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Webrings 2k16
Okay, idea: have a javascript widget you can insert on article pages on your blog. This widget collects basic tracking data, offers the ability to follow the author, and depending on how the author configures it can do a few other things: display related articles the user might want to read, let users fav articles, and let users comment on articles (using Twitter OAuth, maybe with Medium's highlighting UI.)

Basically it's Medium for the decentralized web, or an up-to-date version of webrings. To replicate Medium's success there would have to be editorial judgment applied to who can join the network, but it would be interesting to have an "unlimited class" version of the widget where the only control exercised is what's necessary to avoid malicious activity (easier said than done, I know.)

If you have all this stuff you can create a site to serve as a front door, or several front doors for different topics. You can also create composite RSS streams, a social layer (mention other users in comments, or even in the main body of an article - the crawler could look for twitter handles or links to in-network sites in article text.) Oh, and you're well-placed to create a boutique ad network, assuming you sign up the right people.

The tracking data would be anonymized, of course, despite the impact on ad revenue. I want to make the tracking data fully public, as well, to emphasize how non-creepy it is.

Like Medium, it could turn into a drug if the traffic angle works out, but that would be a good problem to have. And you can drop out any time, the only thing you lose is the comment history (and the service could offer an export feature for that.)

Someone's gotta have tried this, right?

There's something nice about being about to access your stuff from anywhere with the client of your choice.

Projects at the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit
I'm skeptical of a lot of this stuff, but I'm glad that people are working on it.

Technologies of the Decentralized Web Summit

Reflections on federated services and the trend to centralization
Post from Signal developer and HN comments (worth it for comments from Sandstorm dev alone.)

Why everything is terrible now, tech giants edition
The history of the Internet and mobile is that in many categories the winner takes most of the market ... Lately, we’ve been wondering if there is an end to this pattern on the Internet and mobile. We think it is possible that an open data platform, in which users ultimately control their data and the networks they choose to participate in, could be the thing that undoes this pattern of winner takes most.
Blog post on AVC: Winner Take Most

Also some discussion in the comments about whether the pattern of startups rapidly growing into giants is over; maybe we're stuck with the giants we have and the innovations they deign to give us. Unless those open data platforms emerge ...

I don't know my history well enough, but I wonder how often mature, siloed markets have become standardized.

  • Messaging: email started open & tiny; grew huge. Email sticking around but some of this usage going to service-specific messaging
  • 1-1 chat: started proprietary, went open, now back to proprietary
  • Group chat: started open with IRC, center of gravity now proprietary
  • Publishing: AOL replaced by tiny/open http. Maybe going back to proprietary with Instant Articles
  • Cloud storage: WebDAV is dead; iOS's storage provider API does standardize/commoditize this to an extent
  • Identity: OAuth kinda ... services that want users to be able to log in via OAuth still need to decide which identity providers they want to support, and often they decide to go Facebook-only.

"in China ... WeChat is the web"

Okay divide by two given this guy's motivation to pump Kik's valuation but still.

Less breathless very interesting look at Chinese mobile UI patterns.

Software as an endless stream of cards from everywhere
The End of Apps As We Know Them

Lots of people trying to figure out what replaces the "grid of apps" approach to mobile. This article is a pretty good extrapolation of trends we're already seeing - first we had notifications. Then we had notifications you could interact with. Eventually, maybe, you'll get so many notifications you can't deal with all of them - and here PMs start salivating at the idea of being able to apply machine intelligence to the problem of what you need to look at next. (If I didn't invent the phrase "product managed to death" I don't want to know about it.)

What this approach under-emphasizes, I think, is user intent as an unpredictably evolving thing. We'll definitely get better at inferring your intent from your schedule, from your past behavior - but in a deep way user intent will always be impossible to model well. It's arguable how much this matters: most people have a daily routine, a set of boundaries they rarely go beyond. So maybe we'll be uncannily good at this most of the time. Maybe we'll even be able to model people's desire for novelty along different dimensions to keep their stream stimulating (although it's funny that we talk about stream optimization as a solved problem given how primitive efforts are today.)

But what's the UI for expressing intent above the level of a card in this model? Text or voice control, maybe, but that's just a modality. What kinds of intents - or preferences, or states - could be expressed that the system would be able to incorporate into its model? If I want something that isn't "find me X", are we back to a grid of app icons?

Locking the web open
The graybeards are gazing into their palantirs, warning of doom to come. The architects are looking at how their plans for the agora are being subverted by the walls the wealthy and powerful are building. Protocols are being designed, spells are being cast, all to keep the web ungovernable. The efficacy of magic, however, requires collective belief. Do users want to live on a perpetual frontier, or will they prefer the safety of the walled gardens of mobile apps, Facebook, WeChat, and Line?

Brewster Kahle on creating a more secure, distributed web. Calling for a web that's distributed (storage, bandwidth, authentication), private and (this is new): versioned.

Maciej Ceglowski on making the Internet more human. The diagnosis is more precise than the prescription, but the diagnosis is valuable all by itself: clearly voicing our anxieties, showing how they arise from concrete developments pulling the net away from our values and aspirations.

It's not clear to me that the next wave of change is going to come from the last generation (which I count myself a part of.) But the web is going to stick around, and since the web is such a thick layer in the stack (it can be used to carry pure semantic data, or that plus presentation, or add application logic ... ) and is still the connector, we will probably never stop working to adapt it to changing capabilities, changing desires for what technologies have a home there and what we want to do there.

Camlistore is a set of open source formats, protocols, and software for modeling, storing, searching, sharing and synchronizing data in the post-PC era.

Basically, this is designed to be How Individuals Store Their Stuff. Forever.

Ambitious, but it's from Brad Fitzpatrick, so it might actually work.

The mythical "install server apps as easily as smartphone apps" service

For Linux (dedicated box at home, EC2 instance, etc.) Currently mostly CMS, email and collaboration apps.

Running my own Flickr looks interesting.

Edit: see also Portal, which is also looking at interesting stuff like having apps use Camlistore for storage.

Getting excited about the web again
I got your unified view of a conversation via federated personal sites right here

Rebel fortress at IndieWebCamp

Not sure I can handle adding a permalink back to my site for every Tweet though ...

Federated online services
There's a decent definition of federation here, in the discuss of Gmail and AIM. Basically: people using service provider X can interact with people on service provider Y.

  • email
  • XMPP, eventually - although that didn't save it

If that definition is right, it only really applies to interactions that peer-to-peer, mediated by servers. But identity/ single sign-on is called federated as well, and is really just a peer-server-server interaction, so ...

You've got mail
email beat service-specific messaging once ...

1. Internet used only by geeks, with open (federated) email services
2. Internet commercializes, but new users shunted into closed, service-specific messaging, typically tied to their ISP (Prodigy, AOL, ... )
3. Service-specific messaging platforms add external messaging
4. Messaging becomes decoupled from ISP (usually, you have a family member somewhere with a address)

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