I’ve used Google reader for a long time. Pretty much as long as it’s existed, in fact. I got tired of doing the same circuit on the web, visiting all my friends’ blogs, all the tech blogs, and all that. I got tired of their constantly-changing interfaces and oddly-placed navigation.
I wanted to take the hassle and variability out of my web reading experience. RSS and Reader did that.
Reader was not always fantastic. In fact, at the beginning, it was fairly ugly and feature-light. But it did what it advertised and it did it without requiring a desktop app.
This is something often overlooked. I think Google Reader is responsible for introducing a variety of people to the idea that we don’t need a desktop app for everything anymore.
That aside, as it accrued features, Google Reader also became a bit prettier, though it was never (let’s be honest here) that great to look at. What it did better than any other competing reader was sharing. You had friends, you shared articles or blog posts with them, and they could see what you shared. Even better, the sharing was done by (what else?) RSS. So you could pull out your personal shares via RSS and do… well, whatever you wanted. It wasn’t the perfect data interchange, but it worked. You could take your shared items and post them to a blog (which I did) or post them to Twitter or Facebook or really, whatever you wanted. You could even have individual contributors to a blog posting shared items for a sort of “best of the web” type thing. You could pipe that RSS feed into a bookmark service like Delicious. And because Reader used Google’s servers instead of pulling directly from the sources, Reader was a great way for a lot of people to get around censorship in places like Iran and Syria. There’s a list as long as my arm of stuff you could do with the data that flowed in and out of Google Reader on an intradaily basis.
Now, Google never made it really easy to get that data out. It was an obscure setting obviously intended only for power users. But let’s face it, lots of people who use Reader are power users. Sort of the backbone of Google, the people who got Google started and popular in the first place. The fact that Google no longer caters to or seems to need power users is not something lost on us.
First came Wave, then Buzz, now Google+. With Wave they re-invented email, but in a clumsy, heavy, not-very-user-friendly way (here’s a great thing about email: It’s instantly and completely understandable from an interface perspective). Buzz re-invented Twitter, also in a clumsy and heavy way, with bonus privacy invasions. When both of those things failed, Google decided to just go ahead and clone Facebook, but also in a clumsy, heavy sort of way.
At first we didn’t understand what Google+ was about. We didn’t understand what it was meant to do, I don’t think. Maybe a few people did, the visionaries who understood Google’s plan with Google+. They were going to make Google+ the backbone of the Googleverse.
There’s a lot to be said about that. There’s no particular reason that the backbone of Google had to be a social networking layer. There’s no reason that Local results are there now. There’s no reason that Hangouts have to be tied into that, or sharing of Google Docs, or Picassa, or any of that stuff. It did need to be unified, but it did not need to be unified as Google+.
This is the moment that Google stopped being the Google we knew and became the Google we know. I know, this sort of demarcation is essentially me creating a narrative that may not fit the actual transition time. Or maybe Google is fundamentally the same but my perspective on the company has changed. Maybe it’s all optics. I don’t know.
But this is what it feels like. It feels like Google went from deeply believing in open formats, open social, sharing between platforms, and data interchange to a company embracing an idea of “sharing” that another company (i.e. Facebook or someone in that space) had created. This idea of sharing is primarily sharing INTO but not OUT OF a service. So for instance when you search on Google you have the option to share into Google+ but nowhere else. If you hit a +1 somewhere, you share into Google+ and nowhere else.
As more and more Google services got folded into the Google+ sharing model, it wasn’t long (surprisingly, as Reader wasn’t exactly a well-maintained product) before Reader could only share into Google+ as well. Suddenly instead of a share button, we had a +1 button. The share functionality had been completely removed.
All that functionality that was enabled by Google Reader sharing items via RSS was suddenly… gone. And what about using Google+ to accomplish this instead? Was there a way to share out of Google+ in a reliable, easy way?
Nope. Google+ has no RSS, and although you can get limited access to your shares via an extremely limiting API, this was a feature clearly designed for a select few developers. The subset of people able to share out of Google Reader suddenly shrank to almost zero.
This was called the Shareocalypse. For good reason. Google took a perfectly good sharing service and dismantled it overnight. It wasn’t malicious, perhaps, but it was certainly pointed. It was pointed directly at Google+. The executives in charge of Google+ looked at that torrent of shared items and wanted it. They wanted it dumped into Google+.
It turns out that this is not what the users wanted. Clearly sharing to Google+ was far inferior and most people simply stopped sharing. I know most or all of my friends did. So what Google actually did was take that torrent of shares and turn them into a trickle. Great job, guys!
And then, when the trickle of shares was finally small enough, they decided to turn Reader off altogether. After all, it wasn’t doing what they wanted it to do, which is what they want everything to do now: Feed into Google+, make Google+ full of content and (hopefully) therefore eyeballs, give it that sharing bump.
See, the people who ran Reader GOT sharing. They understood it. It wasn’t quite simple enough maybe, but the concept was there: Let me share what I want to share where I want to share it. If I want to pipe it into my blog, fine. If I want to pipe it into my Facebook, by all means.
I don’t hold out a lot of hope that Google+ will ever share this way. Google is starting to become more and more jealous of its own data. Not just the secret backroom server stuff that they’ve always been secretive and paranoid about, but the actual public facing stuff, the stuff that goes in and out of its web services. I can guarantee you that if Wave had been a success, it would be forked, no longer open-source, and somehow connecting into Google+.
This is the future of Google, by the way. They looked at Facebook swallowing more and more of the open internet and enclosing it into Facebook’s walled garden… and they were jealous. They wanted that. They took a look at their services and realised… look at all this stuff we have! All these services that don’t connect together in any real way! And they decided to connect them together and co-incidentally make the connection look and act like Facebook.
The only thing left to do is to plug all those darn holes. All those places like Reader where the data is leaking out. So if we take a look at all of Google’s services, we see a lot of standard-based data interchanges. For instance Google Talk uses Jabber or can at least talk to Jabber servers. I will bet you $1000 that when Google’s new Babble service (or whatever else they call it) arrives, it will not do these things. They’ll have their own thing. They’ll say it’s because no-one was using it, they’ll say that they’re putting more wood behind fewer arrows, or whatever they need to say, but in reality it will be about plugging that leak.
This is why I think Google has changed. It was always secretive and paranoid with a layer of sunshine and smiles on top of that (look at the platforms and services Google has literally invented to keep Search everywhere). But recently all the stuff that used to buy them goodwill in the tech community has started to fade away. Standards compliance… open source… all that jazz. Watch and see.
You have to remember that back in the day, Microsoft had a lot of goodwill in the tech community, too. Apple, the same. Sun, the same. But then they changed or sold out or ripped off the mask to reveal their true personalities. And Google’s true personality is a paranoid data hoarder. They used to put a layer of treats and candy on top of it (literally in the naming of Android releases), and they still do, but that paranoid data hoarder is starting to show through.
If you’re wondering why so many people seem so upset about Reader closing down, it’s probably not just because a nice product has unexpectedly found its end. It’s because Google is starting to cause cognitive dissonance. It’s not the company you used to love. It’s a different company now.
Which should maybe give you some pause when the next tech darling come along and wants you to pledge your life and data to it.
We just can’t get along
Facebook doesn’t want to talk to Google. Twitter doesn’t want to talk to Tumblr, Facebook, Google, or, really, anyone. Google only wants to talk to you.
It’s like a bad highschool drama. You’ve got jocks, geeks, nerds, goths, whatever, and none of them know how to communicate with each other. I mean, of course they know how, but none of them really wants to take the effort.
I’m not going to extend the simile past its breaking point, but you get the picture.
For all our talk of a new web, of sharing, of the bright and shiny future of all things internet, it seems that we’ve forgotten that these companies and their associated networks are all actively fighting each other. Not only that, but they’re fighting each other with our data.
Everyone understands how networks work, right? The more people on a network, the more useful the network becomes (at least most of the time). Especially if that network is something like Facebook, where identities aren’t as fluid as something Reddit or, in the extreme, 4chan.
Even Reddit benefits from network effects (the same way Slashdot and Digg did). It’s not that you can find a lot of people, but that you can find a lot of interesting bits of text, you can interact with users from other cultures and backgrounds and experiences, and you can discover new and funny and significant things.
But on another level a network doesn’t really benefit simply from your presence. If you don’t do anything, what’s the point? You’re just a tiny dot in the database somewhere. If you, for instance, have a Facebook account and never do anything with it, you’re probably actively making the network worse. Facebook’s goal, after all, is to keep you on Facebook so they can sell you ads. And the way you do that is to interact, whether it’s with people, games, or content. Everything that Facebook does points at that single goal. Keep you there and sell you ads.
The thing is, the multi-billion dollar empires of Facebook, Twitter, and to some extent even Google, are built on your data. When you interact, you create data. You post something, that’s data. That’s your creative expression. When you share something, the fact that you shared that is (or at least should be) your data. When you make a friend, that activity is a datapoint about you, and should be your data. No-one should be able to own these bits of data, and no-one should be able to say “you can’t tell anyone about this or that”.
In effect, since they won’t talk to each other, that’s exactly what these social networks are doing. Tried to export your friend list from Facebook lately? It gives you some data, yes, but as little as possible. Just a list of names. It’s essentially so little information as to be completely useless.
Tried to export your follower/following lists from Twitter? No such luck. I mean, you can go copy and paste them if you want, but from a data interchange point of view, that’s like driving from Toronto to Tulsa to buy a fridge. It’s doable, yes, but it’s definitely not worth it. And more to the point, it’s uninhibitedly non-repeatable and non-automatable.
This makes sense for the companies involved. For Facebook, there’s nothing in the universe more important than Facebook’s data. It defines their network. It makes them powerful. The same thing for Twitter. They don’t really want you to export your tweets to somewhere. They want you to import but not export, because your tweets make them powerful.
Google on the other hand wants to slurp all this data up and give you search results while (you guessed it!) selling you ads. Google is a microcosm for the problem that we want to solve.
Google offers a free service with high utility. It searches the tangled depths of the internet to give you relevant information. It wants to be able to see into your Facebook and your Twitter so it can serve up better and more relevant search results.
This is service they can’t offer because Facebook and Twitter do not allow Google inside their walled gardens. Sure, Google can index the public bits of Facebook and Twitter, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg of what exists on those networks. Especially Facebook, where you can control privacy settings.
Google would love to return personal search result on your personal social graph. Their wet dream is unfettered access to the depths of Facebook’s database so they can return information that is relevant not only to everyone, but also relevant to you and only you.
You may not want Google to do this. Or you may. Either way, the point is moot. Google is denied providing this service because they simply can’t get that data, and frankly, there’s no way for you to tell Google “Okay, go in an suck out all my data”. Facebook would shut that down 20 seconds after launch.
Again, you may not want Google doing this. But the point is you don’t have the option.
Or let’s say you want to create some kind of meta-journal of you life. You want to integrate what you email, what you tweet, where you go, what you eat, who you’re with… and dump that all into your own personal database. Then when you’re 80 you can look back at your boring life feel terrible. Whatever.
You can’t really do that right now. I mean, you kind of can, and some people are trying really hard to make a part of that happen (I’m looking at you, ThinkUp), but it’s difficult. It’s also not becoming easier. Twitter and Facebook and Google aren’t allowing more of your data to escape their walled gardens. It’s less. And from what you can see from Twitter’s shuttering of the various anonymous data access techniques, the amount and type of data is declining.
This is not an optimal state of affairs. It’s not good. It’s not even close to good.
Why this is bad, part 1
The title of this blog post makes it clear: My data is my data. You can build your empire on top of it, you can use it to monetize me, you can use it to sell me things, but none of that changes the fact that it’s my data. It’s my creative work. It describes me. It describes my life. It describes the things that I do. And this data is mine.
How can Facebook, Google, Twitter, or any other social network (but especially the Big 3 social networks where all the utility lies) deny me the right to do what I want with that data? How dare they tell me what I can and cannot export and to whom I can and cannot export it? Who does Facebook think they are that they won’t let Google index at the very least my profile and actions?
Again, I understand why these networks do this. But having a good reason is not the same as doing a good thing.
Twitter is, I think, probably noticeably and publicly terrible at this. Not only are they technically incompetent (I can’t access most of the tweets I’ve made), but they’re also technically evil, constantly revising their API to limit what I can access and how I can access it and how often and on and on and on.
All this because Facebook and Twitter have gone the way of traditional media companies and decided that I’m not the customer. They don’t want to have a relationship with me. They want to sell me or at the very least sell my eyeballs. They don’t want me to do this or do that or do that other thing because it dilutes their network’s value. Their display guidelines exist to make sure that I must see their ads (I won’t, but only because I use other means), and their access restrictions exist to prevent 3rd party clients from gaining too much market share and becoming powerful within the ecosystem.
Why this is pad, part 2
Look at the internet. The internet is one of those rare examples of the free market working properly because the oligarchies of the time either didn’t understand what was going on, or didn’t realise its value.
If the internet oligarchies of today’s network space existed when the internet was being built, we would still have AOL, Compuserve, and whatever else. They wouldn’t talk to each other. They’d preserve their own network’s value, but they wouldn’t work together to enhance the value of the network as a whole.
I can imagine an protointernet that works this way. It’s not pretty. Each side clinging to its various silos, desperately trying to steal network value from one another.
The benefits of our internet and the way it works together are obvious. Anyone trying to create silos out of the internet via hardware (China, Iran) or software (Facebook, Twitter, etc) are doing the network as a whole a disservice. They’re giving the finger to the hard work of all the people who invented this wonderful thing, and all the benefits the internet has given us.
Can you imagine being unable to send someone in Sweden an email because you don’t subscribe to Sweden’s network, or you haven’t bought the “talk to Sweden email upgrade package”?
Ridiculous, right? Who would use email?
Facebook, Twitter, Google+… all these services that capture data and activity into silos and keep it to themselves are doing the same thing. They are diluting the value of the internet as a whole because they keep the data to themselves.
Why this is bad, part 3
This kind of network effect causes splintering effects too. This is counter-intuitive, but let me explain my thinking here.
In the physical world, large-scale networks take a lot of money to develop and maintain. Build-out and operation is capital and labour intensive. This is why new and disruptive physical networking technologies tend to piggyback on existing networks. Take the internet as an example: It resided at first on telephone networks and then cable networks and finally mobile networks not because those were necessarily the best technologies available (with the notable exception of mobile networks, which were literally the only technology available) but because they were there. (As an interesting side-note, eventually phone and cable networks will reverse this and piggyback completely on the internet, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Of course, the rules that make things difficult and costly in the real world don’t apply in the digital world. In the same way that digitally copying music and tv costs pennies to the dollar of physical distribution, building a massive network on top of the internet is fairly easy. Except that now instead of being one of the only games in town, you’re one of many games in town. And instead of being vulnerable only to buyouts and bankruptcy, you’re vulnerable to your users simply leaving.
There’s no lock-in anymore. You can try to create lock-in, and trust me, they’re trying, but it’s not the same as being locked into a three year mobile plan on one of three networks all of whom are essentially the same (but in the case of mobile phones, at least they interoperate!).
Because they’re no barrier to entry and no lock-in, creating a new network-on-top-of-the-network Facebook-style has become the latest internet trend. There are veritable host of up-and-comers. They all want to be the next big thing. And none of them talk to each other.
In retrospect, it’s obvious why Google created Google+. Google may not have even wanted to ever create a social network. Google may have even been averse to it. But they had to. They need that data. They need your interactions. And as always, it’s to serve ads to you.
The unwillingness of Facebook and Twitter directly lead to a massive elephant entering the social networking space. This is splintering in action, a failure of the free market in digital economies, all caused by a massive tragedy of the commons that no-one except some FOSS crackpots cared about for a long time.
Time to start caring
I’ve heard a lot of suggestions about what to do here. Consumer rage. Developer boycotts. User boycotts. Site boycotts.
None of that is going to work. I think we’re going to have to go that third party that seems to always end up mediating tragedies of the commons: The Government.
Listen, there’s no other way around it. We’ll have to legislate this. Come up with a flexible export format for user data that can be pinged, let’s say X number of times per day or week. Let’s make this part of consumer protection legislation.
At the very least the threat of a legislated solution would bring the parties to the table and allow us to make a better web.
In the end, I just want to be able to do what I like with the data that I created. I wasn’t paid for it. I did it all for free. There’s no work for hire or anything like that here. I just want my data and I want to do whatever I like with it.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?
I have an Android phone. It was my absolute first choice when I was looking for a phone. I’m a power user. I like to do odd things with my phone, and I had researched my choice quite well before diving in. My HTC Desire was served me well for a year and a bit now. I want to upgrade, and when I upgrade it’s going to be to another Android device like the Galaxy Nexus. Beautiful hardware, and Android 4 is looking very beautiful (especially compared to the version I get to run on my device right now).
But Android has its limitations. I’m not talking hardware, fragmentation, or any of that junk that doesn’t really matter or has largely been solved.
I’m talking about vision. Specifically the vision of the Android team and (I’ll get into this a little later) the vision of Google in general.
Android is always playing catch-up. Really. Ever since it was announced, it has played catch-up to iOS. There may be many reasons for this, especially when building a device to fit a bunch of different hardware from different manufacturers, with different form factors. Apple may (and probably does) have it a lot easier than Android due to its single-device nature.
Of course none of that really matters. What matters is the device that the customer gets in their hand.
Android has a bunch of really cool features I could mention. But none of them is a big selling point. I can’t point to a single feature or group of related features on Android and say, “That’s why I bought an Android device.” Larger screen, cloud backups, good notification system, etc. But none of those is a really killer feature.
Android’s killer features have been, as far as I can tell, that it is on cheaper devices. It’s open. You can can do some geeky things with it. But it still feels unfinished and a bit awkward. Slapped together.
Now, iOS is playing catch-up too. Their notification system was notoriously broken. They had no cloud backup. But as usual, iOS caught up to Android in those areas. Then they moved the goalposts.
Siri is a killer feature. It really is. I don’t personally like the idea of talking to my phone, even though I often narrate text into my Android phone. Speech-to-text (when done right) feels stupid, but it makes typing seem really, really slow and bothersome. The little easter eggs built into Siri encourage exploration and further usage. It’s good to look at. It’s a selling point, and a big one.
That’s how you move the goalposts. Apple has always been good at that, and that’s a good thing because we all benefit.
There’s no way that Android, who had speech-to-text first, by the way, can create a competing project in the next while without seeming like a huge me-too.
Android had speech-to-text before iOS did. It was here and there. There was voice search (of course), and voice transcription, and some voice controls, but nothing like Siri. You have to ask: Why not? Did no-one at Google thing, “We should do a unified AI assistant”?
They should have. I’ve had the idea before. It’s not a new thing. It’s hard to do, especially when you consider the spotty history of voice input (Microsoft, I’m looking at you), and digital assistants (Microsoft, again, I’m looking at you).
The phone is the absolute best space for this. It has a built in microphone, connects to the internet so all the horsepower doesn’t have to be in your hand, and is has always been a space in which text input is difficult and time consuming.
This is a failure of vision. All the pieces were in place for Android to do that, but no-one put the pieces together.
(There’s also a huge failure of branding and marketing at Google, as they had iCloud functionality first as well and no-one freaking knows it; but that’s a whole other post.)
Isn’t this characteristic of Google right now, though? All the pieces and no-one to put them together.
Think about every product that Google has launched since search and Gmail (and maybe Maps, maaaaaaybe Chrome). They’ve all been me-too products. Search and Gmail revolutionized their fields. Android, Picasa, PicasaWeb, Google+ (most obviously), Reader, Books, Music, App Engine, etc, are all pushing into markets with dominant players with better products. None of these services is particularly visionary or different in their field than the products or platforms they’re trying to displace.
This isn’t to say Google isn’t going to be marvelously successful in some or even many of those areas. Copying or buying others has always been a great business strategy (as always, Microsoft is a great example of how to copy well).
But if you want to truly own the market you have to be more than a copier and a follower. You have to be a visionary. Move the goalposts. Get there before the other guy. Especially when you have all the pieces in front of you, and all you have to do it put them together.
Google has picked all the low-hanging fruit of search. Easily spidered pages on public websites? Done. Basically anything with machine-readable text is done.
This is both good and bad. It’s good because the low-hanging fruit is the best and most useful fruit (as far as I can tell). It’s bad because this kind of search is now something of a well-understood problem. Competitors are now popping up with their own spin on search.
The rest of the fruit is more difficult. Image search is more difficult. The relative lack of image search tools compared to text search tools speaks to that difficulty. Video search is more difficult still. Right now video search mostly involves indexing the pages the videos live on. Google’s purchase of YouTube makes sense in that context. But any other kind of video search (within video for instance), is an engineering and a computational challenge. Indexing of audio faces the same challenge. Indexing the dark web is difficult. Indexing information that isn’t yet online is nigh impossible.
I’m sure you can think of a few more difficult search arenas. (Leave them in the comments!)
If it doesn’t look like anyone’s enthusiastically pursuing these search technologies, it’s probably because of diminishing returns. Problems with a high computational component tend to be future technologies. You can argue Google is a product of low bandwidth cost, low storage cost, and low computation cost with a bit on engineering prowess mixed in.
We may not be at the point where these problems make sense to solve. We may never be. Computation cost is essentially energy cost, and energy cost is not trending down. There may never be a point at which (barring of course the kind of engineering breakthroughs that make these sorts of technologies suddenly and oddly viable) it makes sense to index video itself instead of the pages it lives on.
Google faces a choice, then. It can pursue indexing all information ever, with diminishing returns at ever higher costs, or it can branch out.
I think Google is branching out. They have been for a while. They keep throwing things at the wall. A few of them are sticking. And very few of them are directly related to search. Most are orthogonal to it. Most are instead directly related to ecosystem lock-in (Gmail, Docs, etc), and userbase protection (Chrome, Android, etc).
This is what you do when the low-hanging fruit is gone, after all.
Microsoft owned the desktop computing space (for while at least) with we now call the “ecosystem”. That is to say, they didn’t just produce Windows, but they produced Windows as a platform. Good developer tools, good office tools, all of this led to them owning that space. Users chose the Microsoft way because the Microsoft way became the only way that really made sense. There’s a lot of really unethical and evil stuff that Microsoft has done and continues to do to keep from losing that space. Windows and Office are their core products.
Everything that Microsoft does (except for, strangely, X-Box, though I’m sure they have a reason for that) is directly tied into Windows. Even their keyboards have a Windows button. Zune, Windows Phone 7 (what a truly awful name), Windows Live, Bing… it’s all built to keep people using Windows. To keep that pipeline of money going directly in Microsoft’s pockets. The chief threat for Microsoft is that people will be able to easily move away from Windows, taking their data (and their money) with them.
Google on the other hand, isn’t building products to protect a platform. After all, you can use Google anywhere. Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, you name it. You don’t need a particular set of software or hardware to use Google search and be served up Google ads.
The threat for Google is a bit different from the threat for Microsoft. Where Microsoft is afraid their captive audience might slowly drift away, Google is afraid their mostly self-chosen audience might not be able to access Google search. Microsoft’s platform dominance was built on an ecosystem, Google’s search dominance is also being extended through an ecosystem with (and this is crucial) Google by default.
Any time Google is faced with a challenge to their search dominance, they enter that market. Google isn’t the default on your phone? No problem, Google will make software to run on your phone. Google isn’t the default in your browser? No problem, Google will write their own (better, imho) browser. Google isn’t the default on your operating system? No problem, Google will release an operating system.
Defaults are terribly important. Microsoft defaults to Bing. Not because they love search or are even (by a very long shot) a search company or even an internet company. No, Microsoft defaults to Bing because they want to keep you hooked into Windows. Search revenue is incidental. Microsoft’s offerings, such as Bing and especially Windows Live exist specifically to hook you to Windows and keep that cash baby alive. They don’t want cross-platform accessible data freedom. No, they fear that more than anything.
Google on the other hand wants you to default to Google. Not because they want to protect their platforms. The revenue from their platforms is incidental. Google’s offerings, such as Chrome and especially Android exist for no other reason than to keep you searching with them.
And this is why you see Google and Microsoft competing in the same spaces so often. Their operating philosophies are completely different. Microsoft isn’t particularly know (to its detriment) for its whimsy, for example. But they enter the same spaces to do the same thing: Protect their core product. No other reason. They are protecting very different things, and are very different companies, but that’s why they’re there. Make no mistake. Everything Google does comes back to search. Everything Microsoft does comes back to Windows. And so it goes.
Browsing source code with Google Code Search. Search for any array of words that means “this is the words code I have ever created”. Examples:
- ircd-hybrid.com/fullhist.php – line 29926 – #undef’d USE_TABLE_CODE this is f*****d*.
- downloads.activestate.com/WebService/PHP/webservice.tar.gz – line 766 – // man is this f****d up. can’t do wsdl like dis!
- Some Freebsd package referring to (of course) Internet Explorer – // ugly hacks for an ugly browser
- gentoo.osuosl.org/distfiles/HTML_Template_Flexy-1.2.3.tgz – line 175 – // wtf does this do
- freshmeat.net/redir/scribus/13994/url_bz2/scribus-184.108.40.206.tar.bz2 – line 1529 – //CB: Stop calling damn GUI code in loading docs! IT doesnt *look* like //this makes a difference apart from being faster, of course.
- www.bullfreeware.com/download/sources/aix43/fltk-1.0.10.tar.gz – line 27 – // Another disgusting X interface, based on code extracted and // purified with great difficulty from XLayerUtil.C
You want to do something interesting? Start a netlabel. Start giving away music. Let those enterprising people who will give away music for free for whatever reason do so. And be picky.
Finally, finally, Gmail gets IMAP support. Thank you, Google, for later-is-better-than-never.
This is how the future will come to you.
Industry and the government will begin suggesting fingerprint scanners, retina scanners, RFID chips, and closed circuit cameras. After all, industry wants to know what you do with your time in order to sell you stuff, and the government wants to know what you do with your time for national security interests, or to fight crime, or for whatever reason you insert there.
Both industry and government are exercising self-preservation and self-propagation. If you are more enticed to buy because adverts are better targeted to your individual preference, industry preserves and increases itself through your dollars. If you are less inclined to speak out about the government, less inclined to think independently, and less inclined to flex your rights, governments preserves and increases itself through annexing your former freedoms.
Once you’re used to fingerprint scanners on your appliances and gadgets, retinal scanners at your bank and ATM, RFID chips in your credit card and keyfob, and closed circuit cameras in high-crime neighborhoods, you’ll see them popping up everywhere, even in places where there isn’t a clear reason for them. You will be watched constantly, though a disorganized collection of devices, few of which are connected together.
In the meantime, your computer hardware will be standardized along a set of guidelines, ostensibly to provide better security and stability. Operating systems will begin to run only on this secure hardware platform. Everything else will adapt or die. Eventually, new protocols will be adopted, so that any non-compliant device won’t connect to the network. Slowly but surely everything on the internet will gain a real, physical address. Privacy and anonymity will disappear, the chilling effects of which will ensure that free speech will also begin to disappear. This push will again come from vendors (who desire software/hardware locking), the government (who don’t like the idea of anyone being able to do anything), and parents (who want to easily be able to monitor what their children are doing without any actual effort).
One day you’ll wake up and notice that all these databases have been linked together. Suddenly, you are being watched by the industrial/governmental establishment, along with everyone else, and there is nothing you can do. Your RFID chips are being tracked, your eyes are being scanned, your fingerprints are being read, and your face is being analyzed. You wake up one day and realize you have a chip in your arm, a chip in your car, a chip in your wallet, and a chip in your computer, none of which is directly controlled by you, and all of which you cannot escape.
The scary thing is that no one person is responsible for this. You won’t see a total information agency trying to scan everyone and spy on everyone all the time. There will be all these separate data streams, and one day some legislature or agency will come along and merge them into one.
And it will all be done for your security, your safety, and your children.
Thing is, this isn’t a bad idea. Probably the last thing you thought you’d see coming from my blog, right?
If there’s no way to exempt anyone from it, if there are no powerful men that are “excused” from the program, if it’s truly universal and truly egalitarian, it could be a very good thing. It could be a combination of personal history and personal witness.
The only question is this: could any human ever design such a system?
For those of you disinclined to propeller hats, let your eyes glaze over and for the love of Vishnu, don’t read this post.
- I have so much junk on this computer (at work), it’s not funny. So today before I began working, I started giving it the old clean up, deleting stuff I don’t need. And I found three screensavers, thirteen programs, five drivers, and a bunch of media I didn’t need.
- At work, we use TrueCrypt a lot. I trust you can find the link for yourself. I love the program, actually; especially the fact that they’ve built plausible deniability right into the program in the form of encrypted-volume-within-encrypted-volume. Which is nice when we have financials we don’t want a whole lot of people to see.
- Today I deprecated an entire filing cabinet in the face of scanners and hard drives. An entire filing cabinet! That’s good news, especially when you consider how much physical space can be saved by scanning instead of physical filing. For instance, at work when people pick up parcels, they sign a packing slip which we file in a giant chest of drawers and occasionally empty into boxes. How much easier would it be if we could just run the papers through a scanner, rename them, and be done with it? A lot easier.
- Incredibly, my spambox in my Gmail account has run up above 1k spam now; it’s been hovering at that mark for a few days now, with the occasional dip into the 900s every day. 1k spam. Wow. For spammers interested in making Gmail’s spam filters even better, my email address is [redacted] @gmail.com and I check it approximately 1k times a day. Speaking of Gmail:
I slept for ten hours last night. I know, not a technologically-related point, but worth mentioning either.
Why have the innards of a computer not gotten better in the last 20 years? I mean significantly? Why doesn’t the industry form a standards body and agree to follow its recommendations? Why don’t they understand that creating competing standards is zero-sum, but creating competing products is not?
Internet Explorer 7 takes up too much screenspace with chrome. So does Firefox 2. But at least with FF I can get rid of what I like. Also, IE7 has switched around all the old ways of doing things for no apparent reason. Why must you do that? It was good the way it was, and I was used to it. I don’t like interface changes every few years. My car, for instance, has a steering wheel, three pedals, and a stickshift, much like cars of the 1950s. Because it works.
Imagine that operating systems were held to the same standards auto makers are. How would the OS arena be different?
- Their spam filters have finally decided to catch the Nigerian scam mail I get; absolutely welcome turn of algorithm.
- If you want to reach me, email me or IM me. Don’t call me.
- Feature request for Gmail: since you people like search so much, at least let me search by emails with attachments. For instance, it was hard to find a JPEG I wanted the other day. This feature makes sense, because with 2GB+ disk space, you know people are going to be sending around files a lot more than they used to. (Also, yes, I know how to MacGyver this, so don’t give me a workaround.)
My work is done here. Also please notice I fixed the commenting problems; if you have any more issues, do drop me an email, or IM me. Which reminds me, I need to email Vamp and see how he’s doing.