Monthly Archives: August 2010

P2P comes to social networks

This is a promising idea: Diaspora. Four young college boys are developing a peer-to-peer encrypted social network. When you look at the video it sounds like a silly school project, but there’s truth in it. Why upload your stuff to a corporate platform like Facebook and give away ownership and privacy, when all you really want to do is share it with your friends and family? From the video you’ll learn that Diaspora allows you to share directly from your computer, controlling who can see what.

While the idea is superb, it remains to be seen whether it can be a realistic competitor to Facebook and Twitter. Two things strike me in particular: (1) mobile access or sharing, and, (2) availability, e.g. when your computer is off. Mobile access to the service is vital in microblogging and photosharing. People want to send messages instantly from where they are, including sending pictures from their camera phones. The second issue is less problematic, as automatic updates can occur whenever the host is online.

An interesting space to watch!


Who's managing your legacy?

Recently, I received a message from Plaxo “Robin Mason’s birthday is in 5 days”, and, fair enough, a few days later: “Robin Mason’s birthday is tomorrow”. This message stabbed me like a knife, because Robin Mason has been dead for a year!

It also provoked the question on who’s managing our digital legacy on the Internet. If I died tomorrow, none of my dear family knows what sites I have been following, registered and active on, nor do they know the account details (some of which not even I can remember). On the Web thou shalt, therefore, live forever! But who wants this?

It is difficult enough for a living person to delete a profile on social networking sites, but for a deceased and their families it seems impossible. Of course, some people would no doubt find it honoring the deceased person’s memory to get reminders from the grave of somebody’s birthday, but do you really want to leave this to Plaxo, Google, Facebook and Co?

Are there any legal implications resulting from this? Yes, I believe questions on inheritance of digital content, digital presence, and digital personas need to be raised, just as with physical things.

Never rely on the hype!

With Google once again dumping a (commercially failed) service, institutions really need to rethink how much they can rely on such ‘Cloud’ services. Google turned off Wave after it’s been hailed as the new and best-ever communication system on the Internet in 2009. A short-lived hype that many an educator may have followed. How wrong they were to trust in this.

Google is especially bad in first boasting a new platform (like Buzz or their infamous 3D world Lively) and then dumping them, but it also happened elsewhere. This really begs the question on how much education can rely on 3rd party services, or whether it would not be better to host things in house. It is nice to experiment with new technology with students, but does this provide a consistent and satisfying learning environment?