[ubuntu-uk] The Open Source Web

John Levin john at technolalia.org
Thu May 10 11:56:07 BST 2007

TheVeech wrote:
> On Wed, 2007-05-09 at 17:04 +0100, John Levin wrote:
>> This is a subject that has been exercising me recently (curse you 
>> myspace!), so excuse venting and change of subject.
>> Tony Arnold wrote:
>>> Alan,
>>> Alan Pope wrote:
>>>> I have no idea what you're talking about. You are saying that flickr/google 
>>>> video are proprietary social networking tools that "we" in the open source 
>>>> community lack?
>> There certainly are the tools, although they aren't widely used (which 
>> means, in this FLOSS context, that they aren't widely developed, or even 
>> known off).
>> Leader of the FLOSS pack at the moment is mugshot: http://mugshot.org/main
> Thanks.  Had a look at this, but didn't realise it was FLOSS.  I'd love
> to hear more about these tools.

Mugshot is developed by Red Hat, as is OLPC; and both seem to be
combining for their latest idea, which is a 'global desktop':

Strikes me that Red Hat are really innovating right now.

>> We need support for our desktop and OS, yes, but we also need the many 
>> eyeballs to stomp bugs, improve security etc. A web application can (and 
>> many do) benefit from the floss community just as much as, say, firefox, 
>> ubuntu or the kernel.
> It'd help to see the new users coming along from different backgrounds
> using their fresh eyeballs, too, to examine even more than this - things
> we may have overlooked for years.

Absolutely. Just watch someone with little experience of the text
editors you get with Joomla or suchlike, and the process for making a
link is really difficult. (I don't use Joomla's editor, prefering to
write html, tags and all. It's quicker, and once you've learnt quite a
small vocabulary, you can get things done.)

>>> Personally, I think this would be very difficult. A service such as
>>> Flickr must need huge resources for it to be successful (I mean in terms
>>> of hardware, the disk space alone must be fairly huge). Such resources
>>> do not come for free, so it either needs to be done by a company that is
>>> earning money else where or the service itself has to get an income from
>>> somewhere.
>> Remember that Ubuntu, Debian, etc need huge and ever expanding resources 
>> for serving up increasing numbers of packages and isos; to help with 
>> this there is a mirroring infrastructure, and that model could work with 
>> the social web. At any rate, by being free n open, there are other ways 
>> of dealing with bandwidth and hardware, rather than the centralised 
>> system absolutely required of proprietory web services.
> Even though there's community aspects to distros' networks, have they
> dealt (maybe less so in recent years) primarily with the 'survival of
> the species' - technology to make technology better?  Wasn't the GNU-GPL
> initially designed mainly to protect programmers' rights before all
> else?

Nope, the gpl is for everyone; to freely change and share. The trap is
that often you need coding skills to understand what it is you use.
That's why Ubuntu is so important, for the stress on usability,
accessibility and localisation.


>>> To be honest, I don't see the problem with Flickr! It's well supported
>>> by F-spot. Perhaps rumours of some deal between Yahoo and Micro$oft is
>>> worrying people.
>> It's not free as in freedom: it suffers from lock-in (myspace is a far 
>> worse offender in this sense), the users are not stakeholders, but 
>> audience to be traded, etc; what applies to your desktop and operating 
>> system applies also to one's web applications.
> This is what gripes me a bit.  I can get people using the OS, but when
> they get here, what am I going to say?  Screw Flickr, email your snaps
> and see your mates down the pub?  I'd get a predictable response no
> matter how good my arguments were.  Okay, it's not the most important
> thing, but it's still something I can't do for people that could be
> done.  These people want something I can't offer, so they'll just go
> elsewhere, and that elsewhere is probably going to be proprietary, with
> formats and ideologies that reinforce the idea that proprietary works,
> and with the idea that FLOSS must be for geeks because, to them, it
> looks anti-social in comparison.

Yup. This is already a big problem, especially with flash. If people
can't play music, watch videos on youtube, ad nauseum, they're not going
to switch. The OS may be fine for what they do locally, but it's useless
if it can't partake in the internet, which is a social network writ
large, with all their friends, family on it. And you can't even begin to
think that someone should change all these social links!


>> There are many, very good, free web apps around: wordpress is the prime 
>> example, being best of type in the blogging sphere.
> There's Joomla and Drupal for CMS, which aren't too bad, either.  Maybe
> all the tools are there already and no-one's felt the need to adapt
> them?

There are a lot of good, free tools (meaning web apps and services) out
there; the difficulty is finding them, amidst the large numbers of 
unsupported, beta and plain crap apps.
Joomla and Wordpress are well-known, and have taglines at the bottom of 
most installs, but what of the good but unknown? I remember it taking a 
very long time to find a good, simple web-based email-announcement 
system (and I found a very good one, Dadamail: http://mojo.skazat.com/ ) 
and am currently trying to find a decent web-based cataloguing system. t 
should be as simple as searching synaptic or gnome files 

>> But where is the FLOSS webmaster community? Is there such a thing? If 
>> not, how shall we create it? And can such a thing take to heart the 
>> ubuntu way, of making things usable and accessible? (And perhaps even: 
>> polite :) )


> How anyone could get something off the ground, I don't know, but when
> Ubuntu's site makes a principled statement, don't we believe it?  That
> level of trust would be something to aim for.  If people had the
> services our people are capable of producing, with the trust we can
> offer, that'd be pretty unbeatable.

Right now, I think we have to start small, and simply co-ordinate
amongst ourselves before building vast edifices. That's the way of 
building up the crucial quality of trust that you rightly emphasize.


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