It’s hard to believe but #privchat — the Tuesday morning Twitter Privacy Chat — has been going on for almost a year. CDT, Privacy Camp, and EPIC have done a great job moderating, and the attendees are a great cross-section of the privacy and civil liberties community: non-profits, privacy-focused startups, academics, privacy professionals at large companies, and activists (hiiiii!).
So let’s build on that success with a road trip, and bring the same kind of social networky goodness to Diaspora *!
If you’re thinking that you don’t have time for yet another social network, I feel your pain; the plan I’m suggesting only requires an hour of your time. Before we get there, though, I want to talk a bit about why I think it’s worth doing.
Why Diaspora *?
Diaspora shot to prominence last May, as four NYU undergrads raised money on Kickstarter for a distributed open-source privacy-friendly social network project just as a Facebook privacy storm kicked off. Good timing!
Eighteen months and $200,000 later, Sarah Mei and Yosem Companys have joined the core team, and there are dozens of public installations with tens of thousands of Diasporans. Liz Gannes’ Diaspora Prepares to Launch Open Source network on All Things D and Not vaporware, not a Nigerian prince on the team’s blog give an idea of the current status: an engineering team focused on getting to beta, a growing community, another round of fundraising in progress. Hanging out on Diaspora a lot for the last month, I’ve had interesting discussions with interesting people from across the world.
And one thing everybody that I’ve run into so far has in common:
They care about their privacy.
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“We’re dealing with the most difficult-to-motivate generation ever. People today feel so powerless, like they can’t have an impact on anything that matters. But you can! So one of the things I’m trying to share with the community is that when you come together, we can make a difference. ”
— Save the Rave organizer Liam Shy
Save the Rave had been in the planning stages for a while, an advocacy organization for Bay Area electronic dance music community to push back against the “war on fun“. It kicked into overdrive in December, when Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s proposed Anti-Raves act of 2011 (also know as AB 74). Matt Haze began organizing a protest; Liam saw the announcement on Facebook and connected with him; and it’s snowballed from there.
We just updated the About page with a new description of the book. A brief excerpt:
Tales from the Net: Friendship, Identity, Privacy and the Future of Social Networks is reporting from the front lines of the battle for the future of the internet — and a call to action for the readers of the book to join us in the fight.
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Back in April, four NYU students decided to raise money to spend the summer hacking on their project: a privacy-friendly open source social network. They put up a page on Kickstarter, a crowdsourced funding site. Talk about being in the right place at the right time: after a great article Four nerds and a cry to arms against Facebook came out in the New York Times, in a few weeks Diaspora* had raised $200,000.
At which point they moved to San Francisco, got free office space, spent the summer hacking, went to Burning Man … and on September 15, released their software to the community. Basic functionality is in place: status updates, photos, “aspects” to control who sees what. Kudos to them.
My annoyance with Twitter has slowly been building since one of their last updates. I don’t like how Re-Tweets (RT) are handled in the latest updates so I put off updating the software. Twitter’s new authentication process recently went live (a good thing), and it forced me update TweetDeck, the client I use to follow Twitter. And this update included the change that I had been avoiding for months and months: the new RTs.
If I didn’t update, I wouldn’t be able to log into Twitter. So I updated, and the RTs are just as annoying as I thought they would be.
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IfWeRanTheWorld CEO Cindy Gallop describes it as “a radically simple web platform designed to turn good intentions into action, one microaction at a time”. Giovanna’s intention here is straightforward: write a short story. As anybody who’s ever tried to write can tell you, though, that’s easier said than done. Using IWRTW, Giovanna’s defined an ‘action platform’ with the steps to accomplish her goal.
Right now Giovanna’s got 10 microactions ‘in play’ and 36 done. “If We Ran The World allows me to express my intentions in a meaningful and quantifiable way”, Giovanna told me. “I love this platform.”
IWRTW is very social in terms of being designed for people working together (you can target microactions as invitations to act and pick up somebody else’s microactions) so Giovanna’s action platform also invites others to help her if they’re interested. The site’s business model is to work with businesses that want to put together an action platform designed to do good and make money simultaneously, and is still in beta. So far the reviews are positive. Bruce Mau Design’s blog summed it up: “Beautiful design + social engagement + fun to use = awesome!”
Last week we discussed the lack of diversity in The Economist‘s debate on online privacy. After reflecting on it over the weekend, it still bugs me, so I decided to write a letter to the editor:
Women, people of color, students, and migrants all have important perspectives on privacy, and I was disappointed that you didn’t include any in your recent online debate. Please consider repeating it with a more diverse range of perspectives.
They probably get a heck of a lot of letters. So as well as emailing it to them, I’m going to use act.ly to call it to their attention via Twitter.
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This blog is meant to address the censorship on The Huffington Post. I’ve been a Huffpo user since the site launched… Since then Huffpo has been my main site for news.
— Red Dog in Welcome to Banned from HuffPo, April 14
Pssst…hey kid! Wanna a few words that will get you past the censors over on Huff-Po? Pay attention; you gotta use the weasel words and technique that make you appear normal; you know, conversational stuff or you get banned by JuLiA, HP’s newest software.
— Terry, in the comment thread
Censorship’s one of the topics we’re planning to discuss in Tales from the Net, so we were delighted when Expose the Truth left a comment on our Relaunching… post with a link to Red Dog’s blog and James Ballard’s petition to talk show host Thomas Hartmann.*
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The Economist’s latest online debate is on whether governments should do far more to protect privacy. In early returns 72% of the voters agreed with Marc Rotenberg of EPIC that governments should do far more to protect privacy, but after the rebuttals it stands at 63%-37%. Props to Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute, who’s taking the “no” side.
The debate continues until September 2, and there are also insights from experts Joseph Turow of the Annenberg School, Jules Polonetsky of The Future of Privacy Forum, and Simon Davies of Privacy International …
Hey wait a second, I’m noticing a pattern here.
UPDATE, 9/28: Greg’s handout is online at the new Book Promotion on the Web wiki. Check it out!
Greg’s doing a presentation at the Kidlit ’08 conference in Portland … and since it’s a blogging conference, I figured I might as well try to live-blog it. So here goes!
Greg posted about this last month here on Tales from the Net; there’s also a lot of information on the wiki from his Computers, Freedom, and Privacy presentation. And check out his Web 2.0/social network poem on his blog Gottabook, I’m pretty well connected — part of last week’s Poetry Friday.