Since the launch of Identi.ca a few weeks ago, I've had a very busy time. Not much sleep, but lots of fulfilling and exciting work. It's invigorating to work on something that is popular and that you believe in. And I'm glad that the Franklin Street Statement so succinctly encapsulates those beliefs.
As some people may have read in my previous blog post about the motivations behind creating Identi.ca (see Journal/14 Messidor CCXVI), I was part of a group convened at the FSF to discuss the impact of the growth of software as a service on user autonomy. It was a very loose organization of hackers, activists, and scholars who come from different backgrounds but all share an interest in user rights online.
As computing moves into "the cloud" (see cloud computing), what power does the user retain to control their own computing experience? As much of our social lives -- romance, family, work, friends -- becomes Web-enhanced, what can we do to assert our right to manage that data and its use? How can software developers and service providers gauge their own proper ethical behaviour, and how can users of services judge what is and is not acceptable to use?
We didn't come up with any easy answers, but we've summarized our thinking in a new document: the Franklin Street Statement on Freedom and Network Services. In essence, we've tried to point a direction towards what software developers, service providers, and software users should think hard about when thinking about network services.
Our group will continue to explore these issues on our new group blog, http://autonomo.us/ . We're going to concentrate on the effects of software services on user autonomy -- people's ability to make their own informed choices about their data and creative works and the software that processes them. It is a realm that as a society -- a cluster of societies -- we're only beginning to understand, and I think that there is still a lot of exploration to do.
Autonomo.us includes a wiki where we'll be exploring some of these ideas, and the blog will feature guest submissions about the subject. We're a loose and unofficial group with some smiling benevolence but no sanction from the FSF or any related organization, so we're really going to dig into some of the gray areas of this issue without worrying about making official statements for any one organization.
I'm looking forward to the coming months and I hope this issue captures the imagination of the Web's Open Source and Open Content communities. P.S. You can see the FSF press release about the statement and the launch of autonomo.us.
Open Service Definition
On a related note, one of the first organizations to approach the issue of Open Services has been the Open Knowledge Foundation. Today they've launched the 1.0 version of the Open Software Service Definition (OSSD).
I think the OSSD 1.0 is a great step. It's a bar against which we can start measuring Open Software Services. For example, I think that Identi.ca meets the requirements of the OSSD. Other sites, like Wikipedia, are also clearly compliant. Some services that I really like, such as OpenStreetMap and geonames.org, seem to be compliant. But are they? It's good to start this investigation.
I think other kinds of services are on their way there. The announcement by Reddit that their code will now be Open Source is a great step for user autonomy in the social news arena. Now, Reddit needs to consider what an Open Content/Open Data policy would mean for their service... or see others implement it on other sites.
I look forward to a rich ecology of open software services growing, now that we have a name for it and a clear community of people interested in the topic.