A microblogging experiment

Microblogging, the act of writing just a few words about an observation or a thought, is becoming more popular. In and of itself, I’m not that thrilled about it. In a way, it’s just another cheap, short form of communication. However, most of the reason why I’ve avoided it is because existing microblogging options, like Twitter, are owned by a central company. I’m tired of having accounts on different company websites that have to be simple enough to do yourself.

Microblogging is simple. You type down your post in 140 characters or less and post it. Unlike full-fledged blogging, you don’t have to waste time worrying about what you’re going to write. No categories, tags, etc. get in the way. It’s just thoughts, from mind to paper.

It turns out there is an open-source implementation of a microblog, called Laconica. I installed it on our server, and I’m going to try it out as a complement to full blogging. You’ll find the feed from the microblog in the left column of this blog (look for “Chirp”). Or, you can go to the site and read it from there: www.cooleysekula.net/chirp. You can subscribe to the feed using the URL www.cooleysekula.net/chirp/rss.

I’m still learning about all the features of the software, so it will take time for me to figure out how to make post without using the web interface, but it’s functional. And, I control it, not some company. I like that.

I’ll be posting short observations and thoughts there. I’ll also try to use it when I’m at conferences, etc. to point out where I am for dinner, meeting up, etc. That’s the other use of microblogging – social connections.

It’s an experiment, and like all experiments it may succeed or fail.

Friends in frustration

I found out on Friday that I am not the only one sending letters to the DNC about their choice to shut out the Linux community. A friend of mine told me she also sent a letter, and it sounded like it was a much more pointed statement than mine. I was curious if other people, people I don’t even know, were complaining about this choice of Silverlight/Microsoft as the gatekeeper to DNC-branded democracy.

My little websearch turned up one interesting fact about the RNC – they’ll be having Google as their techology provider [1]. That suggests to me that the RNC will at least provide Google Video, which is Flash-based. While Flash has a history of annoyance in the open-source community, at least it’s something we can all use these days. I’m interested to see whether Google goes as expected on Tuesday.

I also found some articles basically telling the Linux community to shove it [2]. One counterargument is that disenfranchisement amounts only to preventing me from voting. By that level of argument I could make the case that we do away with a tax-supported public education system, since I could argue that “book learnin'” is useless and all that matters to the economy is hard work.  Voting, the hard work of democracy, isn’t the only means to disenfranchise people – depriving them of the information they need to fulfill the Founders’ vision of an informed populace actively participating in the democratic process has got to be part of that.

Separate from the semantics arguments (I could instead watch on TV or read in a newpaper), there is a philosophical one. Why can’t a party that claims to want to be inclusive go with a more inclusive technology? The above article cited that only 3% of computer users use Linux (those are home desktop users, I presume). Why should the DNC care about including in their form of democracy just 3% of the U.S. population?

Most census estimates suggest that somewhere between 1-3% of U.S. citizens are Muslim. I doubt the Democrats would make the argument that they’re not worth including in the democratic process. Why, then, is it so easy to dismiss a passionate group of people who believe that expression through technology, like religious expression, should be free?

To the point, my friend and I aren’t the only ones pissed off about this [3]. Thank goodness Obama went with YouTube on his website, or I’d have to do all that paperwork to be an independent. Let’s hope the DNC follows his lead.

From the open letter to Obama and the DNC [3],

To the members of the DNCC: your choices affect all citizens of the United States. By choosing to restrict access to corporate-owned and corporate-controlled operating systems, you have chosen corporations over citizens. Is this an indication of the direction of the Democratic party? Can we expect continued government support of corporations over citizens in the future?

The author of this letter blames Obama in this. He’s his party’s nominee, not the leader of his party (not unless he becomes President). Folks like Pelosi and Dean call the shots for the party for now, and it is at them we should be directing our frustration. Obama’s website indicates he gets it. He’s on our side of this issue, whether he knows it or not.

[1] http://blogs.zdnet.com/Stewart/?p=826

[2] http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/njl/?p=241

[3] http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/columns/open_letter_barack_obama_and_dncc_video_format