Find Podcasters at UNC

People at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill are working to help students and the world find podcasts made at UNC. (or by people/events associated with UNC)

To help with this I just set up a public web based aggregator for podcasts at UNC called UNC Podcasters. You can listen to podcasts right in a web browser with flash player, click on a link to download the podcast (mp3, mov, etc.), and find RSS podcast feeds you’re interested in. It’s still a beta site so we don’t have a ton of feeds up yet, but soon.

Right now it is not multi-user. This means you can’t create an account yet. But hopefully in the future you’ll be able to log-in and create your own feed list. ala Bloglines. So if you’re part of the UNC community and you have a podcast send me your RSS feed URL.

The UNC Podcasters aggregator is based on the latest nightly build of the great software Gregarius. (Feb. 15) Ibiblio.org is hosting the list and the site for us. (Thanks guys!)

In the spirit of open source development at Universities I hope we can add to this wonderful bit of software. I’m hoping PHP developers at UNC can work on the Gregarius project. There are so many good reasons to build the tool so it fits our unique needs and then give it back to the world for others to benefit. For starters it could could save the University a ton of money!

Indy Week Gets It

The Independent Weekly has a new website. “So what?”, you may ask, people launch new websites all the time. The difference here is they’re adopting important features other newspapers are not. Features essential to new media websites.

One important feature on the new Indy website is content synchronization. When the Indy paper comes out the Indy website has the same content. Many print publications – like Wired magazine – have websites but delay the content’s online release until days or weeks after the print version has come out. This is wrong. Making already impatient online readers wait is a bad PR move. So bad it may completly prevent the stories from ever being read. It’s true that there are timing issues that can cause this gap but I bet the issue for some print publications is more about making sure the print media continues to have value. After all, “If they can get it online for free why should they bother paying for a subscription?” Wrong.

Another example is persistent links. When the Indy creates content and it goes on their website it doesn’t disappear. URLs to the content persist into the future. Many newspapers hide their content behind a pay wall the day it comes out and sometimes days later. This is a real problem. When you link to something on another website you want the link to work well into the future. It’s real hard for loyal bloggers to drive traffic to your site if the URLs don’t work (aka free publicity).

If newspapers really are the first draft of history they should allow their work to last so we can read it and compare it to other drafts. Preventing unethical rewriting of history demands it.

Oh yeah… the Indy has some blogs too. Dent is for politics and Scan is for music.

One of the competitive advantages the Indy Week has is that its paper is free. Their business model depends on advertising. They already know how to make this work. That’s how a lot of the web works. In other words revienue modles for media are very differnet than they used to me. Newspapers seem to be having a hard time dealing with the fact that the subscription model is dying. In the 21st century if you pay to subscribe to something it better be really special and not become fish wrap the next day.

Retaining My Attention MetaData: Part 2

I’ve stopped using Gmail. You probably know about it. It’s a good piece of software that helps you send and receive email in your web browser. Because of AJAX (Javascript) it loads GUI elements quickly. It’s helpful for efficient emailing anywhere you have a computer, a web browser, and an internet connection. Very convenient. (Forgive the super basic description dear geeks. I want everyone to understand this.)

What I’ve done instead is to start using the software Pine. Yep… that old email app you might have used in the 80s or 90s. It’s a terminal application on a Unix server for sending and receiving email. It has a pretty open license that is free as in money and free as in freedom. Plus it’s installed on the server that also hosts my email. This keeps it portable and available any where I have a terminal app and ssh. (You can put Putty, a free telnet/ssh client, on a USB key and make sure it’s with you.) This is where the reasoning comes in.

Just like my post Retaining My Attention MetaData: Part 1 my main motivation is retaining my attention data. For me letting Google store all my email communications and sort through them creating what ever metadata they want just isn’t fair. The service and addictive convenience isn’t equal to the money Google makes by paying attention to what I do. Not only do I loose my privacy so does everyone that sends email to me. Multiply the number of people who’ve sent me e-mail – during the time I used Gmail – by itself and you get an idea of the potential number of connections made. Mapping social networks with attention data is powerful.

What’s Attention Data? Data created when you pay attention to something, or ignore it, online or elsewhere.

Then there is trust. I trust my main mail host. I’m pretty confident they aren’t mining it’s users email for metadata. Nor are the profiting fiscally from us. Another plus is the hardware and the network they use isn’t trivial. This equals serious performance.

Everyone who uses email should demand a terms of service that respects our privacy and doesn’t exploit our rights to determine exactly how our attention data is used. Either we all have to host our own email servers or we need to have trustworthy public email servers. The former isn’t such a crazy idea. Imagine if we all sent and received email in a peer to peer manner?

Should everyone use Pine? At this point probably not. It’s taken me years to get used to Unix and the command line. I’m a very visual person. GUIs are the main reason I got into computers. If the Macintosh hadn’t been so easy to use I might never have edited video with it. The educational hurdle that is Linux and other computer software can be overcome. One of my future parental goals is to teach my kids how to use Linux, the comand line, and use scripting languages. I wouldn’t force them… 🙂

I have traded some speed for privacy. But in the short amount of time I’ve used Pine full time I’ve increased in speed. For me it required repetitive use, hitting the same key commands over and over again. I’ve hardly use the mouse while sending email.

What should people use if not Pine? Another good option is secure web mail hosted by a private email host you trust. Make sure they use https. (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) The key is select a free web mail host that isn’t comercial. Find a not for profit group maintaining a email server. A geek friend or family member, a university, or a group like RiseUp.net.

Why not use Thunderbird? True it’s a great GUI email app. It’s free as in money and free in freedom. One potential security problem is copies of emails can be stored locally. My effort to use a terminal email app is based on forcing good habits with myself. A tad hair shirt monk style I know.

I suppose the best way to describe this part of my personal transformation is BACK TO THE FUTURE. Not the movie but the idea that by going back to an old piece of software I’m actually going forward in my safe use of technology.

Retaining My Attention MetaData: Part 1

I’ve stopped using Bloglines. It’s a RSS feed aggregator in a web browser. It’s “free” (as in money) and it works wonderfully. I really enjoyed using it. (Though the number of feeds I was trying to read got a bit unwieldy.)

What I’ve done instead is install my own web based RSS feed aggregator called Gregarius. It’s created in php and uses MySQL for the database. All this software is “free” as in money AND free as in freedom. Freedom from corporations watching what I watch aka my Attention metadata.

Fortunately I’m capable of installing a PHP application and MySQL database. I’d guess that a majority of web users don’t want to or have the time to do this. That’s why they take the easy most cost effective choice of signing up for “free” (as in money) web service. (or run it on their desktop)

Why did I do this? Because I am taking back the valuable metadata I create by looking and not looking at RSS feeds on the web. All this time we spend surfing adds up to lots of information that you can learn from. This knowledge can then be applied to a myriad of decisions. Those decisions can make things happen like making money and a whole bunch of other things. I believe this is the core business plan of most web services companies. (Tell me if I’m wrong Bloglines.)

The bottom line is free web apps aren’t enough compensation for my valuable Attention. I’m not special; your Attention is just as valuable. We should all value it much higher. We should renegotiate our agreement with free (as in money) web based services.

This is only the beginning of my personal web interaction transformation. Stay tuned for more change.

Bell South doesn’t care about geek people

That hilarious – yet deeply serious – post title is from a Digg story of the same name. The Digg user peb0424 shares with us a story from USA Today stating that the town of Lafayette, La is trying to install a fiber network and Bell South (shock!) and Cox Cable (Awe!) are suing to stop them.

From the story “Bells dig in to dominate high-speed Internet realm

To hear BellSouth talk, high-speed fiber lines are the way of the future. So why is it so determined to stop Lafayette, La., a rural community in the heart of Cajun country, from installing its own fiber?

Joey Durel, Lafayette’s mayor, has been asking himself that same question. His city plans to build an advanced broadband network to offer voice, data and video to its 116,000 residents. But local officials claim BellSouth is trying to kill the project. And they say it’s getting help from Cox, the local cable-TV operator.

“We have the opportunity to do something great for this community — and in a state that needs a big win,” Durel fumes. “They have to get out of our way.”

It’s the dark side of the fiber story.

Incase you didn’t notice the pun in the title you should listen to the Kayne masup, George Bush doesn’t Care about Black People mp3. Gawd I wish I had come up with that post title. It says so much.

The Mainstreaming of American Paranoia

Since governments first appeared on this planet citizens have worried that they were being spied upon. George Orwell’s book 1984 opened millions of eyes to a fictional dystopia. That world has never seemed so real to so many people. Until now.

In an effort to stay sane we suppressed the concept that our government would watch and listen to all that we do. This coping mechanism has helped to keep us blissfully ignorant. Sometimes we flirt with the idea that we’re being watched. It seems to be one of our favorite plots for movies and TV. The very idea that we can’t see who watches terrifies and thrills us at the same time. It is truly a post-modern modern illness.

It may not have been until now that the majority – aka “the mainstream” – of American citizens actually believe they are being spied upon. It is no longer just the hobby of tin foil hat wearing nuts. Nor is it the sole literary domain of so called mad geniuses like Philp K. Dick or Franz Kafka.

How did this come about? Why did it take so long for us the care en mass? Will we do something about it? What can you do to increase privacy in your life? What about the Internet? How do we retain our privacy there?

Right now, in the year 2006, President Bush has admitted that he approved clandestine spying on American citizens. Bush has claimed “if you’re talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.” Most Americans don’t care if the government spies on terrorist or anyone remotely connected to them. Many of us instinctually do not believe Bush. We know governments and corporations will not stop at spying on terrorist and suspected terrorists alone.

A new story at the Washington Post called “Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects: NSA’s Hunt for Terrorists Scrutinizes Thousands of Americans, but Most Are Later Cleared” says that the US government with permission from Bush has spied on thousands of US citizens with no connection to terrorism. (That number is only in the few years Bush has been President! It doesn’t seem like a short amount of time I know…)

Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.

Mainstream media (MSM) is more manipulated by government than ever before. So much so we’ve become numb to all their reports. Many of us ignore them outright. But still our unconscious hears it, so we are affected involuntarily. Our absolute trust of all information is gone.

This makes it especially surprising that the MSM would report something so shocking and so damning about the President of the United States. (No prize in investigative journalism is due to the NY Times for breaking this story. They sat on it for months and told the President that they were releasing it to the public. Who knows was removed before we read it?) But is this shocking news enough to finally convince “mainstream” US citizen that they are being spied upon? Will we ALL finally question the elected officials we voted for long enough to put an end to illegal spying by any government or corporation?