Archive for May 2010

The way things are vs the way they might be

The stereotypical use of Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and similar services is to share things with everyone. Either everyone in your friends list, or possibly, everyone in the world.

The group of people clamoring for better “privacy” are asking to change this to a service in which we share things with exactly those people we are interested in sharing them with.

I believe most people would continue to share with everyone by default. Indeed, Facebook already allows sharing with specific groups, but do people really use this feature much? The reason is, it’s easy to publish to “everyone” and hope someone might be interested. It’s much harder to publish to “specific people” and wonder if those people would really be interested in what you have found or what you have to say.

From the other side, it’s much easier to ignore something that a friend has shared with “everyone.” We simply assume that friend had other people on their list that would be more interested. On the other hand, if someone explicitly shares something with me, I immediately wonder why. Why did they think I would find it interesting or entertaining? Further, if I don’t find it interesting or entertaining, it is harder to ignore, because my friend has made a special effort to share it with me, I should express interest.

Facebook doesn’t facilitate easier sharing of information. We had that already, via e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs, websites, and countless other services. Facebook allows us to easily ignore information. That is it’s charm; to imagine that we are being heard, without having to listen to anyone else.

The Face of Social Media

Yes, this topic has been done to death in the past couple weeks, but I’m one of the numerous people signed up to quit Facebook at the end of the month, as proposed at http://www.quitfacebookday.com/. I have all the same reasons as other people; privacy and control. My main one is that I don’t like the centralized model that Facebook engenders. No one company is supposed to be in control of the Internet. It should also not be an oligarchy. Data should be distributed.

This is why I’m excited about the Diaspora project at http://joindiaspora.com/. What interests me most is not what this project intends to do, but their business model. Find a need, a niche on the web. Generate venture capital by asking people with that need to donate funds. Fill the niche. This is like applying the open source model to business. I’d like to see much more of it in the future. I hope the project is implemented intelligently; if it is, I’m looking forward to migrating to it when they make their first alpha release.

In the meantime, I’m looking for alternatives to Facebook. I primarily use Facebook for two purposes: publishing and consuming content. I don’t play the games, and I don’t use their (extremely bad) messaging framework.

The Facebook News Feed is extremely useful, getting an aggregate of all my friends’ activities in one place, be it status updates, blog posts, new links, or photos. But I can find ways to get this information myself. The thing that I lose out on is the ability to PUSH my data to my friends.

I signed up for Twitter. I really don’t like it, although I can’t put my finger on why. It is also a centralized service, and it has been down a lot. I think it could be used for my purposes; I can post links and status updates directly, and link to photos on Flickr or a similar service. But I don’t like it. Further, most of the people I interact with aren’t on the service, and I don’t want to encourage them to use it.

I’ve also considered RSS. I have a blog with an RSS feed already; I could develop a simple feed for a status update service as well. Then people could subscribe to the feeds and get whichever notifications they want. This is really the way the Web SHOULD have been done, but it seems that normal people don’t use RSS. It’s also very public; I can’t choose who to share what status updates with. Like most of the world, the majority of my updates are mindless drivel that only make sense to my friends and family. I don’t want them on an indexable feed.

I’m also considering Google Wave as a platform for this kind of communication. In theory, I could create a wave with a short status message and add whichever people I want to see that message to the wave. Or I could make the wave public. Either way I could embed it in my own website. The Wave protocol is actually well-suited for this kind of interaction, but the default interface Google provides is not.

The problem with all these and other options is that they require people interested in my thoughts to go through a certain initiation phase, registration for twitter, wave, or Google Reader, for example. Rather than do this, most people will say, “why not use Facebook?”

ArchCon 2010 Registration Deadline Is Here

There are only four days left to register for ArchCon 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Don’t miss it!

We’ve been busy getting organized, and are excited to be hosting the first ever ArchCon, a conference for Arch Linux users.

We’ve got some great talks lined up, catering is almost in place, and the schwag is nearly ordered. Everything is coming together.

And don’t forget to register!

http://archcon.archlinux.ca/

http://www.archlinux.ca/archcon2010/

Python 3 Object Oriented Programming

For the past eight months, I’ve been working hard on a project that’s a little out of the ordinary, for me. It’s the reason there’s been such a drastic reduction in number of blog posts here. It’s the reason I haven’t been earning enough money to cover my expenses each month. It’s my biggest accomplishment to date.

I’ve written a book (an entire book!) on object oriented programming, with a focus on syntax and libraries supported in the exciting new Python version 3. It’s designed for beginner to intermediate Python developers who are more familiar with Python as a scripting language than as an object oriented programming language.

As a byproduct, it also introduces Python 3 syntax, and will be a great reference for programmers wanting to upgrade their Python 2 skills. For the most part, Python 3 is a simpler, more elegant language. The learning curve is shallow, but it takes some getting used to.

It also summarizes the state of the most exciting libraries available for Python 3 at this time. If you’ve been wondering when it’s time to start migrating to the new language, it is now!

I’m currently in the rewrite phase on the book (it’s time consuming!) but it’s already available for preorder directly from my publisher:

https://www.packtpub.com/python-3-object-oriented-programming/book

I’m not great at marketing, so to put it bluntly: I hope you all buy a copy! I’ve put a great deal of effort into this project, and I’m very proud of the result. This book is a great resource and fills a void in the available references. It also fills a void in my available writings, as my blog posts tapered off over the past few months!