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Own Your Identity (marco.org)
226 points by thisisblurry on July 12, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

One of the most valuable parts of an online identity is the attention you receive from other people. Social networks make getting attention more efficient. In this way, proprietary tools do a lot to enrich your online identity.

For me, this is a great tradeoff. For example, I'm happy to put my pictures on Facebook because my family and friends see those pictures and leave comments that I enjoy. In comparison, my local copies feel like those dusty old photo albums in my parents' basement that nobody ever opens.

As he mentions in the post, this is from one of the creators of Tumblr, who's elevator pitch at this point is "a social network that gives users control of their identity". It is one of the easiest ways for someone to practice what he's preaching.

Still, the people who are converting everything over to Google+ aren't crazy (well, they are a little bit, no search and no RSS is kinda a big deal). The design of G+, particularly the permalink pages, does a good job of making the first thing you see the actual content, not the fact that it is on G+.

Also worth noting, he's no longer using Tumblr for Marco.org: http://www.marco.org/secondcrack

And, as discussed in his podcast - Build and Analyze http://5by5.tv/buildanalyze/18 (ep. 18), this has nothing to do with Marco developing a sudden aversion to Tumblr and everything to do with his desire to be able to roll his own CMS as he has been doing since far before that CMS turned into Tumblr.

Ah, correct, this makes more sense now.

Funny. "30 reasons you'll love Tumblr" says:

"Custom domains

Use your own domain name.

Turn marco.tumblr.com into www.marco.org"

'owning it' doesn't mean your own domain. you are only leasing that domain name until you either no longer pay for it or the government in control feels you no longer deserve access to it.

While you hit on a genuine problem, there are far fewer legal barriers to Google, Facebook, Twitter or Microsoft terminating your account than for US ICE to seize your .com and .org; ICE needs a warrant for seizure and more to retain indefinitely. Further, you can always get a non U.S. domain, e.g. .ch (Swiss) as used by Wikileaks.

That's unless you live in a country where it's becoming commonplace to filter out DNS. I'm honestly hesitant to have my online identity be obliterated at a whim by some reckless government of mine (France); they won't seize my dotsomething, but they will legally be able to block it out of existence, nationwide, without even the order from a judge. In that case, there are actually more legal barriers to Google terminating my gmail account on my government behalf than being blacklisted.

That's a little sensationalist, don't you think? What are the chances "the government" takes away your domain name? It's happened to an incredibly small percentage of domain-owners, I would guess.

It's not the point that the chance is low. The point is that there is any chance at all. No government should be allowed to seize domains. Ever.

That's just as sensationalist.

Most people agree that there is a balance between the rights of individuals to do what they want, and the rights of the government to stop them if society benefits. For example, almost everyone agrees that the police shouldn't have unlimited power to search anyone they want. But almost no one argues that they should have no power to search people - just that a balance needs to be struck.

Your just using ad populum here. That's not an argument. There is no benefit for anyone to be gained through domain seizures. It's just another gateway to censorship.

Besides, you got the part about rights of individuals wrong. The right to do what you want doesn't stop where the government thinks it should. It's where you start infringing on another individuals right to what he or she wants.

"There is no benefit for anyone to be gained through domain seizures. It's just another gateway to censorship."

See, that's where you lose me. If you take a moderate position, like "the benefits of keeping domains free outweigh the benefits of domain seizures", you might have a point.

But saying "there is no benefit for anyone" [emphasis mine] is clearly, demonstrably false. If a website contains instructions on making bombs, there is some benefit in taking it down. If a website contains lists of hitmen for hire, there is some benefit in taking it down. Even if the website only contains copyrighted material, there is some benefit to someone (the copyright holders) in taking it down.

You can stick to your "censorship is always always always evil" stance, but you'll likely find few people willing to seriously consider it.

That is why you use namecoin, the p2p domain name system. Unfortunately, it lacks adoption.

I hadn't heard of namecoin until you mentioned it. It looks interesting.

But shouldn't it be called bitname?

It's not just individuals that need to own their identity. I work with small businesses and have helped numerous clients move from @aol.com or @hotmail.com addresses to their own domains. And it's not just businesses, either. I have worked in third-world countries and seen governments print "countryforeignerregistration@yahoo.com" on official documents.

The only reason I don't own my identity online is that I've been too cheap to pay for domain registration. And that's an ever less meaningful excuse.

This is a pretty good excuse, actually. DNS means that your identity is still in the hands of someone else.

The only identity that you can really own is an asymmetric encryption key, but it won't allow people to find you.

unfortunately having a domain is not enough you have to be on twitter maybe youll have to be on g+ sometime soon too then you dont own it anymore

additionally, ive always worried about the fact that the dns registar generally own your dns and just let you use it for a fee.

Yes, for some reason we say we "own" our domains, but I always seem to have to renew my lease.

At least you have some rights under UDRP, but you have no rights on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr, as has been repeatedly demonstrated.

True, but you're not paying Google for your @gmail.com address, so you have less say, than if you are a paying customer.

its funny that i get minus karma for this post lol. but yeah id prefer some decentralized dns system where i would own my domain somehow

well then again, dns depends also on static ips which we dont really own. with ipv6 we can be one step closer to owning the ip without being an isp however. can also setup rdns more easily.

>dns depends also on static ips.

Not really, there's dynamic DNS. My home connection has a dynamic (well, semi-static) IP, so I use a dynamic DNS provider and a small monitoring utility to auto-update the IP when it changes.

No, I'm talking about hosting the DNS, that is, the DNS server, not the IP the DNS record points to. When you buy a DNS record you need a nameserver with a static IP to handle the DNS record. Then you can assign this record to dynamic IPs if you like. Technically the nameserver could also work on a dynamic IP, but practically this doesnt work out in this order.

Even blah.com depends on com and com depends on . (aka dot)

DNS being hierarchical, you never actually own the thing =/

There are decentralized DNS attempts tho

You have a point there. I went through all the trouble of owning my identity (I don't even use Gmail) and then someone told me that he can't read my blog unless I pipe it into Twitter, because he only reads Twitter now. Am I a free man or a crackpot? I'm not even sure any more.

That "someone" is doing far more harm than he realize. His refusal to use any syndication system but twitter is akin to a refusal to use any text messaging system but Facebook. (There is RSS on the one hand, and SMTP/XMPP on the other.)

People like this are powerful contributors to the network effect favourable to proprietary services like Twitter and Facebook. I know that true freedom is not easy (Postfix configuration through SSH is not for my mom). But one can at least use proprietary providers of open protocols.

Take his arguments farther and you reach Eben Moglen's (co-creator of free software licenses) goal of the FreedomBox, which would enable all to own all their data currently in the cloud.

The project is getting started. It's bold and far-reaching, but so was a free encyclopedia anyone could edit. This page http://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox gives more background and the videos it links to are inspirational.

If you agree with owning your identity, you may like what you read.

Interesting that he mentions Hotmail.

Hotmail addresses are indeed notorious for their lack of permanence. Last time I checked, if you do not log in for 270 days, your account is deleted, and your username is up for grabs. [1] If somebody else were to come along and take your username, they could easily gain access to your passwords that can be restored restored via e-mail, as well as your whole online identity.


1. http://www.redd.it/ej321

Well, that's his point: if he had simply trusted the best webmail provider, he would have ended up trusting Hotmail.

Going on a tangent, but hotmail is really good nowadays. My non-serious-mail-from-friends account is on hotmail, and it's as good as gmail, a bit better in some stuff and a bit worse in others.

But from a data portability standpoint:

+ Your contacts are easily exportable

- Non-webmail access: exchange-push protocol for smart phones, POP3 (aka Inbox-only), Outlook/OutlookExpress-only access (using, I presume, private APIs).

- If you decide to move your identity off of hotmail, you can't disable spam filtering, which combined with basically POP3-only access means you are forced to login to check you spam folder. At least with Gmail/GoogleApps you can use IMAP to automatically check/sync your spam folder, even though you can't turn off the filtering. The only plus here is that you can dial down the spam filter slightly, which you can't do on Google.

- Since access is POP3 only, the only way to export all of your email is to move all of it into your Inbox and pull it down (or alternate between moving a folder in and pulling it down, then sorting it on the other end back into folders).

Hotmail, despite improvements, is still terrible.

There are three (or 4) areas of action links on the page, to ensure that I never remember where the print button or Reply all button is.

It regularly junks emails from lists I'm subscribed to, apparently hitting "not junk" is not enough to mark it safe for next time?

The login page has a session that can expire - if I haven't logged in within five minutes of opening the login page, I get thrown backwards again for session expiration. Sometimes I consider not bothering attempting to re-log in.

Perhaps I've just been spoilt by Gmail.

Going on a tangent, but hotmail is really good nowadays.

I hope you're joking. Live Mail (which subsumed Hotmail) is atrocious, the interface sucks. Live Mail also doesn't do a good job of catching spam.

The only thing worse I've used interface-wise is Yahoo! Mail.

WHile part of Live mail the hotmail addresses are still valid. The interface while still not to my liking has improved to a usable level in the past year.

To give credit where it's due, the spam filtering has improved dramatically. I've used my hotmail account as a utility email account for at least ten years. I get several hundred spams a week. They are close to 100% in filtering accuracy for me but YMMV. The only problems I've had is that spammy things I've signed up for can be filtered the first time in.

If it sucks, can you give the name of five others that don't?

Yeah, hotmail just has a bad reputation because it was pretty average for a time, so people look down on others when they give out their @hotmail email address. I use it, mainly because it was what everyone used back when I created in high school. I have a gmail to but at my volume of email never really felt compelled to totally switch over.

Perhaps hotmail is fine. but to be honest, coming from the AIM generation, the biggest gmail pull for me is the fact that all my previous aim buddies are now on google chat. You might be able to tell me to move on, but i still love just siting down and doing the old "what are u doing, what are u doing" checking of statuses, that I grew up doing every day in high school and college... yeah FB and twitter took some of that, but I tend to have smaller, tighter circles of friends, and g-chat is still one of the best ways I keep up with close friends (fb and twitter are more "aquantiences" than friends u could say) now scattered all over the globe. And they are all there. game. set. match. google.

Well, I live in Argentina and here the default chat application is MSN. Since MSN from hotmail's page works exactly as good as gtalk from gmail, the reason you us gmail is aprt of the reason I use hotmail.

I still have a hotmail account that I check periodically, and while it may be ok in IE, it's a terrible experience in Chrome. All the AJAX interface is really slow to the point where you can easily end up deleting messages that aren't even the message that you're currently viewing. I have no idea how it is in Firefox, but, I don't care enough about my Hotmail account to bother using a different browser for it.

Consider giving it another shot (in Chrome, even). Hotmail has gotten a _lot_ faster in the past couple of months.

However, tumblr does not provide an easy way to export your content.

This makes it not viable as a blogging platform for me.

How about using the Tumblr2Wordpress tool by WooThemes? Granted, it's not the best thing but it would keep your data and you'd be able to migrate to a solution that's easily self-hosted.

Own your identity. Give all your data to Tumblr.

your content is in html, how is it not easy to export?

The problem is not the transport format - HTML is no worse than JSON or XML - it's the lack of a standard schema.

For e.g. Wordpress to import Tumblr blogs they need to write an importer just for Tumblr's format, whereas if Tumblr used a standard like RSS, WP could use a generalist importer.

Don't underestimate the value of standard formats; the transport mechanism (XML/JSON/HTML) is a small detail.

Yeah, writing that importer was certainly annoying. Tumblr's formats are nutty and weird.


Come on.

It would require non-trivial work to scrape the pages to get the html, set up parsing to handle different types of content, get into a format that could be imported into something else, etc. Not something I'm willing to spend my time setting up, and what about all the people who might want to export their tumblr content but can't program.

I wonder if TLD's will ever be perceived as government lock-in e.g. bit.ly, ow.ly, 3.ly are at the whims of Libya and yourname.com is subject to US legislation and enforcement. Great post and 100% agree.

Unfortuantely, we are all very vulnerable to malfeasance by governments, especially our own. Governments have done far worse things to their citizens than revoke their domains.

Going to post this here, since it seems relevant to tumblr discussion: http://spinor.tumblr.com/post/7113243594/decentralized-tumbl...

My issue is not being able to decide which domain name to use. My surname is complicated for people unfamiliar with it.

Buy your name and the common misspellings?

http://www.kevinrose.com/ should read this.

That is almost a counter example though, he has 32000 people in circles while g+ is still quiet limited. If g+ was to go away he could easily redirect the domain and build his core following back up fairly quickly.

This of course is a lot different for say a company that has worked very hard building up something like a Facebook following that while susceptible to marketing messages aren't likely to go out of their way to follow the company to whatever online presences they create.

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