n2liquid's sandbox

Archive for the ‘Indications’ Category

Introduction

I have recently created an account on MyFigureCollection.net, a really nice site in which you can post and manage collections of action figures you own, favorite and comment others’ photos, etc. It is pretty much a small social network for action figure enthusiasts.

Hatsune Miku and Black Gold Saw (MFC.net banner by Danboard_san)

The site contents truly is amazing, and I’ll certainly actively participate in it once I get a fine camera and more figures.

Overall the site is pretty good and the idea is really nice, but the service is not as good as it could be.

The matter of what is good and what is bad is pretty much personal, and there’s likely people out there who love MFC (no, not that MFC), but the site has a long way to go to suit my tastes in plenty.

For example, I think the site design could be greatly improved. Of course I can use Greasemonkey to do that, but people wouldn’t see it if I sent them links to my profile, so that only solves half the problem.

Another thing is that if I wanted to create some crazy relationships between my images (like saying 3 images have the same pose, only each has a different background and the last one is photoshopped to, say, remove the joints) I would have to resort to linking them in the description.

But I want better.

For a moment I thought about making a similar service with the changes I’d like to see, but I noticed it wouldn’t be worth it. Most people would stay in MFC.net, some would use both, and we would have the redundancy and mess that Orkut, Facebook, Google+ et al introduced.

It then striked me that these kinds of things wouldn’t happen if web federations like we had in Google Wave were more common.

Federated webspaces

Google Wave’s intent was to reinvent e-mail. One of the most important characteristcs of how e-mail works is that it is distributed.

Can you imagine how far behind we would be if we had a single e-mail provider? It could be Hotmail, guys!

The ability to set up a new mail server is something we take for granted, and we think we would be in a ridiculous position if we couldn’t.

And what if we had multiple e-mail providers that couldn’t send messages to each other? If your e-mail ended in @hotmail.com and mine ended in @gmail.com, I would have to create a Hotmail account just to send you a message. How freaking awkward would that be? Insane, isn’t it?

Insane it is, but that’s what we do when I’m on Facebook and you’re on Google+ today.

The creators of Wave obviously knew all this, and since they wanted to make “a better e-mail”, their product couldn’t have such a major setback, so they developed the Federation Protocol: a way to allow waves to cross server borders.

Not long ago, if I remember correctly, there was a big fuss around Facebook and its apparent reluctance in permitting users to interact with other services such as Twitter. Facebook has obviously changed its mind now, but they still don’t want to give users the ability to export their own data.

Also recently, Google decided to ban Anonymous from G+, and there’s been a lot of discussion on whether they should allow codenames to be used in their network. Some guys from Anonymous then decided to start work on their own social network, Anonplus (which, by the looks of it, isn’t going too far, but it is a noble initiative), but integration with other services is sure going to be tough.

There are many reasons to make social networks interact with each other, and it’s pretty much common sense that this is an important feature to have because the very idea of social networks is that people should be able to interact, and people are scattered across many different services.

One way of achieving such interactions is by federating a social network service just like we did for e-mail and Google Wave.

There is a social network called DIASPORA* being developed, whose server anyone can run an instance of locally and participate. This is by far the most promising social network project I’ve seen.

What I find, as a developer, particularly cool about federations, is that it allows nearly limitless personalization and improvement of services without breaking things. If MFC.net had a federation protocol, I would be able to friendly extend it instead of starting everything from scratch as if I hated it entirely. MFC.net is cool, I just want some small improvements here in there. No need for a wholly new service. That’s drastic.

Now, as a person, what I find important about federations is freedom.

If a service like G+ decides to ban me because it doesn’t like the ring of “n2liquid”, or because I’m excited about all the mess Anonymous is causing, I can just take my stuff and go to another server; maybe even my own if nobody likes me, and, in this case, I wouldn’t have to start a new social network project like Anonplus from scratch. I would simply pick something pre-made and put on a server, WordPress-style.

I hope somebody makes an easy-to-use framework for this so that everybody can effortlessly build the web of the future. XMPP is cool, but it’s nothing more than a foundation for such a framework. As it stands, I don’t see many people making simple websites like MFC.net using it for building federated networks.

I hope federations become the rule. It’s not just cool; it can become a pillar of internet freedom.

I don’t know if I’m just utterly lazy or what, but in many occasions I didn’t try out some brilliant layout, CSS or JavaScript idea or insight simply because I had to open up a code editor and a browser window, and find somewhere to save the test files.

Recently, though, I found what I think is gotta be the solution for this problemthe very fittingly named jsdo.it web-service:

jsdo.it's "Start coding" button

In a way, it reminds of Github’s “Gist” service, but with jsdo.it you actually get to try things out real easy (only HTML/CSS/JS, though).

It officially reads “J.S. Do It”, but I absolutely can’t unspeak “Just Do It” out of my mind, which makes a lot of sense for me. Dunno whether this was the name’s original intent.

As far as I could tell, the service was set up by a japanese company called KAYAC Inc., and the site is pretty much flooded by japanese users, which I think can be great for people who, like me, are trying to make some nihonjin contacts.

They also have a “tour” page at http://jsdo.it/tour worth visiting.

Anyways, jsdo.it works like this:

  1. People rapidly create their accounts using OAuth-like login.
  2. People write HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript code right in the browser and see where their code is going almost in realtime, and use tags to categorize their stuff.Actually you do have to keep hitting “Save” to see the changes, but it really got into the development flow for me, and the result appears in the same window as the sources, so it’s harder to get distracted from e.g., alt-tabbing windows around.
  3. Other people fork your code, and edit it the same way it was written (in-browser).
  4. People publish tiny URL’s on IM, Twitter, et al, for people to try out their snippets. For example, today I wrote this: http://jsrun.it/n2liquid/8YFt.
  5. People favorite snippets, follow each others’ updates around (like Twitter), and post code-related questions with code attached, which others can fork and make small changes to better illustrate their answers or help you solve a problem.
  6. ???
  7. Profit.

Long story short, I didn’t usually try webdev things out, and now, because of jsdo.it, I’m doing it every now and then.

What’s funny is that jsdo.it’s usability, just like the vast majority of japanese websites’ usability, is not one of the best there is out there.

The editor gets a bit slow if you enter too much code, and for some reason it overflows a bit the page (and they’ve used html { overflow: hidden }, so I always have to fix that using Firebug and the likes…).

Further, I didn’t like much how the Q&A system works. You add a “question” tag to your code and I don’t know what happens next. Didn’t try it, but seems loosy and could be better developed. My opinion here, you yourself might love it.

From what I could see, there’s just a handful of people actively posting interesting stuff there, but the concept is still great. I wish more people used the service. It could be a lot funnier if I saw some familiar faces there.

Definitely try the service out. It’s very fast to do so, and the service is lacking some more gaijin there (:


un.ma.i!

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