– An Open Alternative to Facebook

What the world needs now is an open source and distributed alternative to Facebook, and many of the other cloud-based services in general. And and are the best examples of what this could be. There should be a piece of software that is pretty easy to install to your own server, with your own domain, that interfaces with other folks doing the same thing. But if you don’t want to run your own site, you could use someone else’s install. The trick is that moving your data should be as easy as exporting a ZIP file, and then importing that same file to another installation.

But Facebook isn’t the only cloud-based service that we’ve become dependent on or ceded control over. Gmail, Google Reader & Calendar, Flickr, YouTube…

It’s Just A Ride

by Bill Hicks

The world is like a ride at an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real, because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round and it has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud. And it’s fun, for a while.

Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: ‘Is this real? Or is this just a ride?’ And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and they say ‘Hey! Don’t worry, don’t be afraid — ever — because… this is just a ride.’ And we kill those people.

‘Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride! Shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry; look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.’ It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that — ever notice that? — and we let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because… it’s just a ride, and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort. No worry. No job. No savings and money. Just a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy bigger guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one.

Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, into a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defense each year and, instead, spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would do many times over — not one human being excluded — and we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever. In peace.

If A Koran Burns Behind a Paywall…

At least the controversy gave the 24-hour cable news networks something to run between commercials. And that really was the point of it all at the end of the day. This issue was perfect fodder for endless back and forth bullshitting between idiots for hours, day after day.

People burn books (religious and otherwise), CD’s, flags, images of the Pope or the president, and praise Nazis all the time in this country. And as far as those acts exercise and help to keep our national free speech muscle in shape, you really have to support them for doing it. Sadly, what we don’t do enough in this country is engage each other in deep conversation about what we believe in and why, fact-check, or even ask if cultural relativism makes sense in this connected world. And I think that is completely intentional.

Think about the fine line that these jokers walk, what they know and how they play the game. Simply reporting the fact that Korans might get burned by a church of about 40 people isn’t controversial. Neither is having an endless debate about it. Your objective is to make the advertisers happy, so you simultaneously achieve good ratings by riling people up but also maintain the neutrality of the host and the network so that you don’t risk a boycott. Net positive for the network, but clearly negative for society. More pent-up anger and some deep confusion over feeling part of a million discussions with no progress and always a sense that there are deeper issues that no one is willing to address.

Will this kind of media survive in a more competitive environment, where anyone can make content and distribute it to anyone at any time and any device easily? Would folks continue watching this crap? Would the cable company be willing to devote the necessary portion of the line to these channels when using it for network bandwidth might be in higher demand, and ultimately more efficient? Or how does the content change when we can easily direct support to the producers and advertisers lose control?

Case Study: Beer Wars

The documentary Beer Wars is all about the struggle of the small brewers against the mega-corporations that dominate the beer industry in the United States. It makes the case that three (now only two) large corporations maintain their dominance by controlling retail and distribution, and are able to do that largely by lobbying the federal government to maintain an outdated law that prevents greater competition. Libertarians have a point here that government involvement in the market causes the problem, but progressives win the argument because it is the campaign contributions (“free speech”) of large corporations that convinces legislators to support a bill that profits a few while preventing a more free market that would ultimately benefit the public.

But what I found most interesting is the other major argument made by the film:that advertising led to the dominance of the business by a very few corporations and that commercials allow them to continue market control with an inferior product.

I have been thinking about the rise of the small business recently, and how that might be related to the internet enhancing the voice of the individual over mass media. Before the internet, mass media was largely the only source of information outside of friends & family. With the net, we are now able to easily find nearly unlimited information before we purchase something. And with social media, we might also more easily stumble onto a recommendation from a friend. That all makes it easier to find and support small businesses, but I think (or hope) that commercial media also suffers a blow-back effect in the internet era when this greater knowledge is combined with that independent American rebel spirit. With more information about the real choices available and how large advertising budgets distort the market, we are beginning to resent the advertiser’s attempts to dominate our mental space. And it only gets worse when we see that the emotional message we are being sold is often not actually the story of the advertiser, but instead that of the many small business owners that the advertiser is doing everything possible to eliminate.

While I think commercial advertising is largely doomed anyway, supporters of small and independent businesses should recognize how this kind of mass media promotion is aligned against their interests and work toward its demise.

Google Gone Evil?

It sure looks like it, and I hate saying that after I’ve annoyed the hell out of my friends with my constant rantings about Android kicking the IPhone’s ass. But while I haven’t found a great article explaining it all yet, it looks like Google & Verizon want the FCC to support a parallel corporate internet. This new network would encompass all wireless access and allow for the prioritizing of content for cash, exactly what network neutrality is out to prevent. The old internet would still exist and now have a clear mandate for network neutrality rules to be applied there. But the new network would likely become the home of video media, in some ways being a new type of cable television. Shitty, and a completely ridiculous idea. From Dan Gillmor

The right way forward is to have sufficient bandwidth that we can do pretty much anything we choose using public networks — a true broadband infrastructure where packet-switched services (moving data around, at super-fast speeds, in little packages that are reassembled at the user’s device) are the basis for all communications.

As the pathetic creatures that we are, it might take losing the internet to truly understand its potential. How fucking sad.