Thursday, May 31, 2007

Distributed LJ

Necessary to create a distributed blogging sturcture with different levels of access to posts:

  • Blogging software on a host
    • that can serve as OpenID validation (the 'home account')
    • that can authenticate readers with their OpenID identity (friends)
      • using cookies stored in the browser so friends don't have to log in every 20 minutes
    • that allows comments based on these identities
    • that allows posts based on these identities as moderated by the journal owner (communities)
    • that understands different authenticated OpenID readers have different access to posts based on groups (filters, friends groups)
    • that will show a different RSS feed to RSS readers that authenticate based on OpenID
    • that has an RSS reader page that can be pointed to other feeds and will authenticate itself when asked (friends page)

  • A central page that lists
    • how to download and install this blogging software on your own domain
    • which hosters will host this blogging software for you, and a brief overview of what their access, bandwidth, acceptable use, and suspension polices are -- preferably with one-click selection and install (choose name of your blog, accept TOS, blog is now hosted on provider of your choice)
      • fee-based or ad-supported hosters available for different users

Pleasant to also have: a protocol for user-icons in this distributed blogging network so that leaving a comment with my OpenID will also point to the icon hosted on my blog / site with the right mood. Polls. Voice posts. Good integration with picture hosting, or its own.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hosting Your Life

A few weeks ago, a Flickr abuse-team member deleted a photograph from a community member because one of the 450 comments could be construed as inciting harassment, which is against Flickr editorial policy. The deletion was irrevocable -- for some reason Flickr does not understand the concept of quarantining questionable content for proper deliberation and determination -- and would have passed in the night were it not for the fact that this member is a very notable community member and the issue the comments were about was appropriation of photographs by 3d parties without consent, quite the hot button for accomplished amateurs like Flickr has many of.

The fora exploded, and of course in the end we got a missive from the CEO or whoever the he was about how he was taking time on his holiday to answer his community from his Treo, the abuse team member felt awful about the mistake (but no word if they faced anything else internally for irrevocably deleting a user's content) and blather about policies and procedures being put in place so this would never happen again, without going into any specifics like, say, what, or a time-table, or community involvement. It read like pure PR we were supposed to fall for, and meanwhile, Flickr is still doing careless and stupid moderation.

My Pro membership is coming up June 4th and I am wondering whether I want to stay a Flickr member considering how cavalier they are about user contributions. I didn't join for the community or the cute little cards, I joined because they had e-mail upload that would post on my blog automatically. Now LJ has fixed it so I can do that directly, but there I am with a photostream I'd have to migrate away so as to not leave loose ends and another account to manage, and I am kinda liking that I can keep some photos slightly away from view... Ugh, decisions. But the point is that suddenly I stopped taking Flickr for granted as just being there for me, and realizing I was giving my pics to actual thrid parties with opinions and delete-keys, not just hosting machines.

Now LiveJournal [LJ] is doing it. LJ, [a community blogging network] has decided, under pressure from some nobody watch-group, to start deleting journals about pedophilia and rape and incest. Including journals written as fictional character studies by Game Masters running RPG games. Including communities for rape and abuse survivors that have the word 'rape' in their interests. Including a Spanish-language community devoted to discussing Nabokov's literary masterpiece about teen sexuality, "Lolita". It's insane.

Yes, yes, of course Six Apart were thinking of the children and their image. But the thing is, and please correct me if I am wrong, distasteful as writing can be, writing out fantasies about fictional people is not legally actionable, or, a repository of sexual writing of all kinds, would be in such trouble. LJ is making noises they are doing this to cover their legal ass -- as in their legal counsel said that stating that 'rape' in your interest list means you are interested in raping people and LJ does not want to be seen facilitating that -- but the deletion of support-journals is just stupid, stupid, stupid. I can't even do a Niemoller about how first they came for the pedophiles, because LJ already has come for slash-writers, fictional characters, support groups...

And again, I am being confronted with my content there not being hosted by machines, but by machines with trigger-happy moderators. No, I do not write about rape and incest, so I should be 'safe', but that's just putting blinders on. In reality, your own content is never safe until you host it on your own servers. And for the current content-creators, this situation sucks.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Please Hold

The house-guest we had some years ago for some years was an Old-School Telephone-Network Enthousiast, the kind that mourns the technological repercussions of the break-up of Ma Bell for aesthetic reasons. If you are into networking, find yourself one and talk to them. They'll teach you why, for example, as I paraphrase, "5 nines [99.999%] availability is a disgrace; if a switch is down for more than ten minutes a year a district manager would have been fired. That's 911 availability you're talking about here." And much other tidbits about the astounding engineering effort the enduring old telephone network is.

It was because I lived with one that I will never get Voice Over IP, also known Phone Service From My Cable Company, as my home line, and why, even though I work in the mobile industry, I always have land-line. Well, I also have to have a land-line in this building: the doorbell rings it when some comes calling. But mobile services are flaky, and cable phone depends on the cable company -- and the cable company has never been solid wherever I lived. How are you gonna use your cable phone to call the cable company when your cable is out? That's 911 availability you're talking about here.

As happened last night. I lost cable around midnight, and since I do not get paper bills, I couldn't quickly get online to find the tech support number instead. I pick up the phone and decide to give The Former Shell Of AT&T a workout, dialing 411.
The recording asks: "What cities please?"
-- "Los Angeles, California"
A new voice: "What number?"
-- "Time Warner Cable"
And instead of being switched to the mechanical voice to read me the number, a human moment occurs with a single sentence that catches me by surprise: first the operator says something useful only she could know. "I have had a lot of people asking for that one, so be prepared to hold. Here it is..." And then she switches me to the number read-out.

Indeed, by the time I navigated the tech support phone tree to the option of "Yes my cable-modem is on, I have restarted, your modem connection light is blinking, I am not an idiot", a recording tells me call volumes are so high they can't handle my call, they won't even put me in the wait-queue, please try again later. I guess there is critical mass of cable-modem users on a Saturday early morning in downtown L.A. now. I went to sleep. And also, you can find the old service-oriented attitudes of the fierce telephone network of old still peeking through.