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[meta advisory - for regular readers of this blog, you'll notice that the title is prefaced with the tag: bds for Bromsgrove Digital Shoebox. I will likely be writing about this quite a bit over the next few months and I'll try to remember to tag the titles so that you can make a better informed decision about whether to read on or not - the project will no doubt have a blog of its own before long, but till then the best place to see what's really happening is the crowdfunding page]
I’m committed in this project to make as much as possible available via the open web, rather than via corporate service offers like Facebook – yes you can share anything you like and connect to people very smoothly, but there are a few costs on the user side that aren’t immediately obvious and I’d like to avoid them.
I’m not totally anti-Facebook – for many things I find their (free) service very useful and you’ll see that I’m using it a lot to get word out about the project. It’s just easy to forget that there’s a downside and I think the downside is too big for projects like this, in these particular ways:
1. Ownership, Authority, Access.
It’s your material and you will have the right to share it however you want. In an archive environment though, there needs to be some independent authority for resolving disputes and making decisions about things. That authority doesn’t have to be centralised, it can be distributed between members of the community, as it is for Wikipedia.
This openness will at some point bump up against concerns about personal privacy, but we will start with an assumption that everything will be open and free and only close down in response to real concerns not ones that we can imagine in the abstract.
I also don’t want access to our memories and digital assets to be subject to the continuing existence or shifting priorities of a publicly-owned corporation based in California.
2. Not everyone is on Facebook
We all know this to be true, but it’s easy to fall back into thinking that “loads of people, at least more people than I can keep track of” is a good proxy for “everyone”. And if you’re not on Facebook, if you choose for whatever reason, not to join in, then you’re excluded from the fun that goes on around old photos.
So people can share stuff about you without you knowing. In fact this can happen even if you’re on Facebook, but the person who “owns” the picture isn’t connected with you.
I want to create something that is at least available to anyone with an internet connection (and actually to a whole lot of the people who don’t too, but that’s another story)
3. Interoperability & Extensibility
It is in Facebook’s interest to keep you on Facebook where you might see and click on an advertisement that will ultimately bring them revenue, or keep you creating new content to keep other people on Facebook where they might see and click… etc.
I’m looking to create something that you can use however you wish. I want to create a platform for you to do new things, for you to extend and improve what we have, without damaging the experience for others. That means being able to link to things from anywhere, to be able to include and embed material wherever you like. it also means creating feeds that you can subscribe to so that you’re alerted when new material is found/uploaded.
These aren’t just my prejudices, they’re based on the NEA principle – ie build things that (N)obody owns; (E)veryone can use; and (A)nyone can improve. It will be a key guiding principle and differentiating characteristic for this project.