Data: Mine or Theirs?

Although I’m writing this under the fallout of  Scoble-Facebook, I don’t think the issue of who owns your data is either confined only to Digital identity or has been very well thought out.

First, a roundup of the various reactions:

It’s not about data portability. It’s about trust.

Offline, my friends and I share a mutual connection. Maybe it’s around work, maybe it’s around our kids or something in our past. Whatever it is, they’re my friend because they know something about me beyond what’s easily accessible to others. Keyword here is mutual. I know a bit about them too. Their relationship with me is unique as compared to their relationship with others.

Online, those lines are blurred. For what I would guess is at least 4,500 of the 5,000 “friends” Robert Scoble has on Facebook, he is the equivalent of a magazine publisher and you are his subscriber base/audience. He says it’s mutual and that’s the beauty of the social and connected web, but he only cares about you when you put something on the table that he’s interested in. It’s not about you. Yet, he’s “sitting” right next to your real friends, getting the same information about you that you’re sharing with them. If he takes that information and abuses it, however un- or good-intentioned, it serves you both right.

Robert Scoble valued his relationship with Plaxo more than he valued his relationship with his “friends,” otherwise he would have posted to them what he was doing with an experimental, alpha-quality and untested script before he did it…or he wouldn’t have done it at all.

Judi Sohn

I think there are two questions here. The first is whether users should be able to extract their data [including social graph data] from one service and import it into another. I personally believe the answer is Yes and this philosophy underlies what we’ve been working on at Windows Live and specifically the team I’m on which is responsible for the social graph contacts platform.

Dare Obasanjo

Then there is the oft-cited  post by Paul Buchheit (the guy who created Gmail).

Now I’m not on Facebook et al for a reason: data, in the case of a person,  is that person. Whereas data for iTunes is essentially  the signals sent to your sound card. Se the difference

Is it important to guard those things? Yes, or course. At the end of the day, its all you are left with if everything goes to hell: Your sense of self and identity, and your friends ( real friends, that is).

So we essentially have two options:

  1. Manage that data ourselves in a way that gives complete and utter control over every aspect of things
  2. Give our data over to a less than trustworthy service that essentially controls who you are, your identity ( on- and off-line) and who your freinds are and what your realtionship is with them

I’ll take option one any day of the week. Why? Becuase of control. It is all about control.

Plaxo may or may not keep your data after you opt-out ( i think its the former rather than the latter). Facebook has the awesome power of wiping out very single trace of you from its universe with a simple mouse-click. Add a hundred and one other web services that suck your data out of Google, Hotmail and the like.

There is a missing element in the above situations. Find it yet? And its not trust. Its control. And I mean, complete and utter control.

At least Twitter gives you more granular control( in terms of message recipients)  and has a proper API.

Better yet, Open ID, while somewhat flawed, is a brilliant idea insofar as you have a digital identity provided and vouchsafed by a trusted source ( AOL, for example). This blog is my digital identity ( since WP supports Open ID).  I can decide what to do with that identity, what to reveal, what to password protect. If I move on to from one blog to another, I can export all my posts and import them else where.

In short I have complete control of that Open ID identity (short of running my own webserver).

So because I have control I can never be in a Scoble snafu like that ( And I don’t care for the fact that Scoble was pressing FB’s buttons on purpose – he gave up his control over that data and he knew it).

In a  sense, its the MS DOS command line all over again. And  loss of control is like letting Vista hide the RUN command and the task manager and tickle itself silly with crashes.

Quote of the Day

On Youtube’s imminent demise:

Traditional media can give people what they want – a comprehensive collection of high-quality video, free of spam and crappy user-generated content. While we’re longtime advocates of user-generated media, a lot of it’s crap – and people don’t want to wade through crap when they’re looking for their Lost fix.

-Podcasting News

I agree.

Go on. Read the whole post.

Good Microsoft, Bad Google??

Taking a break from the innards of TCP/IP, I bring you two interesting blog posts.

First Verturebeat’s Matt Marshall asks: In history revision, Microsoft now a friend of the valley?

Second, Robert Cringely opines: The Future is Cloudy: Google’s plan to host ALL our applications.

Both may seem to be unrelated, but lets consider them both.

Matt says:

But now that Google has emerged as the all-pervasive menace, Microsoft has been transformed into an aging, less threatening knight, albeit with pockets and interests deep enough to help you against the Google onslaught. Microsoft’s alliance with Facebook — which calls for Microsoft to invest $240M in that company — has capped the transition.

Interesting inversion, don’t you think? Kind of like America springing to plucky little Britain’s aid after Pearl Harbor. In this case Microsoft’s Pearl Harbor was Google’s huge IPO and the raft of  highly successfully geek-drool-inducing products they released. And the Britons are everyone else in the Valley that have yet to go over the the Dark Side ( 🙂 ).

Think of the perceptive transformation that Microsoft has gone through. 3000 Microsoft Blogs (last I checked, which was while ago) and Robert Scoble have done loads to bring a human face to Microsoft. I remember once emailing Robert just after Office Live had its public debut for some specific details ( I was looking for a platform for a company web presence) and got a reply from the program manager 8 hours later.

Microsoft has done plenty to reach out to the community. Think of Mix06 and Mix07. The entire conference is on video with slides available from visitmix.org so anyone can take a look (I’ve still to get round to watch the sessions I downloaded 🙂 ).

Now take Robert Cringely. He looks at what Google’s Data Centre build out means, taken together with their MySQL contributions and their agreement with IBM to promote Cloud Computing to Universities.

By working with IBM to promote cloud computing to universities, Google is accomplishing two very important goals. It will first put them in touch with every graduate student doing work Google might find interesting. So it is first a hiring tool. But by teaching students about cloud computing Google and IBM are also seeding the technology in the companies where those students will take their first jobs after graduation. Five years from now cloud computing will be ubiquitous primarily for this reason.

But Google wants us to embrace not just cloud computing but Google’s version of cloud computing, the hooks for which will be in every modern operating system by mid-2009, spread not by Google but by a trusted open source vendor, MySQL AB.

Mid-2009 will also see the culmination of Google’s huge server build-out. The company is building data centers large and small around the world and populating them with what will ultimately be millions of generic servers. THAT’s when things will get really interesting. Imagine a much more user-friendly version of Amazon’s EC2 and S3 services, only spread across 10 or more times as many machines. And as with all its services, Google will offer free versions at the bottom for consumers and paid, but still cost-effective versions nearer the top for businesses and education.

Google’s goal here is to help us, of course, but along the way the company will have marginalized most higher-end computing vendors, especially Microsoft. They will have also made us totally dependent on Google services in such a way that we’ll never, ever, be able to extricate ourselves. We’ll be slaves, but happy slaves, and Google will come to dominate all computing for the next generation.

Now if Microsoft ever tried anything like this, I’d probably have to turn off comments to avoid the Death-To-Microsoft chants from the virtual mob.

This, of course, risks taking a left turn into the whole Dependency on Microsoft Question. But, for the sake of argument Leopard and Linus’ Every Flavor Linux settle that question just fine.

I use Google Mail for correspondence, Calendar for scheduling , Search for the obvious reason, iGoogle for my dashboard-view-on-the-world, Webmaster Tools.

What if we’re all reduce to running dumb terminal emulators connected to our Google-Instance on their servers? Fascinating idea, I’m sure. I mean what’s not to like about carrying your whole computer around with your Google Account and password (would save my shoulders lots of grief that’s for sure 🙂 )???

Taken with Google’s insatiable hunger for startups, is Google Microsoft-that-everyone-loves-to-hate 2.0???

FSJ Redeems Himself (a la Twitter)

After “PodtechGate” ( see this, this, this and this). With this:

TWITTER UPDATE: This just in from Scoble’s Twitter feed. PodTech receiving an investment from unnamed large industry player at a $20 billion valuation. Bubble be damned!
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble denying on Twitter the rumors of investment at $20 billion valuation.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble now in his car, talking on iPhone about $20 billion rumor.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble now off iPhone, thinking about $20 billion valuation.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble believing it may actually be true.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble stopped at red light.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble making right on red.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble thinking about coffee.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble in Starbucks.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble tells barista PodTech now worth $20 billion. Offers to pay for coffee with a share of Podtech stock. Barista declines.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble on phone to Google, asking for Sergey.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble on hold.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble on hold.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble on hold.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble realizes line is dead.
TWITTER UPDATE: Scoble redialing. Willing to settle for $15 billion.

Quote of The Day

Yeah, I know. I have plenty of ideas, just gotta find the time to write a proper post.

I usually stay away from politics, but this was just too good:

"I have a million ideas. The country can’t afford them all."
– Hillary Clinton

Same with programming. You get a million ideas, but time to code only a few of them.