Future of the Social Web and How to Stop It

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The talk I presented in Chicago at SocialDevCamp. …

The talk I presented in Chicago at SocialDevCamp.

The cartoon depiction of me is by David Lanham (http://dlanham.com).

http://www.socialdevcampchicago.com/

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  • 1. T Fu re of t So al Web and How s p it
  • 2. chris m , og open web advocate so al dev camp #sd hi 14 au st 2010 @ 4:30 pm Before I get started, my name is Chris Messina, and I work at Google as an open web advocate, which is partially the topic of conversation today.
  • 3. The name of this talk also takes its title from Jonathan Zittrain’s book, “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It” which is well worth checking out if this stuff interests you.
  • 4. fu reoft int t.org For those of you interested in reading the book, you can buy it online or if you're a communist, you can download it for free on futureoftheinternet.org. Just kidding about the communist thing.
  • 5. ☭fu reoft int t.org For those of you interested in reading the book, you can buy it online or if you're a communist, you can download it for free on futureoftheinternet.org. Just kidding about the communist thing.
  • 6. This stuff that I want to talk to you about today is the stuff that keeps me up at night. And I haven't been sleeping much lately, so it’s basically all I think about. First, a little context.
  • 7. Talk o rview this is an overview of this talk, so that you know that I’m going somewhere with all this. personal intro, which we just finished. preamble, origin story, villain, hero, anti-climax, climax
  • 8. Talk o rview • p so l intro this is an overview of this talk, so that you know that I’m going somewhere with all this. personal intro, which we just finished. preamble, origin story, villain, hero, anti-climax, climax
  • 9. Talk o rview • p so l intro this is an overview of this talk, so that you know that I’m going somewhere with all this. personal intro, which we just finished. preamble, origin story, villain, hero, anti-climax, climax
  • 10. Talk o rview • p so l intro • pr mb • origin s ry • vi ain: “ p mputing” • ro: “ge tivity” • anti-c max • c max this is an overview of this talk, so that you know that I’m going somewhere with all this. personal intro, which we just finished. preamble, origin story, villain, hero, anti-climax, climax
  • 11. To begin with, it’s worth pointing out that I’ve only been at Google around 7 months. I’m still a “noogler” as they say. I joined after about 3 years of running my own company, being part of the community... being independent. So I really liked the things Andrew Mason said earlier today.
  • 12. This was a big decision for and took me a while to come to. I got to thinking: Nature has environmentalists, women have feminists… but the open web? It was time to do something about it, hence my title.
  • 13. “it’s c nch time for t web” -Tim o’rei y As Tim O’Reilly recently put it — it’s crunch time for the web. Things are heating up and important decisions are being made. It’s time to shit or get off the pot [click].
  • 14. oh... wrong pot.
  • 15. as I was saying. Shit or get off the pot for the web.
  • 16. but s ly. but srsly.
  • 17. there are some grave threats to the web that we know and love: regulation and net neutrality in the US, or content filtering in Australia, P2P in France, censorship in Asia...
  • 18. as the web grows up, the threats are mounting. there are concerns that there may be several non-interoperable country-specific “webs” in the future. Who knows what kind of havoc that would lead to!
  • 19. but this just goes to prove how valuable and important the web — OUR web — has become to us. And I say “OUR” because we’ve grown up with it. AOL CDs. FTP.
  • 20. B.F. Life before Facebook.
  • 21. B.T. Life before Twitter.
  • 22. @BT no, not the artist
  • 23. B.S.M.D. Life before social media douchebags.
  • 24. We have this history we know where the web came from I hope that makes us better able to also determine where it should go, in keeping with the original goals and intentions of the web’s founding father(s). thus ends the preamble.
  • 25. my origin s ry With the preamble out of the way, let’s get to my origin story. An origin story, as all you superhero geeks know, is the backstory that explains how some hero got to be where they are today. Now, I won’t claim to be a hero, but where I come from matters, and informed who I am and how I approach the world today.
  • 26. So, I grew up on the East Coast... and for those of you who don’t know — this is us today.... And this is where I grew up. Yes, on the right hand side of the country.
  • 27. So, I grew up on the East Coast... and for those of you who don’t know — this is us today.... And this is where I grew up. Yes, on the right hand side of the country.
  • 28. Vintage Edge I grew up in a state called New Hampshire. [click] that’s this one, spooning with Vermont.
  • 29. Vintage Edge I grew up in a state called New Hampshire. [click] that’s this one, spooning with Vermont.
  • 30. I went to Manchester High School West.
  • 31. credit: megan higgins And this is what I looked like back then. See the resemblence? Me neither. Graduated in 1999 — right before Y2K. Back when computers were feared. bit of an outcast. didn’t have much use for school.
  • 32. credit: megan higgins My junior year desktop publishing class. Adobe Illustrator 5 & Aldus PageMaker 2. I better software from warez sites over a dialup modem
  • 33. credit: megan higgins Suffice it to say, by my junior year, I was pretty done with school. I was checked out. I barely went to classes, I stopped studying. I just didn’t see the point. I was SO BORED!
  • 34. credit: megan higgins Meanwhile school jobs — print shop stapling annual reports together and scanning ads for a 500 pg convent directory; also web design for a local company. Looking for a hobby, I decided to build my high school’s website.
  • 35. ...convinced that everything would be better if parents, students, and teachers could keep in touch with each other online. Didn’t occur me that people weren’t all that interested in the web, or even know what it was.
  • 36. Around this time, principal took a special interest in me, to see if he could reignite my interest in academics. Concerned about my wellbeing, tried to build a relationship. Kinda creepy.
  • 37. Then one day, I get called down to the principal’s office. “How could I betray him like this? How could I do this to him?” Slams down a printout of Gay-Straight Alliance banner ad I’d put on the site.
  • 38. Principal had political ambitions. And where I come from, people are both libertarian AND conservative. Support club for gay kids didn’t sit well. I was suspended me. 5 days. Wasn’t going to graduate. Meanwhile: ACLU/GLAD lawsuit.
  • 39. I had to cut a deal: turn over website and all source files and agree not to make any more sites. I refused. They balked, but my suspension was reduced.
  • 40. It later on turned out that the librarian had a copy. To this day, still pages on the site that I created. The good news is, we won the case.
  • 41. I tell this story because it demonstrates: A shift in power, where the web (a banner ad!) could now reach out into the real world with real (or at least perceived) consequences.
  • 42. Two, this whole scenario probably couldn’t happen today. Not the same way anyway. More tech savvy. Facebook. Twitter. Social media.
  • 43. Bottom line: The web is the medium for all voices & perspectives. We must preserve freedom, choice, and the ability to disagree in the technologies that we create. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since with the “technologies” I’ve helped create.
  • 44. Talk o rview • p so l intro • pr mb • origin s ry • vi ain: “ p mputing” • ro: “ge tivity” • anti-c max • c max ok, so that’s my origin story. let’s introduce the villain... something I call...
  • 45. Talk o rview • p so l intro • pr mb • origin s ry • vi ain: “ p mputing” • ro: “ge tivity” • anti-c max • c max ok, so that’s my origin story. let’s introduce the villain... something I call...
  • 46. p mputing I have yet to write my blog post — that of course has been lingering in my drafts folder for months — about this idea of “pop computing”. But there are several observations that I’d like to highlight today. ...
  • 47. d th of t url The first is the death of the URL. Now, URLs aren’t going away any time soon, but I think this concept works as a metaphor for the straightjacket I see being fitted for the web...
  • 48. web tv let me start with Web TV.
  • 49. WebTV is like the canary in the coal mine. People used to “punch in a number” or “channel surfing”. There’s no “channel surfing” on the web. Quote fromUSA Today about WebTV:
  • 50. “Manufacturers say they learned an important lesson from earlier convergence failures: Viewers want to relate to sets as televisions, not computers. “ at’s why the new Web TV models don’t come with browsers that would give people the freedom to surf the full Internet, even though the TVs connect to the Web via an ethernet cable or home wireless network. e companies want to promote consumer acceptance of Web TV by making the technology simple to use: at means no keyboard or mouse.” USA Today “Manufacturers say they learned an important lesson from earlier convergence failures: Viewers want to relate to sets as televisions, not computers. “That’s why the new Web TV models don’t come with browsers that would give people the freedom to surf the full Internet, even though the TVs connect to the Web via an ethernet cable or home wireless network. The companies want to promote consumer acceptance of Web TV by making the technology simple to use: That means no keyboard or mouse.”
  • 51. So if WebTV takes off, and it very well may — that means that a generation will grow up with a very limited set of expectations for how big the web truly is. And will expect minimal complexity.
  • 52. “ an- ” mputing devic On top of that, we’re seeing a rise of what I would call “Lean- back computing” devices.
  • 53. credit: apple Devices like the iPad, or JoliCloud or Kindle or even ChromeOS (to some extents) that trade freedom and self- determination for simplicity and a certain kind of usability.
  • 54. credit: litl Popularity of these devices indicates a strong desire for simpler era of computing. And you really can’t blame people. So the Litl is like “managed appliance” a TV that comes with moar internetz.
  • 55. This is a sea change: more people using tethered devices that restrict their freedom in exchange for someone else dealing with the hard stuff.
  • 56. As a designer, hard to say this is really a bad thing… But new points of central control worry me. Now someone ELSE chooses what’s in and what’s out.
  • 57. a s r Which brings me to App Stores.
  • 58. The web has always been about open access. App Stores, OTOH introduce gatekeepers-as-curators into the mix... which is not innately bad. i.e. on TV, there are “app stores” called channels.
  • 59. HBO is a good channel.
  • 60. So is AMC.
  • 61. especially if you like Mad Men. The problem with today’s App Stores is the lack of transparency. It’s not entirely clear what criteria is used, and the appeals process is eratic.
  • 62. Raises the question: who gets to determine what is acceptable for a given app store? What if that criteria were applied to the web? Every TV can show you every channel (if you pay). Not every device runs every app.
  • 63. What if something that you want is not allowed to be part of that App Store? how would you get it? could this be our fate? Perhaps!
  • 64. “ask permission” access model has a deleterious effect over time. eventually, people stop asking for things that aren’t there. They become inured to the idea that someone else knows better and is effectively keeping them safe.
  • 65. This has all sorts of ramifications for startups, businesses that want to compete with the gatekeepers, and again, for individual freedom.
  • 66. view source is d ng Speaking of transparency, my third observation — is that view source is dying.
  • 67. Contributing fac : • More mp cated web a s • Code obfuscation • Data rvic and A s • Default pri te t r t n pub c Many contributing factors: More complicated web apps Code obfuscation Data services and APIs Default to private rather than public
  • 68. Even in Chrome, view source is NOW a “developer feature” — rather than any tinkerer’s feature. The “appendix of the browser”, deep in the View > Developer menu, when it used to be a first level menu item under the “View” menu.
  • 69. this matters because you used to be able to learn how to contribute to the web just by looking at the HTML source. with the complexity of apps, it’s becoming more and more of a skilled trade to build compelling websites, and what once was a more egalitarian environment for publishing is becoming more and more elitist and technocratic.
  • 70. instant p so tion 4th. Term that Facebook uses to describe social features that work without your involvement… If you’re logged into Facebook in one tab, and you visit another site like Yelp in a different tab, you’ll automatically be signed in to Yelp, and your friends will be there waiting for you.
  • 71. On the face of it (no pun intended) I think this functionality is awesome. However — signing in to your Facebook account is not the same thing as saying that you want your Facebook account to be available to every site that you visit.
  • 72. By disintermediating you from that decision point — from expressing who you are — Facebook is eroding trust in the open web, and this effects the prospects for a more personalized, actually social web.
  • 73. It’s the right feature, just the wrong implementation. [click] It’s partly the browser’s fault. It’s also just a really hard problem. Especially if the browser gets it wrong.
  • 74. The website “http://twitter.com/” would like to use your profile information. It’s the right feature, just the wrong implementation. [click] It’s partly the browser’s fault. It’s also just a really hard problem. Especially if the browser gets it wrong.
  • 75. It’s the right feature, just the wrong implementation. [click] It’s partly the browser’s fault. It’s also just a really hard problem. Especially if the browser gets it wrong.
  • 76. p mputing ...these are all trends are giving rise to a generation of people for whom computing will be a simple, clean, sterile experience. And that threatens all of us.
  • 77. ge tivity So if we have pop computing on the one hand, then we have this notion of “generativity” on the other.
  • 78. prin p s In his book, “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It”, Jonathan Zittrain enumerates five principles:
  • 79. 1. how exten ly a system or tech logy g a t of ib tasks; 2. how we it can a pted a nge of tasks; 3. how ly w ntribu can mast it; 4. how a b it is tho r dy and ab build on it; 5. how t ns b any c ng are ot — including (and p ps pe a y) xp ts. • how extensively a system or technology leverages a set of possible tasks; • how well it can be adapted to a range of tasks; • how easily new contributors can master it; • how accessible it is to those ready and able to build on it; • how transferable any changes are to others — including (and perhaps especially) nonexperts.
  • 80. Generativity is the quality of a technology that allows others to benefit from your work — without first getting your permission. This is largely the quality that has lead to the overwhelming success of open source and the web.
  • 81. Three examples, personal to me, that demonstrate generativity in the technologies that you create: • BarCamp • Coworking • Hashtags
  • 82. rcamp start with barcamp how many of you have heard of barcamp? or attended one?
  • 83. Story of BarCamp; first BarCamp in August 2005. Planned in six days. 300 people. $3000. Documented on the wiki. Some basic rules that were self-evident if you attended one of these events. I made the logos in the beginning and then other people just started making them for themselves and being much more creative than I ever was!
  • 84. 5 a We’re coming up on the 5 year anniversary later this month. There have easily been over a thousand of these events since then — and more are organized everyday.
  • 85. And the secret of BarCamp — and why it was generative — was because it was accessible to novices.
  • 86. Just by attending a BarCamp you could figure out how to run your own. And we really worked at that in the beginning. [funny Tim O’Reilly story about scaling]
  • 87. and that’s where this event came from... from iPhoneDevCamp, which I co-organized in 2007.
  • 88. rking
  • 89. Photo by superfluity - http://flic.kr/p/75SVAU Started coworking in 2006. Name came from Brad Neuberg who had started “coworking” in a women’s center in the Mission in San Francisco. It started modest: every Thursday a group of folks would get together, set out card tables in this small space, and “cowork”... just to have some companionship so that they didn’t have to work alone.
  • 90. I believe I met Brad at a SuperHappyDevHouse and when we discussed his idea, it coincided perfectly with an idea that I’d had for some time about creating open, collaborative spaces largely targeted at independent information workers and who I might call, “people of the web”.
  • 91. That is, we didn’t need much in the way of infrastructure besides a wifi network, a decent place to sit, and some company from our peers. The first coworking space was called The Hat Factory… But it wasn’t until we opened Citizen Space in SOMA in San Francisco that the idea really started to resonate outwards…
  • 92. and now there are hundreds of spacing around the world — including in Chicago — that are part of a distributed, self-organized network of people. And I’m barely involved anymore. Because of the generative, self-replicating DNA we imparted to it from the beginning.
  • 93. shtags How many of you know what a hashtag is? How many of you know what the first tweet that used a hashtag said?
  • 94. I tweeted the first hashtag on August 23, 2007. It was casual, unassuming — another one of my hair-brained ideas. I asked: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]”? That was it. That’s all I said. And then I started using them. I would tag my tweets at events or about different topics or subjects. I was doing it for myself, but also to demonstrate the concept.
  • 95. From the twitter movie trailer In fact, when I proposed them to the guys at Twitter, this is basically the response I got [click].
  • 96. People didn’t like them at first. They thought they were ugly. But that was the point! They were retarded! But since Twitter didn’t solve the problem, at least language was generative enough to allow us to solve the problem for ourselves.
  • 97. And so the hashtag is a great example of a generative technology because, according to the principles: • they can be applied to many different tasks (or topics) • new contributors can master it very easily, and they’re completely accessible by everyone
  • 98. they’re also “transferrable” insomuch as people can watch other using hashtags and then adopt them. If spam… choose a new one… and so this folksonomic system can breathe in and out as necessary. NO central index or authority to function. No maintenance.
  • 99. Talk o rview • p so l intro • pr mb • origin s ry • vi ain: “ p mputing” • ro: “ge tivity” • anti-c max • c max okay, we got threw everything but the good part. jay kay.
  • 100. Talk o rview • p so l intro • pr mb • origin s ry • vi ain: “ p mputing” • ro: “ge tivity” • anti-c max • c max okay, we got threw everything but the good part. jay kay.
  • 101. T Fu re of t So al Web and How s p it we’ve talked a lot about the threats to the web and pop computing we’ve also talked about generative systems that might prevent that future from arriving.
  • 102. our Fu re of t So al Web and How Start it but now let’s turn to OUR future of the social web, and how to get started.
  • 103. ActivityStreams how many of you have heard of ActivityStreams? Ok, for those of you unfamiliar with ActivityStreams, here’s a brief primer.
  • 104. the basic idea is to take existing feeds of content...
  • 105. which represent all of the activities coming out of networks, repositories, and so on...
  • 106. icons by Fast Icon and provide the metadata necessary to differentiate all the distinct activities coming from these different sources.
  • 107. actor verb object target the ActivityStreams model presents an “actor verb object” tuple, with an optional “target” parameter
  • 108. person share link for example, someone sharing a link...
  • 109. person posted photo album some uploads a photo to an album
  • 110. person started following person or someone following someone else...
  • 111. developer fork project-name or if a developer forks a project.
  • 112. ATOM JSON Photo by trainman74 ActivityStreams currently comes in two flavors: Atom and JSON (though JSON is being developed)
  • 113. • A Friend • Artic VERBS & •C -in • Audio OBJECTS • Favorite • B kmark • Fo ow • Co ent • Like • Fi • Join • Fold • Play • Group • Post • List • Sa • Note • S re • P son • Tag • Pho • Up te • Pho Album • Place • Play st • Pro ct • Review • S vice • Sta s • Video and to begin with, we already support a dozen verbs and several well-known objects.
  • 114. PROCESS 1. Ask why. 2. Do your home rk 3. Pro 4. It ate 5. Int op ate and the process for extending the core schema? well’s it’s pretty simple... and based on the microformats process.
  • 115. Turns out sites like Github are already publishing these kinds of activities.
  • 116. • A Friend • Artic VERBS & •C -in • B nch OBJECTS • Clo • Co ent • Co it • Fi • Cr ted • Fold • Edited • Group GitHub • Fo ow • I ue • Fork • List • Join • Mast • Open • Note • Post • Page • Pu • P son • Push • Pho • R ol • Project • Sa • S vice • S re • Sta s • Tag • Video • Up te and with only a few tweaks, we could easily model this stream of updates in ActivityStreams.
  • 117. So what if we could get another site like Gitorious to publish their activity streams using the same basic format?
  • 118. So what if we could get another site like Gitorious to publish their activity streams using the same basic format?
  • 119. Let’s consider another example... in this case, StackOverflow. You could imagine that users of those other two sites also use StackOverflow, but it’s activity stream looks a little different [CLICK]
  • 120. Let’s consider another example... in this case, StackOverflow. You could imagine that users of those other two sites also use StackOverflow, but it’s activity stream looks a little different [CLICK]
  • 121. • A ept • Artic VERBS & • A Friend • Badge OBJECTS • Answ • Co ent • Ask • Fi • Award • Group • Fo ow • List Sta O rflow • Join • Note • Post • P son • Revi • Pho • S re • Qu tion • Tag • Sta s • Up te • Tag • Video still, it’s list of verbs and objects, though it has some differences, has some similarities too.
  • 122. •A Friend • Artic VERBS & •C -in • Co ent OBJECTS • Fo ow • Fi • Join • Group • Post • List • Sa • Note Sta O rflow • S re • P son + GitHub • Tag • Up te • Pho • Sta s • Video combine them together, and these two sites could already be interoperating using this basic set.
  • 123. If you start combining these streams from different sources, we could take this great feature of StackOverflow — reputation — and make it more portable — based on people’s actual work across different systems.
  • 124. combine that with an identity protocol like OpenID... and add in OAuth to get data, we start to have something that looks pretty compelling.
  • 125. combine that with an identity protocol like OpenID... and add in OAuth to get data, we start to have something that looks pretty compelling.
  • 126. and so i put this out to you as a challenge in building your sites — think about this — how you can make the social data on your sites more useful ELSEWHERE. And think about how you can import social activity already happening elsewhere.
  • 127. and so this gives you some idea of what we want to enable with Buzz.
  • 128. for example, we’re already working to make federation possible between Buzz and other sites like Status.net and Cliqset that already federate.
  • 129. Credit: XKCD With the long term vision of unifying, or at least making more interoperable, all these different social contexts. That doesn’t mean that they all merge, but rather, that they become easier to use while still preserving freedom and choice.
  • 130. We’re attempting to do this with a series of open technologies...
  • 131. that are all openly licensed under a series of agreements produced by the Open Web Foundation. so that anyone can implement these technologies and contribute to the larger, emergent future of the social web.
  • 132. and I invite you, in whatever you might be creating or building, to consider the things I’ve talked to you about today when considering features, designs — when weighing one technology to use over another. Always keep in mind how you could be helping to preserve freedom and innovation on the open, social web.
  • 133. t nks
  • 134. T end the end
  • 135. r n s & qu tions responses & questions