mfioretti: social networks* + percloud*

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  1. Popular internet platforms that currently mediate our everyday communications become more and more efficient in managing vast amounts of information, rendering their users more and more addicted and dependent on them. Alternative, more organic options like community networks do exist and they can empower citizens to build their own local networks from the bottom up. This chapter explores such technological options together with the adoption of a healthier internet diet in the context of a wider vision of sustainable living in an energy-limited world.

    The popular Internet platforms that mediate a significant portion of our everyday communications become thus more and more efficient in managing vast amounts of information. In turn, they also become more and more knowledgeable about designing user interaction design techniques that increase addiction, or “stickiness” when described as a performance metric, and dependency. This renders their users more and more addicted and dependent on them, subject to manipulation and exploitation for commercial and political objectives. This could be characterized as the second watershed of the Internet in the context of Illich’s analysis on the lifecycle of tools. As in the case of medicine and education, the Internet at its early stages was extremely useful. It dramatically increased our access to knowledge and to people all over the world. However, to achieve this, it relied on big organizations offering efficient and reliable services. These services now depend more and more on the participation of people and on the exploitation of the corresponding data produced for platforms to survive. This creates a vicious cycle between addictive design practices and unfair competition which breach the principle of net neutrality, and unethical uses of privately owned knowledge on human behavior which are generated through analyses of the data produced from our everyday online activities.

    In addition to the tremendous social, political, and economic implications of centralizing power on the Internet, there are also significant ecological consequences. At first glance, these seem to be positive. The centralization of online platforms has allowed their owners to build huge data centers in cold climates and invest in technologies that keep servers cool with lower energy costs. However, at the same time, the main aim of online platforms is to maximize the total time spent online as much as possible and to maximize the amount of information exchanged, not only between people but also between “things!” Their profitability depends on the processing of huge amounts of information that produces knowledge which can be sold to advertisers and politicians. Like the pharmaceutical companies, they create and maintain a world in which they are very much needed. This also explains why corporations like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are at the forefront of the efforts to provide “Internet access to all” and why at the same time local communities face so many economic, political, and legal hurdles that encumber them to build, maintain, and control their own infrastructures.

    To achieve a sustainable level of Internet usage, one needs to provide the appropriate tools and processes for local communities to make decisions on the design of their ICT tools, including appropriate alternative and/or complementary design of places, institutions, and rituals that can impose certain constraints and replace online communications when these are not really necessary. To answer this demand, one should first answer a more fundamental question: How much online communication is needed in an energy-restricted world? In the case of food and housing, there are some reasonable basic needs. For example, each person should consume 2000 calories per day or 35 m2 of habitat (see P.M., 2014). But, how many Mbs does someone need to consume to sustain a good quality of life? What would be the analogy for a restricted vegetarian or even vegan Internet diet?
    The answer might differ depending on the services considered (social activities, collaborative work, or media) and the type of access to the network discussed above. For example, is it really necessary to have wireless connectivity “everywhere, anytime” using expensive mobile devices, or is it enough to have old-fashioned Internet cafes and only wired connections at home? Would it make sense to have Internet-free zones in cities? Can we imagine “shared” Internet usage in public spaces—a group of people interacting together in front of a screen and alternating in showing their favorite YouTube videos (a sort of an Internet jukebox)? There is a variety of more or less novel constraints which could be imposed on different dimensions:

    Time and Volume: A communications network owned by a local community, instead of a global or local corporation, could shut down for certain period of time each day if this is what the community decides. Or community members could agree to have certain time quotas for using the network (e.g., not more than 4 hours per day or 150 hours per month). Such constraints would not only reduce energy consumption; they would also enforce a healthier lifestyle and encourage face-to-face interactions.

    Reducing quotas on the speed (bandwidth) and volume (MB) that each person consumes is another way to restrict Internet consumption. Actually people are already used to such limits especially for 3G/4G connectivity. The difference is that a volume constraint does not necessarily translate to time constraints (if someone uses low volume services such as e-mail). So, volume constraints could encourage the use of less voluminous services (e.g., downloading a movie with low instead of High Definition resolution if this is to be watched in a low definition screen anyway) while time constraints might have the opposite effect (people using as much bandwidth as possible in their available time).

    However, to enforce such constraints, both time and volume based, on an individual basis, the network needs to know who is connecting to it and keep track of the overall usage. This raises the question of privacy and identification online and again the trade-off of trusting local vs. global institutions to take this role. Enforcing time or volume constraints for groups of people (e.g., the residents of a cooperative housing complex) is an interesting option to be considered when privacy is considered important.

    Devices: Energy consumption depends on the type of equipment used to access the Internet. For example, if access to the Internet happens only through desktop computers or laptops using ethernet cables instead of mobile smartphones, then the total energy consumed for a given service would be significantly reduced. Usage would also be dramatically affected: On the positive side, many people would spend less time online and use the Internet only for important tasks. On the negative side, others might stay at home more often and sacrifice outdoors activities in favor of Internet communications.
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  2. I contenuti di Facebook – dicono i due esperti – non sono indicizzati dai motori di ricerca, quindi qualsiasi discussione rilevante che avviene da quelle parti rimarrà confinata agli iscritti. Linkare simili contenuti da fuori è quasi impossibile, specie se non possiedi un profilo Facebook.

    E cosa accadrebbe domani se Facebook dovesse chiudere? Le nostre parole scivolerebbero via come lacrime nella pioggia, l’esatto opposto di quello che Internet ha da sempre immaginato. Già oggi Facebook vieta all’Internet Archive, l’anima documentale di Internet, di salvare schermate rilevanti da archiviare per i posteri.

    Alcuni anni fa la Biblioteca del Congresso varò un progetto per archiviare tutti i tweet prodotti al mondo. Erano forse i bibliotecari americani interessati alle sciocchezze irrilevanti che scriviamo dal divano mentre guardiamo la partita? Ovviamente no. Avevano semplicemente capito che la memoria storica oggi viaggia nascosta nei piccoli frammenti delle comunicazioni di rete. È per questo che il peccato di superbia di Facebook è oggi un tema pubblico di dimensioni gigantesche.
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  3. For a long time I told the same basic joke about Silicon Valley, just updating as some new walled garden network replicated long-existing technology in a format better able to attract VC cash and, presumably, get them ad dollars.

    2002, Friendster: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2003, Photobucket: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2003, Myspace: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2004, Flickr: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2004, Facebook: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2005, YouTube: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
    2006, Twitter: At last, a way to post text on the internet!
    2010, Instagram: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2013, Vine: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
    2013, YikYak: At last, a way to post text on the internet!

    You get the idea. An industry that never stops lauding itself for its creativity and innovation has built its own success mythology by endlessly repackaging the same banal functions that have existed for about as long as the Web.
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  4. Movim
    When social network meets IM,
    you can expect some surprises…

    Our main motto? Don't reinvent the wheel. Since the beginning all the Movim communications are made using XMPP.
    Voting 0
  5. We’re stuck, therefore, on that first-step level of finally admitting that being religious doesn't entitle us to forgo basic religious responsibilities with regard to the internet. We furthermore tend to simplify the challenge of practicing faith online by regarding as fixed and static the nature, structure and economies of the internet. A non-moving target is easier to hit. “Engagement,” therefore, can be satisfied by ensuring that one’s parish has Facebook, Twitter and possibly Snapchat accounts, and that those who dare to operate these machines do so prayerfully, charitably and with ample opportunities for digital detox.

    This strikes me as inadequate. Just as the offline economy forms us, the online one does too. It helps determine what kind of Christians and humans we become. It does so not only through our day-to-day behavior and that of others, but through its nature and structure. Concerns about the structure of the status quo economy, after all, have inclined many parishes to form credit unions, job boards, food pantries, thrift stores and other economic alternatives for their members and the surrounding communities. What if we did the same for the internet? Its structure has made corporate surveillance over our everyday lives and relationships a tolerable business model, while perpetuating gross inequalities of access that accentuate already existing inequalities of other kinds. The dominant internet culture encourages non-Christian values like planned obsolescence and idolatry of the new. Can parishes do better?

    I think they can. I’ve been gathering some ideas about how parishes can create the credit unions and thrift stores of 21st-century connectivity.
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  6. the social Web: a glorious dystopia where everybody works for likes — as in, “for free” — while a handful of tech tycoons profit.

    Never has this been clearer than in the past month, as Reddit — a private company that recently accepted $50 million in venture funding — quelled an uprising among the volunteers who actually run the site: its moderators.

    What will happen to the Internet if Reddit shuts down? »

    But insomuch as Reddit relies on digital work to run its business, it is not alone. In fact, that’s basically the elevator pitch of every major Internet institution, from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to Wikipedia. Even when these sites don’t openly rely on “consumers” to create the content that keeps venture capital, ad revenue or donations pouring in, they’re mining them for other sorts of resources that can be monetized.

    Can something truly be called exploitative, or even labor, if the exploited parties enjoy it? That’s a difficult question and one that theorists haven’t conclusively answered yet.

    And still, there’s plenty to suggest that different sorts of labor arrangements would be really good for users and the sites they work on. When people aren’t paid for their work, for instance, the only people who can contribute are the ones who (a) have money from other sources or (b) are overwhelmingly compelled by motivations like power, popularity or revenge. (The writer and tech theorist David Banks has implied this is one of the reasons that Reddit skews so heavily young and male.)
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  7. Under every information architecture there hides a power structure.

    what emerges from the view that David proposed to us a decade ago now in The Power of Networks?

    This view quickly makes it clear that in distributed networks, the non-existence of central nodes not only makes it possible to have a network that is much more robust, but hierarchies also disappear, autonomy is favored and the control over others becomes impossible.

    As a result, the nature of distributed networks is completely different from that of decentralized ones. A distributed network is not a more decentralized network. This is why it’s very important to answer the question of whether GNU social has a distributed or decentralized structure.

    This conversation and especially the message belowput us on the track of a broader and more appropriate answer.

    All microblogging and social networking sites are using selectively flawed ideas and should be transformed. Nobody needs ‘microblogging,’ they want socialization.

    The desire to socialize and connect with each other shows the fact that all these systems and sites are not social networks in themselves, but tools that, like instant messaging and mail services, are used by social networks, which is to say, networks of people.

    So we see that GNU social is a free tool for interconnection and communication used by different social networks. What functions will it offer, and what we will exchange through GNU social? That depends on what the social networks that use it want.
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  8. here were plenty of reasons Diaspora didn’t take off, Dwyer told me in a phone interview. But the biggest was probably the simplest: No matter how many people joined, it still felt like a “ghost town” compared with Facebook. (Sound familiar, Google Plus?) It’s awfully hard to build a social network with better features than Facebook—especially when the one feature people really care about in a social network is that all their friends are on it.

    It doesn’t help that Facebook has managed to bake itself into the most popular sites all across the Web, and is beginning to do the same with mobile apps.

    Despite Diaspora’s struggles, Dwyer doesn’t believe Facebook is invulnerable. Other upstarts might have a better chance, he speculated, if they could build a network that maps onto existing, real-world social groups. That’s what Zuckerberg did at Harvard and other Ivy League colleges before expanding Facebook to universities and then high schools across the country and the world.

    “You can see from things like Ello, from Diaspora, that whenever some kind of alternative emerges, people stampede to it,” Dwyer said. “There’s a power to this idea.”

    But what if the idea of an “anti-Facebook,” powerful though it might be in theory, is fatally flawed? That’s what Bradford Cross, co-founder and CEO of the social news platform Prismatic, has come to believe after years of struggling to build a vibrant online community of his own.

    Social-media startups, Cross says, need to define themselves by what they are, rather than what they aren’t. “No one care about something that’s just ‘not Facebook.’ People care about having their needs met. Facebook is meeting a deep human need for people to stay connected to other people they care about—specifically, to stay connected to people they wouldn’t otherwise stay connected to.

    he social startups that have struck it big in the post-Facebook era have all started by carving out a different niche. That difference, Cross argues, can’t just be about a site’s back-end architecture or business model, as with Diaspora (an open-source Facebook) or (a Twitter without ads). The product itself has to fulfill a fresh purpose for its users, like sharing snazzy smartphone snapshots (Instagram), networking and advancing their careers (LinkedIn), or showing off their taste in fashion, food, and design (Pinterest).

    Trying to beat Facebook at its own game, Cross argues, is like “trying to beat Google in search.” Not only does Facebook have a huge head start, but it has vast resources with which to outmaneuver or overwhelm any direct competitors. And when all else fails, it simply buys them.

    That doesn’t mean Facebook will rule social networking forever. The history of Internet companies is littered with the ruins of companies that once looked impregnable. But Facebook’s fortress today looks formidable from the front. Ultimately, it’s more likely to be toppled by someone sneaking in a side door with a very different model for online social interactions.

    Meanwhile, erstwhile Facebook challengers like Instagram and WhatsApp are flourishing as standalone products under the Facebook corporate umbrella. So if you’re tired of Facebook, you do have options. It’s just that a lot of them happen to be owned by Facebook.
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  9. If your profile were linked to a domain name that you own, then if your existing hosting company ever deleted your profile (or threatened to), you could simply move your profile to a new hosting company, the same way that any person or company can currently switch their domain name between hosting providers. This, obviously, would instantly render moot any one company's policies about "real names" (or porn, for that matter) -- all you have to do is find at least one company, anywhere in the world, whose policies are permissive enough to host your profile, and that should be possible for all but the most extreme or illegal content.
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  10. Your personal information and content is yours, not ours. We do not spy on you, track your data, or share your information.

    MeWe lets you share anything– photos, videos, voice messages, editable documents, mail, chat, and more. Capture your entire world or just a moment in time.
    Next Generation

    Our unique permission controls let you decide who can see your content, preventing creepy strangers and 'friends of friends' from peeking. You can even make yourself invisible to other members if you want.

    MeWe delivers awesome features so you can stay connected to your friends, family, and world. Communicate 1:1 and in private groups. You even get your own personal cloud storage with breakthrough content controls for saving content you've already shared.
    Voting 0

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