Preaching our lives over the interwebs

Hel­lo Jon, A.J. and Wess,

So we’ve been asked to write a “syn­chroblog” orga­nized by Quak­er Vol­un­tary Ser­vice. It is a week­day and there are work dead­lines loom­ing for me (there are always dead­lines loom­ing) so my par­tic­i­pa­tion may be spot­ty but I’ll give it a shot.

The top­ic of this par­tic­u­lar syn­chroblog is Friends and social media and in the invite we were asked to riff on com­par­isons with ear­ly Friends’s pam­phle­teer­ing and the web as the new print­ing press. I’m spot­ty on the details of the var­i­ous pam­phlet wars of ear­ly Friends but the web-as-printing-press is a famil­iar theme.

I first man­gled the metaphors of web as print­ing press nine­teen years ago. That sum­mer I start­ed my first new media project to get paci­fist writ­ings online. The metaphors I used seem as fun­ny now as they were awk­ward then, but give me a break: Mark Zucker­berg was a fifth grad­er hack­ing Ataris and even the word “weblog” was a cou­ple of years away. I described my project as “web type­set­ting for the move­ment by the move­ment” and one of my sell­ing points is that I had done the same work in the print world.

Frac­tured as my metaphors were, online media was more like pub­lish­ing then that it is now. Putting an essay online required tech­ni­cal skills and com­par­a­tive­ly high equip­ment costs. The con­sis­tent arc of con­sumer tech­nol­o­gy has been to make post­ing ever eas­i­er and cheap­er and that has moved the bar of qual­i­ty (raised or low­ered depend­ing on how you see it)

Back in the mid-1990s I remem­ber jok­ing snark­i­ly with friends that we’d all some­day have blogs devot­ed to pic­tures of our cats and kids – the humor in our barbs came from the ridicu­lous­ness that some­one would go to the time and expense to build a site so ephemer­al and non-serious. You’d have to take a pic­ture, devel­op the film, dig­i­tal­ly scan it in, touch it up with a pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive image soft­ware, use an FTP pro­gram to upload it to a web serv­er and then write raw HTML to make a web page of it. But the joke was on us. In 2014, if my 2yo daugh­ter puts some­thing goofy on her head, I pull out the always-with-me phone, snap a pic­ture, add a fun­ny cap­tion and fil­ter, tag it, and send it to a page which is effec­tive­ly a pho­to­blog of her life.

The ease of post­ing has spawned an inter­net cul­ture that’s cre­ative­ly bizarre and won­der­ful. With the changes the print­ing press metaphor has become less use­ful, or at least more con­strained. There are Friends who’s inten­tion­al­i­ty and effort make them inter­net pub­lish­ers (I myself work for Friends Jour­nal). But most of our online activ­i­ty is more like water cool­er chitchat.

So the ques­tion I have is this: are there ways Friends should behave online. If we are to “let our lives preach,” as the much-quoted George Fox snip­pet says, what’s our online style? Do we have any­thing to learn from ear­li­er times of pam­phle­teer­ing? And what about the media we’re using, espe­cial­ly as we learn more about elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance and its wide­spread use both here at home and in total­i­tar­i­an regimes?

SOPA would likely cause far more damage than it’s worth, keep the internet free…

SOPA would like­ly cause far more dam­age than it’s worth, keep the inter­net free from cor­po­rate cen­sor­ship. #sopa #inter­net

Reshared post from +Sergey Brin

In just two decades, the world wide web has trans­formed and democ­ra­tized access to infor­ma­tion all around the world. I am proud of the role Google has played along­side many oth­ers such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Twit­ter. Whether you are a stu­dent in an inter­net café in the devel­op­ing world or a head of state of a wealthy nation, the knowl­edge of the world is at your fingertips.

Of course, offer­ing these ser­vices has come with its chal­lenges. Mul­ti­ple coun­tries have sought to sup­press the flow of infor­ma­tion to serve their own polit­i­cal goals. At var­i­ous times notable Google web­sites have been blocked in Chi­na, Iran, Libya (pri­or to their rev­o­lu­tion), Tunisia (also pri­or to rev­o­lu­tion), and oth­ers. For our own web­sites and for the inter­net as a whole we have worked tire­less­ly to com­bat inter­net cen­sor­ship around the world along­side gov­ern­ments and NGO pro­mot­ing free speech.

Thus, imag­ine my aston­ish­ment when the newest threat to free speech has come from none oth­er but the Unit­ed States. Two bills cur­rent­ly mak­ing their way through con­gress — SOPA and PIPA — give the US gov­ern­ment and copy­right hold­ers extra­or­di­nary pow­ers includ­ing the abil­i­ty to hijack DNS and cen­sor search results (and this is even with­out so much as a prop­er court tri­al). While I sup­port their goal of reduc­ing copy­right infringe­ment (which I don’t believe these acts would accom­plish), I am shocked that our law­mak­ers would con­tem­plate such mea­sures that would put us on a par with the most oppres­sive nations in the world.

This is why I signed on to the fol­low­ing open let­ter with many oth­er founders — http://​dq99alanzv66m​.cloud​front​.net/​s​o​p​a​/​i​m​g​/12 – 14-letter.pdf
See also: http://​amer​i​can​cen​sor​ship​.org/ and http://​enginead​vo​ca​cy​.org/

Embed­ded Link

http://​dq99alanzv66m​.cloud​front​.net/​s​o​p​a​/​i​m​g​/12 – 14-letter.pdf

Posted December 15th, 2011 , in Uncategorized Tagged ,

A first look at the Google Chrome browser

screen-shotMy Twit­ter fol­low­ers will know I’ve been slight­ly obsessed by Google’s new brows­er, Chrome, since word leaked that it was going to be released today (Tues, Sept 2). I’ve been hit­ting reload on the down­load site fair­ly obses­sive­ly. A few min­utes ago my per­sis­tence was reward­ed and I’m writ­ing to you all from the new brows­er (here’s the offi­cial release announce­ment).

Why a New Browser?!?
Before I begin, let me rec­om­mend the Google Chrome online com­ic book for those with tech inter­ests. Google does a good job explain­ing why they’ve joined the brows­er wars. At first glance it seems a need­less move: they already fund much of the devel­op­ment on the open source Fire­fox brows­er. But Fire­fox, like Microsoft Inter­net Explor­er and every oth­er brows­er, is built around cer­tain assump­tions about how browsers process appli­ca­tions. Google is start­ing from scratch and think­ing about the brows­er as an oper­at­ing sys­tem run­ning increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed appli­ca­tions (like Gmail). Chrome sep­a­rates mem­o­ry process and inter­net per­mis­sions in new ways.
Obvi­ous­ly, Google is going after Microsoft (the ini­tial release of Chrome is Win­dows only) – not just its brows­er but its Vista oper­at­ing sys­tem as well. With the expan­sion of high speed inter­net access and so-called “cloud com­put­ing,” func­tions that used to require stand-alone clients can now be han­dled inside the brows­er. Email has prob­a­bly become the most wide­ly adopt­ed brows­er appli­ca­tions but you can also do things pho­to edit­ing and video record­ing through the brows­er. Google knows that once an appli­ca­tion is run­ning inside a brows­er, the oper­at­ing sys­tem doesn’t mat­ter. Gmail works equal­ly fine from Vista, Mac OS X, or Lin­ux.
It is in Google’s strate­gic inter­est to advance the state of brows­er tech­nol­o­gy and they do that with Chrome. But it is in the inter­est that every­one have access to these lat­est inno­va­tions and that all browsers can run the most sophis­ti­cat­ed appli­ca­tions Google engi­neers can put togeth­er. So Chrome is open source and Google invites oth­er browsers to incor­po­rate many of its features. 
First Thoughts on the Product:
The down­load was quick and easy (of course).
I was sur­prised that when installing it only offered to import my MS Inter­net Explor­er book­marks. My most com­plete and up-to-date book­mark list is in Fire­fox (synced among my oper­at­ing sys­tems by the excel­lent Fox­marks exten­sion).
I went pret­ty imme­di­ate­ly to Gmail. Google says they’ve rewrit­ten a lot of the back­ground ren­der­ing code from scratch and I was expect­ing to see instan­ta­neous load­ing. Frankly, it seemed to load as quick­ly as it does in Fire­fox. Any appar­ent speed increase isn’t imme­di­ate­ly obvi­ous (this is a tes­ta­ment to how fast they’ve man­aged to get it to load in all browsers).
speed-dialThe inter­face is very sim­pli­fied: few but­tons, tabs up top, no sta­tus bar. There’s a lot of sur­pris­es here, like an auto­mat­i­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed page with thumb­nails of your most fre­quent­ly vis­it­ed sites (see image, right), an idea bor­rowed from Opera browser’s “Speed Dial” fea­ture (avail­able through to Fire­fox users through the Speed Dial exten­sion).
gmail-as-app
You can also “Cre­ate appli­ca­tion short­cuts” which turn ser­vices such as Gmail into client-like appli­ca­tions that sit on your desk­top (screen­shot right). Open them up from here and the nor­mal loca­tion bar and brows­er but­tons are gone.
There’s a lot more to explore here. It’s obvi­ous that Google has put a lot of thought into this. I’m not going to dis­miss any fea­ture or odd­i­ty too quick­ly. They helped a lot of us rethink how we orga­nize email using a sin­gle “Archive” fold­er instead of the elaborately-maintained fold­er hier­ar­chy. Google actu­al­ly have put out a num­ber of half-baked and under-supported ser­vices (Froogle and Google Check­out come most imme­di­ate­ly to mind) but it’s clear that the Google Chrome brows­er is a very seri­ous ini­tia­tive by the company.
Will I Use It?
The big ques­tion, right? Actu­al­ly, I won’t use it much for now. For one thing, I’m a Mac user. I have a Win­dows XP vir­tu­al machine run­ning most of the time cour­tesy of VMWare’s Fusion. I’m sure Google has set a high pri­or­i­ty to make Mac OS X and Lin­ux ver­sions of Chrome – they’re whole strat­e­gy rests on this being woven into the brows­er lin­gua fran­ca that keeps Microsoft’s Vista at bay, remem­ber?, but until that time Chrome won’t be my nat­ur­al first choice.
But I’m also going to miss my Fire­fox exten­sions. I for­got that the web has lots of ads (Adblock Plus). And I don’t like the extra clut­ter of Gmail with­out Bet­ter Gmail 2 (just the “Folders4Gmail” fea­ture of the lat­ter saves my eye more scan­ning time than any speed tweak Chrome deliv­ers). And these days the Web Devel­op­ers Tool­bar, Last­pass, FireFTP exten­sions are pret­ty essen­tial to my work day.
But if a native Mac ver­sion was released? And if Fire­fox exten­sions start­ed being rewrit­ten for Chrome? I just flipped back to my reg­u­lar brows­er to check some­thing and even after an hour with Chrome, Fire­fox felt so heavy and clunky. It is pos­si­ble to see Chrome could a seri­ous con­tender for my attention. 

Superstar? Aw shucks!

And a shout-out back to Hit­Tail folks who linked to my arti­cle on Adword shenani­gans by nam­ing me a super­star! Every­one Loves Hit­Tail: Hit­Tail Helps Super­star Blog­ger Mar­tin Kel­ley Save Mon­ey. Is it get­ting hot in here?

I will say that these guys are real­ly good track­ers. I some­times think if I said “hit­tail” in my sleep I’d awake to an email thank­ing me for the men­tion. I’m always sur­prised at how many com­pa­nies don’t fol­low their own pub­lic com­men­tary on them across the inter­net, but Hit­tail cer­tain­ly does.

Banking on reputations

I was referred to a web­site the oth­er day that bare­ly exists, at least
in the way that I see sites. It’s home­page was built entire­ly in Flash, was com­plete­ly invis­i­ble to search engines and bare­ly func­tioned in Fire­fox. Domain​tools​.com gave it an SEO score of zero (out of a scale of one hun­dred). It’s Google PageR­ank was three out of ten, mak­ing it less vis­i­ble that my kid pages.
But this was a web­site for a high-flying web devel­op­ment house, a
com­pa­ny that works with some of Philadelphia’s most promi­nent and
well-endowed cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions. Their client work isn’t quite as
invis­i­ble, but their web­site for Philadelphia’s relative-new $265
mil­lion per­for­mance arts cen­ter has a PageR­ank equiv­a­lent to my
per­son­al blog – youch!

I think there’s a les­son here. Promi­nent cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions don’t look at Google (and SEO-friend­ly
devel­op­ers) because they’re big enough and well-known enough that they
assume peo­ple will find them any­way. They’re right, of course, but how
many more peo­ple would find them if they had well-built web­sites? And
what’s the long-term vision if they’re rely­ing on their established
rep­u­ta­tion to do their web marketing? 

It’s per­haps impossible
for a net-centric start-up to repli­cate a hugely-endowed cul­tur­al icon
like an orches­tra or bal­let, giv­ing some degree of insu­la­tion to these
insti­tu­tions from direct inter­net com­pe­ti­tion. But if these nonprofits
saw them­selves in the enter­tain­ment busi­ness, com­pet­ing for the limited
atten­tion and mon­ey of an audi­ence that has many evening-time
pos­si­bil­i­ties, then you’d think they’d want to lever­age the inter­net as
much as they could: to use the web to reach out not only to their
exist­ing audi­ence but to nur­ture and devel­op future audiences. 

Are the audi­ences of high brow insti­tu­tions so full of hip young audi­ences that they can steer clear of web-centric marketing?

The new aggregators

A look at the new class of “Sin­gle Page Aggregators.”

Way back in 1997 I was one of dozens of lots of web design­ers trying
to fig­ure out how to bring an edi­to­r­i­al voice to the inter­net. The web
had tak­en off and there pages and links every­where but few places where
they were actu­al­ly orga­nized in a use­ful man­ner. As I’ve writ­ten before,
in Decem­ber of that year I start­ed a week­ly updat­ed list of annotated
links to arti­cles on non­vi­o­lence, a form we’d now would rec­og­nize as a
blog.

About
eigh­teen months ago I start­ed a “links blog” of inter­est­ing Quaker
links, incor­po­rat­ed as a side­bar on my pop­u­lar “Quak­er­Ran­ter” personal
blog. I even­tu­al­ly gave the links their own URL (Quak​erQuak​er​.org)
and invit­ed oth­ers to join the link­ing. I always stum­ble when try­ing to
tell peo­ple what Quak­erQuak­er is all about. The best def­i­n­i­tion is that
its a “col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly edit­ed blog aggre­ga­tor” but that’s a horribly
tech description.

The rise of blogs is cre­at­ing the neces­si­ty for these sort of theme-based aggre­ga­tors. This morn­ing I stum­bled on Orig­i­nal Sig­nal, a new site that organzes the best Web 2.0 blogs. A site called Pop­URLs does the same for “the lat­est web buzz.” A site called Solu­tion­Watch has writ­ten about these in Track­ing the web with Sin­gle Page Aggre­ga­tors. We’re all on to some­thing here. I sus­pect that some­time this fall some clever per­son will coin a new term for these sites.