Digital Life Clippings – Christmas Break Edition

  1. Police called to remove pre-teens just in case they pirated Hunger Games movie with cellphonesArs Technica – Given the storyline of the movie, this is ironic. Cineworld thinks copyrights are so precious it’s worth infringing common sense and individual rights to protect them. They think paying customers are criminals until proven otherwise, even kids. Don’t let any kids you care about watch movies at a cinema with this attitude, it’s not safe.
  2. The most wasteful patent aggression strategy ever has failedArs Technica – Another skirmish in the ongoing dirty war by the legacy technology & media industry against Google bites the dust.
  3. NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas EveBoing Boing – Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of Freedom of Information requests should see how government agencies squirm responding to them.
  4. Inadvertent Algorithmic CrueltyMeyerWeb – Facebook’s Year In Review is a product of an unremittingly positive mindset that believes algorithms can handle anything. This time I think it will be widely regretted rather than welcomed, for the reasons Eric Meyer explains and I expand. Algorithms can’t exercise discretion; don’t use them for things that demand it.
  5. Cuba’s “offline Internet”Guardian – The Internet was designed to work around obstacles. This fascinating example does it via sneakernet.

Crowdsource vs Open Source

The acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus VR by Facebook was announced this week to mixed reactions. Most negative were those who had enabled the Rift VR goggles to be created in the first place — the backers on Kickstarter who provided nearly $2.5m to see the dream become reality. One prominent backer, the founder of Minecraft creators Mojang, was especially upset, deciding that Minecraft will not collaborate with Facebook. In a blog post he wrote:

I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

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Facebook’s Global Telco Dream

Maybe there’s more to the Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp than just the centralised consolidation of users and user information that Simon denounced in his previous InfoWorld article. Perhaps this particular addition to their portfolio is Facebook’s move towards becoming the first truly global telco!

The idea makes a lot of sense; not only is the world already familiar with the technology, WhatsApp has the same phone numbers that legacy telcos use, without the need to pay for connection fees across the world’s analog phone network. It’s almost amazing it hasn’t happened already, but conditions for a global telco have only recently become so ideal. Smart phones and globally available internet connections mean the moment has come and the big question remaining is, who’ll get there first?

Read Simons take on the potential for a global telco in his InfoWorld article.

Hope in Federations

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp gains them almost half a billion users worth of telephone data. We can fully expect them to share their user information once joined, adding a wealth of phone data to Facebook and fleshing out WhatsApp with both Facebook’s data and the results of Facebook’s powerful semantic search. This sort of centralisation avoids giving users control of their own data.

To create a more positive environment in which users retain control of their data, what’s needed are more federated projects. Projects which offer the ability for suitably capable users to run their own service that can federate as a full peer, extending the service without surrendering full control. Diaspora and WordPress are two high profile examples of what federated services can look like, but there are many more available. All are open to user control in addition to service provider hosting.

If we are to maintain control of our own data in the future, federated services offer us much more hope than the route Facebook and WhatsApp are going down. Read more in this weeks InfoWorld article.