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22 FEBRUARY 2014

An Introduction to the Federated Social Network

"To understand how federated social networking would be an improvement, we should understand how online social networking essentially works today. Right now, when you sign up for Facebook, you get a Facebook profile, which is a collection of data about you that lives on Facebook's servers. You can add words and pictures to your Facebook profile, and your Facebook profile can have a variety of relationships – it can be friends with other Facebook profiles, it can be a 'fan' of another Facebook page, or 'like' a web page containing a Facebook widget. Crucially, if you want to interact meaningfully with anyone else's Facebook profile or any application offered on the Facebook platform, you have to sign up with Facebook and conduct your online social networking on Facebook's servers, and according to Facebook's rules and preferences. (You can replace 'Facebook' with 'Orkut,' 'LinkedIn,' 'Twitter,' and essentially tell the same story.)

We've all watched the dark side of this arrangement unfold, building a sad catalog of the consequences of turning over data to a social networking company. The social networking company might cause you to overshare information that you don't want shared, or might disclose your information to advertisers or the government, harming your privacy. And conversely, the company may force you to undershare by deleting your profile, or censoring information that you want to see make it out into the world, ultimately curbing your freedom of expression online. And because the company may do this, governments might attempt to require them to do it, sometimes even without asking or informing the end–user.

How will federated social networks be different? The differences begin with the code behind online social networking. The computer code that gives you a Facebook profile is built in a closed way – it's proprietary and kept relatively secret by Facebook, so you have to go through Facebook to create, maintain, and interact with Facebook profiles or applications.

But federated social network developers are doing two things differently in order to build a new ecosystem. First, the leading federated social networking software is open–source: that means that anybody can download the source code, and use it to create and maintain social networking profiles for themselves and others. Second, the developers are simultaneously collaborating on a new common language, presumably seeking an environment where most or even all federated social networking profiles can talk to one another.

What will that likely mean in practice? To join a federated social network, you'll be able to choose from an array of 'profile providers,' just like you can choose an email provider. You will even be able to set up your own server and provide your social networking profile yourself. And in a federated social network, any profile can talk to another profile – even if it's on a different server.

Imagine the Web as an open sea. To use Facebook, you have to immigrate to Facebook Island and get a Facebook House, in a land with a single ruler. But the distributed social networks being developed now will allow you to choose from many islands, connected to one another by bridges, and you can even have the option of building your own island and your own bridges."

(Richard Esguerra, 21 March 21 2011, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

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TAGS

2011abstraction layeragency of access and engagementautonomy • centralised infrastructure • centralised platformcommon interfaceComputer Supported Cooperative Work • content distribution networks • data contextdecentralisation • decentralised architecture • decentralised infrastructure • distributed ecosystemdistributed models • distributed social network • Distributed Social Networking (DOSN) • distributed social networks • distributed systemElectronic Frontier Foundation • Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) • Facebook • Federated Social Networks (FSN) • Google Wave Federation Protocol • hCard • information ecosysteminteroperabilityknowledge commonsLinkedInlocalisationmultiplatform • OAuth • Online Social Networks (OSN) • open architecture • open protocol • Open Stack • open standardsOpenID • OpenSocial • Orkut • OStatus • peer-to-peer exchange • Portable Contacts (open protocol) • social network aggregation services • software portability • structural abstraction • system scalability • technology integrationTwitter • user application data • user autonomy • Wave Federation Protocol • web feeds • web services • XFN • XRD

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
30 OCTOBER 2013

Forget big data, small data is the real revolution

"Big data smacks of the centralization fads we've seen in each computing era. The thought that 'hey there's more data than we can process!' (something which is no doubt always true year–on–year since computing began) is dressed up as the latest trend with associated technology must–haves.

Meanwhile we risk overlooking the much more important story here, the real revolution, which is the mass democratisation of the means of access, storage and processing of data. This story isn't about large organisations running parallel software on tens of thousand of servers, but about more people than ever being able to collaborate effectively around a distributed ecosystem of information, an ecosystem of small data. ...

And when we want to scale up the way to do that is through componentized small data: by creating and integrating small data "packages" not building big data monoliths, by partitioning problems in a way that works across people and organizations, not through creating massive centralized silos.

This next decade belongs to distributed models not centralized ones, to collaboration not control, and to small data not big data."

(Rufus Pollock, 25 April 2013)

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TAGS

big datacentralisation • centralised silos • collaborate effectively • collaboration not control • componentised small data • computing era • creating and integrating small datadatadata accessdata contextdata humanisationdata into information • data monoliths • data packages • data revolution • data sharingdata visualisation • data wrangling • decentralisationdistributed ecosystemdistributed modelsHans Rosling • household energy use • information ecosystemintimate exchangesliteracylittle data • local buses • local government spending • local narratives • loosely joined • mass democratisation • means of access • Microsoft Excel • one ring to rule them all • Open Knowledge Foundation • partitioning problems • people and organisationspocket datapopulation change • processing of data • processing-power • Rufus Pollocksensemakingsmall data • small pieces loosely joined • storage of data • technology must-haves • trend forecasting

CONTRIBUTOR

Neal White
22 MARCH 2013

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

"In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the list's veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital money – convenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and banks – had been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet. Cypherpunks, the 1990s movement of libertarian cryptographers, dedicated themselves to the project. Yet every effort to create virtual cash had foundered. Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies. Other proposals followed – bit gold, RPOW, b–money – but none got off the ground.

One of the core challenges of designing a digital currency involves something called the double–spending problem. If a digital dollar is just information, free from the corporeal strictures of paper and metal, what's to prevent people from copying and pasting it as easily as a chunk of text, 'spending' it as many times as they want? The conventional answer involved using a central clearinghouse to keep a real–time ledger of all transactions – ensuring that, if someone spends his last digital dollar, he can't then spend it again. The ledger prevents fraud, but it also requires a trusted third party to administer it.

Bitcoin did away with the third party by publicly distributing the ledger, what Nakamoto called the 'block chain.' Users willing to devote CPU power to running a special piece of software would be called miners and would form a network to maintain the block chain collectively. In the process, they would also generate new currency. Transactions would be broadcast to the network, and computers running the software would compete to solve irreversible cryptographic puzzles that contain data from several transactions. The first miner to solve each puzzle would be awarded 50 new bitcoins, and the associated block of transactions would be added to the chain. The difficulty of each puzzle would increase as the number of miners increased, which would keep production to one block of transactions roughly every 10 minutes. In addition, the size of each block bounty would halve every 210,000 blocks – first from 50 bitcoins to 25, then from 25 to 12.5, and so on. Around the year 2140, the currency would reach its preordained limit of 21 million bitcoins."

(Benjamin Wallace, 23 November 2011, Wired Magazine)

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TAGS

1990s2008anonymous system • b-money • bit gold • bitcoin • block chain • broadcast to the network • chain • clearinghouse • collective interests • collective participation • collective participation technology • corporeal strictures • credit card • cryptographer • cryptographic puzzle • cryptography • currency • cypherpunkDavid Chaumdecentralisation • digital currency • digital dollar • digital money • distribution models • double-spending • financial flowsfinancial transactionsfraudfree market economyglobal capital flowsinformation flowsinformation theoryinfrastructureJapan • ledger • libertarianism • Listservminermining • mining metaphor • P2Ppuzzle • pyramid scheme • RPOW • Satoshi Nakamoto • speculationspeculation and innovation • spending • trustvalue and benefit • virtual cash • Wired (magazine)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
30 MAY 2011

Open Video Alliance: futuring participatory culture

"As internet video matures, we face a crossroads: will technology and public policy support a more participatory culture – one that encourages and enables free expression and broader cultural engagement? Will video be woven into the fabric of the open web? Or will online video become a glorified TV–on–demand service? Open Video is a movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video through open standards, open source, and sharing."

(Open Video Alliance)

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TAGS

authorshipbest practicesbottom-up innovationcensorship • centralised distribution • CODECcontent distributioncopyrightcultural engagementdecentralisationdigital cultureDIYend-usersfair usefilmmakersfree expressionfree speech • iCommons • internet video • interoperabilityinteroperable technologies • Kaltura • legality • media consolidation • online videoopen codecsopen sourceopen standardsopen video • Open Video Alliance • open video ecosystem • open video formatsopen webownershipparticipatory culture • Participatory Culture Foundation • proprietaryproprietary technologiespublic policyregulationremix culture • remixers • scriptiblesharingsocial normstechnical innovationtechnologists • TV-on-demand • video artistsvideo creation • video creators • Yale Internet Society Project • YouTubers • YT

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 JUNE 2009

Phillip Blond: Rise of the red Tories

"We live in a time of crisis. In such times humans retreat to safety, and build bulwarks against the future. The financial emergency is having this effect on Britain's governing class. Labour has withdrawn to the safety of the sheltering state, and the comforts of its first income tax rise since the mid–1970s. Meanwhile, the Conservatives appear to be proposing a repeat of Thatcherite austerity in the face of economic catastrophe. But this crisis is more than an ordinary recession. It represents a disintegration of the idea of the 'market state' and makes obsolete the political consensus of the last 30 years. A fresh analysis of the ruling ideological orthodoxy is required.
...
On a deeper level, the present moment is a challenge to conservatism itself. The Conservatives are still viewed as the party of the free market, an idea that has collapsed into monopoly finance, big business and deregulated global capitalism. Tory social thinking has genuinely evolved, but the party's economic thinking is still poised between repetition and renewal. As late as August 2008 David Cameron said: 'I'm going to be as radical a social reformer as Margaret Thatcher was an economic reformer,' and that 'radical social reform is what this country needs right now.' He is right about society, but against the backdrop of collapsing markets and without a macro–economic alternative, Thatcherite economics has been wrongfooted by events."
(Phillip Blond, Prospect Magazine February 2009 issue 155)

TAGS

2009austeritycapitalismchange • civil association • conservatismConservativescrisisDavid Camerondecentralisation • financial emergency • free market economyglobal capitalismglobal financial crisisglobal financial systemLabour • late-modern • Margaret Thatcher • market state • mutualism • neoliberalism • Phillip Blond • politicspost-traditionalreformsocial change • social reform • stateTorytransformationUK • voluntary association

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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