The future of Free Software

Eben Moglen is helping Free Software to keep the promise of a free society. In his keynote speech at FOSDEM Moglen has laid out the foundation for the future of the Free Software movement: make sure that digital communication between people remains free.

Our freedom depends on reengineering the network to replace vulnerable, centralized services with alternatives which resist government control.

He identified the enemy (the data-mining industry, lead by corporation and governments around the world), gave the enemy a name and an easy target (Facebook) and he gave an action plan (the Freedom Box).

Freedom Box is the name we give to a free software system built to keep your communications free and private whether chatting with friends or protesting in the street.

I noted that he didn’t mention Twitter in his speech, and I think I know why. First of all Twitter has a good track of records when it comes to step up against government requests. What I believe is Moglen’s most clear reason to mention only Facebook is that he wants to give one target to the crowd, and a fat, easy one, too. Facebook must be the evil, much like Microsoft was the only big, fat target for all FSF’s propaganda (not Autodesk or or Adobe or Oracle or IBM).

It’s important to donate now on Kickstarter: Push the FreedomBox Foundation from 0 to 60 in 30 days. I hope that FSF and FSFE now donate to this project, too: I’d be really surprised if they don’t.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/721744279/push-the-freedombox-foundation-from-0-to-60-in-30/widget/card.html
PS If you want to read more here are some articles: NY Times, WSJ, BoingBoing, Slashdot, reddit, ZDNet, The New York Observer, New Europe, techPresident, LWN.

The master hack of mr. Zuckerberg

Eben Moglen mentioned not too long ago Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg saying:

Mr. Zuckerberg has […] done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age

I wonder if he foresaw also that this golden boy would also try to hack the US financial system and get funds from Wall Street without actually going to Wall Street. And meanwhile he may be creating a new bubble, with the help of Goldman Sachs, supported by US tax money, according to Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the IMF.

I have the feeling that if the SEC lets it go, this financial hack may be remembered as Zuckerberg’s master hack.

A path to design social apps that don’t suck

Existing social networking apps suck because human social interactions is simply more complex than adding a ‘friend’. This presentation shows quite clearly why Facebook sucks and the email/phone addressbooks suck, too. Take a full 40 minutes to read it carefully and then watch it again.

Facebook admits mistake and changes policy

The protest of people on Facebook made the difference.’  Mark Zuckerberg wrote on FB’s blog

We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.

The policy changed from opt-out to opt-in, no stories will be published without users proactively consenting and there is now the possibility to permanently opt-out. MoveOn.org is happy with the result.

I’m surprised by how long it took for Zuckerberg to speak up and I wonder if he really gets what Beacon has done.’  My impression is that Facebook management doesn’t understand the privacy issue at all.’  They’re young, which helps making mistakes but also helps learning.’  I hope they have learned that Facebook has a big responsibility and won’t repeat such mistake in the future. Personally, I’ll focus my attention on other social networks for a while and put Facebook on the backburner it will take some time before they regain my trust.

Facebook: with great power comes great responsibility

I have been playing with Facebook lately to check its potential. Everything started when William Ward invited me there in a moment when I was vulnerable (it was before I started the MBA: a few weeks later and I would have gently declined the invitation). In the last weeks I enlarged my network, joined Politecnico network, started fiddling with the MIP group with my colleague Francesco del Vecchio. I advertised the conference about Open Source as business model in the Politecnico network and I got a taste of Facebook’s potential: 220 subscriptions from Facebook. A success. The room was full all the time, with many students. (5 subscriptions came from FB, see Eugenio’s comment). FSF is also experimenting with it as a mean to raise funds and draw attention to the cause.

Is Facebook too good to be true? I was less excited when banners about impotence started to show up close to my profile. What? Then I read on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about a more serious privacy issue: Facebook’s knowledge of what you do online extends beyond the Facebook.com domain. In other words, if you buy a Christmas present for your friend, (s)he will see it on the News Feed … so long surprise. David Weinberger explains very well why Facebook’s defaults are wrong.

It’s bad to see things that are so useful and fun being damaged by such unfair practices. Companies must all learn the lesson that with with great power comes great responsibility. Being fair to the users is not an option. Meanwhile I’m joining the MoveOn protest and reinforced AdBlock rules to stop all banners from *.ads.facebook.com/*.