Facebook is NOT the web

Facebook wants to get people into their clutches, and obscure the fact that there is a world-wide web of stuff out there. They will probably succeed, too; more’s the pity. Still, I’ll continue to avoid them, just in case they do require my participation to ensure full world-domination.

Facebook and Google spread ‘their’ net across the mobile world, by John Naughton in The Observer, Sunday 24 March 2013:

It’s a smart strategy, and it will have one predictable outcome, namely, that many new users of the internet from poor countries will think that Facebook (or Google) is the Internet. This would be a particularly pernicious outcome for those who find themselves inside Facebook’s walled garden, because it’s much more comprehensively fenced than anything yet constructed by Google.

Why does this matter? Well, in a way, it comes back to the guys who won the Queen Elizabeth prize. The network that Cerf and Kahn built was deliberately designed as an open, permissive system. Anyone could use it, and if you had an idea that could be realised in software, then the net would do it for you, with no questions asked. Tim Berners-Lee had such an idea – the web – and the internet enabled it to happen. And Berners-Lee made the web open in the same spirit, so Mark Zuckerberg was able to build Facebook on those open foundations.

But Zuckerberg has no intention of allowing anyone to use Facebook as the foundation for building anything that he doesn’t control. He’s kicking away the ladder up which he climbed, in other words.

Cool URIs don’t change; but they should, sometimes

Everyone knows that cool URIs don’t change:

When you change a URI on your server, you can never completely tell who will have links to the old URI. They might have made links from regular web pages. They might have bookmarked your page. They might have scrawled the URI in the margin of a letter to a friend.

When someone follows a link and it breaks, they generally lose confidence in the owner of the server. They also are frustrated – emotionally and practically from accomplishing their goal.

It the the duty of a Webmaster to allocate URIs which you will be able to stand by in 2 years, in 20 years, in 200 years. This needs thought, and organization, and commitment.

How does this work with the right to vanish?

Sometimes you move on and exercise your RightToLeave a community or a locality. In MeatSpace, people eventually forget what you said and did, unless you erected monuments. In other words, our real self is gradually dissociated from the idea people in a community have of us. Conversely, in our new home we have a fresh start: people generally won’t start calling our old home area to find out about us.

This is not so on an OnlineCommunity: wiki pages are always “fresh”, forums and UseNet keep archives. It’s impossible to tell a still-held belief from a once-held one. Furthermore, when we arrive in a new place in MeatSpace, people there don’t generally know all about what we did and said in the past, which is something we have grown used to since the mass urbanization of society (previously, village life was more invasive). The internet being easily searchable, in CyberSpace our reputation may precede us. Conversely, our past follows us.

Sometimes I want to reorganise my online life, shuffle things around and not put in hundreds of redirects that are just going to make it easier for people to find things I wrote once that I no longer believe in, and that anyway will probably never be followed.

Oh, but look, I’m being inconsistent: I do actually think it’s important to keep URIs working — even if the content’s gone, it’s better to leave a page explaining why, in its place. The right to vanish can still be exercised.

(I don’t think I’ll bother publishing this little ill-thought-out thing. I’d hoped it was going to be the first of my new daily blog posts… but no. Tomorrow, perhaps. I just don’t have the energy for decent writing at the moment!)

Indexing Newspapers

I have been working again this morning down at the Local History Collection at the library.  The newspaper clippings’ catalogue is progressing — up to a hundred and thirty clippings so far — and proving to be quite an interesting project.  This morning I got up to the end of 1953, the beginning of ’54, and the Royal Visit (I’m working through a chronological scrapbook of old clippings).  If the selection of news that was considered worthy of preservation is anything to go by (and it probably isn’t), the whole of Fremantle was happy and excited about the Queen’s passage through the city, to the exclusion of everything else.

But there was other stuff happening, such as the seemingly never-ending discussions about the new bus terminal outside the train station, and someone’s idea to amalgamate East Fremantle and the FCC (they even wanted a referrendum).

I was playing a bit with adding notes about the people in these articles to pages on ArchivesWiki. Generally they’re not notable enough for Wikipedia, and I haven’t yet found a good, similar, project that accepts ramdom little snippets about random people. I’ve a slight idea of working on some sort of ‘local history wiki’ for Fremantle, with pages about any and all people, places, buildings, etc. — but I don’t suppose it’ll take off.

It’s frustrating, reading through these newspaper clippings and not being able to put the full text up anywhere (although I have put the East Freo one above on Wikisource), and not assimilating their information into relevant, composite, articles. It just makes it feel more satisfying, if when I find a reference to some doing of Mr. McCombe the Town Clarke, I note it down on his biography. So I think I’ll do more of that.

Further Afield

I think there is a need for a general, world-wide, catalogue of newspaper articles, both historical and modern. Wikisource can’t be it, because it strives for full texts, and all modern newspaper material is under copyright. I envisage something pretty simple, that just catches headlines, summaries, and keywords (and of course source data). It’s not that hard to find libraries that have access to newspaper material, but it’s usually in microform and so utterly unusable if you don’t know what date/page you’re looking for. An index is needed!

The National Library of Australia’s new Australian Newspapers site looks pretty fantastic, and assuming they do end up digatising everything (which I think is the aim), will effectively supplant things like Wikisource so far as public domain material goes. But they’re still stuck when it comes to contemporary newspapers.

But I won’t ramble on about this any more; I’ve got daft blathering about systems development to get on with.

Where I Write

I have often thought that one of the greatest attractions for me to writing in ink, on paper, in a properly-bound book, is that where one writes the words is where they will remain, and the only place they will ever be. That’s not the case when writing on a screen: I often write a post for this blog, for example, whilst off-line, and in different editors, on different computers. Then I paste it into here, save it, and it appears in it’s final place where you’re reading it now.

That last sentence belies where I’m writing this, but had I transcribed these words from a book that I’d written in whilst sitting on the ground on Mount Ainslie being buffeted by a strong wind — how would be different? How does being exposed to the original copy of a piece of writing affect how it is read? What is the ‘original copy’ on the web?

Sometimes (this morning, for example) I’m into the fact that the web separates content from medium — the written word certainly remains, and the loss of the detail of the act of writing is good, because we then focus on what is written, and how how it was composed. Of course (like so much of the blogosphere), this does allow for this sort of introspective post that really does no one any good and is rightly ignored by the whole planet. But that doesn’t matter. The point is that I generally have in mind the final resting place of my words as I write them, and that changes what I write about and how I write it. My problem at the moment (oh, yeah, it’s a real problem!) is that I sometimes write good stuff on paper, and there it languishes forever and is never read; conversly, I (often?) write poor ramblings on screen (generally on this blog, or on my wiki) that should never have been written, let alone read. So whereto from that?

It feels more ‘pure’ to write with a fountain pen in a book, more active and engaging to tap at a keyboard on the web. A rough draft composed in pencil[1] up a tree in a disposable notebook which is then posted here with accompanying images? Or carefully-formed words in a Moleskine that are never to be seen again? Given my current desire to not encumber myself with Stuff, the former is where I’m at.

[1] The Faber-Castell ‘E-Motion’ is in my pocket always. [Back up]

How CGDNs might help build a sense of belonging.

My brain is feeling pretty groggy at the moment, so excuse any pointlessness in this post. Not that there’s ever any point to my posts, but that’s beside the point. I’m at work, almost thinking that the afternoon’s nearly half-gone and so, well, what’s the point of doing any more work…

There are, in Australia, these new things called Community Geographic Domain Names, or CGDNs. They are domain names like ‘lyneham.act.au’ — that is, they are domain names in which every component is geographically localising. This is fantastic! I think that having a place online for one’s locality, a place that is easily discernable for new people or new places, has got great potential to act as repository for local stories, knowledge, history, and whatever else people want to use it for. Imagine moving to a new town, and finding the town’s entire history (well, a bit of it anyway) available for browsing, and writen by the very people in it. Like a hiking hut’s register (the book that hikers leave messages in on tracks like the Bibbulmun) but for a whole suburb, town, or region.

I am vaguely thinking about seeing what sort of support there is in the food co-op community for us registering acton.act.au. But maybe I should wait until I feel a little more dedicated to a place — which is actually what I find so interesting about this idea: that it might help people feel more attached to where they live and the people around them. That’s got to be a good thing.

Kerrie Tucker’s revamped site

During the last few days I’ve been working with Margo Kingstong and Kate Tucker on porting Kerrie Tucker’s website to WordPress. I’ve also set up the new ACT Greens online merchandise shop, Green Shop. So I’ve probably had about enough of sitting at here at our kitchen table hunched over this laptop; why I’m not out of here I don’t know, but I did just want to mention those things.

Also, I’ve been back in the workshop — getting it ready, at any rate, to be a workshop. That’s a bit exciting.

But enough for now, I must get to the coop.

Relying on, but not trusting, technology

I have been sorting through my (digital) photos lately, uploading the good ones to my website. It’s drudge-work, peaceful in its way like all drudge-work, and now and then I stumble upon a particularly nice shot, or one that evokes some pleasant memory, and so I don’t mind doing it. My idea is that this little computer is likely to one day get broken or stolen, and I don’t want to lose everything.

I’m also doing it becuase I’m keen to have fewer belongings, and boxes of photos and old journals are something of a weight (literally and figuratively, obviously). I want to simplify. A bag and a box and a backpack. A computer, three books, and a hat. Hip flask, pen, and waterbottle. Although I’m never going to get rid of my Waterman or Moleskine, I’m coming to the computer to vent that creative energy that in a more perfect world would probably be put into woodwork — and at least I don’t end up with a chair to carry with me from house to house.

It’s not that I think of the Internet as ‘simple’, or even particularly reliable. I don’t. I quite understand its utter complexity and reliance on most of the most unsustainable things in the modern world. And I don’t like that. I’d much rather have a little stone hut and a few chickens.

But here I am, in Canberra, studying I.T. I do rely on the Internet, and I’m going to continue to upload my photos and writing, and just not worry about it. I might print a few things, if I really care about them, but at the end of the day if the Internet stops I’ll be far too busy planting gardens on the freeways to worry about losing a few photos.

hmwilson.archives.org.au

I forgot to mention, a few weeks ago when I set it up, that the family archives now have an online home at hmwilson.archives.org.au. It’s for family only, but if that’s you then I will set up your account; just email me. I’m jolly excited about going back to Perth this summer and working on this!

A Catalogue, I Think?

I have not posted for ages, and I didn’t really think I would be again until next year. But here I am, and very inspired about woodwork, uni and all that is going on: hooray (and what a relief)! I have much to report from the last couple of weeks but I may never get around to telling you because I want to meet G. and L. at the street theater soon.

Firstly (or lastly if one is to be chronological), I am working on the catalogue for the workshop exhibition. I am learning heaps about InDesign (especially its faults!) which is rather exciting. It does not do signature imposition of pages by itself, so this afternoon has seen me scrabbling around the web looking for a script that will. I found one (at ScriptBuilders.net) and so I think tomorrow will be fun.

It is strange that I am focusing more on the web/technological side of my proposal at the moment, given that it is a minor part of what I will be doing next year. I feel like I want to get it sorted though: get the encylopaedia working and also a couple of other things that I have been considering recently. I will be making a reading log to keep track of what I read, a project management script with which to track all of my ideas about things to make and write etc. I also have been doing some work with the style (CSS) of my site. I am constantly thinking about what I want to do next year and how I will go about it, working on a ‘manifesto’ or ‘modi operandi’ thingy… hmm… more thought needed…

I was on 2XXFM yesterday (Thursday) talking about the Walking With Water project that I did earlier this year. I’ll put the MP3 of it up soon.

— I really am rather excited about all this!!!

[UPDATE 2007-06-12: After nearly four years, here’s the MP3.]