Marco Arment on why you should own your online identity

Own your identity by Marco Arment:

If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.

Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.

But there will always be the open web for the geeks, the misfits, the eccentrics, the control freaks, and any other term we can think of to proudly express our healthy skepticism of giving up too much control over what really should be ours.

I am reminded of that old thing: “if you do not pay for a service on the web then you are not a customer, but rather your content is a product that is sold to advertisers”.

Freo Bloggers’ meetup

There’s going to be a Freo Bloggers’ meetup in three weeks, at X-Wray cafe on August 2nd, from about 5:30PM.

A Socialist at Speakers' CornerPhoto by Pedro Figueiredo [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

Partly inspired by the activity starting to happen on Freospace blogs (and the possibilities of disagreement therein!), but mainly just because it’s nice to have a beer after work and meet some of the people who’s names we see dotted around the web.

The idea is to just talk about whatever’s interesting: who’s blogging, and why; how to contribute; what software to use; photography; what to write about; anything, really. Even if you’re not a blogger, but are interested in jumping on a soapbox, come along to learn how! It’s jolly easy.

(By the way, on the topic of blogging: if you’re a WordPress user, they’re doing a survey of how you use WP, if you feel like helping.)

The launch of Freospace

I’ve just returned from the official launch of Freospace, the council’s new publishing platform for precincts (not to be too alliterative about it or anything), at the North Fremantle bowling club. It’s a collection of blogs, one for each precinct, to which precinct members can post news and whatnot—mostly minutes of meetings so far, but it’s early days—and on which anyone in the community can comment.

I’ve written about Freospace before, but of course now it’s all public and ready to use, there’s a few more things to mention:

  • They’re using WordPress, with the multi-site feature enabled. The choice of this is almost too obvious and sensible to mention, because if someone is setting out to create any sort of group of blogs, WPMU (or whatever they’re calling it these days) is likely to be at the top of the list. It’s just that when it comes to government, one can’t take sensible decisions to be inevitable (don’t take that the wrong way!).

  • It’s not completely open-slather: user registration is closed, so the hoi polloi aren’t able to post news—but they can post comments on anything, and I’d imagine that anyone wanting to get involved would be able to do so pretty easily. Far better getting involved with this sort of community-web stuff face-to-face, anyway, I reckon. Keeping it all online isn’t necessary when we all live so close!

    Which is an interesting point: the precinct group meetings seem to still be the focus of engaging with Freospace—but again, that may change, as people get involved who mightn’t be so keen on the meetings. Get ye along to!

  • There’s lots of talk about ‘conversations’ and these blogs enabling community collaboration and whatnot. Which is great, but I can’t help but feel that ultimately this is about community relating to Council, who are still somehow separate and in the position (within this framework at any rate) of power. I don’t mean that in a negative way, really; just that this doesn’t strike me as being the online equivalent of the noticeboard at the shops. The element of anachism, or collective ownership, is possibly missing. I might be wrong about this. Freospace seems more part of the mechanism of representative democracy, a fantastic way for us all to meld our ideas and reach a better understanding of the “will of the demos” or something. It’s not somewhere to post your announcements about lost cats or upcoming book club meetings.

All up, I think Freospace is brilliant, and absolutely in the right (technical, and social) direction. Thank Stallman that the Council didn’t see fit to use Friendface or Ning, or some other ridiculous silo’d means of communication!

Update: I’ve just noticed that not all Freospace sites are active yet: O’Connor, South Fremantle, and White Gum Valley seem to still need a bit of love!

What my blog is

I want my blog to be the hub of my online life. I’ve come back to using WordPress because I want to be able to show other people how easy it is to avoid the walled-gardens of Facebook, Twitter, et al. So I need to explain what I want my blog to be.

  1. A place to post reports, thoughts, photos, observations, etc. about what’s been going on in my life (i.e. what a blog usually is);
  2. A means of providing a feed of the posts;
  3. Somewhere to consume feeds from elsewhere (see my news page for how this is shaping up so far; it leaves a fair bit to be desired, but I’m working on that);
  4. In its capacity of a record of things, I want to be able to print yearly compendiums of all contents (might seem strange in this age of digitisation, but I do rather like a good solid shelf full of records — even if I never use them);
  5. Be my OpenID provider (this is working perfectly);
  6. I have a couple of other sites around, and I would ideally have their functionality within WordPress itself… this is probably the biggest problem I have at the moment.

Basically, I like Dave Winer’s idea of everyone having their own place to call home on the web, that doesn’t involve giving all their content to Facebook or whoever.

How far I am from doing all this: really, it’s the crappy photo management of WordPress that’s holding me back. I’ve got a couple of draft plugins that should fix this up (be able to change the date of uploads, for one thing!). The other thing I’d like — even though I realise that it’s acutally nothing to do with blogging and so doesn’t really belong in WordPress, but I would like it — is to be able to check my email from within this site (one of my other little hand-coded sites that I’ve got elsewhere is an email archiving thing that ends up producing a yearly LaTeX-formatted tome of all my emails).

(Anyway, I’m really only posting this to get things straight in my head, and there’s more to be said — where Wikimedia, OSM, etc. fit in, in this scheme, for instance — but it’s time to go. I have at least kept my one-post-per-day thing going for the third day in a row!)

A new look for my website

This is the first post that I’m making on my newly-recreated website. I was going to wait until I’d got things a bit smoother and more finished before activating this site, but why bother? I don’t think anyone’s going to mind too much if my news feed is broken for a few days, or some posts that were here are now no longer. I cringe when I read anything I wrote Before, anyway, so it’s probably best that it’s gone from sight for a while (no pun intended).

Do you like the suitcase at the top? It’s much nicer in real life.

Freo on the web

I am trying to get my head around all of the various places that Fremantle features (regularly, topically) on the Web. I want to figure out where the Fremantle Society’s website fits in, and what it might be used for (what might be missing from elsewhere).

So I started from the outside, yesterday, and moved inwards…

  1. Wikipedia, a first port of call for general info about anywhere, gives a reasonable overview to Freo from an outsider’s perspective. The Fremantle category has the subcategories show in the graph at right (which comes from the catgraph tool by User:Dapete). Obviously, this categorisation isn’t complete, and needs to be improved to reflect what’s actually important in Freo. (More on this later…)

  2. Next, there’s the Council’s website,, which has recently undergone a redesign, and is looking… umm… well, there’s lots of great information for residents and whatnot! There is a news feed, and a calendar of upcoming events (which I’d link to, but it’s a JS overlay thing that doesn’t seem to have it’s own URL). There are plans for new web-based methods of communication with constituents: firstly via a CRM for interacting with Council (for the general public? or just precinct committees?); and secondly (and I think this is going to be separate from the CRM) a network of community-group/precinct websites, called FREOSPACE. This is akin, perhaps, to the Cockburn Community Portal.

    I got my information about these plans from the presentation that Jen Valesini (Coordinator of the Fremantle Volunteer Service; is that right? perhaps not; anyway, she was part of the Precinct Review) gave to last week’s Freo Society meeting; and the Precinct Group Report.

  3. Then, there’s a host of topical and personal blogs: Adele Carles, State MP for Fremantle, Brad Pettitt, Fremantle’s Mayor, Cyclefreo, Dismantle, FERN, the Fremantle Environment Resource Centre, Freo Tribe, the blog of the Fremantle Society, Freo’s View, Tom M. Wilson, Love Freo, Melissa Parke, Federal MP for Fremantle, and The Painted Fish. There are more. I’ve started collecting a list of these as a ‘Freo Planet’ (to use that possibly-too-geeky term for an aggregation of news feeds); the planet itself has a news feed, the idea being that one could subscribe to just one source to get all Freo news.

There’s more to be looked at, but in a general sense I think there is room for a ‘reference’ website about Fremantle. An open site for the stories and detail of Freo, rather like Wikipedia but with ‘non-notable’ topics permitted (not notable in a global perspective, that is). Somewhere that will record, preserve, and make available the minutiae of what goes on here. Is the Freo Society the best organisation to provide this? I don’t know. I’m talking about something more than just the straight ‘history’ of the City (for that one might say that the Local History Centre would be the best coordinator). This would be a site that accepts photos of caravans on South Beach in the ’40s as well as contemporary cafe reviews. It would have a comprehensive calendar of events, and essays on life in Fremantle…

Perhaps I’m getting a bit carried away. Certainly it’s time to stop writing, and head down to Kulcha….

Returning To This Blog’s Roots

I have been wanting to re-focus my blogging, and return to writing only about my woodworking. I’ve set up a wiki, and installed a new instance of WordPress, and tried all sorts of technical things, but just don’t seem to be able to get the flow of the thing, and actually get any writing done. So I’m back here, and shall endevour to re-focus this blog back to its beginnings: By Heart and Hand.

That’s what I called the thing when I first started it (when I was at art school in Canberra in 2003) and the phrase was meant to represent something about how I work wood by hand (I mean, using only hand tools), and that the processes involved are only perfected through learning them “off by heart” — in that one’s body must learn how to do these things, one’s heart and soul.

And that’s what I want to get back to doing, and to writing about. I’ve got my nice little workshop up and running now (and have turned out a few little pieces, mainly for Christmas presents and so I can’t yet post anything about them here, lest some recipient reads this; not that they are likely to), and I just need to get back into the swing of working the wood and having the time to stop — mid mallet-swing if need be — and write about what I’m doing.

It’s not all about hacking away at bits of wood and trying to make them fit together, you see. It’s actually far more about one’s attitude and the feel of calm beauty that decends (from the heavens?) when the sweet saw is sawing smoothly and swiftly. As it were. More of that later, from the dust of the bench.

NaBloPoMo, and Don’t Read This.

Thanks to all the modern things I have just this morning become aware of NaBloPoMo, which seems to be the alternative, for those lacking in ambition (like myself), to NaNoWriMo.  The idea is to write one post per day for the whole month.  Why?  Well, I’m not quite sure, but it seems that lots of people think it’s a good idea — and I guess I do, too.  I used to enjoy blogging, but then got embarrased: why would anyone want to read anything that I have written?!

So please n.b. that I do not think that anyone out there should be reading this, and that I am writing it in public only because I don’t mind if anyone does read it, and so it’s easier than sorting out the security necessary to keep it private. If that makes sense? It is convenient for me to write online, where my words will reside somewhat safer than they would be in this little laptop in my leak-prone shed, and the fact that these words are available to you is really of little concern.

But back to the point (or not): NaBloPoMo, a term coined in 1984 for people who don’t like to have oral sex with post-modernists. Or so, I think, Mr. Tim Brook-Taylor may have said on ISIHAC. Or not.

* * *

On a more community-oriented note, I intend to get back to developing the Addressbook plugin, mainly because of all of the nice emails and comments I’ve had about it, and so … oh, but I think I ought to make up for my late start in Nablopomo (bugger the silly camel-capitalisation) by making this another post. Hang on.

Afternoon in the Office

Right. Well then.

My idea, this week, is to write more. So far, I have failed.

I have nothing to say. There is nothing going on, nothing worth talking about. But I want to write.

* * *

I have six weeks and two days to go at IBM. I’ve bought my train ticket, and started to pack up my belongings. I feel nothing much other than that I am marking time until I leave. Work drears on (if that’s a word; I’m not sure that it is) with excursions away from AIX to read about typography and distributed authentication (i.e. OpenID) punctuating my workdays. The view from my desk is unchanged, not even in that Canberran way of the trees turning orange in April, because this is Tuggers and no one plants deciduous trees here. I would take a photo, but a) I don’t have a camera (more on that in a moment, however); b) I’m probably not allowed to anyway, for some daft security reason; and c) it’s a silly thing to do, and posting the photo here would be even sillier.

Not that I particularly mind people thinking I’m silly; of course I don’t: I write a blog.

Not that by writing a blog I intend to pronounce what I write worthy of being read. I do not. I most certainly and unequivocally do not. However, I do want to write more, and more regularly. I started this blog when I was actively working with wood on a daily basis, and so I had something to write about. Now that I’m stuck in the rotten world of IT on a daily basis, I do not feel inspired. Hence posts such as this one. Sorry.

Nevertheless, I am soon — thanks to Tom‘s return from the States next week — to be the owner of a new Nikon D60.The Nikon D60, soon to be my first \'proper\' digital camera. Therefore I am one further step down this long road of commitment to technology, and not thinking that I’ll chuck it all in to fuck off to the bush somewhere. Oh dear. What am I doing? I don’t know, but I will be taking more photos, and posting them here.

I have always been attracted to the idea that one can be quite out in the open and public about what one does. I remember reading some strange geeks’ diaries in 1996 or thereabouts, and marveling at their unabashed exposition of their lives. It’s not about having anything interesting to say or reveal, or wanting anyone to read my words — but just dumping these thoughts out there in public view.

I’m sure there’s more I could say about cameras and blogging or waistcoats and slippers, and the absurd split that I feel between the two, but I am rather thinking that I’ve gone on quite long enough already.

More tomorrow…