Anti-Cloud Computing?

Over on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow posted about the Adobe Creative Cloud outage:

As Adobe Creative Suite struggles with its license-server outage, stranding creative professionals around the world without a way of earning their living, a timely reminder: a cloud computer is a computer you’re only allowed to use if the phone company and a DRM-peddling giant like Adobe gives you permission, and they can withdraw that permission at any time.

I typically find Cory to be very insightful. I think he has a point here, but misses another point. True, renting cloud servers and applications, particularly ones that rely on DRM and license servers, is putting yourself and your money at the mercy of another person or corporation where you have little to no control short of taking your money somewhere else. I understand that he is speaking narrowly of renting cloud software versus purchasing licensed software to install directly on a computer that you own (although with Adobe’s phone-home licensing, this would still be an issue if you lose Internet connectivity enough when attempting to use their products).

However, we are all subject to the whims of the telecommunications providers to leverage the Internet for applications and web sites. If Comcast decides to stop accepting my money as a customer, I have no other options to connect with the outside world. (That’s not entirely true. I could still use POTS lines for dial-up, and I believe Verizon may have a DSL option in our area, but the options are not comparable to cable connectivity.) And that is a real problem. As a customer of Comcast, I must maintain a tenuous balance between being irritated with their service (or lack thereof) and preventing them from becoming irritated with me for asking for the level of service that I pay them to provide.

I realize I cannot run my own telecommunications infrastructure, but I also realize that there is a real lack of competition in most municipalities, and that is a problem. Even the server I run this site on is a rented piece of equipment that is controlled by the hosting company I pay who in turn are relying on the services of their bandwidth providers. Let’s face it. The Adobe license server outage is a huge problem for a lot of people. It is also a great example of why service level agreements are so important, and why fault tolerant enterprise infrastructure is critical.

I don’t know the details of the license server failure, but Adobe needs to ensure that they correct the infrastructure failures to prevent this from happening again. In addition, they need to reimburse customers for the failure to meet their SLA. As for the telecommunications issue… well, Cory has written far more about that state of affairs than I have or ever will, but there is room for improvement. There is a fair level of certainty that the phone company will not take its ball and go home, leaving us with no connection to the outside world, but it is true that we are entirely dependent on them in the Internet age.

Tumblr Revisited

I deactivated my Facebook account at the beginning of April with the intent of taking only the month off as a sort of social media break. I also deactivated my Instagram account (it may as well be Facebook Photos). The only account that I kept active was Twitter, but I did my best to ignore it as often as possible. It’s ironic that I feel so loathe to delete the Twitter account altogether, but I also do not want to keep it active. I dislike the feeling of having a random open account just sitting out there on the Internet. It also makes it much easier to fall back into the habit of using it when it is there. So that is what addiction feels like. ;)

I have yet to reactivate my Facebook account as I do not miss it in the slightest. I have, however, reactivated Instagram, but only for the purpose of beta testing for Kidpost. I fully expect to jettison it again soon. I am disappointed that SmugMug is not one of the options for Kidpost, but I understand why. The API and the methods of posting to it are such that it does not exist as a sharing place for its primary function, unlike other sites like Flickr which are meant for sharing first and foremost.

It’s also disappointing that Facebook and Instagram are the only current options to test with on Kidpost. I suppose they are the easiest to interact with and to monitor, but I am so tired of Facebook. It’s stagnant, poorly designed, and a grand waste of everyone’s time. I’m even more disappointed that Dave Winer is actually embracing Facebook and funneling some of his content into it from Fargo. I don’t know if he is just trying to boost readership and engagement, or if he really feels that Facebook is the place to be, but it really reminds me of the old AOL web browser replete with keywords and a walled garden that promotes ignorance. That said, I am really starting to love Fargo and am even posting this to my site from Fargo.

So what’s this talk about Tumblr then? Well, I find myself repulsed by the hashtag, URL-shortened, random online-picture/video storage service laden jumble that is Twitter. While they have made interface improvements, supposed conversations get lost in the mix. My eyes tend to glaze over because picking out the relevant information from a 140 character post (the advent of multi-tweets, long-tweets, etc. have changed this as well). Enter Tumblr.

On Tumblr, there is certainly a fair amount of mess as well with reblogging, copious notes and likes, and multiple quote embedding, but on the whole, it is mostly clean, allows for more than 140 characters worth of commentary, has in-built hosting of images, videos, audio, etc. thereby removing the need for using an external service which may embed properly or may use its own redirect happy URL shortener, and combines the features of a blog, Twitter, and even some aspects of Facebook into one neat, customizable package. Also, they have a nice mobile application. Very nice.

As I tend to only post quotes and links for sharing and remembering on Twitter, and since it appears that Twitter’s tweet history has a time-based display limit, I find that Tumblr is a better place for these items. That’s not entirely true. My own web site is the perfect place for these items, but for the time being, I am not entirely sure I want to keep those items on my primary web site. I already have more external links here than I would prefer in ratio to posts of my own content. Of course, content for the sake of adding content is not good content, so there’s always that. If I have nothing to say, it’s better to say nothing.

Winter Wandering

When the arctic air sets in for a week at a stretch, the body decides that staying indoors and curling up in the warmth of a blanket is the best course of action to survive the onslaught of the disagreeable elements. However, as a normal human being, the mind begins to wander as being trapped within the confines of brick and mortar, there is precious little to slow the onset of the the dreaded “cabin fever”.

Thankfully, Mother Nature has found mercy and decided to give a momentary reprieve, whether for the sports fans who are getting prepared for the Super Bowl (screw you, NFL, and your heinous copyright statements forcing others to use the term “Big Game”. I’ll call it by its name, and you’ll like it because it is free advertising. Perhaps people should spend their money elsewhere and let the National Concussion League die a slow, painful death of idiocy)…

Apologies. Where was I?

Ah, yes.

Or maybe you are the outdoors type who enjoys winter sports, but who needs somewhat tolerable temperatures to spend a few hours out on the slopes and lakes. Maybe you just want to go shopping. Whatever the case may be, get outside and enjoy it while it lasts, because I think the climate has one more nasty push in store before it decides to abate for the Spring flood season.

And while you’re out, why not return that overpriced NFL merchandise, because screw them. It’s an Olympic year. There are far better things to watch than that joke of a “Big Game” where the advertisements are more entertaining than the mouth-breathing announcers and well-compensated (albeit quite physically skilled and talented) brain destroyers.

Stay warm and be well.


Dave Winer on the next evolution of “sharing”:

It’s pretty obvious what comes next, via extrapolation — from past turns of the wheel in software.

What comes next is an easy way for the generation of people who grew up on Facebook to create their own social networks, accessible only by the people they want to share it with.

A somewhat easier to use version of what AWS is today will be the platform.

And Harvard dropouts of the day will create AMIs their friends will configure cleverly.

The art in this new way of doing things will be clever twists on “share.”

We’re already there. It’s just a matter of time before the best, easiest to use postfacebookist technologies bubble to the top and gain traction. Facebook will not die. It will merely become irrelevant. Some (including myself) would argue that it already is.

The Art of Asking

The beauty of the Internet is that it can open doors to content that in years past would have been inaccessible and perhaps permanently unavailable to large segments of the world’s population. The TED conference is one of the many doors that has been opened to the world at large. What began as an exclusive conference for thought leaders in many fields of study has grown in to a multi-faceted organization with numerous events that attract everyone from industry moguls to tech hobbyists and expert scientists to cabaret musicians

Thanks to the TED Talks videos being made available online, we can share in the profound insights and genius of an engaged culture of humanity that continues to think inside and outside the box in a forum where we share because we want to make a difference in the world.

I happened upon a TED Talk, “The Art of Asking”, by Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame. In her talk, she is really addressing the issue of payment models used in the music industry, but for the majority of it, she discusses human nature and the longing for connection. Amanda says,

Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you. It’s kind of counter-intuitive for a lot of artists — they don’t want to ask for things. It’s not easy to ask. … Asking makes you vulnerable.

But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly — but more importantly, to ask without shame.

I think that Palmer’s talk is empowering for current and aspiring artists in any medium. As a creator, you must be willing to ask — for money, for help, for fans, for feedback, for connection. Artists are already putting themselves on display for the world to see and interpret which can be risky and frightening, so you would think that asking would be easy, but when you are already vulnerable, that simple act can be a daunting challenge.

I believe that as more artists take back control of their creations, connections will grow and asking will become easier. It will never be easy, but it should not be so difficult. We are all human, and we are all in this experience together. Through online tools like Kickstarter, and artists like Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer, and content creators like Ze Frank, we are seeing the beginning of a new culture of connection — a culture of asking. A culture where we really see each other, and as Amanda said,

When we really see each other, we want to help each other.