The Mine! Project

open source project for online data and relationships logistics

Mine! Video Roundup!

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We’ve had a lot of conferences recently, and two of them yielded videos! We’re hosting them on YouTube nowadays, so they tend to come in 10-minute chapters, hopefully that won’t interfere with the message too much.

First was BarCamp Antwerp, with Mathias Baert presenting in Flemish/Dutch an introduction to the Mine and Pymine:

Second was Alec Muffett at DJUGL London – this time in English, with a review of the project, goals, and pymine development up to February 2010:

We’ll add more videos and content when they arise! :-)

February Update!

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Well, it’s been ages. Too long, really, and I apologise.

A lot has been going on with The Mine Project, notably Pymine development – the core codebase is being refactored and (I hate to put it like this) is almost back to the state of functionality where it was in December — however it’s now half the size, considerably more capable, and in a position to be grown in the future without being tragic.

The main changes were to the Django database model; by the nature of Django this was the first code that I wrote for pymine, and thus was the most complex and arcane in some senses; it is now considerably simplified, although it will help to send mail to the maillist if you’re looking to delve into it.

Last weekend we had out first code-camp, in Chelsea; Mathias Baert came from Brussels for an overnight stay, and was hacking JavaScript all weekend; Ketan worked with Mathias, Adriana and me all saturday afternoon and evening, and after considerable thrashing-out of some open questions, the eventual UI will be in a much better state for users.

The development UI, OTOH, is still a bit rough. Mathias and I are trying-out a new JavaScript tagging widget which will make life better.

Upcoming news:

  • TheMineProject will be presented at DJUGL – the London Django User Group, on Thursday February 25th
  • Mathias will be presenting on TheMineProject at BarCamp Antwerp on March 6th

More news as time warrants; I will try to update more frequently, I promise.

Stripmining The User: DataPortability, The “Pragmatic” Web, And A Bad Philosophy

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Just posted at my blog:

Stripmining The User: DataPortability, The “Pragmatic” Web, And A Bad Philosophy

A little too ranty to post here, I feel, but pertinent.

A small lesson on user adoption

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Whenever people ask me: And how are you going to drive adoption of Mine!? My answer is: by not driving it… but by tapping into the kind of things people already do and are used to doing more and more. So a conclusion from a McKinsey article by Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar, describing how web and communications technologies gave rise to his company’s innovative business model, resonated with me:

Despite the advances that Zipcar has been able to make by leveraging technology, none of this would be relevant without the preexisting level of comfort with and use of technology by consumers and businesses. People are ready to try a self-serve car because they have become comfortable with self-service banking and self-serve checkouts. I doubt people would be comfortable reserving and paying for the use of a car on the Web if they hadn’t already done similar e-commerce transactions, like having DVDs delivered by Netflix or buying an airline ticket online that allows them to check in at a self-service kiosk. And when it comes to FastFleet, I doubt whether businesses and governments would consider outsourcing fleet-management systems if they hadn’t already outsourced e-mail, Web hosting, and other mission-critical applications.

So we are designing for the few who needs Mine!, not the ‘most people’, ‘my granny’, ‘the great unwashed’, ‘demographic of your choice’. That starts with me – I want it, I need it, I can’t wait to use it. Preferrably by yesterday! Along the way, a few other people have seen the point and want the same. If all of them start using Mine! for their purposes and it works for them, it’s a success, because their use will improve it for the next level of users who don’t need to understand or subscribe to the whole vision and philosophical underpinnings of the Mine! project. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I prefer to think of adoption as something that happens from an epicenter in a style of a heatwave or, more gently, a stone dropped into water. In networks, this works much better than driven adoption that often misses its target.

Heatwave

Heatwave

Stone in water

Personal data: the user control currency – VRM workshop panel discuss

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Later today I’ll be on a panel at the VRM Workshop in Boston, remotely joining the discussion about personal data, its analysis and what it means for VRM.. and me as individual user.

Twitter analytics for individual users

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Lifehacker founder, Gina Trapani, has been working on an interesting new Twitter app:

Tentatively called Twitalytic, it’s a self-hosted web-based application that grabs your tweets, archives them, and uses them to give your some interesting data about the people you follow and those who follow you.

This is the kind of analytical functionality that I think is missing on the web, available to individual users, for their benefit. Informed user is a better user and the more I can play with my data, the more I find out about my behaviour, the more understanding and hopefully autonomy I can have.

Open, distributed and yours…

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What with FriendFeed selling out to Facebook, the less those of us who have been harping on about user autonomy, self-hosted or user-owned apps and technology look like online equivalent of survivalists.

The prospect of a distributed, interoperable, self-hosted network of publishing, reading and discussion tools is nothing new – but the idea is gaining a lot more support as more people react to recent news like FriendFeed’s sale to Facebook, Tr.im’s up and down and Twitter’s denial of service attacks. The tide may not be turning, but there’s sure to be some new waves of innovation that come out of this period of frustration.

Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web does a good job of explaining why blogging and a WordPress type platform won’t be enough to replace services like Twitter. Yes, it publishing & distribution vs communication and relationships.

If we all had a little piece of our microblogging network on our own servers and they spoke to each other, that couldn’t happen.

We’d also own our own data, our archives, our interface design and more. It would be like publishing little messages… like grown ups.

Indeed. Identi.ca has been designed to do precisely that – though you don’t get your stuff automatically, unless you federate and use your own server to install Laconica but it’s already a giant leap for microblogging.

There are two more interesting items mentioned in the post – The Push Button Web and the DiSo project. We have looked at both and in short, the first depends too much on an intermediary, namely PubSubHubBub (obviously a lot depends on who can be such a hub and then the reality of who would be) and the other depends too much on a new XML based data standard.

Anyway, what’s worth noting is this conclusion:

Are all of these circumstances and conversations going to push the social web over the edge, toward a more distributed and less centralized model? Probably not in a big way, immediately, but we’re pretty sure that some interesting innovation is going to come out of this. Dissatisfied engineers, working on a problem that a lot of people are interested in, can produce some fun and important work.

Dissatisfied engineers and hopefully growing number of users, might provide momentum for an alternative, distributed approach to online communication and data logistics. This is where Mine! comes in. And although Mine! hasn’t been conceived for communication, it will also serve as a platform that belongs to the user.

Alec often describes Mine! as “asocial” software, not because it cannot be networked and connected to others but because it offers the user the option to withdraw from the network and join on his/her own terms.

Chrome OS and the Mine!

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My friend Jim wrote, regarding Google’s Chrome OS:

It’s an interesting idea – a distro where the only app is the browser – but it’s not really anything new; it’s just another iteration of the thin client idea. Of course, it might be the right iteration this time.

It also rather goes against a lot of the ideas people like Alec and Adriana are coming up with – ideas of owning one’s own data are rather scuppered by every application running on some anonymous server somewhere. Maybe, after a while, users of Chrome OS will start to buy UI-less home servers to run their apps on and store their data.

Maybe we need a UI-less distribution of Linux, running Apache (or whatever) and a whole bunch of open source webapps – word processing, spreadsheets – and, of course, a Mine! server.

…and I responded in the comments, but alas his homebrew blog software ate my formatting:

ideas of owning one’s own data are rather scuppered by every application running on some anonymous server somewhere

Unless it’s yours :-)

I’m not worried by more and more browsers; I am watching my colleagues realise that all the blogs they have on blogs.sun.com are rather a single point of failure and that their continued publication is at the whim of Larry Ellison. Suddenly people are really really interested in the means of exporting and transporting their blog to another platform, which would not be an issue was the software under their control. I’ve had three people say they now understand why I’ve always been blogging elsewhere…

As a counterpoint, go browse “Opera Unite” which is really interesting; presented as a way for you to take back ownership your data, it is in fact a truly remarkable way for Opera to host (read: “cache and serve”) your data on the Web in a way that gives them a degree of control; as an Eminence Grise for the “empowered user” it would present an interesting attack on Google’s stranglehold of free services and cloud data.

All theMineProject seeks to do is go a step further and expunge the middleman.

a distro where the only app is the browser

Anyone here remember HotJava? :-)

I like the idea of more browsers. The browser is the new end-user platform – anyone who’s not realised this yet has not been paying attention.

The important thing is to maintain diversity this time around, and not let a single vendor take 90% of the installed base.

The Mine! Project – Google Tech Talk Part 2

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Back in April, when Adriana and I visited the Bay area, we did a lunchtime talk about the Mine! project at Google. Here is the second part; apologies for the delay in posting it, there were more slides to sync audio against, in my half.

The Mine! Project – Google Tech Talk Part 1

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Back in April, when Alec and I visited the Bay area, we did a lunch time talk about the Mine! project at Google. Here is the first part:

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