Before new years eve I was thinking about what I could make my new years promise. I came up with a very good one(which I then didn't recall on new years eve ;) ): be more fatalist!
I have been closing myself out of a lot of highly hyped stuff, because I was too fundamentalist - if it's not open, it's not worth using!
For example I refused to sign up with del.icio.us for a long time, because I don't want to add to the networking effects of closed source social web services (closed source social - isn't that a contradiction in itself?). Any single one user in such a service gives more power to them, to a closed source platform. That's in the very nature of a social web service - its real value is not its technology, but its userbase. Just think of Google, they started with a revolutionary good search engine. Their userbase grew at an incredible pace - 'to google' is an acknowledged verb nowadays, google can't be trademarked because of that any more. No one would think, that you can do harm with a search engine - or does anyone? Well, a lot of people think that and some ask for just one more bubble.
Interestingly a lot of Open Source peers use such services and I'm sure, that a lot of them are aware of the consequences. Let me trackback to an older post of me, I promised I'll come back to it. In Digital Sins revisited I mostly quoted a very interesting IRC-Discussion from #trollparty. Here's one excerpt:
[02:00:44] <qopi> i find that the collective intelligence I can extract from delicious (due to its critcal mass of users, like you mentioned) also greatly increases my capabilities of improving my freedom [02:01:14] <amette> qopi : Yes, that it does! Absolutely! Without any question! [02:01:44] <amette> But your personal lazyness keeps you from taking the next step - the step to the same concept on an open infrastucture! [02:01:55] <amette> And that step gives you long term freedom! [02:01:58] <qopi> and to me, on balance, that outweighs the bit of freedom I would get by switching to delirious
I still think, that qopi's last sentence is... well, perhaps it doesn't tell all the stuff he thought.. anyways - I registered with del.icio.us lately! I went on a real rampage to register with a whole lot of other proprietary social web services!
So, why's that?
Because I'm now more fatalist.
Sounds like a lame back-door to you? Yeah, to me, too! ;)
But it has reason.
Wikipedia says, that "Fatalism is the view that human deliberation and actions are pointless and ineffectual in determining events, because whatever will be will be."
Reading that, I'm glad, that I only said more fatalist! ;)
But the essential part is: "...whatever will be will be." And e.g. del.icio.us is. So me not going there doesn't change anything. And on the other hand me going there, doesn't keep me from promoting free alternatives. Even more: me using it, can help me in promoting better alternatives. It can even help me in creating better alternatives. (note the close relation to qopi's argument above)
And the 'creation'-argument actually was the one, that drove me - because it bugged me for a long time. I am interested in social web services, in efficient information sharing and anything else social-knowledgemanagemental. So believing that I would really understand those services or be able to create something better without knowing the current services is a little pathetic. Well, not impossible - I didn't learn too much explicitly new by subscribing to del.icio.us. For me it's a certain feeling I get by using a web service. I can't really grasp it, but combined with what one reads in the blogosphere about usage habits and the like it creates an unvaluable kind of understanding, which also helps a lot in creating something better. Of course the basic model of this 'something better' is completely clear, but it has to scratch the users' itches - a software, that doesn't satisfy the customer is worthless and then forget about network effects completely!
And after that comes the spread-the-word-phase. Well, why not use del.icio.us for that, too? Doesn't revolution from inside always rock more? ;)
Let me continue the quote from the before mentioned chat:
[01:58:29] <amette> Yes, it's about freedom! mose said it! And that is a much wider word, than most people recognize! Decentralisation is another thing, that plays a role here! delirious isn't perfect either! In the long term I work for Tikis communicating with each other - representing true virtual projection of real life! delirious can't do that despite being open source! It's not distributed! [01:58:54] <amette> But delirious is the better choice than delicious! Because it is open source! [01:59:03] <amette> You get more freedom from it! [01:59:23] <qopi> amette: I agree, we need a totally distributed alternative [01:59:38] <qopi> amette: like you say, freedom is a wide word [01:59:03] <amette> You get more freedom from it! [01:59:23] <qopi> amette: I agree, we need a totally distributed alternative
This decentralization is very important - we already discussed it in the comments of Perfect sharing for explicit knowledge?. By distributing the knowledge we put the power into the hands of the people - that's where folksonomy got it's name from in the first place. I once kick-started a big meta-data discussion on the TikiWiki devel mailing list. And I still think that RDF and OWL will be the things towards which implementation we have to work. But they are complex and won't attract too many people (the critical mass) too quickly.
The intermediate solution are the pretty elegant µFormats - it's like sneaking in semantics through the backdoor. And soon not only Tikis will communicate with each other, but a lot of other web-apps will be able to communicate with Tikis! I already implemented the hCard format on this page, but let me grab another example:
xFolk! It's distributed sharing of folksonomy-tagged bookmarks. To come back to the first chat-quote: de.lirio.us implements it - del.icio.us doesn't! See the point?
xFolk has the potential to make del.icio.us obsolete, could that be the reason, that they don't implement it? Could it be, that de.lirio.us implements it, because freedom is at the coders' hearts?
What I know is, that TikiWiki will get those standards! And that it's good!
And I think, that registering with and using those proprietary services will help me in implementing a good solution to really free access to information in TikiWiki!