De-nuct-ifying the world


I've had a strange experience over the past year, and it's getting more common. As a developer, I used to be the one recommending software/tech things to my friends. Now all my non-technical friends have started recommending things to me that they have discovered on the intar-web. The trouble is, they're almost all closed systems - apparently free, but under the control of one group.

It started with Skype. Then xanga. And most recently it's been facebook. The speed with which facebook has spread amongst various of our friends is impressive. Some things about it are really good too - they're beginning to understand the sorts of things you can do with the Web.

But it's hard to explain that these sorts of things are the point of the Web as a Whole, rather than being a neat idea that can only work on a particular site. No-one understands the negative effects of a closed network. Or even more, the potential positive effects they're missing. Part of the problem is vocabulary - if you don't even have words to encapsulate the concepts to communicate, it's hard to argue for something. Open and closed networks are clear concepts to me but it's nice to embellish them somewhat.

So here's my attempt: A closed network utility under the control of one group that doesn't let you federate is called a nuct (a Network Utility Control Trap - don't let them innuct you into it). If you encounter one, you need a way of interacting with it that doesn't suck you in. The point of closed systems is of course, to prevent this.

But no-one seems to be doing the work required to break these things open. We need a nuct-cracker suite (drum roll)

  • open APIs to access data locked up in closed networks
    • a suite for different kinds of apps
    • social networks - same API to different ones
  • plugins to open source open standards programs to interoperate with those network
    • e.g. plugin to Gaim to control Skype
  • open source servers with open APIs to replace the closed networks
  • deploy and let the network effect take place

The trouble with tech pseudo-values: they're not the gospel. So on the one hand there comes a limit to avoiding things that would help good friendships because I think they could be done better. But more simply, I don't have enough time to actually create the online world the way I want it to be...

Is anyone doing something like this?

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