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posted by takyon on Monday December 10 2018, @04:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the giant-leap dept.

Aral Balkan has a blog post about taking small steps to end surveillance capitalism. In particular he focuses on the need for federated services. He points out that the move to re-decentralize the WWW is difficult and needs to start at the beginning, using a comparison of Apple's original computers to their latest generation of tablets as an illustration.

Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.

This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.

Related: Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Lester on Monday December 10 2018, @05:32PM (40 children)

    by Lester (6231) on Monday December 10 2018, @05:32PM (#772432) Journal

    A decentralized network will never work, people tend to centralize.

    All new decentralized projects have failed (diaspora, Jabber...) to replace centralized ones. But more important, decentralized ones have joint into giant centralized monsters. email, a decentralized born protocol, has become gmail and outlook. Hosting is concentrating in a few big providers, small hosting companies are dying. In the old days there were a bunch of smalls ISPs, now, a few.

    We, people, tend to copy one each other, particularly about thing we are not experts.

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  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday December 10 2018, @05:58PM (28 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday December 10 2018, @05:58PM (#772448) Journal

    people tend to centralize.

    They need something to blame, outside themselves, when things go wrong.

    --
    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by urza9814 on Monday December 10 2018, @06:17PM (2 children)

      by urza9814 (3954) on Monday December 10 2018, @06:17PM (#772462) Journal

      We, people, tend to copy one each other, particularly about thing we are not experts.

      They need something to blame, outside themselves, when things go wrong.

      Both very true...but I think a bigger issue is that this is simply the nature of living in a capitalist system.

      Amazon.com I believe went over a decade before it ever turned a profit. They had many, many years of paid employees to keep improving their service and paid advertising to grow their market without ever needing to pay for a dime of that themselves. People just gave them money -- on a promise that the company would eventually become profitable through advertising and surveillance. You can't really do that with a decentralized system. So all you get is small hobbyist projects eternally trying to catch up to the major players.

      Investment drives centralization just as much as consumer demand. It's all one big feedback cycle. Investment dollars bring advertisements which drives consumer demand, bringing new users which bring more investment dollars until either the market is captured or the company fails. With decentralized systems, there's not really any way to get that cycle started. We need a new one. Something more than "work on it in your free time"; something which lets increasing numbers of developers pay their rent as the project grows. Crowdfunding is an option...but not really a great one so far...

      • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday December 10 2018, @06:28PM (1 child)

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday December 10 2018, @06:28PM (#772469) Journal

        Basically people need to become and stay more self motivated, and not wait for everything to be spoon fed. Abundance is spoiling us, making us bored, lazy and complacent, quick to believe anything flashed on the screen.

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by urza9814 on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:49PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:49PM (#772869) Journal

          Basically people need to become and stay more self motivated, and not wait for everything to be spoon fed. Abundance is spoiling us, making us bored, lazy and complacent, quick to believe anything flashed on the screen.

          Yes and no...

          First of all, I don't think abundance is necessarily the reason. We've always had the scam artists and snake oil salesmen, they just change their clothes every few generations. (Reminds me of something I posted last week... https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?noupdate=1&sid=28818&page=1&cid=767835#commentwrap) [soylentnews.org]

          You'll sometimes hear people saying "If you want something right, you have to do it yourself." There's a certain truth to that...but at the same time, not everyone can be an expert in every field. If I just had to grow all of my own food, I probably wouldn't have much time for software development. Or my food would really suck. Probably both. So I would say, if you want it done right, you've gotta do it yourself...and if you want it done good enough, you've gotta know who's doing it.

          If we want all the benefits of modern civilization, we've gotta trust and rely on each other at some point. I think the issue is more that society is structured to distrust or conceal the experts in their fields of expertise. The guys building the bridge notice a problem, but management decides it's cheaper to take the risk. The guys writing the software catch a bug, but management decides a fix would cause them to miss the deployment date so they go ahead anyway. The problem is that instead of trusting the local blacksmith, we're now trusting some MBA who doesn't know a damn thing about blacksmithing. They don't see or feel or know what's going to happen, they only know how it's going to impact their spreadsheet. Our entire society is designed around the principle that the individual worker doesn't matter, all that matters is the company and their policies. Turns out that isn't true, but you'll still hear managers running up and down halls screaming that they "need more bodies on this project", as though a brain or even a pulse isn't strictly necessary to get the work done.

          We need to learn to identify experts, and more specifically to separate the MBA from the expert he's kidnapped so that he can appear to be one too. We need to give a shit about quality again instead of just buying the cheapest crap we can find on ebay. And yes, we do probably need to do some things for ourselves when we can. I occasionally do tech support for some small local organizations, and the biggest challenge isn't getting what they want done, it's trying to figure out what they actually want in the first place. Nobody thinks about "How should this work" -- they either want MAGIC! that just automatically gives the right answer with zero input; or they want someone who can just tell them to buy something that will make their lives easier without first discussing what they do all day and what their actual challenges are.

          There's also a good bit of the old "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". There's two reason for that. The first is that IBM was generally considered reasonably competent. Maybe not the best, but definitely functional. But the second reason (which is the important one for this discussion) is that it gives you someone to sue. Which is a pretty crappy solution, but that's the one our society has settled on. Same way our healthcare costs skyrocket because we don't give a damn about preventative medicine, our IT costs skyrocket because we'd rather buy first and sue later rather than just making sure the damn thing works in the first place! Because people fall for the flashy sales brochure promising everything and nothing at the same time. Just as they always have...

          As for technology...I'm not sure if computers help or hurt. We get great concepts like the web of trust...but instead we end up using friggin' Yelp. And computers and software are heavily focused on this idea of abstraction, where you more or less just assume that the other program is always going to do what you tell it to do. Just like we often assume companies will do what they promise to do. So that might not be very helpful. And if I buy a car, I can pop the hood and look around and get some idea of how well it's built; but when I buy software it's all locked away behind IP law and I can't see a damn thing...so it's harder to know if it's any good before you buy anyway. At least until we demand that changes...

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:29PM (24 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:29PM (#772470)

      damn liberals and their elitist surveillance profiteering!

      "people tend to centralize."

      They need something to blame, outside themselves, when things go wrong.

      Seriously, that is one stupid statement and even if you were going for funny/witty it falls flat. The answer is convenience, nothing more.

      • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday December 10 2018, @06:37PM (17 children)

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday December 10 2018, @06:37PM (#772474) Journal

        The answer is convenience...

        And dat too! The convenience of passing blame... It's all part of the same show. You don't have to get all stressed out over it. "Liberals" and "conservatives" have nothing to do with the prices of rice here.

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @08:02PM (16 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @08:02PM (#772525)

          No one uses facebook because it is convenient to pass blame. That is not a part of the decision making process when anyone signs up.

          Are you confusing people blaming FB for privacy violations with motivation to use their service??

          • (Score: 2, Insightful) by fustakrakich on Monday December 10 2018, @08:29PM (15 children)

            by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday December 10 2018, @08:29PM (#772541) Journal

            Yes, there are some people that choose a closed source program over open source precisely to have somebody to blame when support is insufficient. Can't say if it's true for Facebook, but it does help Microsoft's sales figures.

            Submissive people look for (central) leaders for many reasons. Passing blame is one of them, even if it is mostly subconscious.

            --
            Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @09:59PM (10 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @09:59PM (#772584)

              kekekekekek

              your view of reality is warped

              • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:30AM (8 children)

                by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:30AM (#772665) Journal

                How is it warped? He (assuming this is a he, here...) has a very solid point.

                --
                I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:25PM (7 children)

                  by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:25PM (#772944)

                  Choosing a vendor because they have enterprise support is not the same thing as choosing them so you can pass the blame. That concept flies a tiny bit with an OS vendor but not at all with FB. All i was saying is people are not using a centralized soci media service so they can blame anyone, that is zero % of the rationale.

                  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:05PM (6 children)

                    by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:05PM (#773008) Journal

                    Jeezus! It's psych 101. People look for authority figures so they can become blobs and let somebody else take the fall. Are you so willfully blind to basics?

                    --
                    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
                    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:12PM (5 children)

                      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:12PM (#773011)

                      Take that libertarian trash somewhere else.

                      • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:36PM (2 children)

                        by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:36PM (#773024) Journal

                        Pfft!

                        Oh! sorry, did I do that?

                        C'mon man. Try to cough up something better than that

                        --
                        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
                        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:03PM (1 child)

                          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:03PM (#773045)

                          Ditto Sir, Edge Lord Sir!

                          Permission to speak freely sir? Thank you sir. Your fedora is tipped at a weird angle sir!

                          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:10PM

                            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:10PM (#773049)

                            Much better, gracias...

                      • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:41PM (1 child)

                        by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:41PM (#773062) Journal

                        That isn't libertarian trash. It's fairly well-known and well-demonstrated that people usually prefer to act in this manner. I have not a clue why but suspect it's something to do with the energetic path of least resistance, i.e., this uses the least energy so our bodies favor it.

                        --
                        I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
                        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @09:22PM

                          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @09:22PM (#773092)

                          Humans group together and form power hierarchies. I'll agree with that.

                          While "let me be a blob and let someone else do all the work and take all the blame" may be true for a small minority of humans it is by no means the average. That line of negative thinking towards humanity leads to tyranny and class structures.

                          "People WANT me to be a dictator and therefore I can do whatever I want! GOD WILLS IT!"

                          Azuma you present a much more sane version with "suspect it's something to do with the energetic path of least resistance". In a communal structure people take on various roles. You are correct, it is about efficiency.

                          Fustakirich is not correct, it is not all about humans debasing themselves so they can be lazy couch potatoes. It is a little bit of a nit-picky distinction on my part but I feel it is very important.

              • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:37AM

                by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:37AM (#772673) Journal

                Eh, no worse than yours, or any other of the 7.5 billion's.

                --
                Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:33PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:33PM (#772861)

              Yes, there are some people that choose a closed source program over open source precisely to have somebody to blame when support is insufficient.

              Only in corporate environments. Private people usually just blame "the computer" if something doesn't work.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:04PM (2 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:04PM (#772969)

              Let ua bring this back to your post that started this:

              people tend to centralize.

              They need something to blame, outside themselves, when things go wrong.

              You walked this back a little but it is still a very minor aspect of anything. Choosing a service for support is not the same as choosing one to blame. That is an edgy comment for when you want to sound insightful at a party.

              • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:00PM (1 child)

                by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:00PM (#773006) Journal

                Bla bla bla, if this is a party, where's my beer??

                Please, enough of your silly games, just read and at least make a feeble effort to comprehend what was written to avoid needless repetition. Fundamentals are important.

                --
                Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:05PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:05PM (#773046)

                  You complain a lot with very little substance. Back to your Olivye.

      • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:29AM (5 children)

        by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:29AM (#772787) Homepage Journal

        Have a read of cognitive dissonance. It's very well established in the literature

        Simply put, most people have a far higher opinion of themselves than they really deserve

        --
        Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:30PM (4 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:30PM (#772952)

          Ok back up that claim, what is your reasoning to support the claim that people use FB because they could blame them for, what exactly?

          • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:51PM (3 children)

            by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:51PM (#772960) Homepage Journal

            It's easy enough to set up your own blog at your own website, but were you to do that you'd have to accept the blame for fucking it up.

            --
            Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:38PM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:38PM (#772986)

              I think this whole argument is just two sides of the same coin. I still maintain people are making their choices out of convenience, not the more negative aspect of being able to blame the service if things go wrong; but you could say that blaming the service IS the convenience.

              I think you are conflating the idea that people look for blame when things go wrong with the motivating principle that gets them to set things up in the first place. When electing politicians we aren't looking for someone we can easily blame, but when things go wrong we definitely start looking for the easy targets.

              All I am saying is that people are NOT choosing to use centralized social media so they can blame them, people choose those services because they are conveniently easy to access and often have their friends and family with them. That was the original argument, not some exercise in cognitive dissonance. Which btw please go look it up, it was a little more detailed than I thought it was and you definitely used it wrong.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:46PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:46PM (#772994)

              PS: you run scripts to check for replies? last I checked SN doesn't notify you of AC replies.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:03PM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:03PM (#772453)

    In contrast, bad centralization is imposition.

    They key is to ensure that the underlying, decentralized system or protocol remains viable as a refuge for when the centralization goes bad. Alas, email has not remained viable, because nobody has ever updated it to handle spam—nobody ever implemented Hashcash widely (you know, that core component of Bitcoin was developed first as an anti-spam measure for email).

    As a result, you can't just set up your own email server easily; not only will you have to manage incoming spam, but other email services will just discard the mail you send as spam, and so the only way to communicate via email effectively is to use Gmail and the like.

    The problem is not that decentralization has failed, but rather the problem is that the email protocols have been abandoned and essentially do not exist anymore.

    • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday December 10 2018, @06:22PM (3 children)

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday December 10 2018, @06:22PM (#772464) Journal

      The problem is not that decentralization has failed, but rather the problem is that the email protocols have been abandoned and essentially do not exist anymore.

      Like Soylent Green and everything else, the problem is people! People!

      Some things do need to be "centralized" (standardized), like weights and measures, and communication protocols. They just need to be scientifically logical and widely agreed upon, and of course open, in the public domain, where nobody can get the advantage. If we can make surveillance a two way affair, the state/corp might be a bit more respectful about it.

      --
      Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:43PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:43PM (#772482)

        Consider that we're now trying to get rid of that lump of metal in Paris that is used to define the Kilogram.

        If you can define weights and measures in terms of fundamental aspects of the Universe, then you free humanity from relying on a central authority; anyone, anywhere, can create and calibrate instruments independently.

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @08:06PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @08:06PM (#772529)

          You people are such jerks!

          • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:36PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:36PM (#772953)

            Dont sweat downmods around here, sometimes it is just one person with bad reading skills.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by NotSanguine on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:28AM (3 children)

      As a result, you can't just set up your own email server easily; not only will you have to manage incoming spam, but other email services will just discard the mail you send as spam, and so the only way to communicate via email effectively is to use Gmail and the like.

      That may be the worst example you could have picked.

      There are excellent mail servers that are fairly simple to implement, with really good functionality (either as a plug in or baked in) for handling spam.

      I suspect you had a bad experience with email and decided it was bad. You have absolutely no idea what you're blathering on about.

      tl;dr: you're talking out of your ass and it smells that way too.

      --
      No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
      • (Score: 2) by Appalbarry on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:14AM (2 children)

        by Appalbarry (66) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:14AM (#772736) Journal

        There are excellent mail servers that are fairly simple to implement

        I'll bite. Which ones, and how do you define "fairly simple"?

        Think of the 98% of the population that don't have access to a server, have never used a command line, and sure as heck aren't likely to mess with config files.

        Now, if I can buy a $100 box on Amazon and just plug it into my home router I'm in!

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @10:31AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @10:31AM (#772808)

          How do you define server?

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by NotSanguine on Tuesday December 11 2018, @08:14PM

          From the POV of a technical guy, Postfix and Sendmail, as well as Dovecot and various webmail servers are actually pretty easy to set up and manage.

          Non-technical people have options [cyberciti.biz] too.

          One of the big drivers of centralization, and the lack of mainstream (as in the general public, rather than the tech mainstream) knowledge/use of distributed mail/social media/file storage/etc, is the lack of widespread implementation of *symmetric* internet links in the consumer space. This is exacerbated by the abusive TOS and port blocking done by (you got it!) the big, centralized ISPs.

          If we'd had broad implementation of symmetric, high-speed broadband (you know, like the US taxpayer paid/subsidized those same ISPs to do to the tune of US$50 billion) over the past 20 years, you wouldn't have seen companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google (gmail) get so big and powerful, forcing more centralization.

          None of this stuff is so difficult that it can't be wrapped in simple installers and managed with a reasonable UI.

          Technical issues (such as asymmetric DSL and cable bandwidth) as well as greed from the ISPs created the space for other greedy folks to create these behemoths. What's more, that also drove the rise of "the cloud" (read: someone else's servers), even though most folks have plenty of compute resources to support most of what they may want to do.

          I'm painting with a broad brush, but it's all there if you look at recent history. That's another driver, IMHO. A lack of knowledge about how we got to where we are, along with a healthy dose of willful ignorance have made these trends even worse.

          These are big issues that cut across industries and is primarily driven by the desire to extract the maximum amount of rent from consumers, especially since marginal costs approach zero in most of these industries.

          Sigh.

          --
          No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:13PM

    by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:13PM (#772827)

    Google and yahoo have repeatedly failed to build a social network to fight friendface. Perhaps someone should adopt one of these decentralised technologies to give them an edge; i.e. a marketplace of server providers can be part of the sales pitch to pull people from friendface. Lots of people know friendface is evil and would gladly move to another option if it were demonstrably less evil.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:13PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:13PM (#772882)

    "A decentralized network will never work, people tend to centralize."

    Funny how quickly people concede a premise. I can think of a half dozen off the top of my head: DNS, NNTP, Torrent, Freenet, LDAP, ARP, Multicast, all routing protocols, and really all cloud services are decentralized in administration, though do not appear so at the UI level. Shall I go on?

    The perception of centralization is not centralization. People don't centralize, they delude themselves. What you're talking about is alliance, not hegemony. Engineers go a long way to ensure that the misconceptions of the ignorant are not revealed to them. This is by neccessity. Some people react badly when the curtain gets pulled back and there is no god to explain their experiences.