The Shuttleworth Foundation, of which I am a proud fellow, has a rather beautiful but under-known program they call ‘Flash Grants’. Twice a year they give each fellow (current and alumni) $5,000 USD to give to someone they think is doing good in the world. It is a great program.
My first Flash Grant I gave to Seth Vincent and the second to Zara Rahman. I have known Zara for a long time but I don’t know Seth and only followed his work remotely. He recently wrote up a report about what he did with the 5k and here it is. Seems like a pretty productive use of the money if you ask me. Awesome…
I went up the Eastern Sierras this week for a basic course in being cold.
I managed to choose the weekend of the polar vortex and it was freezing. It was incredibly beautiful but I found out that I’m not really into being so cold I can’t talk properly and have to pee into ziplock bags in my sleeping bag (too much information?) I think I’ll do another trip with a few more degrees of comfort (possibly earlier in the season). It was pretty though.
I have been thinking through the issues of how I want to exist online, at least as far as I can shape that. I am feeling my way to some form of ethical guidelines for myself as started in this post a few weeks ago.
The title ‘webgetarian’ above is something that my good friend Julia Hildebrand came up with when we talked through these issues. I like it… it outlines what I am trying to achieve for myself – some simple guidelines that make me feel ok about the way I am in the web.
One thing I know for sure, I don’t want to eat at the (proprietary) social media cafe anymore. It’s done. However, that brings up a quandary that I highlighted in part one of this series, but I’ll get to that.
For this moment, what I find really interesting since I started pondering this is that the old skool idea of a ‘homepage’ is really starting to be more appealing. By homepage I mean this site you are (probably) reading this on now – www.adamhyde.net
I like this idea of a homepage because its kinda somewhere I can determine my character online in the format I want to. I could, for example, make this entire site a photo diary if I wanted to. I could also make it a ‘microblog’, or just a thinky zone. Or I could do all of the above and more, which is what I think I will do. The point being, it is pretty much in my control. I don’t have to conform to the format of all those stink proprietary platforms. I can just do what I want…that is surprisingly enticing. So, in the words of the Laird McGillicuddy, it is time for a great leap backwards.
So.. back to the homepage and encapsulating this in a simple guideline and possibly my first, first principle of webgetarianism:
#1 Be your media
I hope that speaks for itself… however its kind of a simple idea, but also a pretty big idea. I need to think this through more and feel out what this really means in the larger picture for myself. For example, it has some interesting knock-on effects that I kinda like and am still pondering – if I really are my media then I can do cool things like advertise stuff I care about. That means I could put up ads in my site (I don’t want to be paid for them) that advertise things I find important. So, I will think about this and perhaps start sticking some of these in my posts. It is possibly an interesting inversion from ‘a word from our sponsor’ to ‘a word about some stuff I’m sponsoring’ (with free ads). Hmmm…I kind of like that.
So, my first principle is already taking shape in the real world ie. this site. My second, first principle is really about ‘other media’. Basically, if it is a closed source platform I don’t want anything to do with it… except, that there is a very real and bizarre possibility that an ugly troll might grab namespace real estate around the things I am involved with and contaminate the web with crap. I have recently been trolled and it gave me pause to think about such activities, and now this kind of behavior no longer feels as unlikely as it did even a few weeks ago.
So… as a move to reduce this kind of nonsense, there are a few things I can do which are consistent with my webgetarianism. First, is defensive – snap up namespaces in closed platforms The second is more positive – get better at SEO and broadcasting my voice. So the next principles (not in order (I will sort that out later) are:
#2 namespace grabs in proprietary platforms are a necessary evil
#3 be effective media
The last one is a little bit of a wide net to throw, I know. But it is a first cut attempt at trying to nail down some of these ethical guidelines for me. The above is really nicely wide in some ways – it can mean I need to drown out the troll voices, as well as taking up a kind of ‘kia kaha‘ positioning. I need to be a strong and broadly heard voice about myself. This also feels good to me as a personal ‘inner strength’ position. I like it.
As a point of clarity, I want to make a fourth first principle to ensure the defensive namespace grab principle (#3 above) has some rigid parameters and doesn’t become a slippery slope:
#4 proprietary namespaces cannot contain content
This means I have a guideline that keeps me on the right side of the ethical line. I don’t publish content to proprietary platforms. They just hold namespace for me defensively. That means I have to be creative with strategies to engage, for example, with discussions that are relevant to me that occur in closed source platforms. For example, I should write responses to things I see elsewhere (eg in medium) in my own site, then contact the creators (most likely via email) and point them at my response.
So, that means I have 4 starting principles:
be your media
namespace grabs in proprietary platforms are a necessary evil
be effective media
proprietary namespaces cannot contain content
That is my starting position. More pondering to come.
Recently, I have spoken with a number of people about projects whose model is to build something useful and open the code when someone pays them to do so.
It seems to me that this is a terrible model for ‘open source’ and I hope it doesn’t proliferate. The problem being that this sets the wrong incentive for projects. It is in effect encouraging them to hold the code ransom. When the right bidder comes along, the code then gets set free. I think funders and investors should refuse to put money into these projects and instead agree only to fund projects that are open source from the beginning. Otherwise we are incentivizing this ransom model which is bad for open source because:
start open : we don’t want new projects to decide to close the code, when they might otherwise start open, because there might be a chance they can ransom the code at a later date. We want projects to start open.
stay open : let’s face it, if a project is ransoming their code, then their heart and soul (and business processes) are not in open source – it is not fundamental to what they do and how they think. So how do you know they will stay open? We want projects to stay open.
be open : open source is not just a license. It is a way of committing to sharing and collaboration. Projects that start closed and ransom their code are not going to be good faith open source actors. They are likely to hold the code close, not share, and be awkward (at best) collaborators. We want projects to be open.