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I'm not sure when I first logged onto I'm pretty sure it was after my friend Greg Grossmeier signed on that I created my account "". I started following people that I knew in the FLOSS (Free / Libre Open Source Software) community. But I also started following other folks on there as well. The public stream moved at a ticker-tape crawl (not like the Twitter public stream which moved faster than you could read). But it was exciting to be part of something new. is a federated social network created by Evan Prodromou. What that means is each node of the network operates independently. So I could start my own instance at and build my own community of users. You could join any of the other instances out there and interact with the folks on that community of users. The federated part is that each of the users on these systems can then follow each other. So if Bob is at the instance I can follow

Also Statusnet, the software that powered and the other instances was released under the GPL license. That meant that anyone could hack on it and spin up their own version of the software.

At the time this was unheard of. Twitter was just hitting critical mass and having some growing pains trying to figure out their next move. And, as Twitter is wont to do they made some controversial decisions.

The first explosion of accounts came like a wave. Many folks hopped onto for a variety of reasons. Some were looking for the next big thing, some looking for what Twitter wasn't giving them. Some were just following Robert Scoble and Leo Laporte. Whatever the reason they were populating the instance and conversations blossomed.

Over time folks faded back to Twitter. tended to get these waves of people who checked out the service, but then realized they had different conversations on than they did on Twitter.

I remember Steve Gilmor co-organized a conference about and the future of social media. I remember watching the live-stream of the proceedings. Steve seemed more interested in ensuring that these services had "the firehose" like Twitter had. The firehose was the entire public stream of Twitter. had it, but each instance had its own public stream. So in order to get all of the traffic out there you'd have to poll each of the instances for their public feed.

It was a strange conference to look at, with multiple people having their own ideas of how social media would work. Steve seemed interested as a journalist for having a stream to research and investigate. Others were looking for how to monetize this technology.

I think we're still trying to wrestle with those questions.

But over time the instances grew quiet for various reasons. Folks migrated back to Twitter, and admins realized that administrating communities of people is hard work. went through a re-write to use a new protocol. Previously it used a protocol that is now known as OStatus. The new protocol is ActivityPub. ActivityPub was a better protocol than OStatus, but sadly it hasn't caught on.

Eventually Evan moved on to other endeavors and / was no longer his focus. There have been several attempts to keep the service running but as of this writing is down.

But what's great about the GPL is others can take the software and use it to build their own platforms. There are currently two major forks of the code / protocols. GNUSocial is closely related to the old StatusNet software. The other is Mastodon, which is a complete re-write of the code in Ruby.

Right now I'm seeing a migration of users from Twitter over to Mastodon. They all have their own reasons. For some the bullying on Twitter is unbearable. For others the racism. Whatever the reasons they're searching for alternatives.

It's like all over again. Maybe they'll stay and set up roots. Maybe they'll just pass through like the others.

Whatever the reasons I'm glad that still lives on.

(If you would like to take a peek at Mastodon check out for more information. And follow me

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67 days ago
I joined way back in 2008 and have stayed with it (and StatusNet, then GnuSocial ever since). There have been several waves of people joining the fediverse and, after each wave, many drift back to proprietary platforms but a few stay and the open web gets a bit bigger. I suspect the same will happen with Mastodon.
68 days ago
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Wikimedia’s open source software community launches Code of Conduct for technical spaces

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Photo by Tyssul Patel, public domain/CC0.

We are proud to announce that the Wikimedia technical community has approved a Code of Conduct (CoC) that promotes a respectful, diverse, and welcoming environment in Wikimedia technical spaces. The CoC is a policy that creates clear expectations for how community members should interact, encouraging respectful and productive dialogue. It also describes how people can easily report behavior that does not meet these expectations.

Codes of conduct have become more popular recently in technology organizations and online communities, which have long grappled with how to ensure that everyone feels safe and respected in technical spaces on and offline. Like many other online communities, the Wikimedia technical community has been affected by harassment and other toxic behavior.  Harassment harms individuals, limits the potential for creativity and open collaboration, and discourages new contributors. Many in the Wikimedia movement, including the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees, have made a commitment to help create a healthier and more inclusive Wikimedia community. The new code of conduct is an important step in mitigating harassment and creating a space where everyone feels welcome to participate in the Wikimedia technical community.

How we built it

To address the problem, professionals and volunteers in the community developed a policy through an open, collaborative drafting process.  This took place both online and at events like Wikimania conferences and the 2016 Developer Summit.  In other communities, drafting a code of conduct often involves fewer people, and decisions might be made by a project leader or  governing board. We instead used a deeply participatory approach, as has been used for other policy discussions in the Wikimedia movement. More than 140 editors participated in the public discussions, collectively contributing 2,718 edits to the discussion page. Others provided anonymous feedback.

Work began at a public Wikimania session in July 2015, in Mexico City. Developing policies to address harmful behavior in this community was a daunting task. Although codes of conduct have become increasingly common in free/open source software projects, Wikimedia’s technical spaces posed several specific challenges. For example, the CoC needed to address the needs and concerns of volunteers as well as Wikimedia Foundation employees. It needed to be enforceable, to ensure that technical community members would have a safe and welcoming space to contribute.  Finally, those who would be enforcing it needed to be trained in commonly encountered abusive dynamics, so that they could address CoC violations effectively and without further escalating the situation.  It was important, for instance, to include language deterring false or retaliatory reports. This is part of how we sought to protect victims from potential misuse of the policy.

We benefited from existing work, building on policies such as the Contributor Covenant, Wikimedia’s Friendly Space Policy, and the Citizen Code of Conduct.  We also benefited from expert advice and the support of the Support & Safety, Talent & Culture, and Legal teams at the Wikimedia Foundation. We expanded on these existing policies in order to meet our community’s specific needs.  Through detailed conversations, we resolved complicated issues, while focusing on how to make the Wikimedia technical community a better place for everyone to participate.

The Wikimedia technical community approved the CoC this March, concluding a 19-month process.  The Code of Conduct Committee recently began their work, after a community feedback process.  The Committee’s job is to receive reports, assess them, and determine how to respond.  For instance, they might issue warnings or enact temporary bans.

Reactions and reuse

“For over a year, Wikimedia Foundation staff and volunteer contributors have invested time and energy to develop a code of conduct that meets the unique needs of Wikimedia technical spaces and reflects the value our movement shares in respectful, open collaboration,” said Victoria Coleman, Chief Technology Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation. “This work is critical to creating welcoming, inclusive spaces for participation across the Wikimedia projects.”

Community members have welcomed the new policy.  “I applaud Wikimedia for posting a Code of Conduct and appointing a Committee to handle concerns,” said Anna Liao, a MediaWiki developer and Outreachy participant. “If I am ever the target of unacceptable behaviour or I witness it amongst others, there is a pathway to address these issues.”

Moritz Schubotz, a volunteer developer working on MediaWiki’s Math functionality, added that some situations “require the creation and enforcement of this CoC, to keep our working space nice and pleasant.”

The CoC is meant to set behavioral norms and create cultural change.  It shows how we seek to grow as a community, and we hope it increases people’s comfort and desire to join and participate more.

“No matter how open the community is, it should have a code of conduct,” technical volunteer Greta Doçi told us. “It promotes moral behavior, prevents negative legal effects, encourages positive relationships, and acts as a reference for solving ethical dilemmas.”

We encourage others, within the Wikimedia movement or elsewhere, to consider how a code of conduct or anti-harassment policy can strengthen their own community.  The policy itself is also open source for anyone to reuse and adapt.

Matthew Flaschen, Senior Software Engineer, Collaboration, Wikimedia Foundation
Moriel Schottlender, Software Engineer, Collaboration, Wikimedia Foundation
Frances Hocutt, Wikimedia community member and former Foundation staff

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71 days ago
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Victory at the Fourth Circuit: Court of Appeals allows Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA to proceed


Photo by Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0.

Today, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, handed down its decision in Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency, holding that the Wikimedia Foundation may further pursue our claims against the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and other defendants. This marks an important victory for the privacy and free expression rights of Wikimedia users.

We joined eight co-plaintiffs in filing this lawsuit in March 2015, to challenge government mass surveillance and stand up for the privacy and free expression rights of Wikimedia users. The lawsuit specifically targets the NSA’s Upstream surveillance practices, which capture communications crossing the internet backbone. The free exchange of knowledge is threatened when Wikimedia users fear being watched as they search, read, or edit the Wikimedia projects.

Back in October 2015, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed the case for lack of standing, a legal concept referring to a plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate that they have suffered an injury that the courts can redress. We promptly appealed the case to the Fourth Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit’s decision is complex: the Court vacated the lower court’s ruling with respect to the Wikimedia Foundation, and remanded the case back to the District of Maryland for further proceedings. A 2-1 majority found that the Wikimedia Foundation demonstrated standing in the case, but that the other plaintiffs did not. The dissenting judge would have found that all nine plaintiffs had standing. We, our co-plaintiffs, and our counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will carefully review the opinion and determine the next steps for our case.

This marks an important step forward in Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, and a victory for upholding the rights of privacy and free expression for Wikimedia users. We stand ready to continue this fight. A more detailed blog post, with further information about the case and opinion is forthcoming, and we will keep members of the Wikimedia communities updated on the lawsuit. For more information about mass surveillance, Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, and our other efforts to protect user privacy, please see our resources page about the case, or visit the ACLU.

Jim Buatti, Legal Counsel
Aeryn Palmer, Legal Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

Special thanks to all who have supported us in this litigation, including the ACLU’s Patrick Toomey, Alex Abdo, and Ashley Gorski; and Aarti Reddy, Patrick Gunn, and Ben Kleine of our pro bono counsel Cooley, LLP; and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Zhou Zhou.

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86 days ago
Chicago, IL, USA
91 days ago
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“There’s way worse videos”: Today’s students on Rodney King


Originally posted at Gin & Tacos.

If you want to feel old, teach. That movie quote is not wrong: You get older, the students stay the same age.

Your cultural references are all dated, even when you think things are recent (ex., The Wire is already ancient history. You might as well reference the Marx Brothers). You reference major historical events that they’ve sort-of heard of but know essentially nothing about (ex. the Cold War, Vietnam, the OJ Simpson trial, etc.) You do the math and realize that they were 3 when 9-11 happened. And of course it only gets worse with time. You get used to it.

One of the saddest moments I ever had in a classroom, though, involved Rodney King and the LA Riots. We just passed the 25th anniversary of those events that left such a mark on everyone who lived through them. Of course “25th Anniversary” is a bold warning that students, both college and K-12, will have only the vaguest sense of what the proper nouns refer to. A few semesters ago in reference to the Michael Brown / Ferguson incident I mentioned Rodney King in an Intro to American Government class. I got the blank “Is that a thing we are supposed to know?” look that I have come to recognize when students hear about something that happened more than six months ago. “Rodney King?” More blinking. “Can someone tell why the name Rodney King is important?”

One student, god bless her, raised her hand. I paraphrase: “He was killed by the police and it caused the LA Riots.” I noted that, no, he did not die, but the second part of the statement was indirectly true. God bless technology in the classroom – I pulled up the grainy VHS-camcorder version of the video, as well as a transcript of the audio analysis presented at trial. We watched, and then talked a bit about the rioting following the acquittal of the LAPD officers at trial. They kept doing the blinking thing. I struggled to figure out what part of this relatively straightforward explanation had managed to confuse them.

“Are there questions? You guys look confused.”

Hand. “So he was OK?”

“He was beaten up pretty badly, but, ultimately he was. He died a few years ago from unrelated causes (note: in 2012).”

Hand. “It’s kind of weird that everybody rioted over that. I mean, there’s way worse videos.” General murmurs of agreement.

“Bear in mind that this was pre-smartphone. People heard rumors, but it this was the first instance of the whole country actually seeing something like this as it happened. A bystander just happened to have a camcorder.” Brief explanation, to general amusement, of what an Old Fashioned camcorder looked like. Big, bulky, tape-based. 18-year-olds do not know this.

I do believe they all understood, but as that day went on I was increasingly bothered by that that brief exchange meant. This is a generation of kids so numb to seeing videos of police beating, tasering, shooting, and otherwise applying the power of the state to unarmed and almost inevitably black or Hispanic men that they legitimately could not understand why a video of cops beating up a black guy (who *didn’t even die* for pete’s sake!) was shocking enough to cause a widespread breakdown of public order. Now we get a new video every week – sometimes every few days – to the point that the name of the person on the receiving end is forgotten almost immediately. There are too many “Video of black guy being shot or beaten” videos for even interested parties to keep them all straight. Do a self test. Do you remember the name of the guy the NYPD choked out for selling loose cigarettes? The guy in suburban Minneapolis whose girlfriend posted a live video on Facebook after a cop shot her boyfriend in the car? The guy in Tulsa who was surrounded by cops and unarmed while a police helicopter recorded an officer deciding to shoot him? The woman who was found hanged in her Texas jail cell leading to the public pleas to “Say Her Name”?

These kids have grown up in a world where this is background noise. It is part of the static of life in the United States. Whether these incidents outrage them or are met with the usual excuses (Comply faster, dress differently, be less Scary) the fact is that they happen so regularly that retaining even one of them in long term memory is unlikely. To think about Rodney King is to imagine a reality in which it was actually kind of shocking to see a video of four cops kicking and night-sticking an unarmed black man over the head repeatedly. Now videos of police violence are about as surprising and rare as weather reports, and forgotten almost as quickly once passed.

Ed is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Midwestern Liberal Arts University. He writes about politics at Gin & Tacos.

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99 days ago
102 days ago
Mountain View, California
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What I Told the FCC


I think that new FCC proposal for “Restoring Internet Freedom” would completely destroy the internet. Should this proposal go any further, the internet will no longer be recognizable within a very short amount of time. I’m worried that I will no longer have a place on the internet because my internet activity and work isn’t designed to invade people’s homes and privacy to sell them things they don’t need. Non-profits on the internet are dead.

This proposal is entirely rent-seeking by big ISPs. ISPs will make more money without providing any additional service for users, and the FCC would be enabling it all.

Big Disclaimer

This is a post where I feel it is important to make absolutely clear that my views are my own and do not represent the views of my employer(s past or present)

My comments to the FCC

The FCC has opened their proposal to public comment and I encourage you to do so.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am a Colorado resident and I’ve worked as an internet engineer for my entire professional career (small disclaimer that my views are my own and do not represent those of my employer), and I’m worried that new FCC rules may allow large ISPs to destroy the internet.

The current state of the internet is possible because ISPs aren’t selling tiers of websites to their users. If we create internet fast-lanes, then we create a tiered internet. This is currently the way cable channels already work: if you just want CNN and ESPN you can pay one amount, but if you want HBO you pay a little more. The problem is that the internet is constantly in flux, there are constantly new websites being built. This is a major driver of economic growth and is good for everyone who uses the internet.

If you start offering internet fast-lanes, internet tiers become possible: if you just want Facebook and Google then you pay one amount, but if you want Wikipedia you pay a little more. Ipso facto, Wikipedia is unavailable to a portion of the internet population.

There may be those who make the argument that this is how the free market works: if Wikipedia were good, people would be willing to pay more for it; however, this artificial choice between Google and Wikipedia is only made possible by a perversion of the design of the internet. Bits of information are bits of information, an ISP is arguing that websites should pay more while it offers the same service. ISPs want Netflix to pay more than Google for them to move 100 bytes from the internet backbone to your houuse. Moving 100 bytes from the backbone to someone’s house, the so-called “last mile”, is same amount of work whether those bytes are from Google or Netflix so why should Netflix have to pay more?

Meanwhile, large ISPs that move bits from the internet backbone over the “last mile” do not compete with one another by means of designed but unspoken collusion. The suggestion that an internet user should have to choose between Google and my blog is being made by companies that make all of their money by rent-seeking and now demand more money for less service. Consumers are not being protected, only ISP shareholders are.

This proposal has the net-effect of censoring the internet so that only websites that have enough money to pay protection fees to ISPs will be available to people. This proposal is censorship that stifles freedom and innovation and will destroy the internet.

/me drops mic.

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106 days ago
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The post 2017-03-17 appeared first on Kickstand Comics featuring Yehuda Moon.

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138 days ago
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