Bookmarked How SDKs, hidden trackers in your phone, work by Sara Morrison (Wired)

It feels impossible to get anything done right now. Here’s how to keep your head above water—without falling into the busy trap.

Sarah Morrison digs into the way in which APIs and SDK kits provide the framework for tracking.

SDKs themselves are not trackers, but they are the means through which most tracking through mobile apps occurs. Simply put, an SDK is a package of tools that helps an app function in some way. Apple and Android offer operating system SDKs so developers can build their apps for their respective devices, and third parties offer SDKs that allow developers to add certain features to those apps quickly and with minimal effort.

If you do not want to engage with the inherent tracking, Morrison provides some possible strategies:

If you don’t want to simply trust that a location data firm, data broker, or ad company has your best privacy interests at heart, there are things you can do to prevent your information from getting out there. Apple and Android now give device owners the option to limit ad tracking, so you can do that if you haven’t already. You can also limit ad tracking on services like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. If an app asks for permission to use a device feature such as your location, only agree to it if it’s something you really need, and only turn location services on when you’re using them. And read the privacy policies on the apps you download to get the best possible sense of whether they’re sharing your data and whom they’re sharing it with, and opt out of sharing with data location companies where possible — X-Mode and Cuebiq both offer ways to do this directly. Most privacy experts believe it’s impossible to truly stop tracking on these devices and through their apps, but this should at least reduce it.

The future of tracking is still somewhat unknown. Although users may not want such infiltration, it is still a significant part in regards to the funding of platform capitalism.

In a related piece, Owen Williams suggests that we need to rebrand cookies as the data trackers that they are.

Liked I Started API Evangelist 10 Years Ago (apievangelist.com)

I don’t see APIs as good, nor bad, nor neutral anymore—they are as good or bad as whoever is wielding them, which with the lax security and ethics of most companies, it isn’t always the API provider inflicting the most damage to the ecosystem. APIs leave me very concerned most days. I am not very keen on building and owning production APIs in the current online world, but I am happy to stay in tune with how the machine works, help evangelize for some ethics and sanity in how we use them, and hopefully be somewhat of a voice of reason in the space, even if I am still doing a significant amount of selling of the concept, and perpetuating of the myths.

Liked In Technology Everything Is A Problem Except For Technology | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

In the API economy everything is a problem that needs solving with an API. Need to get access to your accounting information? Use an API! Want your car to be more fuel efficient? Use an API! Want to water your house plants while away? Get an API! If there isn’t a real problem there, make one up, and create an API for it. Repeat until you find a problem, and a solution that will generate enough revenue to keep the lights on, and investors showing up at your door. APIs are behind almost every technosolutionism fantasy of the Internet age—both good and bad.

Liked Hindsight 2020 | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

I went into this last decade as a believer and came out the other end a cautious skeptic. This is a difficult place to find yourself in as an evangelist for a ubiquitous technology. It isn’t that I don’t believe in the power of technology anymore, it is just that the potential for abuse and explication within human hands is just too great to ignore anymore. After watching the Twitter and Facebook APIs fuck with our world so heavily in the last decade I am left questioning if I should be doing this at all. APIs aren’t good, bad, or even neutral. APIs are purely a reflection of their creators and operators. In the last decade APIs are being used for more harm than they are good, and the favorite tool for inflicting a lot of mediocre unsecured technology that doesn’t really care about the humans they are purportedly serving.

Replied to Portability and Interoperability (Stratechery by Ben Thompson)

To be very clear, I’m pretty excited about Facebook’s announcement. Data portability is absolutely consumer friendly, and I’m glad that Facebook is making it easy to move photos and videos that have been lost to time to applications that are better suited for long-term storage.


At the same time, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this has any sort of impact on competition. It is interoperability that cuts to the core of these companies’ moats, and to the extent regulators see it worthwhile to act, interoperability should be the priority.

Ben, this reminds me of Kin Lane’s argument that interoperability is a myth.
Bookmarked The sad state of personal data and infrastructure | Mildly entertainingᵝ (beepb00p.xyz)
Jestem Króliczkie unpacks the challenges associated with keeping a record of your personal data and digital traces. His solution is data mirror app, “that merely runs in background on client side and continuously/regularly sucks in and synchronizes backend data to the latest state.” One of the problems is that the ‘average’ user are not often not motivated enough to make such requests.

This reminds me Kin Lane’s discussion of personal API from a few years ago and Tom Woodward’s attempt at a dashboard. I also wonder where data mirroring fits within Cory Doctorow’s discussions if adversarial interoperability. Although Kin Lane warns that interoperability is a myth.

Sadly, my current method is manual til it hurts. And it hurts.

Bookmarked Making Google Forms and Spreadsheets a Bit Less Rigid Block Style (CogDogBlog)

The Form/Sheet architecture is more dynamic than you may think, once you crack open the lid on Google Scripts. I’ve long seen the creative things Martin Hawksey and Tom Woodward (and plenty o…

I really like your WP Posts to CSV plugin Alan. However, considering I usually export the file and then upload the Google Sheets, I wonder if I could use the WP API to simply extract the data straight there.

Also on: Read Write Collect

Replied to Facebook confirms data sharing with Chinese companies (U.S.)

Facebook allowed Apple and other device makers to have “deep” access to users’ personal data without their consent, according to the Times.

The Times said Facebook allowed companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after it had declared it would no longer share the information with outsiders.

Archibong said the data was only shared with device makers in order to improve Facebook users’ access to the information. “These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences.”

I am confused as to why Facebook would need to provide an authentic dataset for third-party development? Why wouldn’t they develop a de-identified dataset for this purpose?
Replied to No Need to Beam Me Up: Building the CorrLeader Navigator with Bootstrap and the WordPress API (CogDogBlog)

The most basic call to get data on all your posts (and yes, you can try this at your home blog) is tacking on wp-json/wp/v2/posts to your WordPress blog URL. Try mine https://cogdogblog.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts

It makes a bit more sense if you copy all that stuff and put it into something like JSON Pretty Print

Thank you for unpacking all this Alan. I fear you lost me at your dive into CSS. However, I was interested in your discussion of the WordPress API. I think I might have to look into that.
Bookmarked Intro To APIs: What Is An API? by Kin Lane (blog.getpostman.com)

APIs are not a specific service or tool from a company, they are just like the web, but instead of getting HTML back with each request, you get JSON, XML, and CSV – providing structured, machine-readable information that can be used by other systems and within other applications with very little assistance from a human.

In his first official post as Chief Evangelist at Postman, Kin Lane (aka API Evangelist) provides a post starting at the beginning by defining what is meant by ‘API’:

APIs are how data is exchanged, content is published, media is consumed, and algorithms are applied across the web today. APIs are how you access your social data, your photos, your accounting information, and much, much more.

Along with posts from Ben Werdmuller, Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, as well as API Evangelist’s history of APIs, these posts provide a useful introduction to the world of APIs.

Liked What Is An Application? | API Evangelist (API Evangelist)

My view of what an application is stems from a decade of studying the least visible, and least tangible aspect of an application, its programming interface. When talking to people about applications, the first question I ask folks is usually, “do you know what an API is”? If someone is API savvy I will move to asking, “when it comes to application programming interface (API), who or what is being programmed? Is it the platform? The application? Or, is it the end-user of the applications?” I’ve spent a decade thinking about this question, playing it over and over in my end, never quite being satisfied with what I find. Honestly, the more I scratch, the more concerned I get, and the more I’m unsure of exactly what an “application” is, and precisely who are what is actually being programmed.

Liked The Many Ways In Which APIs Are Taken Away | API Evangelist (API Evangelist)
  • Deprecation – APIs disappear regularly both communicated, and not so communicated, leaving consumers scratching their heads.
  • Disappear – Companies regularly disappear specific API endpoints acting like they were never there in the first place.
  • Acquisition – This is probably one of the most common ways in which high profile, successful APIs disappear.
  • Rate Limits – You can always rate limit away users make APIs inaccessible, or barely usable for users, essentially making it go away.
  • Error Rates – Inject elevated error rates either intentionally or unintentionally can make an API unusable to everyone or select audience.
  • Pricing Tiers – You can easily be priced out of access to an API making it something that acts just like deprecating for a specific group.
  • Versions – With rapid versioning, usually comes rapid deprecation of earlier versions, moving faster than some consumers can handle.
  • Enterprise – APIs moving from free or paid tier, into the magical enterprise, “call us” tier is a common ways in which APIs go away.
  • Dumb – The API should not have existed in the first place and some people just take a while to realize it, and then shut down the API.
Liked Why The Open Data Movement Has Not Delivered As Expected | API Evangelist (API Evangelist)

Open doesn’t mean democracy, it mostly means for business. This is the genius of the Internet evolution, is that it gets us all working in the service of opening things up for the “community”. Democratizing everything. Then once everything is on the table, companies grab what they want, and show very little interest in giving anything back to the movement. I know I have fallen for several waves of this ver the last decade.

Liked API Interoperability is a Myth | API Evangelist (API Evangelist)

Nobody, but us low-level delusional developers believe in API interoperability. The executives don’t give a shit about it. Unless it supports the latest myth-information campaign. In the long run, nobody wants their APIs to work together, we all just want EVERYONE to use OUR APIs!

Replied to Spotify is a Prison for Podcasts by ruk.ca (ruk.ca)

let this be a warning to you: if you use Spotify as your podcast app, you are a prisoner to Spotify, and if you decide to switch to another podcast app there isn’t any way to get your data out of Spotify.

In talking about applications today, a colleague used Spotify as an example of something that does what it does well. Obviously not that well. Can I also say, 2000 podcasts is some anti-library!