Bookmarked Twitter’s Project Bluesky by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

The time is right for tech companies to make the shift into open protocols, in a way that allows businesses to make money, users to own their data, and a thousand new social networking interfaces to bloom. And I think that’s a progressive move for the web.

Responding to Jack Dorsey’s announcement that Twitter would be funding an independent group to would develop an open standard for decentralized social networking, Ben Werdmuller discusses his own attempts at decentralised platforms through Elgg and Known. The challenge, according to Werdmuller, is balancing business and community interests.

The key will be rapid iteration in the public interest, repeatedly testing not just the feasibility of such a protocol (whether you can build and maintain it at scale), but also its desirability (user risk) and viability (business risk). In other words, it’s not enough to make something work. It also has to be able to win user trust, serve as the foundation of an ecosystem, and allow businesses built on the platform to become valuable. As yet, open standards processes have not shown themselves to be capable of this kind of product development.

Doug Belshaw is sceptical about what is being proposed and feels that it focused on investors and regulators.

Ultimately, Twitter’s announcement is a distraction to the important work of building viable, interoperable alternatives to Big Tech. The thought of Dorsey and chums building an alternative to ActivityPub sounds a lot like the Rainforest Alliance. Given the mention of blockchain, I should imagine there will be a ‘token’ or cryptocurrency angle in there, too. And I’m not sure that’s in the long-term best interests of humanity.

For Stephen Downes, this is a response to the rise of distributed networks.

The sceptic in me wonders whether Twitter is merely trying to undermine existing distributed networks who have been bleeding traffic from the centralized social network.

I think that Michael Bishop captures my feelings best in a short post on his blog:

This is a note I’m posting to my WordPress blog that syndicates to Twitter. If you heart it, it will show up on my blog too. Open standards.

Liked Get out and talk to people by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

The most important question when you’re building a new product or service is why. It’s not enough to know that people seem interested in the thing you want to build. Why are they interested? What are the stories behind their frustrations or their curiosity? If you’re trying to improve an existing process, why do they do it in the way they do it right now? Why do they need something better?

Liked Escape from Google by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Let’s be clear: Google is participating in the prevailing business model for internet businesses in Silicon Valley. So in that sense, they’re not more evil than any other business that seeks to make money through personal data. You could also make the argument that they’re not as directly harmful as a company like Facebook, whose data practices have been shown to have undermined democracy in countries like the United States and Britain, and even to have supported genocides in countries like Myanmar.


However, the impact of Google’s business is exponentially greater because of its size. From widespread location collection in Google Maps, to the fact that the majority of sites on the internet host Google tracking code, it’s very hard to not be tracked and profiled by them in some way. That information has the potential to be cross-referenced, together with offline information like credit card purchases, which it adds together to create a highly targeted profile.

Liked Happy International Men’s Day! by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

It used to be that these regressive values were the norm. So I want to spend this International Men’s Day thanking the women who have helped changed this state of affairs, as well as the men who refuse to live by them, and who signal that there are other, better definitions of masculinity. This change is saving people’s lives. It probably has saved mine. So, thank you.

Liked The best way to blog in 2020 by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Over time, your body of work will build, and you’ll find that people are interested in surprising topics. This post on equality of outcome vs opportunity has been the most popular thing on my site for a while now, which I never could have planned or anticipated. The power is in being consistent, and keeping your site online for the long term. (I wish I could have told my 1998 self that.)

Liked Climate crisis stories must be human centered by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

We live in a consumerist society where everything is presented in terms of products. So, let’s talk products. Tim Burton’s Batman was released 30 years ago. So was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And, yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation is thirty-two years old. In less time than that, it could all be over.

Replied to I need more blogs by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

if you already have a blog, or you really love someone else’s, I’d really like to know about it. I want to subscribe. In another, parallel universe it would have been as easy to share OPML subscription lists as it is to share Twitter lists, but that’s not the one we live in. So email me, or send me a webmention, and let me know who I should be reading.

you can find my OPML file here. I really wish it was more organised, but it is a start.
Liked Pull requests and the templated self by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

A key question to building any software in the modern age is: “In the wrong hands, who could this harm?”

Decades ago, software seemed harmless. In 2019, when facial recognition is used to deport refugees and data provided by online services have been used to jail journalists, understanding who you’re building for, and who your software could harm, are vital. These are ideas that need to be incorporated not just into the strategies of our companies and the design processes of our product managers, but the daily development processes of our engineers. These are questions that need to be asked over and over again.

Liked Ban the guns. by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Buying and selling automatic weapons is indefensible. These are weapons of war, designed to be wielded by trained military servicepeople. We don’t need them on our streets. It’s not about mental health; it’s not about drugs; it’s not about videogames. It’s not about prayer in schools. It’s about limiting access to instruments of death.

Liked Adding, not echoing by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

My love of tech has always been deeply tied to my love of people. Technology isn’t interesting for technology’s sake: it’s interesting because it elevates the human experiences and lets people do things they couldn’t do before. It has the potential to make the world more educated, more inclusive, and more peaceful. It’s certainly not interesting because it makes money for people.

Bookmarked Trump’s social media summit and me by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Code is never more important than life. Genocide is always a bigger problem than software distribution licenses. Hopefully this is obvious.

While I accept that it runs counter to the stated principles of the free software movement, I believe we need a new set of licenses that explicitly forbid using software to facilitate hate or hate groups.

Ben Werdmuller discusses Minds use of Elgg and its involvement with hate speech. He argues that to counter the abuse of people and open source software, we need a new set of licenses that prevents misuse. This reminds me of Mike Monteiro’s call for reform in regards to design industry to eliminate such situations.
Liked Peace and love by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Being generous, having purpose, working in service of others; the truth is that all of those things make you happier, too. I need to get so much better at this. But it’s clear to me that it’s the right direction.

Rather than be responsive to hate, fear, or tragedy, I want to be proactive with love, with everything in my work, and everything in my life.

Liked Finding happiness in dystopia by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Happiness is a laudable goal, and we can only achieve it by creating a better society (and even a better world) for everybody. Not through authoritarianism or revolution; not through a worship of markets; not through tending to the individual at the expense of community, or through tending to community at the expense of the individual; not through accidentally creating new gatekeepers as we tear down the old ones; but through balance, compassion, and an eye for creating equal opportunities and making everybody’s lives better.

Liked Open APIs and the Facebook Trash Fire by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

What information is Facebook sharing with Palantir, or the security services? To what extent are undeclared data-sharing relationships used to deport people, or to identify individuals who should be closely monitored? Is it used to identify subversives? And beyond the effects of data sharing, given what we know about the chilling effects surveillance has on democracy, what effect on democratic discourse has the omnipresence of the social media feed already had – and to what extent is this intentional?

Liked Facebook’s monopoly is harming consumers by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

With any lens except the most superficial, Facebook fails this test. Yes, its product is free and available to anyone. But we pay with our data and privacy – and ultimately, with our democracy. Facebook’s dominance has adversely affected entire industries, swung elections, and fuelled genocides.

Replied to I’m going dark on social media for the rest of 2018. by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

I’m cutting out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Mastodon completely. (Mastodon doesn’t suffer from the organizational issues I described above, but by aping commercial social networking services, it suffers from the same design flaws.) As of tonight, I won’t be logging into those platforms on any device, and I won’t receive comments, likes, reshares, etc, on any of them.

You raise some interesting questions to consider in moving away from social media, especially the point about staying in contact. I have tried to be more mindful of my interactions this year. RSS has definitely been an important part in this (that is how I found this post).

Noting your concerns with Mastodon, I am wondering if you think Micro.blog fixes any of this, especially with its use of feeds and webmentions etc