Friday, October 29, 2004

A perfect Linux distro?

Slax - the perfect Linux distro?

Finally—and I realise that this is beginning to sound like a geeky version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears—I stumbled on Slax. Slax is unusual because it only runs from a LiveCD, but you can save files to the disc and also save your configuration of the system to be automatically loaded next time you boot. It’s really tiny (only 180MB), and yet runs KDE and even KOffice. Slax is based on Slackware Linux, and it’s fairly easy to convert Slackware packages to Slax modules which can then be easily installed (or added to the CD to make a custom installation) to extend the range of applications available.

Read the whole thing.

(in: foss, open_source, and linux)

DotOrg Media : Open Surce Survey Results

DotOrg Media : Issue#12: Open Surce Survey Results. I haven't dug through it yet but I'm pleased to see that they not only link to applications but also point readers to organizations who are using those applications. That gives a nice opportunity for peer knowledge sharing and outreach.

(via aspiration)

(in: foss, open_source, aspiration, and dotorg_media)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bloggus Interruptus

After an hour of scanning through my feeds on Bloglines, I was just getting ready to settle in and read all my open tabs.

And then Firefox crashed.

(in: meta, frustration)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Now this is starting to get interesting

Morphing TechSoup. What do you think?

(in: omidyar, techsoup, open_development)

Friday, October 22, 2004

I'll be at BloggerCon

BloggerCon is coming -- November 6, 2004. I'm unreasonably excited about it.

(in: bloggercon, conferences, and weblogs)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Thinking about security

My experience with nonprofits is that they don't spend enough time thinking about the behaviors that make up security. They want to buy a product -- a firewall, anti-virus software -- or do a task -- update their software -- and then be done. Bang. Security. Checked off the list.

For some small organizations, this may be enough. But as nonprofits open themselves up via the Internet and collect more and more information about the clients and their donors, they need to think about managing a security as a process and not as something that is ever complete.

Today's post from Bruce Schneier, Schneier on Security: Security Information Management Systems (SIMS), struck a cord. It's good for consultants and in-house IT staff.

Computer logs are a goldmine of security information, containing not just IDS alerts, but messages from firewalls, servers, applications, and other network devices. Your network produces megabytes of these logs every day, and hidden in them are attack footprints. The trick is finding and reacting to them fast enough.

Read the rest of his post.


(in: security, network_admin, and healthy_and_secure_computing)

Friday, October 15, 2004

From an online conversation to activism

The first post about this idea, people hoping on their bikes on Nov 2 in a get the vote out effort happen on October 12. Conversation very quickly turned into work and now: Spokes4Votes: Get On Your Bike and Ride the Streets Like Paul Revere!

This is a terrific endorsement of online community building and the things that can be accomplished.

And, Spokes4Votes is a great idea. Spread the word.

(in: activism, nov2, vote, and bikes)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Google offers free search for nonprofit web sites

I furled this onto my TechSoup list but wanted to make sure to call if out for you aggregator using folks: TechSoup - News and Views - Google Offers Free Search for Nonprofit Web Sites. Anyone used it?

(And thanks to Sarah Hawkins who keeps TechSoup supplied with these stories and my inbox filled with the pointers)

(in: techsoup and google)

No GBrowser

John Battelle's Searchblog: The Browser Wars: Looking at the Wrong Thing. Certainly a more reasoned way of getting at what I was trying to say when I asked Google to aggregate me.

The question raised by John Battelle's post is: what's the most valuable thing that can be built to take advantage of a good browser in the Google as a platform kind of way? I think I still hold with aggregating data in ways that is contextually meaningful. Other guesses?

(in: personal_aggregation and google)

And speaking of the need to create an identity

Speaking of Orwellian aggregation issues

A really lovely, lovely flash bit: ordering a pizza when they know everything about you. Everything.

And a really lovely bit of using the web to get a messge out.

(via Joho the blog)

(in: activism and medium_message)

Meet our database star, Eric Leland

And I mean star in the best possible way. He's going to be at the upcoming California Association of Nonprofit conference (two meetings one in LA and one in San Francisco). He's a part of the technology track. If you're thinking about databases, his will be a good session to attend. If you aren't thinking about databases, look him up anyway and say hi. Here's what he looks like and little profile.

Really. A star. I'm not kidding.

(in: compumentor and out_and_about)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oh yeah, those TechSoup links

Feel free to use the javascript. Just know that it's maintained by me in a pretty unofficial capacity and does not represent TechSoup's efforts in this area or their goals toward partnership. This is just me sharing my widget. With any luck, it'll be replaced by a much more robust syndication/subscription mechanism.

(in: housekeeping, techsoup, and web_widgets)

I wanted to get into folksonomies

Deep thinking on folksonomies and a stream of photos from Iraq @ Radio Free Blogistan prompted me to want to think some more about folksonomies. But, after that last post, I gotta nothing in me. Nothing.

(in: folksonomy and exhausted_by_my_own_words)

The open standards way to personal aggregation

When Phil read my post about being aggregated by Google he responded, in the comments, that "...the idea of a company aggregating *everything* about my online experience, and the potential for what they could mine and sell related to me... well... that seems a bit too Orwellian for my tastes."

I responded to him, and to Sonny's pointer to Yahoo!, with yet another post -- this one arguing something, not that well reasoned, about the fact that Google already knows a lot about me and aggregation allows me to use that knowledge. Jason Kottke's Big Brother 2.0 post labels Yahoo! with the Orwell word.

Trusting a company, as I was implicitly doing in my Google post and both Phil and Kottke argued against (with a pretty powerful literary label), was the way in which I was getting at aggregation. Frankly, I'm not squeamish about trusting companies. I make an initial evaluation -- what do I think they are going to do with my personal information. I use privacy policies, legislative requirements, terms of use, and reputation as a way of making that evaluation. And then, if I decide to trust them, I use them. And my trust is implicit in that use.

Another, more familiar example of this, is banking. My bank owns my saving account, some investment accounts. They are soon to know about my mortgage. Via my credit card, they know details about how I'm spending my money. This is useful to me because they can aggregate my financial information in a way that makes it easy for me to deal with. It's helpful to me. And I've decided, essentially, that they aren't up to no good.

My trust in companies and the fact that they aren't out to get me may, in fact, be naive. There may be lots of examples where trust was misplaced. I have to wonder though. Did the individuals who got burned do the diligence to decide if they could trust a company? Or did they just use them without making an explicit decision about trust?

This is a long way of saying that I don't worry about Google or Yahoo! having keys to my identity because, and this is critical, I can choose not to use them. There are other search engines. Other email services. If I think that Google might be up to no good, I can make choices to safe guard my data. I know lots of folks that do this. More power to their decision.

However, there is another way to personal aggregation. Open standards. I choose the tools. They can be distributed across platforms, companies. But those tools have a way to interact and I control that interaction. As I understand it, that's what Marc Canter is talking about when he talks about Digital Lifestyle Aggregation.

Open standards seem, of course, a better way than my trust-the-Company way. Why? It means we can all have different criteria for trust, use different components, and still be able to munge our data together if we'd like. It also forces companies to offer more than the hook of a star application (in Google's case - search) that then locks a user into a suite of tools that may or may not be the applications a specific user would choose. It allows a maximum amount of choice and flexibility for the end user and promotes, in my mind, excellence from vendors.

So, that's one thing: Open standards are the way to go.

However, I still have at least two questions to explore:
  • Phil talked in his comment about privacy? What about that?
  • What does this have to do with nonprofits?
Privacy
Creating an online identity has to be a choice. Rather obviously, I've decided it's a good choice. Why? I look at the creation of a public persona as a way to protect my identity and, hence, privacy. Anil Dash talks about this as privacy through identity control.

This is, in the non-technical sense, about reputation management. I can point to a body of writing, of activity to say something about myself.

At a base level, it can help prevent someone, for whatever reason, of trying to be me. No errors in your writing? Oh, right. There's no way that that could be me and I've got lots of proof. It's not that I'm paranoid. I don't think people are trying to be me (I typically tell banks trying to sell me identity protection that my identity won't help anyone and they are, quite frankly, welcome to it). But I do like the notion that I've put out what I've thought and I stand behind my words -- or activities or whatever -- and people can use that to judge me rather than someone else's representation of me. I know that I Google people I don't know before meeting them. And I always wonder if I hit nothing but genealogy sites.

How does this apply to nonprofits?
Brand, baby. Individual is to identity as nonprofit is to brand.

Open standards provides the possibility of a low-touch, automated way of pulling together a group of publications, comments, on-line participation onto a single page that describes the organization. In short, distributed participatory content can be used to develop an organizational brand on the orgs website and in bits and pieces through the online world.

Here's an illustrative (I've been using that word lately as a hedge to mean "I don't want to argue about the content of my statement but am willing to argue through the intent/purpose") example. A single page that pulls together multiple kinds of information regarding XYZ Org:
  • a list of people pointing to or writing about XYZ Org. This can be the in-context presentation of data from any search engine that has opened itself up for this kind of use.
  • a list of public postings made by the members of the organization. These postings would have to be linked to a certain identity. FOAF seems pretty key here.
  • events pulled from open calendar applications.
  • etc
The point is: the same things that can be pooled on a personal portal page to create a reputation or identity can be pooled by a nonprofit. This can make them free to spread themselves around on the internet -- it's hard to convince people of the value of creating the content that goes into listserv messages or weblog comments or other community boards -- because it doesn't transfer to content within the organization's website. By making the creation of this kind of portal possible, organizations are creating content for their own websites when they encourage their staff to participate on listservs or comment on weblogs or...

But all of this relies on the use of Open Standards. Either that or we make everyone use the same tools (and that is Orwellian).

It also relies on people working to create the integration tools necessary for organizations to pull this onto their website.

And the time to write and participate in web communities.

And the evaluation skills to show how this is valuable so that funders and boards don't consider it "extra."

And user interface skills so the portal presents a variety of information output into a usable, understandable page (I actually think that the Omidyar Network provides a nice little example of this, though it's limited in the single company kind of way, on the user profile pages).

So whatcha think? If this open standards, portal created from distributed content idea is a good one, how do we go about making it happen? If it's not a good idea, why? What's missing? What's needed instead?

(in personal_aggregation, thinking_aloud and digital_lifestyle_aggregation)

Monday, October 11, 2004

TechSoup links

Look. Over there. On the right side (bust outta your aggregator, folks). Under the link blog, I've added a "from techsoup.org" section. I'll point to interesting conversations on the TechSoup community, new articles, worksheets and TechSoup Stock products. Why? Well, I work here. But also to show how easy it is to add headlines to your site.

So, how'd I do it? Easy enough. I used Furl. I simply created a topic called "TechSoup" and then followed Furl's easy instructions to add that to my site.

Here's the bit of javascript I used (courtesy of Furl but pointing to my TechSoup feed):

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.furl.net/jsLatest.jsp?id=14004topic=TechSoup"></script>



(in housekeeping, techsoup)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Where'd that blogroll go?

It's getting out of hand. Too long, too hard to read. Instead, I pulled it with a link to my public bloglines feeds. I'm going to go through and do a more sensible organization and then show a subset of my feeds as links on this site.

(in housekeeping)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

CompuMentor Computer Recycling & Reuse Program

I've been remiss in not pointing to a report by our own Jim Lynch. Island's in the Waste Stream is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of the computer recycling and reuse field assesses the opportunities and hurdles currently facing the computer recycling and reuse industry and offers ideas regarding how to develop noncommercial reuse in the United States.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why should you use del.icio.us?

This post, Towards tag-based bookmark management in web browsers?, captures exactly why I love del.icio.us.

To summarise the problems with current bookmarking systems then, we could say that (1) the process is slow and annoying (2) that it requires us to continually refine and redevelop our taxonomies if we're going to keep track of everything, (3) that URLs can belong in a number of bins and that (4) we can be left with unmanageably large lists. An ideal system would therefore speed the process up of both bookmarking a site and retrieving it later. An ideal system would try to alleviate the problems of categorisation and would work as an a priori assumption that a URL might wish to be stored in multiple bins. An ideal system would not display all the links by default. An ideal system would, in fact, use tags...

What else can this concept be applied to?

Is Yahoo! really the personal aggregator?

Sonny asked if Yahoo!'s personal search is the kind of personal aggregation I wrote about last week.

I just spent a few minutes playing with the service and, yes, it is some of what I was talking about. Certainly, it links a web search with an easy way to save and share your results (not just your results but also the sites you actually visited). The key, for me, is the ability to port in a variety of content -- emails, etc -- and not just have another way to share my bookmarks.

Related to this, in the comments on my earlier post Phil (hi, boss-man!) points out that

Seems to me that online privacy is always teetering on extinction. In fact much of the time I feel like that battle is already lost. But the idea of a company aggregating *everything* about my online experience, and the potential for what they could mine and sell related to me... well... that seems a bit too Orwellian for my tastes.

I didn't mean to imply that items would be aggregated/shared without my explicit consent. I would have to mark them for publication in some way.

The fact is, Google already knows a lot about me. Aggregating it onto a portal page only makes explicit the knowledge the company already holds.

Personally, I think that one part of privacy is creating and maintaining an indentity. And I think an online identity is one piece of that.

I have a draft of some thoughts about how this relates to nonprofits. More on that when I'm not fresh from vacation and facing a slew of emails and interesting links in bloglines.