers, Designers, Bloggers and Vendors. It’s in the Technical and Policy Blueprints we are designing to tell the story in a more detailed way and believe it or not, it’s in the PR hype of the announcements.
Each announcement – each new member – both large and small – means another voice, and another opportunity to broaden the conversation and apply the sort of grass-roots pressure we all know already exists to create a web of data we can Connect, Control, Share and Remix.
In regard to Microsoft specifically, I welcome their voice in the conversation. Their team has been one of the most transparent and accessible of all the vendors we have spoken to and their products and services touch the lives of almost everyone both online and off.
Please join us
Special thanks to Daniela Barbosa for finding the picture!
September 29, 2006
Is there a relationship between the availability and price of oil and freedom?
September 7, 2006
This is a fascinating talk about the way liberals and conservatives think. More broadly it’s an interesting discussion about how perceptions and points of view as ‘frameworks’ can change the way people make decisions and establish their idea of morality and decision making.