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Join Diaspora… But Maybe Not Just Yet

Up and down all day long


SEVERAL months ago I joined Diaspora and enjoyed the good uptime of the service. The community was thriving, everyone was friendly, and the site reacted to input as one would expect. But then, just like, the site began having performance and uptime issues. At one point the site was down for a week. People soon lost those withdrawal symptoms and perhaps just moved on; some returned only to see sporadic operation of the site, which fairly enough is still in alpha (the software it runs is). But the bottom line is, in the early days people reviewed the site harshly for technical shortcomings. Now it’s just the really terrible uptime and low reliability. Unless this gets fixed the site is likely to lose its most ardent supporters and participants.

When Diaspora becomes “stable” it may all be resolved, but by that point, how many people will be on the JoinDiaspora pod?

What’s the Point of LinkedIn?

Old chain

LIKE most people on that site, I joined LinkedIn several years ago after a friend had invited me. For many years I did nothing with the account, but in more recent years the site grew rapidly in terms of popularity and is now a status symbol by some people’s imagination. It’s a bit like Facebook for professionals. But what really is that point of it all? It’s all rather superficial and the process of connecting to peers and friends (or ex-colleagues) is very time-consuming. When one considers what can be gained from having one’s name in a database associated with many other names, then the reality of the matter becomes clearer. Have we come to a point in the lifecycle of the Internet where we score people’s popularity based on the hours they dedicate to clicking to modify some proprietary database of some private company? Frankly, I stopped spending time in LinkedIn and my profile there is very much outdated (last updated properly in 2006). Can there finally be consensus on the irrelevance of public profiles that are merely the entry in someone else’s Web site? It’s just a MySpace for adults and the function is tracking other people’s careers is often overstated as crucial. It’s more like gossip or stalking.

The Culture of Renting

Früher Bankautomat

THE more we move forward, the more we stay the same and sometimes step back. The Internet was created to facilitate the use of one’s space and one’s own material, but in this age of mashups and ‘free’ hosting by so many companies, a lot of people simply subscribe to be a guest at someone else’s platform, thus conceding of the main features of the World Wide Web.

It is saddening to see the number of people who willingly (or due to peer pressure) choose to upload ‘public’ photos that will only be visible to those who give away their personal details to creepy Mark Zuckerberg. It is scary to see how many people still manage their E-mail (professional and personal) on servers in other countries — servers that can be snooped without even informing those affected. Those two problems are not the same, but they illustrate how much different today’s Web is. Once we go there, there’s no going back.

This whole thing boils down to a culture of renting. People purchase machines that are only rented in the sense that they are not general-purpose machines; they are controlled and thus owned by just one company. People also subscribe to other sites where they rent space and sometimes a mail box. People rent a ticket to some database which determines who their “friends” are. When life is “rented” from big corporations rather than bought to be owned, self-determination is assured a destruction. The whole “cloud” media hype makes this worse.

The Dangers of an Advertising Monopoly

THERE have been some heated talks recently about the market distribution in the online advertising sector. An observation worth making is the fact that most companies are in the business of making other companies runs out of business, whether deliberately or not.

With the rise of software as a service, many business rely not on acquisition costs and not on subscription for revenue, either. They use advertisiing instead. It appeals to newcomers and facilitates rapid expansion. But what happens when these businesses rely on a middleman for advertising? What happens when the advertiser itself in among those that compete against Web-based services that rely on it?

Ad BlockingSadly, many businesses rely on companies such as Yahoo and Google, which manage their advertising and connect them with the advertiser. Both ends are customers — the advertiser and the service. The middman gains the most. It is hard to compete with companies such as Yahoo and Google when they in fact make pure profit from advertising. It is almost as though any business that uses a middleman for advertising is sharing the revenue with a competitor. The margins simply cannot be compared.

To use an example, if a company uses Yahoo for advertising in its specialised CMS, then Yahoo gets a share of the profits. If Yahoo wanted to compete head-to-head, it would not be subjected to the same third-party ‘taxation’. Therefore, it would find it easier to compete.

With this little load of my mind, perhaps it’s worth adding that advertising will always remain a controversial thing. It is a form of brainwash. Marketing lies.

Divisive Web

InternetAccording to an article that I recently read, the Internet could one day be broken down into separate networks that are isolated and selectively dispersed around the world. This means that the global nature of the Web, as well as the wealth of information, would cease to exist. Moreover, this heralds that final goodbye to a state where little or no censorship barriers can prevail. This changes one’s perspective entirely.

This worrisome move is entirely different from the issue of Net neutrality, which in itself separates the Web into multiple tiers. It is also reminiscent of rumours about ‘Googlenet’, where one submits a site to a dark privatised Web that gets indexed and closely monitored (obviating the need to crawl remote servers and use pings for distant notification).

In the long term, whether this is totally disastrous or not remains to be seen. Consider, for instance, the peculiar extension of resources that are made publicly available. Let’s look a look at the way that the Web has evolved in recent years. Only a tiny crosssection of the ‘visible’ Web involves content spammers (or scrapers), where visibility is grossly defined by search engines (internal sites and intranets aside). However, in reality, the content that exists on the Web–that which is deliverable and which is spam–can actually be a majority (spammers spawn colossal colonies of junk and dummy content). This leads to (or involves) blogalanches, ‘poisoning’ of the index/cache, and it’s subverting search results in the process. All this leads to chaos as search engines diverge from the correct search results and deliver something less meaningful. In the process of struggling for good spots (or visibility) in search engines, spam rises and leads to attacks of various sort. Temptation leads to vandalism, which leads to further maintenance. The Web no longer seems like an appealing place to be. But can division of the Web help? I very much doubt it. It’s all about authorities controlling information. Brainwash is the means for making others think alike, comply, and even be submissive.

Wikis Finally Embraced by Academics

The Public Wiki section on this domain

Some good news with regards to collaboration with tomorrow’s technology (pardon the pun).

“The collaborative editorial process of wikis often results in a stunning degree of accuracy. A study by the science journal Nature found Wikipedia nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. In fact, for summaries on niche issues and emerging interests, the biggest wiki of them all — Wikipedia — is often the best available source of information.”

It’s about time. I have been doing this for over a year, but people whom I work with refuse to embrace the concept of collaborative editing. They just toss 2 MB E-mail attachments back and fourth, bloating/clogging each other’s inboxes, still unable to spot the actual changes made.

Here is one example . The page is currently locked for editing because it’s a year and a half old, which expires its ‘shelf life’ and justifies guarading against Wiki SPAM.

Squashing Zombie Armies By Moving Server?

Server room

I have just entered a squash competition, which is due to begin in October. I hope I can make a decent run for a change. I tend to lose in the early rounds, judging by previous years. While I’m experienced at tennis, I rarely get the chance to practice squash. Moreover, those who participate are in the competition are rather good in general. They seem to be skilled with the swing and are able to see the game from a different and more advanced perspective. Endurance and strength cannot defeat these qualities.

As a secondary note, my site is likely to be down (offline, to phrase it more gracefully) for 8 hours tonight. The domain is being moved to a newer server, which is definitely good news. Zombie armies are said to have grown in scale quite significantly.

Earlier today I read an article about their impact. It claimed that Windows vulnerabilities have led to a rise of 20%+ in just one week and the implication to a Linux user is more SPAM and more DDOS attacks. With control by proxy there is, quite sadly, no liability. Yesterday I spotted an unidentified bot (probably illegitimate) which devoured half a gigabyte of pages from my site. It’s costing resources and money.

In other news, this morning I submitted a first draft of my thesis. I can finally exhale for a while.

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