IIW, an Open Space Conference

IIW uses the Open Space Technology process for self-organizing the conference. The importance of all of this is often unclear to the newcomer, but people come around, as they come to understand that there rules generate a conference that works much like the hallways and bars in traditional conferences. The whole thing becomes a great swirling stew of fascinating interlocking conversations, and real work comes out of it.

This starts with four principles:

1. Whoever comes are the right people. These people came to this session because they wanted to be here. The mix of opinions, ideas, and questions that result are exactly what we are hoping for.

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. These sessions are generative. What happens is not always what you thought might happen, but that’s ok! Let go of your expectations and enjoy the flow of ideas.

3. Whenever it starts is the right time. Start on time, even if you are expecting more people. Someone may join mid-way through, and that’s ok.

4. Whenever it’s over it’s over. We give over the space to the next sessions on time. If you are still in the middle of a great conversation, move somewhere, or schedule a follow-up. If the conversation is over, or the part that interests you is done, then you may leave.

Plus, the important Law of Two Feet:

You have both Mobility and Responsibility! Move around if you like. if a conversation isn’t interesting, just move. It’s common that there is several interesting sessions at the same time slot — move around, sample and enjoy.

Book of Proceedings:

Every IIW generates a Book of Proceedings, containing the notes from every session. it’s important that someone at each session takes notes. There is a simple, standard format for the notes, to include the sessions number, location, convener, title and note-taker.

See also: IIW Wiki  and IIW Session Notes Format

IIW XXI Begins

Internet Identity Workshop is my favorite conference. The topics covered, which span across Identity, Privacy, Community, and Security and more, continue to be relevant even after more than a decade. The “Open Spaces” format generates lively discussions across a range of topics, all created on the spot by the participants. 

It’s also a conference full of friends who I’ve come to know over the years. I’ve already had a couple quick “catch-up” conversations and looking forward to more. 

 

IIW and Indieweb

Kevin Marks led a couple sessions at Internet Identity Workshop this week explaining Indieweb and getting people started. I helped out a bit, and took for notes for the first two sessions.

The Internet and the FCC

On the eve of an important ruling vote at the FCC, Brad Feld has written a great piece on the subject. As he says:

There has been an enormous amount of bombastic rhetoric in the past few months about the issue that has recently become especially politicized in the same way the debate about SOPA/PIPA unfolded.

 

Indeed. And Feld continues on to debunk a few of the most ridiculous ideas and provides links to several other articles going into details. A worthy read.

IndieWeb Update

Since joining the IndieWeb Camp a couple weeks ago, I’ve had a great time learning more and getting things setup and working on my own sites. It’s still not all where I want it, but I thought I’d do a little update.

The idea behind IndieWeb is that you own your own presence on the internet. This starts with owning your domain, and some kind of website at that domain, where you post your stuff. But you set things up so that it’s easy to post a version to whatever social site you wish, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn. This principle is called “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere” — POSSE, for short.

Then, when people post replies on those sites, those replies also show up on your own site, all pulled together in one place.

For me, this is like a kind of magic. All my stuff is on my site, and all my friends replies and comments and likes, as well. But I get that leverage and connection that today is only possible in the big social sites. Facebook has a near monopoly on “everyone”, but some people I want to reach are on Twitter, or App.net, or LinkedIn, or Google+, so I want to be in those places, too. With IndieWeb, it’s possible, and even easy, to connect it all together.

At this point, the tools to do this seamlessly are not simple to setup — not yet something my non-techie friends are going to want to take on. But it’s getting there.

DSC_3267

One of the best parts of the IndieWeb is the group of people creating it. My kind of nerds. It’s a high-powered group, and a friendly and helpful group, too. With a little help, I was able to get a lot of stuff setup in just a few hours.

DSC_3320

I have the IndieWeb stuff integrated here at this WordPress blog, thanks to the nice SemPress theme and a couple plugins. While I was at it, I got https working with a real SSL certificate, and cleaned up a mess of disused and redundant Plugins. (This happens when you manage your own WordPress.)

If you’re interested in seeing this all in action, just check out the comments on my blog. Recent posts were done POSSE-style and you will see some comments coming in from other sites. To learn more of the technical details, check out IndieWebCamp.com

Internet Identity Workshop #16

If you are interested in identity, privacy and technology, get your tickets now for the Internet Identity Conference, May 7th to 9th in Mountain View, California. Early bird tickets are available until March 18th.

IIW is one of my favorite conferences. The “<a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference”>unconference” format makes it an active, participatory event and many of the attendees are the people who are actually implementing this stuff. The conversations range from deep technical arguments on code and implementations to philosophical discussions about identity and pseudonymity.

Extra points if you spot me in the video:

The Internet Is Worth Protecting

I’ve been on the internet more than half my life. I consider myself a digital native.

Today many people are protesting the SOPA and Protect IP Act legislation that threatens the internet. This threat is real, as this legislation breaks some fundamental things about how the internet works. If you are interested in the technical details and arguments against this legislation, many have written about them. Here’s an interview with my friend Elliot Noss on CBC Radio talking about why his business has “gone dark” today.

This is a big issue, so I’m going to share some of my thoughts on why the internet is so important.

 

The Internet Is Made of People

From my early days on “Usenet”, what drew me was real people and their ideas. Usenet was a big distributed forum for people to talk about subjects ranging from computers (comp.sys.sgi) to rock climbing (rec.climbing) the game of go (rec.games.go). People on computers all over the world, connected on the internet and with dial-up UUCP connections, would talk about these topics, and it fascinated me. There were THOUSANDS of people out there!

Fast-forward to the early-90’s and this new thing called “The World-Wide Web” came along. I was at SGI when I first saw it, on an Irix machine running a browser built by some guys at a university. The Web quickly grew so big that whole businesses were created just to index it all.

The internet grew all sorts of businesses, many of them crazy. But for me, it was still about people. When I came to Silicon Valley many years ago, I knew I was going to be surrounded by brilliant people. Now, with the internet I can find them wherever they are… no matter where I am — The people AND their ideas.

The Internet is Made of Ideas

My internet wanderings have always followed my interests. I found people out there talking about topics that interested me. It was wonderful! But no group of people ever stays “on topic”, so over time you get to know people and understand their ideas about the world. Exposure to new and different ideas makes your world bigger and richer.

My wife an I are aficionados of “Podcasts”. They are really just radio or TV shows, but packaged for the internet. But you don’t just watch what’s on, like we did back when there were just three channels on the TV. You get to pick! We love to listen to smart people talk about interesting ideas, so we listen to TEDTalks. I like computers and tech, so I listen to shows from the TWiT network and 5by5, and we both love good story telling, so we listen to The Moth and This American Life.

All over the world there are people with something to say. More than any other invention, the internet allows people with ideas to be heard; to spread their ideas. I believe this will make the world a better place.

Because…

 

The Internet is What We Make it

What we do, say, and look at on the internet makes it become what it will be.

Let’s use Google Search as an example. Google’s original search algorithms considered page linking structure as an indicator of value and intent. It was a way of measuring what people thought and what they valued. Google’s PageRank algorithm also considered that a link from a page with a high PageRank conveyed more PageRank forward to the linked page.

a page can have a high PageRank if there are many pages that point to it, or if there are some pages that point to it and have a high PageRank

http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html – Brin & Page,

In the intervening years, the Google algorithms have been improved and changed. Many of the changes are intended to reduce the influence of certain cynical forms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that seek to raise search listings artificially. Notably, the Google Panda update use machine learning algorithms to detect non-useful sites and reduce their search ranking.

At its best, SEO is about optimizing websites so that they are easy for search engines like Google to catalog and rank, and so that they earn the strong ranking and visibility they deserve. But there is a lot of SEO that is really just tricks to try to get attention. When the search engines fight back, the internet gets better. They all try. And when people choose quality content over link farms, they can succeed.

Quality content comes from real people. Whether they are making a funny cat video or writing an important essay, real people are behind the best on the internet.

 

The  Internet is Important, But…

What is really important is US. You and Me. The ideas we share, the things that make us laugh, cry, and think. For this, the internet is just a medium. But it’s a medium that connects us throughout the world in a new way, spreading ideas and culture and making the world a better place. (Yes, that’s a long video, but Joi’s talk is worth every minute.)

The internet is under attack by corporations that are trying to protect their failing business models. They want you to believe that the internet is a problem to be fixed. Don’t believe them.

The internet is for making people heard, for allowing us to connect to one another. Don’t let the non-people take that away from us.

 

 

Google Plus and Google Wave

Google Plus is promising. Even the tech pundits that are quick to find flaws are having a hard time coming up with anything to complain about. There’s a lot of talk about how much Google has learned.

As Gina Trapani says:

I’ve been been watching Google flail around social web apps for a few years now, so what I appreciate most about Google+ is that it’s a well-thought out product informed by past experience.

Gina Trapani, SmarterWare.org – http://smarterware.org/8248/what-google-learned-from-buzz-and-wave

Google has made a lot of good design decisions. A lot of the credit goes to Andy Hertzfeld and his team doing the design. They have thought through the way people will interact on this new system, but also more subtle points of sharing, privacy and control that have previously evaded comprehension in Google’s analytical culture.

The insight that people talk and share differently with different groups of friends, family and acquaintances is as important as it is obvious. Many have pointed this out as a problem with all the social networking systems, but none of them have sorted out how to deal with it. First reports from this limited Field Trial are that Google really got this right. They created a simple drag-and-drop interface for creating and managing Circles – it’s actualy fun!

But I don’t want to list out all the features and what’s right and wrong with them. I want to talk about what’s missing…

What’s missing is collaboration.

Google Wave was a fascinating if flawed try at redefining collaboration. Many errors were made in the design and workflow in Wave, but the biggest error was trying to make it a replacement for email. Because while we use email for all sorts of things that it does poorly, email isn’t what needs to be fixed. Collaboration is what needed fixing. Rethinking.

What if the collaboration potential of Wave is rebuilt and re-imagined on top of Google+? What if there was a wave-like instant collaboration stream available to your Circles?

IIW Fascinates Me

Since the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW11) last week, I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go.

My Google ID, Yahoo ID, Facebook ID, and even my own domain’s OpenID can all be used to create and maintain accounts around the internet. Many services also have connections between them, allowing my Flickr photos to show up on Facebook and Google Buzz and making every post to my blog show up as a tweet @dariusdunlap.

Unfortunately, this is still all too complicated, but it is getting better all the time. Many people are working on the problems, and at IIW they are all sharing results, ideas, and making new plans. For example, the Google security team presented their excellent research on user interface for shared IDs and subsequently released impressive documentation of their work.

Today (well, yesterday if you are living in Europe like me) Google released a demo site – it is a store – and accompanying material like videos, tutorials, and best practices that provide detailed explanations on how to become a relying party, match an existing user base with OpenID, and much more.  Eric Sachs, product manager, Google Security, announced this on the OpenID mailing list today.

From: Google Releases Impressive Documentation of OpenID Implementation | Not So Relevant

?Behind all this are serious concerns about privacy and data ownership. The kerfuffle between Google and Facebook over contact data sharing is just one very visible corner of this iceberg. Although Facebook is more open than ever, their stance is more than a little disingenuous.

Suffice to say, you cannot bring your Facebook contacts into Gmail, as you can with Yahoo and Microsoft. Thus, the issue clearly isn’t that Facebook doesn’t think you have the right to mass export emails. It seems that Facebook simply doesn’t want you to mass export them into Google — not unless, I suppose, it gets a business deal with Google. And if it doesn’t want to do a deal, then those emails don’t get to go. They aren’t yours. They belong to Facebook, and can only be exported to the business partners that Facebook agrees with.

From: ?Facebook: You’ve No Right To Export Email Addresses (Unless It’s To Yahoo & Microsoft)

Yes, Facebook is more open than ever. But will they be able to navigate through their dominant position to become a truly open partner, or will they fade like so many walled gardens before?

Walled garden
?Walled Garden by recursion_see_recursion on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Why does this all matter?

The creativity, expression, and commerce the internet enables has already changed our lives. Although some Americans seem to believe they don’t need it, there is no doubt that it has transformed our society and will continue to for many years.

The internet works because it is an open platform. Nobody has to ask permission to create the next Facebook, the next Google or Yahoo!, or (more likely) something completely new. The people and organizations at IIW are working together to define how the internet handles identity and the related aspects of security and data ownership, including links between people and connections between services. All the biggest organizations are represented, including Facebook and Google.

This underlying open platform for identity and control of personal information is still being formed. There is much to be done before this all “just works” the way email does – but that’s exactly what needs to happen.

 

Liberating your contacts from Facebook

Here is a simple method of getting your contacts out of Facebook and into your Gmail.

It starts with Yahoo! Facebook allows exporting of contacts to Yahoo!, reportedly through a lucrative arrangement. You will need a Yahoo Mail account, but they are free: ? http://www.yahoo.com/ – and click “Signup” if you don’t already have an account.

in your Yahoo mail, there is a Contacts selector in the left column. it looks like this:

 

SelectContactsinYahoo-7

 

Once you have selected Contacts,  Select Tools -> Import, as shown:

SelectImportinYahoo-8

 

You will get a dialogue like the one shown below. Select Facebook:

SelectFacebookinYahoo-9

 

Facebook will ask you to confirm that you want to share contacts with Yahoo!, click “Okay”.

 

OkToShareWithYahoo-10

 

Yahoo! will report success, including the number of contacts imported.

 

YahooContactsImportFromFacebook-1

 

Now you export the contacts, using a very similar method. This time, select Tools -> Export, as shown.

 

YahooContactsExport-2

 

Choose an export format in the dialogue shown below. Yahoo! CSV works best for importing to Google.

YahooContactsExportChoices-3

 

Yahoo! checks to see that you are a real person by asking you to transcribe some mashed up letters:

YahooContactsExportVerify-4

 

Once the export is complete, open and log into Gmail, select Contacts, and then More Actions -> Export. You will get an “Import contacts dialogue like the one below.

 

<img title="GmailImportContactsDialogue-5" src="https://i2.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr Your Domain Name.com/1353/5164814164_a8efc56010_m.jpg?resize=240%2C155″ border=”0″ alt=”GmailImportContactsDialogue-5″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

Choose the file, and I recommend also adding these to a special group at the same time, which will help you see them all. Google seems to do a pretty good job of merging duplicates, but having them in a special group will help you check and fix any problems. (I had no problems from my import.)

 

GmailImportComplete-6

 

 

Congratulations! Your Facebook friends’ contact info are now all in your Gmail!