Project Reclaim: a pragmatic update

Project Reclaim: September 2012

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Project Reclaim: backing up to local network storage

Learn about Project Reclaim here.

Netgear Stora

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.

 

Project Reclaim: or, how I learned to start worrying and love my data.

The irony of a 'trailblazer' being rendered inert

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.

Project Reclaim - mindmap

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

 

Things I Learned This Week #50

Please note that this will be last of these posts for this year. I’ll be back in 2011 [why?]

A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure

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

http://delicious.com/dajbelshaw/TILTW50

Technology

Productivity, Inspiration & Motivation

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

[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 [1]. “People have also [studied] Lévy flights in stock prices, epidemics, and small world networks,” says Ajay Gopinathan, from the University of California, Merced.

Data, Design & Infographics

  • And whilst we’re on the topic of superheroes, this minimalist poster of well-known characters is just fantastic:

Miscellaneous

Why did people stop wearing hats?

Quotations

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

 
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