Bating the mousetrap with chunky peanut butter

Flickr peanut butter
Original by starpause kid and shared under a Creative Commons License.
When it comes to mousetraps, it’s fairly common knowledge that an effective cheese alternative for trapping mice is peanut butter.

However, we already know that Yahoo isn’t too fond of peanut butter. At least the smooth kind spread thin.

So it’s interesting to note that, perhaps as part of the strategy to outlaw renegade peanut butter within the organization, the formerly independent outpost known as Flickr will be forcing users to either merge or create a new Yahoo account to login after March 15:

On March 15th, 2007 we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.

We’re making this change now to simplify the sign in process in advance of several large projects launching this year, but some Flickr features and tools already require Yahoo! IDs for sign in — like the mobile site at m.flickr.com or the new Yahoo! Go program for mobiles, available at http://go.yahoo.com.

If you still sign in using the email-based Flickr system (here), you can make the switch at any time in the next few months, from today till the 15th. (After that day, you’ll be required to merge before you continue using your account.) To switch, start at this page: http://flickr.com/account/associate/

Complete details and answers to most common questions are available here: http://flickr.com/help/signin/

If you have questions or comments about signing in with a Yahoo! ID, speak up!

You can imagine that not everyone is happy about this, especially after the reaction the first time around:
Jimbo doesn't like it

Now, I’m not interested in opening old wounds. The Flickr folks have given plenty of notice about the coming changes (figure at least a month and a half if not the full 18 months since they were acquired) and of course are available for consolation, hand-holding and so forth.

Oh, and contrary to my tendency towards conspiracy theories, I’ll let Stewart debunk them outright:

And that’s it: there’s no secret agenda here, no desire to come to your homes and steal your TV. Over time, it just gets more expensive to maintain independent means of authentication and we could “spend” those efforts on other things which make Flickr more useful, more fun, more versatile, etc. And the smaller the ratio of old skool to Y!ID-based gets, the harder it is to justify not spending that effort on improvements.

I will, however, take this opportunity to rise up on my soapbox again and point out something worth reflecting on…

Look, Google’s already done the same thing with Dodgeball; it’s a sure bet that they’re going to do the same thing with their YouTube acquisition. We know that Yahoo logins are going to show up on MyBlogLog and eventually, probably Upcoming too — and, for that matter, any other user-centered acquisition that comes down the pipe. Microsoft is no different. Let’s face it: the future of the web is in identity-based services. And this is a good thing, if you’re ready for it.

My buddies Brian Oberkirch and Aldo Castañeda talked about the potential for this new economy recently. It’s coming and it’s scary (for some) and it’s unclear what it looks like. But the more that this happens under authoritarian login regimes, the more concern I feel for the effect these consolidation efforts will have on true democratic choice in where and how you spend your attention.

Realistically, it’s not terribly surprising that Yahoo! and the rest are going this direction. Hell, from a systems perspective, you’re just two entries in a grand database in the sky whereas you could be one. From a service perspective, unifying “you” across systems allows convenience and synergies to emerge. The problem is that these actions belie the sophisticated relationships that some people have with their online accounts and how their personas are represented. Though not everyone cares a whole lot about their screennames, others absolutely do. And beyond that, for whatever reasons they have, some people simply do not want to go near Yahoo! — something they never thought would be a concern of theirs when they originally joined Flickr.

But there’s a curious reality to look at here.

While I call Flickr home (NIPSA’d and all), just as there is a vehicle to vent my individual frustrations to Flickr, those same vehicles and mechanisms are available to me to splinter off and build my own peanut-butter-rich outpost anew. The missing piece of the puzzle, however, is my identity. I can’t just pack up my digital self and move on… whichever login system Flickr uses — Yahoo’s, Google’s, their own — I can’t “take it with me”. Even with their API, which is one of the most generous in the biz, it still doesn’t give me the ability to fully reincarnate myself somewhere else.

Now, I could and would like to turn this into a pitch for OpenID, but I won’t, at least directly. The Yahoo! folks have already expressed their distaste for creating Just Another Identity Silo and I keep waiting for them to prove it. I don’t mind waiting a bit longer. The wheels of the OpenID community are already in motion and I don’t have to plead for acknowledgment from the powers that be. The truth is, there are only a few more sites that will fall. The truth is, we are only now beginning to realize the degree to which we are all exposed and what the reality of our transparent society looks like. And the truth is, we are only just beginning to wake up to the idea that we should and can have dominion over our online lives, just as we believe is our right offline.

Cisco is creating the Matrix

Crowdsourcing
Probably © Warner Bros.

In a vivid example of the kind of exploitative crowdsourcing I was talking about, Cisco is apparently building a network of humans that live to consume its products.

Ironically, using words like “empower” and “connect”, they cite Digg Labs as an example of their “network monitoring program” and use specimens’ camera phones to monitor the their behavior while mining a “billion people’s” web surfing habits to find out what is of interest to them (whoa, it’s like a total rip of Original Signal!).

This may just be the best example of a corporate “crowdsource” shop underway. What with government sanctioned torture on the books, it’s only a matter of time before, indeed, they start sticking those metal prod things into our heads.

Dodgeball goes Gauth, reveals GOOG’s masterplan to p0wn your ass

Did you know that Dodgeball's been assimilated?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but now when you try to log into your favorite neighborhood spyware, you’ll be greeted by a prompt to login with either your old skool Dodgeball account credentials or your Gauth account (the one that you use for Docs, Gmail, Gcal, Orkut, or other Google Services like YouTube (whoops — did I just say YouTube?).

Should you choose to login with your Dodgeball account, you’ll then be asked what your Gauth account isagain… or to create a new one. I chose to eff it and just merge my accounts (hoping that there’s an export of my checkins to Google Earth). Now I can manage Dodgeball from Google (note the last service):
Dodgeball as Google Service

The BorgSo here’s an interesting theory. Or maybe a foretelling of the inevitable. But clearly everything that Google buys, it will, somehow, someday, assimilate. Just like Teh Borg a generation before it.

I mean, from a business perspective, it does make sense. Yahoo! at least had the sense to make it utterly optional for Flickr and Upcoming users to use or create a Yahoo account for logging in (though they’ve recently backslid into pushing straight-up Y! Auth at Flickr).

So in light of the GooTube buy-out, what’s interesting about this Dodgeball stitchover is what happens if they do the same to YouTube (which, of course, they will, giving them a lump sum portion of the nearly 20M monthly uniques as new or merged accounts under their proprietary authentication system). …Which then, of course, can be used at other Google Authenticated sites. But hey, how useful are those accounts on sites that don’t use their system? Yeah, about as a good as a false username and an incorrect password: utterly useless.

Which leads me to pimping OpenID, the open grassroots alternative I’ve previously discussed. If Google opted to interop with (or help develop) this emerging standard, users would be centrally in control of their data — and able to rely on vendors that they choose to represent them — hell, even run their own identity server if that’s their wont — and take their data with them. And now is more critical than ever to raise these issues as the major players push , BBAuth and GAuth while independent identity projects struggle to keep it together and muster their collective will in crafting a standard that keeps users’ rights and interests squarely at the fore.

Thus with Google standing guard squarely between me and more and more of the services that I use, I’m starting to bear witness to the rise of a very insidious environment — where, heck, the kids’ll just keep following the into unknown territory until Google single-handedly locks’em all up in its walled-garden-silo, never to escape with their data or their friends again (that’s not evil, is it?) — or at least that’s what it looks like from here, given their culture of secrecy and expediency in converting existing login systems to their own (Writely, Dodgeball, Blogger, Picasa, Google Earth, etc).

But hey, I still remain hopefully naive while decidedly skeptical; if it’s not Google that gets there first, maybe it’ll be Apple with their patent on transportable identities. And, if there’s something you want to do about it in the meantime, if you’re running WordPress, go ahead and grab the new . Perhaps if we take the identity matter into our own hands and do something about it first, they’ll have no choice but to keep the gate to their walled gardens, at the very least, unlatched.

In the trenches against the RIAA

EFF the RIAA (clean)Denise Howell pointed to a Slashdot interview with two lawyers from Vandenberg & Feliu, LLP in New York who are in the precarious position of both defending against claims wrought by the RIAA and blogging about it. It seems that their play by play is now in danger of being outlawed. Seriously. WTF. They’re hitting us on all sides.

Web 2.0 Trademark Closure

So in case you missed it, Tim O’Reilly has posted a follow-up about the Web2.0 Trademark spat that engulfed the blogerati a few months back. I put in my own two cents pertaining to the relevance of the debate to my Community Mark initiative.

The outcome seems that Tim has asked CMP to take a more narrow view of their trademark: It will only seek to protect the Web 2.0 trademark if another other Web 2.0-related event has a name that is confusingly similar to the names of the actual events co-produced by CMP and O’Reilly, such as our events “The Web 2.0 Conference” and “The Web 2.0 Expo.”

So while I can appreciate Tom’s initial Irish-blooded reaction (309 comments!?!), I think this is a fair compromise in the end. I can also see why people confused “O’Reilly” with “CMP”; Tim, take this with a grain of salt, but I think more than anything, this is a common misconception that is wholly yours to clear up, which, with this post, I think you have done.

Now that that’s behind us, maybe we should start talking about what’s next for digital rights online?

Coworking NYC; reclaiming the sidewalks

Proposal hilights

Protest posterNoel has the details on a pretty ridiculous rule change on sidewalk usage and parade definition in NYC. In response, there’s been a protest called Aug 23.

At the same time, Noel’s kickin’ up dust about getting a CoworkingNYC space started up in the Big Apple. He’s proposed a meeting coming up soon, so drop him a note (noel at nonecknoel dot com) and let him know that you’re interested.

Calling FUD on Godin

The media we use to represent ourselves has a tendency to consume us.

Or so it would, should we allow it.

Seth Godin says that The prevalance of online video, constant skype connections and the multiple threads of data we get online, combined with the enormous overhead that flying now brings might just change the [value of showing up, of being there in person, of establishing a face to face relationship with the person on the other side] for a long time to come.

Just because we’ve got all these wires and nodes and cables to keep us remotely connected offering up pixelated approximations of the real thing doesn’t mean that that basic desire to meet and to be seen and congregate shall whither. Or that the impossibility of airtravel will keep us from seeing one another in the flesh as often as we like.

Fuck that. Leila‘s right: the time has come to tap innovations, creativity and apply these to air travel and security.

…Even if that means avoiding commercial air travel altogether.

Indeed, the pilgrimages we make in the future may be fewer and further between, but that will be because we’ve built up the local ties and connections to feed our desire to connect to other — with our BarCamps, our Coworking spaces, our Citizen Spaces, across our self-run Munified networks… we will build the alternative infrastructure to support the kind of old fashioned social networking and serendipitous person-to-person reality that we’ve always craved.

The airline industry is one of the last vestiges or a foregone error that’s fought innovation at every turn to its folly. The worse it becomes for passengers, the more it exacerbates the need for something better, something more communal, something more open and distributed. Ironically, it’s easy for me to say on a blog, but I don’t think that the answer is bowing down to the threat of terror — which continually proves itself too slippery to contain… instead we need to reduce the threat and reinvest in our roots and in where we are. BarCampEarth is a celebration of our global community — proudly proving that these loosely-connected tightly-woven local communities represent more than the sum of their parts… and that our ultimate strength is found in the connections we share, no matter whoever, whenever, or wherever we are.

Fight Terrorism — Drive an Electric Avrocar

Fight Terrorism -- Drive an Avrocar

Given the terror thing on a plane over in the UK and the banning of computer and liquid carry-ons, it’s clear that the next step is flying nekkid, as Greg “Fotonotes” Elin has said.

Seems to me when you have a system like this w/ many points of big possible failure instead of one, you gotta make those points smaller and less impactful. Like individuals driving cars and/or crashing them.

Time for personal electric flying machines if you ask me (since the whole car-thing didn’t work out so well).

Tom, say it ain't so!

The Demise of MySpace Tom?

Tom, I know we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye but you were my first friend on MySpace, and so, in my book, that made us BFF.

But it troubles me, Tom, when I read today that the government has passed US House Resolution 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). The act looks at how much a “commericial social networking site and/or chat room”:

  1. is offered by a commercial entity;
  2. permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
  3. permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
  4. elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
  5. enables communication among users.

Clearly this is aimed at MySpace!

So Tom… when I went to your MySpace page to see what you had to say about it… you’d been deleted! If this act is about “deleting online predators” well, I can only hope that this was a mistake, but… I’m afriad that, Tom, there’s simply no way we can be BFF if you’ve been deleted.

For whatever reasons.

I hope you understand.