Summary: Priv.ly's Kickstarter finished being funded today, which is good news. In honor, I think about some of the good, weird, and possibly ugly side effects of using the service. Also, the idea of a for-pay social site that gives the user ultimate control over their own content, initial musings.
BLOT: (18 Apr 2012 - 12:35:03 AM)
Some good, weird, and ugly side-effects of Priv.Ly [not that they haven't already thought of these], and musings on a client centric for-pay social site
Priv.ly's Kickstarter was sucessfully funded! Hooray. When I first heard about it, I was skeptical. Not necessarily in that I didn't think it would work, but moreso that I wasn't sure if we needed it to work. GPG is a powerful thing.
However, watching some of the feedback and the responses and the demo videos I got in on the bandwagon and figured, what the hell, at least someone is doing something. I might as well help. I like encryption. I like privacy. I like consumer protection. I like unique but simple solutions to life's sticky problems. Who the hell am I to not encourage them to try? What's more, it's aim to integrate much of the power and usefulness of its privacy/content-ownership protection into a more or less seamless browsing experience? Well, ultimately that's the sort of kick that might help expand people's minds on the whole thing in general. When I hear people say they don't care about their content or protecting themselves, I get the feeling [and sometimes they come out and say it directly] that much of their reticence is because they think caring is too hard, too much work. Something that automates it might not only provide some protection, but also give an idea of what is possible but when do you start caring. If just 10% of Priv.ly's users embrace safer habits, then that is a force of good.
If you still have no idea what I am talking about but are curious, slip over to this link: Priv.ly. Look around a bit.
I might be talking out of my ass, but let me try and sum up. At the simplest level, Priv.ly extensions will look for Priv.ly links and then, when it finds one, replace in-browser the link with an iframe that has content. The content is hosted SomewhereElse, but for right now at Priv.ly-the-Server. The content is not bound by the rules of the website, per se, and it is more importantly not indexed/owned/semi-owned by the website, so it separates the content as displayed from the page it is displayed on. Sort of. As it expands, Priv.ly content will be encrypted, linked to user identifiers [so I can share it with specific people], possibly come with some sort of expiration date, and be editable.
If you are a little confused, think of it as you installing an extension that makes an advanced text-replacement rule fall into place, except rather than turning all cases of "the" into "teh", it turns a link into the encrypted, private, editable data found at the link. Is that better? If not, go to one of the links above and watch the pitch. It'll make sense then.
As said, some of the best bits around Priv.ly and the Priv.ly style services is just how much the challenge basic assumptions of our current use of the Internet. Let me run you through some of my favorites:
- Write once, post everywhere. While there are apps and services that let me post to Twitter and Facebook and G+ and my blog at the same time, etc, the Priv.ly method is to post to the Priv.ly server, get a link to identify my posts, and then share that. Unless some site-specific protocols end up replacing this [to tame down novels posted into Twitter, for instance], the ability to make one post and then copy and paste it into multiple services is expanded.
- Since content is now stored off server and delivered separated from said server's key mission, the distinction between certain content types starts to dissolve. A blog post and an email start to look a lot like a Facebook status update. A tweet with three different Priv.ly links, all specifying a different person, could be used in lieu of sending out three emails.
- Back to the last one, the downside being the aforementioned novel, say Moby Dick being posted to Twitter.
- Edit capability means that conversations and limited time content can be served in places [like some blog comments] where even deletion is impossible after a certain time. Friends could change the text of a Priv.ly post over and over, turning what appears to be a pair of static Facebook posts into a conversation [if they were so inclined].
- Then again, the edit function could potential result in a compromised Priv.ly account losing valuable data, and/or having messages corrupted. I'd consider this a minor chance, mind you.
- Loss of a search feature. Which may or may not be important.
- Yet-another-service between content and the end reader, increasing likelihood that something in the chain will be broken. Especially increasing the chance that interested-parties (by which I mean the kind that might want sensitive data blocked) can set up a checking/watching mechanism to see which this YAS gets referenced. [Future updates away from a single server system will help]
- Active content can be loaded in places and ways it was never expected to be loaded. I could publish, say, a little frame from a GoogleDocs text document and then allow everyone with the link to edit. Conversation, nothing, I can turn a Facebook status update into a canvas for friends to hang out.
I'll stop there, but this can go on. I guess what it comes down to is my three top bits in a Priv.ly wishlist would include:
- The ability to turn off active content AND third-party (to Priv.ly) content except with mutual trusted users. Person not in my list sends me something Priv.ly linked? Show me as blank a text version or maybe show me only the link with the option for me to go to it.
- Versioning control for the originator to use. Someone who sees my link doesn't see the versions, but as the post originator, I can go back to previous versions (at least a certain number).
- The ability to set controls on how Priv.ly content is displayed. Maybe first 500 characters are displayed inline, with me having to go site to see the rest. Maybe no images displayed until I go to site. This kind of ties into the first one, but is much more in line with more simple aesthetic and practicality reasons.
As said, they seem to be aware of most of these issues, I just found those to be the most interesting to think about. For right now, I'm going to consider it a fun tool with some deep practical purposes. I look forward to actually using it [and hopefully getting others who actually use it with me].
As something of a related aside, I posted a Twitter/G+/Email/in-person poll today asking if people would be interested in a social site where they paid a fee (assumption was $5 a month, which might be low or high) and in exchange they got no ads, their content wasn't indexed outside of their control, they had more features directly related to sharing and interacting, and had the right to leave with their content and privacy intact at any time? Essentially, if you are not paying then you are not the customer [roughly speaking] and so you let people be the direct customer. I've gotten about a dozen responses so far, and most have been either "Yes, maybe" to "Yes, definitely". Only one definite "No", related mostly to not needing another social site. I think I'm going to flesh this idea out and then pitch it a little more completely. Not sure if I could pull something like that off, or if I would want to, but I find it fascinating to think up ways to fight back against this idea that things don't cost money as long as we let people have control over our stuff and agree to play in the advertisement/data-mining game.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2012