Friday, May 21, 2010

view source

View-source and inspection techniques are probably the most important feature set for the open web. It is creativity lubricant, and helps aspiring web authors learn new tricks. I strongly believe that this is one of the main forces driving rapid innovation on the web. What other platform is so open that you can just pop the hood and take a peek? Yeah yeah, cars have hoods, you can pop them and peek, I know; to make a car you need lots of fabrication equipment or at least parts and an engine hoist, but to make a web site you just need a computer and vi.

Software is a magnificent, intangible product that is completely the result of imagination at work. One could liken it to art: software is a clever rearrangement of bits of digital data whereas art is a clever rearrangement of "bits" of color and texture. When we can inspect how the artist creates, we learn new tricks that evolve our own web-art. A web without inspection tools is like viewing low-resolution copies of famous paintings; the artists' brush strokes and exact color choices aren't present, so hints to any method is gone and you only see the end image. I can't grow my skill as an artist by knowing what other artists paint, but I can learn an awful lot by seeing their brush strokes up close.

When I asked him what he thinks is the best part of the web, Cory Doctorow said "view source." He spends lots of time thinking about technology with respect to its benefits and drawbacks, so I give much credence to his opinion. Inspection is also how I learned to make my bits of the web, so I am a bit partial.


Monday, May 03, 2010

facebook privacy erosion

I went into my privacy settings on facebook to turn off the "instant personalization" program (I don't really want facebook to provide my info to other sites automatically), and was a little miffed by the experience of disabling it:

First, I unchecked the box that said "Allow select partners to instantly personalize their features with my public information when I first arrive on their websites." This was me reverting backwards towards previous policies facebook had back when it was not sharing data with third party sites.

Anyway, when I checked the box, I got the usual "are you sure?" dialog that attempted to convince me to reconsider. In addition, it let me know that checking the box won't completely opt me out, since my friends will still be leaking my information to these third party sites.

 Kudos on facebook for telling me this, but why can't the check box actually control both the data I allow to be transmitted and that sent by my friends? They explain in the dialog (and in fine print on the pref page) that I can block the application and that will stop my data flowing from my friends, but for the life of me I can't figure out what the application is called and how to block it. Any advice here?

I don't like that I have to review the facebook privacy policy and the settings page what seems like every time I log in; this is a nasty side-effect of the slow erosion of their privacy policy and settings. I constantly have to be figuring out what kind of relaxing of the privacy policy facebook is doing next. I realize the importance of monetization (and I'm impressed that they're trying to find something new, something not advertisements to make them money), but I guess I value control of my data a bit more than facebook does.