Welcome to the Mastodon Era

While everything seems to be in meltdown mode on Twitter, a lot of users are jumping ship to Mastodon.

Mastodon is not new. It’s actually been around for a handful of years but operating in smaller, dedicated circles as an alternative to “major” social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

I had been thinking about exploring more about Mastodon a few years back but never found the time to dig into it. Of course, now that I’ve made my jump on board, I’m somewhat regretting that I haven’t explored it sooner.

I understood that it’s a “federated” social network but never really grasped what that meant until I got into it. Hearing someone say it is a lot different than actually getting hands on so that your brain can fully comprehend what that means.

And it’s awesome. Yes, it’s a little difficult to understand at first, and there is a lot of terminology and functionality that is mostly the same but different from those mainstream social networks that you might already be familiar with.

The one thing I really like about Mastodon is how decentralized it is. There are pluses and minuses to that concept, but this is what could make Mastodon a really great, evolutionary step in all things internet.

Because “federated” is something everyone is more familiar with than they know. The roads you drive on are federated. The phone you talk or text on are federated. Email is federated. There is an established method for how all of these things work that is managed on various levels but generally provide the same standards.

When you drive across the country, at least in the US and Canada, you subconsciously expect that there will be at least a two lane highway that is wide enough for two cars traveling in opposite directions. Every state or province has their own methods for how those roads are constructed and maintained, but they are all built to a standard that every driver tends to understand. From signage, road markings, and speed limits, there are established protocols that remain fairly the same from location to location.

That’s what is meant when it is said that Mastodon is federated.

There is an established method that allows islands of servers to exchange data in a predefined, open source protocol, which is pretty much the exact same way email already works.

And just like email, anyone can setup a server or find an existing service to sign up on to start interacting with the world. But once you control a server, you can decide who can have an account on it, what other servers can interact with your server, and so on.

That is where the power lies in Mastodon for me. It might not be perfect and need some work to make these protocols efficient as more and more people jump on board, but the idea of having control over your social network is a massive concept to a more free and open internet.

From Iowa to the PNW

It actually is morning and much more sunlight in Iowa than there is an Vancouver right now. Funny how Reddit serves up sometimes.

Even my B.C. sister-in-law was impressed with the dawn and dusk skies of the Midwest. It’s a different beauty to appreciate.

Elon Musk’s Twitter

It pains me to even type his name so that it lives in perpetuity, but here we are.

One of the most prolific venture capitalists in the history of capitalism has done what a wealthy capitalist does, which is to buy something simply because they can. That’s how I look at this in a nonfictional context.

But where does that leave us, the consumers of Twitter?

I joined the site when it was nothing more than a website in 2007. Smartphones were still in the single-stroke engine phase of their technological evolution, and initially, the only mobile engagement you got was a one-way interaction via text message, meaning you could post a tweet through SMS but not really get any engagement back because all of that effectively happened at the terminal level.

The terminal level

It brought on a whole new level of engagement that we all declared to be called “microblogging”.

And the truth is that Twitter was the beginning of the end for the culture that blogging had become around that time. One technology overtaking another technology is a tale as old as time, so in hindsight, this should not be surprising.

Over the next few years, many blogs, mine included, went pretty quiet because tweeting was a quick, rapid fire method of dissemination that cost basically nothing and was simple to grasp the concept of. Blogs, like this site, took a little more to understand how the method of publishing content with pictures and links works and how to do it well.

#nettuesday “social media for social change” event at workspace where I’m sure someone mentioned microblogging, circa 2011

Ease of use and instantaneously reaching the entire world at the click of a button was a huge jump in information sharing in human history, and anyone, not just those who could afford it, could suddenly do it with Twitter.

Because if you look back in time, the evolutionary track of how we share information is filled with the commonalities of how a handful of powerful players influenced, steered, and profited on technologies like the printing press, telegraph, the electrical grid, wireless, radio, television, to the internet. There were even other forms of microblogging sites that tried to be “the next” or “an alternative to” Twitter, but they came and went with varying forms of success and failure.

Tillamook Cheese Factory, Oregon, circa 2012

Twitter happened to be one of the first and got lucky to have investors that helped forge it into what it became.

So now that Elon has bought it and cleared out the core of those who were at the top of the company’s operations, I would say that there is something going on that can certainly destabilize Twitter as a business.

Tech companies have come and gone by the thousands, and no business is ever too big to fail. There is an absolute possibility that Twitter could cease to exist, which was true before Musk even thought about buying it. But being that he has forcefully removed those at the top of the company’s ecosystem, we’re going to see the beginning of a brain drain with employees walking out from the lower ranks.

That’s the real foundation of any operation where without those people knowing the daily ins and outs to how things work will cause a noticeable shift. It’s impossible to guess as to how much and to what degree, but this is true of any job, especially if you lose lynchpins that take multiple people to do the same things that a single person did.

99th Grey Cup Tweetup, circa 2011

That’s really my first thought. How long before the first fail whale resurfaces? What about sabotage? Because this is the type of event where there will be no two-week notices. Folks will quit by just standing up and walking out as their personal thresholds will be tested against that benefits package and steady income that is just too good to leave your job for.

“Oh. Steve used to take care of that. I guess we forgot to put someone in charge of that… three months ago.”

The last few days has seen a sharp rise in derogatory language on Twitter, making people publicly ask if this is the free speech that Elon is professing his reasoning for this takeover.

This is where we have to wait and see how this will play out. Because even if someone is wealthy enough to do powerful things, that does not mean they are the best, the brightest, or the most successful. It just means that they are rich.

Up and until now, Musk has been good with his capitalist ventures because he has invested in developing products. How will he be able to handle something service based? How do you keep users, not customers, content?

If someone has a problem with a Tesla, you can give them a new Tesla. If someone has an issue with a rocket, you build them a better rocket.

First official Grey Cup Tweetup in CFL history, circa 2011

If the Twitter experience is ruined for someone, that’s it. There is nothing shiny or new that can be given. With users, you have to apologize and promise to be better, and then the final decision is in the hands of the user to stay or go.

And if you start introducing new things, then you risk users not liking new Twitter and fading away while left desiring Twitter classic.

Because Twitter doesn’t have to exist. It could have gone into the ground years ago under poor leadership and misguided direction, but depending on how you look at it, we’re lucky it didn’t in a weird, sometimes sad, human experiment sort of way.

Accepting that, I’ll continue to use Twitter because I remember the time when we didn’t have it as well as those times where it really showed the power of how the internet could bring people together and get out from behind our terminals. Long live cat photos and viral sensations. Down with anger and hate.

Edit: Here’s a great take on The Verge, “Welcome to hell, Elon”

Vancouver 2010: Day 6 – Mailing it in

So my experience of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics boiled down to letting the wookie win, and this implies the cold that was just a tad annoying the day prior. I waived the white flag in the battle when my head felt like it was in a vicegrip, taking in the games by whatever the TV could bring me while I slipped in and out of consciousness on the couch.

I make it sound worse than it was, but sometimes you just need to rest it out.

Day 6 certainly had some action to it. I missed Lindsey Vonn’s gold medal ski run but caught most of the last handful of skiers who had a heck of a time in Whistler. Shani Davis rocked that 1000 meters in speed skating, and Shaun White pretty much blew my mind.

Combine all of that with Twitter and Flickr, I have all I really need to find out what’s going on between all over B.C. in terms of these games.

So what I thought I would do is poke through some of the photos submitted to the True North Media House photo group on Flickr to pull out some great stuff that’s been filtering through the social media news wires. A lot of people are doing cool stuff, and the photography that’s coming through really pushes that concept of cool to a different level of storytelling rather than just saying what happened.
Continue reading “Vancouver 2010: Day 6 – Mailing it in”

Where do you draw the line with being social when it comes to social media?

I Facebooked Your Mom

I’m not mentioning this to be mean or rude, but there is something to be said about the sphere of social media that I and many others exist in and what it means to actually be social. It’s a tough line to walk, so let me explain a little.

Hockey MySpace porn what? In the realm of myspace, you add as many people as you possibly can. I never quite understood this mentality until I tried to build an account for RadioZoom and use it as a matter of promotion for the podcast. Pretty soon, promotional reps for various bands were adding me as friends and sending out mass messages of what their bands are doing. That’s a great mechanism for the network, but last time I checked, I have a very hard time making it to rock shows in North Carolina even though I’m on the guest list. I certainly appreciate the offer though.

The point I’m trying to make is that I have never met these people, and it’s fairly clear that they’ve never met me, nor do they know what I really do, where I’m located, and that I haven’t actually published an episode of RadioZoom in quite sometime.

Enter the realms of Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter, and I have taken a very upfront, social approach from the onset of joining these networks. For the most part, I try to apply a one degree of separation before claiming someone as a contact or friend. Or to put it in simple English, I like to at least meet someone before I actually say that we’re a contact or friend.

Ready for demos It’s a simple matter of putting a face to the name. If I say that I know you in a social network setting, it makes much more sense to me to actually know you in a setting that goes beyond a connection between your terminal and mine.

And just to address the age old story of the person on the other end not being who they say they are, there is still some merit in that mindset. You can’t let that scare you though because how many times have you not believed something someone told you until you could prove the fact for yourself? It’s the same concept, and the episode of The Simpsons when Bart gets a credit card when he fills out the application as a joke is a bit of testament to that. If the credit company actually checked on this applicant, they would have known that “Santos L. Halper” was the family’s dog[wiki] and not an actual person.

Since moving to Vancouver, the world of the Internet has progressed from this nerdly world of ones and zeros and into a sphere of actual social settings where the computer is replaced with actual meetings and face to face conversations. Of course the convenient proximity I have to a major metropolitan area lends to this compared to others without such social resources, but it’s tough to just add someone to whatever social network because you know someone I know and yet we’ve never had any interaction whatsoever.

Now, yes, I do bend these self imposed rules from time to time because social interaction can derive in the sense of emails, Twitter @’s, Facebook messages, etc. This might happen because I find what you’re saying or doing to be worthwhile in terms of quality. However, if the quantity of what you are producing, in terms of content or contributions into the social sphere, lacks substance or is useless dribble, then that factors into things as well.

With so much to see, hear, read, and choose from, I simply need what’s worthwhile to me and my time. I know I can’t be the only one with these “rules”, so feel free to add your thoughts on this complicated topic below.

Del.icio.us becomes Delicious with their new design

Delicious recently did an overhaul of their site design about three weeks ago, and many folks have already weighed in on what they thought about it.

For me, I have to use something for a while before I really give my full sense of how a redesign like this actually affects my work flow because I use their service so much.

My Del.icio.us page

For me, it’s way too hard for me to grasp the concept of writing it as “Delicious”. For so long, it’s been “Del.icio.us.com”, and I think that’s a large, geeky reason that I liked the site. In this redesign, they also did a rebranding and dropped the extra dots. It’s a small thing, and I’m getting over it. I always loved the clever use of the .us domain.

Otherwise, I love the new Delicious. The redesign has long been needed, and it finally matches up with how much I like the service.

For me, I read a variety of RSS feeds. Using Google Reader and Firefox, I can use their browser plugin to quickly bookmark items to either share with others or come back to later. This method might not work for everyone, but it works very well for me. Bouncing between computers at home or work, I can tag something that I find interesting.

Mostly it’s the design that has taken a little time to get used to before I could really decide what I thought. Visually, it works better than it previously did. Sure, it looks prettier, but you can make anything look good and not have function. Delicious seemed to step up to this notion of the K.I.S.S. principle that I’m a big fan of.

If you would like to see the things I tag, feel free to check out my Delicious page.

CityTV in Toronto punished for using Flickr photos and not giving proper credit to owner

CityTV in Toronto had a great story. Burglar gets caught in the act by home owner, attempts to get away by leaping off balcony, busts his leg, and someone snaps pictures of the poor sap while he lays on the ground as cops are called and arrive to the scene. What avid Flickr user Joel Charlebois did with the photos afterward is the real story.

When CityTV heard him mention that he was going to post the photos to Flickr, they not only checked them out but used them in a news story. Problem is, there was no mention of the person who took the images. This is also known as a violation of copyright. As any good Flickr user and avid photographer will tell you (like Duane did on his blog post on this same topic), you protect the things you love. Yes, you can protect your photos on Flickr with a copyright, and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council agreed with the complaint brought against CityTV.

Charlebois, displeased, took his case to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), and today, nine months after the complaint was filed, a majority of the National Specialty Services Panel found that City’s broadcast did indeed violate the Association of Electronic Journalists of Canada’s RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, which states that “Plagiarism is unacceptable. Broadcast journalists will strive to honour the intellectual property of others, including video and audio materials.” (The full decision is here.) The panel took particular issue with the lack of credit to Charlebois, stating that “the broadcaster knew full well the identity of the photographer whose still shots were used in the news report,” an omission that they deemed unfair, for news reporting or otherwise. (They note that the American RTNDA states that “professional electronic journalists should…clearly disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by outsiders.”)

As a result, City must issue a rare on-air statement at least twice, during prime time, over the next ten days. That statement will follow a script set by the CBSC, stating that, in part, the news organization breached the aforementioned Code of Ethics and “included three still photographs of the injured burglar without providing any credit to the photographer, whose identity was known to the broadcaster. By failing to provide that accreditation, the broadcaster has failed to honour the intellectual property rights of the photographer.” [torontoist]

What is important to me on this story is that intellectual property was protected as it should be, no matter how it is being utilized. On top of that, it gives comfort to know that mainstream media will be held accountable for violations of copyrighted material. It’s not a full safety net, but that means that even the little guy stands a chance against big media companies when it comes to protecting your content.

Even Charlebois admits in the story that all he was really concerned about was the proper accreditation, not the punishment handed down to CityTV. I think it’s interesting to note that there is very little discussion of fines or compensation.

RSS feed management

Some time ago, I had a request to supply a separate feed to my blog for those who would be interested in subscribing to a “posts only version” of my site. I finally got around to getting this done, so here is how it breaks down.

  • Posts + Flickr + Del.icio.us Feed: This is currently how the feed has been operating for a while now. If you put this RSS feed into your aggregator, you would see not only my latest blog posts, but you would also get the various pictures I would post to Flickr as well as bookmarks that I would save on Del.icio.us. This is the true, social gambit of stuff that I like to loft into the blogosphere.
  • Posts Only Feed: This should speak for itself, but allow me to clarify. If you would prefer to not get all the pictures and bookmarks or whatever I decide to put in that “life feed”, then subscribe to this one. You’ll only get the posts from my blog in this feed, so it’s really a matter of preference because you’ll never miss anything that I am posting to my blog.
  • Comments Feed: Curious to see what people are posting for comments on my posts? Then this is the feed for you. You’ll see how horrible I am at replying to comments as well as getting the latest and greatest spam bombs that happen from time to time. Crucial if you are keeping tabs on the viagra and cialis markets on the internet.

Pick and choose what you want to follow. You have the power. And if you are not using RSS feed reader, try Google Reader. It’s my tool of preference.

Vancouver Facebook Garage thoughts and follow up

Before I talk about the event I attended tonight, let me just start out with the fact that Facebook has probably changed my, and our, lives. I’ve long lived by the principle that social networking sites are not that affective when it forces us to sit behind terminals and not interact, calling each other friends when we’ve never even met in the really real world. Doesn’t sound very social, does it?

Facebook, on the other hand, falls outside of that premise. Granted that in the days that Friendster actually held ground, I was stuck in the Midwest of the U.S. where you tend to think of meeting other users to be utterly geeky, if not insanely dangerous or bizarre. In Vancouver, on the other hand, it’s made our lives incredibly busy, and that falls outside of things you do with your friends. And those are friends that I’ve actually made contact with in some way, most likely face to face.

In a way, that kinda brings us to the Vancouver Facebook Garage that occurred last night. Rebecca was sponsored to do the live blog for the event, and I should add that she rocked it. So much so that I’m not going to do much to recap it because all the details you need to know are there.

Facebook Developer Garage
Photo credit: kk on Flickr

I will say that my major contribution to the night was bringing along my tripod for Roland to use for the live video stream of the entire event, but all of the presentations were of unique interest.

They all had something that you could take away from them if you looked at the overall, big picture of how a Facebook application could imply a concept to a different or new idea. I know that I took a lot of ideas away from the night for potential projects in the future, but those will remain to be seen. Plus, I wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start to make my own Facebook application.

Not to rip into the event, but there were some certain aspects of the evening I would have reconsidered if I had planned it. Perhaps I should have payed more attention to the Facebook event, but I didn’t know that the evening was scheduled from 5:30PM to 8:30PM. By the time the evening was over, there wasn’t much time within the eight minute break to find some food to put into my very empty stomach, not to mention any ideas as to where I could get water or find the washroom. Being the maiden event in Vancouver, I’m sure things will adjust for the next one.

Also, Kris Krug took some amazing photos during the evening, so you can check his flickr out for more shots from the event.

I’m not sure what or how I can take away some of the things that were presented last night, but there are a number of concepts that I can think of as to what I would add to Facebook in terms of an application. I’m just a little fuzzy as to how I’d do it, yet alone where to start. Maybe I’ll learn that in the next session where someone can point me to how a newbie can make a Facebook application.

MySpace still sucks

Dear MySpace,

MySpace still sucks. It sucked from when it first started and it continues to suck. Sure, it’s a great social media platform where bands can preview some of their tracks, people can send messages back and forth, and strippers can have direct, albeit virtual, contact with their fans.

MySpace sucks You started in 2003, so why do you still act like it? There is no rhyme or reason to the site. Where ever there is a space to put something, it gets filled. It all falls under a category of some type, but the design concept is… well, what design concept? It’s near gibberish.

You’re not Digg, and no you’re not Facebook, and there is a good chance that you never will be. Those folks still understood what the meaning of design overhaul meant for the sake of their site. It was for the better good of those who interact with the function of the website, and the effort makes those people want to come back for the simple fact that it makes sense.

RadioZoom has a page on your site, and I hate having to interact with it. Yes, it is an amazing way for artists to contact the podcast, but I deplore having to login and do anything with your site. The fact that users make it even more difficult by blinging out their MySpace pages, bands hardly excluded, makes it that much more worse. I know that’s not your fault, but if you did something about that, I would be quite over joyed.

Here’s an idea that I would like to see. As someone who throws music into their podcast, why not make it an easy way for bands to actually share music with those who are deemed good enough to download it, such as podcasters? Right now, it’s all or none for bands to select which songs their would like to have people download. If a band had the option of authorizing podcasts to grab their uploaded selections for play in a podcast episode, imagine the possibilities that could have.

You probably don’t care that I don’t like your site, and there are plenty of people out there that are just fine with it. You don’t like me, and I don’t like you. I’ll still pop in once in a while to check in on things and do my best to figure out who has contacted for what reason because of the sad fact that there is some usefulness out of your service. It doesn’t make using MySpace enjoyable though.