Jared White Photo of Jared

Expressively publishing on the open web since 1996.
Entranced by Portland, Oregon since 2017.

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Many Americans are unsure about a number of digital topics

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues varies greatly depending on the topic, term or concept. While a majority of U.S. adults can correctly answer questions about phishing scams or website cookies, other items are more challenging.

Well, another equally valid headline would have been Many Americans are unsure about a number of topics. 😜

Sereiously though, of interest to me is the stat that only 29% of those interviewed correctly identified #Facebook as the owner of both Instagram and WhatsApp. This is hugely problematic not only from the perspective of consumers understanding their choices around smartphone app usage, but it’s a major issue for Facebook as well. Facebook’s brand has become tarnished in recent years, yet it continues to move towards tighter integration of WhatsApp and Instagram into the Facebook platform and ecosystem. However, this could end up backfiring as people increasingly question their usage of the more “positive” apps which have escaped some of the ire directed at Facebook.

Every time I talk with a friend or colleague about how I’m not on Facebook but still use Instagram, I immediately add “yeah I know, it’s still part of Facebook.” Most of the time the folks I talk to know this already, but most of the folks I talk to are fairly digitally savvy. Farther afield, I fear a great many people just have no idea that even when they’re using Instagram or WhatsApp, the buck still ends with Zuck.



I don’t have time to do a whole write up, so here’s the gist of it: since I’m no longer using #Facebook to share family photos, I wanted to find a way to create a password-protected photo gallery. After some research, I tried out SmugMug. It works great! For only a few dollars a month, I can upload and present photos far more beautifully than I ever could on social media, it’s secure, and it’s ad-free. Simply perfect and just in time for the holidays. Now I can email or text the link & password to family and friends, and we’re off to the races. 👍
#openweb #lifehacks


Big news! I purchased the domain name openweb.social, which I’m simply thrilled was still available. I’m mulling over a few ideas of what to do with it. One possibility is that I’ll install Mastodon to power a new #openweb themed social network where people can discuss building a better community of content publishing and engagement via open protocols.

Another possibility that I’m just starting to tinker with is starting a what-if #website that deep-dives into the question of what it would take for #Facebook to adopt open protocols. What if you could take your “social graph” to another service (even one you built yourself!) and post content there, and your Facebook friends could still see your posts? And you’d still see your friends’ Facebook posts and even reply to them? It would make social networking more akin to email, where all email clients and servers are compatible even though they’re run by different companies and on different infrastructure.

Got any thoughts? Just click Message above (or reply to this email if you’re reading my newsletter) and let me know what you think I should do with openweb.social!


Facebook wants to become your internet service provider

Facebook and Qualcomm are working together to provide high-speed connectivity to urban areas. The goal is to provide multi-gigabytes per second speed at a lower cost. Terragraph will use Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) to replace cable or fiber connections. Subscribers will have a home access point that then broadcasts Wi-Fi to a Mac, iPad, etc. “With Terragraph, our goal is to enable people living in urban areas to access high-quality connectivity that can help create new opportunities and strengthen communities,” Yael Maguire, vice president of connectivity, Facebook.

Facebook’s working on several significant internet connectivity solutions right now. Terragraph is their newest experiment. My simple take on these initiatives is this: as long as #Facebook ensures their ISP division only provides a “dumb pipe” that allows all internet traffic through without modification or prioritization, then I think their efforts are a good thing. But somehow I suspect what we’ll really get is internet that’s free because it’s subsidized by Facebook ad tech and prioritizes fast access to Facebook.



Instagram Will Soon Let You Download a Copy of Your Data

The new data portability tool could make it much easier for users to leave Instagram and go to a competing image social network. It will also help the site comply with the upcoming European GDPR privacy law that requires data portability, assuming the feature launches before May 25th.

One significant thing that #Facebook did right is to allow users to download an archive of everything they posted on the network. I feel like the format of the data export is rather poor and in some cases hard for software to parse for interesting analysis, but it’s certainly better than nothing. I’m glad to hear #Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) is following suit. However, I generally don’t post anything to Instagram myself that’s not already in my #iPhone’s photo library, and I suspect that might be the case for a lot of Instagram users, so I’m curious what besides the photos & videos themselves will be included in the archive.


Two days after the relaunch of my #website and I’m still feeling the afterglow of excitement. The real challenge of course is being consistent in writing and keeping things fresh over time. But I feel like the new formats available to me make that job easier than in the past.

Next up: I watched the live stream of #Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing yesterday and took quite a few notes, so expect some detailed analysis to drop tomorrow. Everyone else is rushing to get their “take” out the door, but I feel these issues are weighty and nuanced enough that I want to say something well considered.


Interview with Dave Winer on the Open Web, Blogging, and More

Dave Winer has been called the godfather of a lot of things. The godfather of blogging. The Godfather of Podcasting. One of the key people involved in the development of RSS. But as you’ll hear in this great and wide ranging chat, Dave Winer is just a software developer who has never stopped tinkering, never lost his interest in coming up with new tools and new technologies.

If you’re around web publishing or general online news or blog-related tech long enough, Dave Winer is a name that keeps popping up. He’s been a strong proponent of the #openweb and highly skeptical of proprietary networks such as #Facebook long before it became fashionable to do so (like right now, apparently). I think a few years from now when we look back at the evolution of news and of the web, we’ll realize that the concepts underlying RSS (and hence blogging and podcasting ) were far more powerful, more useful, and more resiliant to commercial attacks than we’ve given them credit for.


Benedict Evans: the death of the newsfeed

There are a bunch of problems around getting the algorithmic newsfeed sample ‘right’, most of which have been discussed at length in the last few years. There are lots of incentives for people (Russians, game developers) to try to manipulate the feed. Using signals of what people seem to want to see risks over-fitting, circularity and filter bubbles. People’s desires change, and they get bored of things, so Facebook has to keep changing the mix to try to reflect that, and this has made it an unreliable partner for everyone from Zynga to newspapers. Facebook has to make subjective judgements about what it seems that people want, and about what metrics seem to capture that, and none of this is static or even in in principle perfectible.

#Facebook has spent an inordinate amount of time tweaking its newsfeed algorithm, when the real problem lies in the very concept of the feature. While the newsfeed seemed exciting and novel when it first came out in 2006, there has been very little innovation since. The online social needs of 2018 have far outstripped the pace of progress, and in fact we’re now witnessing the very real downsides to how the newsfeed affects people emotionally, culturally, and politically.