Posterous is shutting down. Here’s how to make sure you don’t get burned again.
Boone Gorges, who originally started me on the path towards reclaiming my own data, has posted an update on his Project Reclaim. I thought it was about time I did the same.
I’d already mapped out the various tools I use (see updated version above), consolidated my blogs and experimented with openphoto.me. Just over a week ago I moved web hosts from Bluehost to Hippie Hosting. The latter is a co-operatively owned web hosting service.
There are, however, at least FIVE services that I’m not planning to move away from at the moment.
The first, and probably most obvious of these, is Twitter. At the moment it’s pretty much impossible to export my tweets in a meaningful way from the service. But a social network is nothing without community, so I’ll be there until something better comes along. (I don’t, however, use Facebook apart from a place to link to my newsletter or blog posts)
Next we have Dropbox. I really do love this service as it means I’ve got all of my stuff everywhere I am. We’ve also started using it within the Learning team at the Mozilla Foundation. I could try ownCloud or similar but when it comes to having my documents and sharing them easily with others, I want as little friction as possible.
Third is mobile-only social network called Path. All of my family now use this to post photos, videos and updates. It keeps us all in touch. Whilst it would be really nice to be able to get my data out of here quickly and easily the beautiful interface and benefits outweigh anything else at the moment.
Fourth we have Google’s services. With the proviso of switching off my search history and encrypting my searches, I’m fairly happy to use GMail, Google Drive and Google Calendar at the moment. Actually, that’s a bit disingenuous – they’re central to my workflow. I also use Google+ occasionally. Whilst I’m slightly uneasy with the situation, at least I can export my data quickly and easily using Google Takeout.
And finally comes Slideshare. I’ve experimented with using HTML5 slides but (a) they take while to put together, (b) I recently went over 100,000 views on Slideshare (one-hundred thousand!), and (c) I haven’t (currently) got the skills to make HTML5 slides as aesthetically pleasing as a a Keynote/Slideshare combo.
I’m going to continue with Project Reclaim as I think it gives me a steer in choosing the technology I use on a day-to-day basis. However, I’m going to be pragmatic about it. I could decide to use identi.ca instead of Twitter but, whilst that would give me a warm smug glowing feeling of openness, it would cut me off from contacts I find extremely useful and valuable.
You’ve got to balance these things out.
One thing that has been launched recently which is a huge boon to those looking to be more in control of their own data is ToS;DR. As TechCrunch pointed out, the biggest lie on the internet is that people read and agree to tortuously-long Terms of Service agreements. Instead, they’re more like “too long; didn’t read” (TL;DR). The Unhosted venture reviews Terms of Service agreements and rates them on various factors.
It’s definitely worth a look.
Learn about Project Reclaim here.
As, seemingly, most of the rest of the world, I’ve got a (50GB subscription to) Dropbox. I use it in place of the ‘Documents’ folder on my MacBook Pro and, at work, instead of the ‘My Documents’ folder in Windows. Everything is kept in sync between the machines and it’s all backed-up in the cloud.
That’s all well-and-good, and three places to store data is obviously a good situation to be in. However, given the recent Amazon EC2 outage (Dropbox uses EC2) I’d like to have a local backup solution. Until 2009 my wife and I used to do this with the use of an Apple Time Capsule, but the incremental backups used to slowdown our laptops so much that we eventually sold it. Every now and again I’ll backup to a 2TB external hard disk, but that’s only when I remember.
I wanted something better.
After looking at our needs and the options, I settled on a Netgear Stora* and two 2TB hard disks in RAID1 configuration**. This means that data is written to both disks simultaneously – i.e. a Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It came in at about £170 all-told, which isn’t bad at all – especially when you consider that it’s got secure web access to the files it contains and is extremely easy-to-use.
Once you’ve spent 10 minutes getting the Stora up-and-running, you need a way to get files onto it. That’s as easy as drag-and-drop if you want it to be, but I want a more robust solution. As with Dropbox, after the initial backup I only want to transfer the files that have changed. Enter rsync – or, more accurately, arRsync (Mac only). The graphical front-end is simple and effective. I refused to pay $40 for the privilege of the (admittedly widely-acclaimed) ChronoSync.
*Other NAS drives I looked at have bittorrent functionality. This can be enabled on the Stora by looking here or here.
**This isn’t a techie post, so if you want to read about RAID, I suggest this post on Wikipedia.
A few days ago, via Stephen Downes, I came across Project Reclaim, an attempt by Boone Gorges to ‘reclaim’ his data from the multiple silos he’s been putting them in. He’s talking about those places where it’s easy to get data into but not so easy to get them out of: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter… the list goes on. I was in the right frame of mind to take action after listening to Jason Scott be interviewed recently about the importance of digital heritage.
To be clear: none of what follows is about getting a warm fuzzy feeling from being more ‘open’. It’s everything to do with having access to my data when I’m the same age as my parents. This stuff is important.
Eventually, I’d like to be running open everything, but the first step is to have control of my data. I certainly can’t trust Facebook to host my data, but that’s not to say it can’t be an output – a place where data from other places is mirrored.
The first thing I decided to do was to map as many places where I store things online. I highlighted those services in green that are based on Open Source technologies. Those in orange are services where it’s reasonably straightforward to get your data out. Those in red are those where it’s difficult to download and export your data.
Over the rest of 2011 I’m going to be trying to make that mindmap greener. You can see that I’ve started to add (in pink) alternative services. I may have mis-coloured some elements (Dropbox should be orange, for example) – but the idea is sound.
Where am I going to start? I’m going to invest in Linode which means I’ll be able to host things like Sparkleshare (to replace Dropbox) and FlexPaper to replace SlideShare and Issuu. I’m not so concerned with the Google-based stuff at the moment as their committed (at the moment) to making exporting your data fairly painless – but I wish I could bulk-download my YouTube videos…
Image CC BY ecastro
Please note that this will be last of these posts for this year. I’ll be back in 2011 [why?]
Offline this week I learned that there’s literally two types of people in the world (Dweck was correct!), that ‘female festive frenzy’ is now a term in general use, and that brandy hot chocolate is almost always better without the chocolate… :-p
- If you go to the ‘Advanced Settings’ for Google search, you can now get readability guidance for each result. You’ll be glad to know that this blog comes up as ‘Basic reading level’. Clear writing FTW!
- Dropbox is now available for Teams. Looks like a good deal for small businesses, although I think they’ve missed a trick by not also targetting education. This would be awesome for educational institutions!
- Google have turned on desktop editor for Google Docs. GigaOM also has the best explanation ever of why I use Apple stuff.
- The GSMA Development Fund has published their mLearning report. Interesting reading! [PDF]
- Malcolm Gladwell discusses the ‘affordances’ of paper and why it’s an accident of history that we consider tech in any way superior to it.
Productivity, Inspiration & Motivation
- Here’s 7 things you should stop doing at work. I’m pretty good at avoiding them, but it’s always worth being reminded!
- Want to leave your soul-crushing day job? Here’s how.
- Jason Fried posted this quotation over at 37 Signals this week. Spot. On.
You probably only have to interrupt someone a couple times a day before they’re unable to work on hard problems at all. (Paul Graham)
- Do you feel like you do ‘fake work’? Here’s how to spot it and deal with it.
- Your job is a platform for what you do. So sayeth Seth Godin (with my blessing, obviously)
Education & Academic
- Really interesting stuff over at SmartMobs about ‘Lévy flights’. Also a useful link to the Cooperation Commons.
[T]here is a class of random walks called Lévy flights, which include occasional long-distance jumps. The distribution of step sizes is described by a power law, which means that there are steps of all sizes and no well-defined “average” step size, at least for one class of Lévy flights. They have been observed in various natural settings, most famously in the search strategy of certain animals when food is scarce. For example, hungry sharks will typically scour back and forth over small areas, but if the search is fruitless, they will intermittently “jump” to new, far-off areas . “People have also [studied] Lévy flights in stock prices, epidemics, and small world networks,” says Ajay Gopinathan, from the University of California, Merced.
- Rueben Puentedura, he of SAMR model fame, has posted three recent presentations he’s given to his blog.
- Jim Groom is running a MOOC on Digital Storytelling.
- Stephen Downes links to Dave Cormier’s videos explaining what MOOCs are (nicely done!)
- UNESCO and EU publications. You’ve got to love them. The former have announced a policy framework around ICT compentency for teachers. Which will be ignored by Gove.
Data, Design & Infographics
- Google have announced their 2010 Zeitgeist of popular searches. What’s even more awesome is that Paul Lewis, a friend of mine helped code it!
- Lifehacker have rounded up their most popular photography tips, tricks and hacks of 2010. Which is very nice of them, really.
- Like retro travel posters? Like superheroes? Then you’ll love these:
- And whilst we’re on the topic of superheroes, this minimalist poster of well-known characters is just fantastic:
- I have issues with the relevance of their data, but MIT don’t half make some pretty visualisations. This one shows the strength of ties between areas of the UK based (I think) on landline phone calls. And who makes those any more?
- With the imminent arrival of Belshaw Junior Mk.2 this zero-to-ten year timelapse is begging to be replicated:
- Everyone’s got to have a business plan. Even a pimp.
- I think this may be the most important Wikileak of them all [context]
- Check out the Top 10 Weird New Animals according to National Geographic. These have all been discovered in 2010. The Sneezing Snub-nosed Monkey looks interesting. Shame the only known example was shot and eaten…
- Why did people stop wearing hats?
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. (George Orwell)
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. (Albert Camus)
The people who matter will recognise who you are. (Alan Cohen)
Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. (Mary Lou Cook)
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
(more quotations at my quotabl.es page)
Main image CC BY auspices
Offline this week I learned to fly direct and take only carry-on luggage where possible, that the UK is ridiculously underprepared for snow compared to other European countries, and that thrash metal isn’t as bad as you’d think… :-p
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Offline this week I learned to buy more bags of winter grit than I think I need, to do exercise even when it’s too slippery to go running outside, and that a bad seated posture can give you headaches. 😮
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Offline this week I learned that large beanbags offer the most comfortable typing position ever, not to drink cheap red wine, and that the seats by the Chinese books in Newcastle City Library are almost always vacant… 😉
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Offline this week I learned that Twitter is often a quicker and easier place to sell things than eBay, that eagerly pulling decals off a car will can also remove the paintwork, and more than I could ever summarize in one blog post (or indeed the introduction to one) at Interesting North… 🙂
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Offline this week I learned that fireworks displays involve a lot of standing around for brief moments of semi-pleasure, that iPads really are ‘magical’, and not to jinx yourself by stating that you’re “the only one in the family who hasn’t been ill” 😮
Continue reading “Things I Learned This Week – #45” »