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8 posts from September 2014

R.I.P. Orkut, The First "Social Network" Many Of Us Used

Orkut logoI find it somewhat ironic that as many of us play with Ello, the newest social network to catch our attention, today marks the end of Orkut, one of the first "social networks" that many of us used. Google has shut it down, and the Orkut home page now is the home to the "community archive" of many of the group discussions that happened there over the years. A Google support page has more information about the shutdown - and how to export your data if you want to save it.

Orkut was quietly launched in late January 2004 ... ten years ago ... and I can dive back into Advogato where I used to write in those days and see that:

And... then that's pretty much all I seem to have written about Orkut... outside of a post in 2008 about Orkut planning to use OpenSocial (remember OpenSocial?).

And that's somewhat symptomatic of what happened to Orkut... other sites and social networks emerged that captured more of our attention. As the Wikipedia article about Orkut notes, the site became for a while a huge community for users in Brazil and also India... so huge in Brazil, in fact, that the site wound up ultimately being managed by Google's office in Brazil (and this is undoubtedly why the "community archive" appears in Portuguese).

But for many of us outside those regions, we moved on. Some to Friendster and MySpace... then to Twitter in 2006... Facebook... and tens of other social networks that are now lost to history... (ReadWrite has a nice timeline about the rise and fall of Orkut, including how Facebook overtook Orkut in Brazil in 2012.)

When Google announced back in June that Orkut would be shutting down today, it had been so many years that I couldn't even easily find my account on Orkut. With all of Google's various "accounts", there were a bunch of "Dan York" accounts... and my Orkut account wasn't among them. Obviously I'd missed that point in time when Orkut users were supposed to link their Orkut accounts to their Google accounts.

Still, it's worth pausing for a moment to remember Orkut. It was the first time that many of us dealt with "friends" and "fans". It's instructive to read this rant from danah boyd, venting my contempt for orkut... the whole "social networking" thing was so brand new in those days. Friendster was around, and a few others, but not many. Danny Sullivan's piece from that time is a good read, too.

And sadly, we never really got the "protocol for networking the social networks" that David Weinberger thought might arise (although there have been many attempts (recent example, the "IndieWeb", although that is more about linking publishing sites than true "social networks", but there is a 'social' aspect to it)).

R.I.P., Orkut ... you had a good run... and you helped introduce many of us to the concepts that would become simply part and parcel of the "social" world in which we live today.

UPDATE 1 Oct 2014 - Interesting infographic about the history of Orkut: Bye bye Orkut – A Look back into the History of Orkut

You can hear an audio commentary on this topic on SoundCloud:

Watching 'Known' Grow... via Github

KnownIt's kind of fun "watching" the Known publishing platform grow - and growing it is... each and every day in terms of new features and functions. Known, as you may recall from my recent post, is a new publishing platform available in either a hosted platform ( or as software you can install on your own server. Last week I wrote about why Known and the "Indie Web" are so incredibly important.

But the cool part about Known is that like most open source projects it has an open issue tracker... in this case Known uses Github. The overall Github account is ("idno" was the original name of the project before they changed it to "Known") and you can find repositories there for the main Known source code (/idno) as well as various plugins that work with Known, themes and other materials.

But it is the "issues" that I find most interesting. If you go to:

You'll see all the currently open issues along with the ensuing discussion. Perhaps more interestingly you can see the closed issues at:

to see all the great work the Known development team has been doing.

Being a Github user, I have "watched" the idno repository and chosen to receive email notifications when there are new issues or new posts about issues.

The result has been a fascinating glimpse into the development process of the team... and it's just been fun to watch how they continue to build more functionality into the platform. Great to see!

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Why I Am NOT Always Okay Being The Product (Re: Facebook and Ello)

Shel holtz productSometimes I'm okay being "the product", sometimes I'm not. I just want the choice... and to know who has access to my data.

Today Shel Holtz published a piece on his blog, "You say I'm the product of services I don't pay for? I'm fine with that.", and after first replying to Shel on Ello and then starting to do so again on Facebook... I realized I needed to just write these thoughts down in somewhere more permanent (and outside the walls of social networks). You know... go "old school" and reply blog-to-blog like we used to do before social networks...

I certainly realize that you are always paying for services in some form, either directly in money or attention (i.e. watching an ad before seeing something) or through information that can then be monetized via some other way such as ads. I also realize there are hybrid services where you are directly paying for part of the cost while advertising (potentially based on your data) is covering the rest of the cost. This has been the model for newspapers and magazines for quite some time (and pre-Internet, of course). It's the model for TV channels now (since in at least the US you are paying for cable TV and being bombarded by ads). It's the model used for a zillion different services we all use every day.

I get that.

TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I get that. And much of the time I'm perfectly fine with that.

I use Gmail, for free, even though I know that Google is reading my every message and mining that for data to feed into their AdWords advertising machine. Like Shel, I use some "loyalty programs" where I know that I am getting a discount on my purchases in exchange for giving them my data.

Going Too Far?

But... I start to get worried about how that data might be used by others. For instance, Facebook's new "Atlas" advertising platform launches today (see also "Meet the new Atlas") and so now ads based on our Facebook data will be displayed on other websites we visit and also within mobile apps.

To Shel's point... maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we'll see more targeted and helpful ads that we may actually want to purchase.

But... who else is learning about what we are doing and saying inside of Facebook... and are we okay with them doing so?

Maybe I've just spent so many years in information security that I'm wary. I don't expect that advertisers outside of Facebook would learn my exact information... Facebook is far too protective of the actual data (for their OWN reasons, not out of any interest in protecting me). But there are ways that information can leak... or that aggregate information can be discovered. Our web browsers and other devices can leak a great amount of information about what we are doing and what we are seeing.

I'm not 100% okay sharing all that data with others.

I guess I don't necessarily trust Facebook to be careful with my data.

Choosing NOT To Be The Product

Shel mentions network television in his post, and certainly I, too, have seen some amazing shows that came about through the support of advertising. Similarly, I'm been a long-time fan of National Public Radio (NPR) and while it does not have "advertising", per se, it has "underwriting" which to the listener may wind up being similar (just less obnoxious).

But I have chosen to NOT participate in that process much any more. Our family doesn't have commercial TV. We are a "cord-cutter". What "TV" we watch comes at us without commercials through live streaming services. We are paying for a subscription. An impact, of course, is that we don't get some of the latest shows... nor do we get the current sports games... because those are all still ad-funded.

We made this choice in large part because we were tired of all the advertising. (And there are some philosophical reasons why I think the fact that our kids are growing up without watching commercials is a beautiful thing, but that's for a different article.) I've given up on most traditional radio, too, including NPR, opting instead to listen to podcasts in my car or use Spotify (which I pay for) or other streaming services in my home office.

Similarly, I have chosen NOT to participate in some "rewards" or "loyalty" programs offered by some stores or services. Oh, sure, I'm in various hotel and airline "frequent traveler" programs because I perceive that there are benefits. I am also in one for my local hardware store because I get a discount and I buy a significant quantity of products to where I'm okay giving up my data for a discount.

But there are other stores where I am NOT comfortable exchanging my data for a discount. Either ones I don't frequent all that often... or just ones that for whatever reason I don't trust.

I don't want to be their product.

Returning To The Topic Of Facebook and Ello

Shel concludes his post saying:

Ultimately, being “the product” doesn’t bother me, and I’m not inclined to abandon a network that works for me for a new one just because it doesn’t have ads.

He is, of course, responding to the Ello Manifesto and one reason Ello is getting a good bit of buzz.

I agree that simply "not having ads" is not a great reason to move from one network to another. And I don't expect that I will abandon Facebook... I still find it useful and enjoyable.

But I find I don't trust Facebook anymore.

Granted, I never really have trusted Facebook since I started using it back in 2007-ish... but maybe it's even more the case today. I just worry about the large-scale data mining.

THAT is a good part of why I'm continuing my explorations with Ello.

I'm looking for a place where I can share information with others - and yet feel that the privacy of my conversations and data are better respected than in other social networks.

P.S. And yes, I do realize the irony that all my Ello conversations are entirely public, which means that all of them can be picked up by that other master of data mining, Google, as well as any other data mining service... very much like all my tweets can be picked up, too. That's okay right now because I'm not yet intending to share anything on Ello that I'm not comfortable being public. But I am interested in what they may be able to do in the future to allow more private conversations.

P.S. And I also realize that I'm probably in a very small minority who care about data privacy and that the VAST majority of people out there don't even remotely care about what is done with their data...

Photo credit: Shel's blog

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3 Quick Tips About Getting Started With Ello

Ello smileAs I've started playing with Ello, the new social network that many early adopters are experimenting with (and you can find me at, I've learned a few things that I thought I'd share in case they can help others who are getting started:


Ello allows you to do some formatting to your text using a subset of John Gruber's Markdown syntax. It's not the full Markdown syntax, but a good bit of it. You can read more at:

You can see some of my Markdown experiments in an Ello post.


You can use a wide range of emoji in your Ello posts. You may want to bookmark:

To use an emoji you just type the text in your Ello post, for example ":smile:" will give you a smile. I've seen many different emoji being used in posts.


C.C. Chapman clued me in that while Ello doesn't have a "Like" or a "+1" (yet, anyway), apparently the convention has developed that people will leave you a "bread" emoji in a reply to say they like this. So if you suddenly see comments with bread emoticons, that's what is going on. To leave one yourself, just type ":bread:" in the comments.

(And I'd love it if someone on Ello could explain how that convention came about...)
UPDATE 28 Sep 2014: @brdr on Ello says the 'bread' emoji usage originated with German Ello users and spread throughout the network.

Those are just a few of the things I've discovered in my playing around with the site. If there are other tips you've learned, please feel free to leave them here as comments... or leave them in response to the link to this post on Ello.

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The Importance of The 'Known' Publishing Platform And The Rise Of The Indie Web

Known logoHow do we retain control of our content? How can we make sure what we write and create online remains online? How do we make it so that we can post our content in one place and distribute it out to social networks? And the bring the conversations that happen out on social networks back into your own site?

In a time when Facebook, Google, Apple and others seem to be intent on owning and controlling all our data and content, how do we regain control over our presence online? How do we stop being the product?

These are questions of focus for the "IndieWeb" movement that are perhaps best stated by this text on the top of

Your content is yours
When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.

You are better connected
Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.

You are in control
You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as These links are permanent and will always work.

As well as in greater detail on the IndieWeb principles page. A key point is what is called "POSSE":

POSSE = Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere

The idea being, again, that you own your own content and then share it out to the other services where people can engage with that content.

Another way to think of this is that the IndieWeb is distributed and decentralized ... kind of like the "Web" used to be before people increasingly started using centralized platforms such as Facebook and Google's properties.

The "IndieWeb" has been around for several years now, but this month it gained some momentum with the launch of Known, a new blogging platform built on IndieWeb principles. Mathew Ingram introduced it on GigaOm with:

The Known software is available in two forms:

And yes, this is very similar to WordPress with the hosted version at and the standalone version at (And in fact, WordPress can support many of the IndieWeb principles through various plugins.)

One of the interesting aspects is that your instance of Known can use some of the IndieWeb protocols such as Webmention to communicate with other instances of Known - as well as other sites that support the IndieWeb protocols.

The Known software is also "responsive" so that it works well on mobile devices - and the entire code base is open source so that anyone can see what it is all about and modify or extend it. On For Immediate Release (FIR) Podcast #773 I devoted most of my report to talking about Known and the Indie Web - and Shel Holtz spoke at some length about the platform, too. And both Shel and I referenced Leo Laporte's This Week in Google 266 where he had Known co-founders Ben Werdmûller and Erin Jo Richey on as guests, as well as Kevin Marks. I would encourage you to listen to them all if you are interested in further discussion.

To me this issue of owning your own content is critical. Perhaps THE most critical question in many ways to me personally.

It goes back to the question of what kind of Internet do we want?

Do we want one in which we are in control - and have control of our own data and content? Or do we want an Internet where the content we create is locked inside of corporate walled gardens? (Even if those gardens let us display it to the world... we still may not be able to easily get it out.)

I don't know if I'll honestly keep using in the long term, or whether I'll install the Known software directly on one of my servers... or whether I'll just look at making my WordPress installations play as nicely as possible with the IndieWeb protocols.

I'm certainly going to continue to experiment for some time... I've been watching the Github repo and their issue tracker and have been quite impressed with the ongoing work of the Known team.

The key point is that wherever I post my intent is that I will not be locked in to closed proprietary systems. Known and the IndieWeb are more tools that we have in our toolbox that let us retain our freedom and control!

P.S. If you want to give Known a try, visit the hosted platform to get started! It's free and easy to sign up.

NOTE: Given that Ello has been getting quite a buzz in the last few days (and I can also be found there: ), it is worth pointing out the difference:

  • Known is an open source, freely-available blogging/publishing platform that you can either use in a hosted version or on your own site. You can publish your own status updates, blog posts and audio content - and share those posts out to social networks. Think of it as similar to WordPress.
  • Ello is a closed source (proprietary), invite-only (right now) social network where you can follow friends and share status updates, photos, links, etc. It currently has no APIs or method to export your data. Think of it as similar to Facebook.

That's the key difference - Known is a blogging platform while Ello is a social network.

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MarketingPodcasts comComing sometime soon will be a new directory of marketing-related podcasts at the very appropriate URL of:

Jay Baer is the force behind the site and said last month on Google+ only this:

Soon, I am launching the search engine for podcasts about all things marketing and communications.

One of our key features will be podcast reviews (like Pitchfork, for you indie music geeks).

As readers probably know, I am a weekly contributor to the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast that focuses on the intersection of social media and public relations, business and marketing. I am a huge fan of audio podcasting, and FIR is just one of the podcasts to which I contribute. I also enjoy listening to podcasts... and so I'll be intrigued to see what Jay surfaces through this new site.

Right now you can just provide your email address to be notified when the site goes live. We'll see, hopefully soon, what it is all about!

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WordPress 4.0 Provides A MUCH Better Editing Experience!

Wp 40 focus on your contentWordPress 4.0 is out today and I am VERY pleased with one small but incredibly important tweak - when you are editing a long blog post or article in the browser window the formatting menu bar no longer scrolls off the screen! This may seem like a trivial point... but every day when I am in the Deploy360 site editing some of our longer documents, I spend a good bit of time scrolling the browser window back up to be able to use the formatting menu. This will be a huge time saver for me!

The other features in WordPress 4.0 are also cool. Being able to more easily work with the media library will be nice. Having the embeds automagically appear in the post without needing to preview will also help save time and let you know how the post will look. Improving the plugin directory is nice, too, although right now I'm pretty set with the plugins I need on my various sites.

It's the improved editing experience that I'm really looking forward to using more. I've already upgraded several of my sites and I like the experience so far. Tomorrow I'll upgrade Deploy360 which is where I expect to reap the biggest benefit.

What about you? Have you upgraded yet? Do you like it? (Keeping in mind that there is nothing special about WordPress "4.0" other than that it is the release between "3.9" and "4.1"... i.e. it's not a "big" release but rather just another "regular" WordPress release.)

Here's the WordPress 4.0 release video showing some of the new features:

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The Live Video Streaming Nightmare: What Do You Do When YouTube Won't Start? (And Lessons Learned)

What do you do if you go to start live video streaming of an event - and the streaming service you use won't start??? How do let people waiting to watch know? How do you fall back to another service?

Last month at the IETF 90 meeting in Toronto I experienced this nightmare of anyone doing live video streaming across the Internet. We had a presentation at noon on Thursday that we had widely publicized in social media and via email. The cameras were all set up. The producer was all ready to do the switching and encoding out to YouTube. Everything was good to go.

Then at 11:45am, I went to do my part in the process. I needed to login to the IETF YouTube account and basically click the "Start Streaming" button inside the "live event". At that point the YouTube servers would accept the encoded stream from the producer's gear and the stream would go live.

BUT... instead I got this message in a bright red bar across the top:

Ytl maintenance 500 The message read:

YouTube live is undergoing maintenance. Events cannot be created, started or stopped. Events already started will continue to stream uninterrupted.

Yes... we had no way to START the live video stream!

Over the next few minutes I kept refreshing that page but the warning stayed up there. I was getting rather nervous as the launch time approached!

Now, as it happened, we had already planned to have a second live video steam going out for the event through a different service,, for a different reason.

Why The IETF Uses YouTube For Live Video Streaming

To explain a bit more, we have been using Google's YouTube live video streaming for some of the larger IETF plenary sessions for five reasons:

1. The live video stream is available over both IPv4 and IPv6.

2. The stream works easily across pretty much all desktop and mobile devices.

3. Google's live streaming infrastructure seems able to scale to whatever capacity is needed.

4. The recording of the stream is immediately available after the event in the IETF's YouTube channel.

5. There is no cost for using the service beyond our local costs to produce the content (and no infrastructure that the IETF itself has to maintain).

Of these, really the most critical reason for using YouTube live streaming is the first - that it streams out over IPv6.

The IETF is the organization behind the IPv6 specification and has declared that all new IETF standards need to incorporate IPv6. Therefore in the spirit of "eating your own dog food" the IETF tries to use services that work over IPv6 whenever possible. Other live video streaming services have met the reasons 2-5 above, but not the #1 reason of working over IPv6.

We have specifically been using what Google used to call "YouTube Live" but now seems to just be calling "YouTube live events" versus Google's newer "Hangouts On Air (HOA)". These YouTube live events are events you schedule in advance and can use with advanced video encoders. An advantage is that these events provide streaming configuration info that I can provide in advance to the company running the audio and video at the event so that they can be prepared in advance. YouTube also helpfully provides a countdown timer for people visiting the event page. We haven't switched to using HOAs because they haven't yet provided the advance configuration information we want.

Anyway it has all worked well for live streaming out plenary sessions for a couple of years now.

Google Doesn't Live Stream Into Germany

However, as we discovered again that week.... Google will not stream live video into Germany! It seems Google has a legal dispute with a German intellectual property rights organization (GEMA) and Google has decided that rather than run into trouble with GEMA they will simply NOT allow live streaming into Germany.

So, alerted to this issue by some IETF remote participants in Germany who were unable to watch the live video streams of the technical plenary earlier in the week, we had arranged to also stream this Thursday session out over the Internet Society's account. Now, unfortunately it would not be available over IPv6 because still only works on legacy IPv4 networks, but did not have the streaming restrictions Google had and so at least people could view the stream in Germany. As a bonus, all the "subscribers" to the Internet Society's channel would also get notified and potentially be able to watch the stream - but the primary reason was so that people in Germany could watch the video stream.

The great thing about IETF meetings is that a massive amount of Internet connectivity is brought into the meeting hotel (because you have 1,200+ engineers who do most of their work across the Internet!) and so there are NO bandwidth problems for streaming. We could probably stream out to a dozen different live streaming services simultaneously if we set up our local software/equipment to do so.

Making The Alternate Stream The Primary Stream

The good news for us was that this "alternative" live video stream set up purely for viewers in Germany could now become the primary video stream. I rapidly updated the Google+ "event page" for this session to note the new URL for streaming and we spread the word through IETF social media channels and email lists. It wasn't 100% seamless but we were able to get people watching the live video stream.

We were also able to direct people to some of the other IETF remote meeting participation mechanisms, including audio streaming and a conferencing system called "Meetecho" that streamed the slides and lower webcam-quality video.

Throughout the hour-long event I kept checking the Live Control Room inside of YouTube to see if we could start the original stream, but we were never able to do so. A couple of times the red warning box went away, but we could not establish a connection from YouTube's streaming service to our equipment on the ground there in Toronto. Finally, as the time went on it became clear that the connection wasn't going to happen and so I just gave up trying.

The good news is that the producer was also making a local copy of the stream that we would be able to upload later to the IETF's YouTube channel.

Lessons Learned

I took away from this experience three primary lessons for all future live streaming sessions. Do note, too, that I think of these as generic lessons for all live streaming services and events. It happens that this time the failure was with Google's YouTube live events service, but the failure could have been with, Google's Hangouts On Air, Ustream or any of the many other live video streaming services out there.

1. Always Promote An Event Page Separate From The Streaming Service

We were able to rapidly redirect people to the new location of the live video stream in large part because we had been promoting the Google+ event page as the place to go to watch the live stream. We had promoted this on the IETF's Twitter account, Facebook page, Google+ page and also over various IETF email lists and on various other websites. All the promotion pointed people to this page.

So the good news was that all we had to do was update this page with the new info and people could switch over to watch the new stream.

We had NOT been promoting the direct YouTube link for the stream. Had we done so, we could have still updated the page through editing the description of the YouTube video and/or leaving comments - but it would not have necessarily been as easy for visitors to see.

Promoting a separate page was a deliberate choice I made based on some previous bad experiences with live streaming where I had to stop a streaming session and restart with a brand new URL. For that reason I've been promoting a separate page.

In fact, for the IETF Plenary sessions, we've been promoting a separate page under IETF control on the IETF website - - where we can embed the live stream video and also keep the page updated. At the IETF meeting it is possible for me or someone else to easily go in and update that page. Plus it is a very simple URL that we can promote widely.

I don't honestly remember why we didn't use the page to stream out this Thursday morning sponsor presentation other than that the decision to live stream the session happened the day before and for whatever reason we went with a Google+ Event page as the page to promote.

Next time we'll probably promote the page.

The key point is that you have a page separate from the live streaming service where you can post updates.

2. Have An Alternate Live Stream Either Active Or Ready To Go

As I mentioned previously, in this case we happened to be set up with a second live stream out through purely because we wanted to test the live streaming into Germany. Had remote IETF participants in Germany not asked about this after being unable to view the earlier technical plenary, we wouldn't have had this second stream active.

Next time, we will have a second live streaming service either active or at least on standby ready to go.

At the IETF meetings, we have the luxury of having an insane amount of bandwidth and so there are not the typical connectivity constraints you find in meeting venues. The software and equipment our producer was using could go out to multiple live streaming services. There is really no reason we can't run multiple streams.

For the IETF we still have the IPv6 requirement, which unfortunately does not yet meet. However, it occurred to us after the session that we could have streamed to a Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) as that would have also streamed out over IPv6 in addition to IPv4. Of course, that would mean relying on two Google services and so you run the risk of having the technical issues affecting one live streaming service also affecting the other - plus there was the whole "streaming into Germany" thing.

We'll definitely keep investigating what other live streaming services may work over IPv6. There are a good number of live video streaming services out there and the number seems to be growing. The company producing the video stream for us also had their own streaming server that we might be able to use as a backup, too. And, yes, we can also have an IPv4-only streaming service available if everything else falls through.

Now, in non-IETF environments where I do have to worry about bandwidth constraints, I will at least have a plan for how I can rapidly spin up a second stream if the first one fails. That's really the key point. What is Plan B and how fast can you make it happen?

3. Have Access To Relevant Social Media Accounts And Other Methods Of Letting People Know

This is perhaps a subset of Lesson #1, but another critical part of our success in redirecting people to the second live stream was that we had access to the relevant social media accounts and other means of spreading the word. I had access to the IETF Google+ page and could make the updates there. Someone else was able to send out a tweet with the new link to the live stream. An email was sent out to all attendees and to other relevant email lists letting them know about the link.

The key point is that when we updated the event page with the new information, we could let people know!

In The End...

... the session was streamed live across the Internet. It was recorded and made available for later viewing. And... we learned a few lessons to make sure our live streaming infrastructure is more resilient next time so that this potential "nightmare" becomes nothing more than just a minor bump and redirection.

What about you? If you do live video streaming what steps have you taken to ensure you can keep streaming in cases like this?

I also recorded an audio commentary about this situation:

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