I never really "trusted" Facebook or Google+. That is to say, I never expected them to respect my privacy or keep my secrets. I'm not too secretive online anyway, and what I do have to hide, I just don't post. But it is very clear that there is a great deal of corruption inherent in a business model which is based on concentrating the personal data from millions of users and selling that data to advertisers. At the very least, there must be a free alternative. But for that alternative to be viable, we need to use it. Identica has been around for some time now (and I use it -- I'm "digitante"), and Diaspora is (after a long hard start) finally getting some wind under its wings. I've used it, and it's Good Enough. In fact, you'll find it's pretty similar to what Facebook or Google+ offers, although there are still some rough spots.
It's been a long time since I really designed a webpage, and the web -- or rather users' expectations of the web -- has changed a lot. "Craft" web pages constructed largely for fun by individual users, designed from the ground-up in simple HTML, went out sometime in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, the web was all about "content management systems." Later, specific forms of content like forums, wikis, and blogs began to take over.
Try ZenOSS, free monitoring software
Today, even blogs are too content dense for most viewers, and "microblogging" and "social networking" are the new buzzwords. Static images were replaced by kitschy animation and then by full-motion video as most of the viewers are not only using fast machines that can handle the rendering, but are also connected to the server by "pipes" that would've shamed a university computer center back in the 1980s.
People have been talking about "micropayments" since the early days of the world-wide-web, so I'm always skeptical of micropayment systems. Flattr is an interesting variation on the idea though. It's a voluntary system, without the overhead or chilling effects associated with "pay walls" and it puts donors in control of how much they spend, allowing them to split their donations among beneficiaries based on a monthly "pie" model. The greatest asset of Flattr is its simplicity of use -- similar in many ways to the various social networking services that abound on the web today. Flattr may well succeed, and it may fill a niche of financing small projects from free software to online videos.
Social networking, micro-blogging and other such buzzwords abound across web development these days, and the "public" is a fickle as ever. The darling of the media-driven, web-based section of the public is dropped as soon as it gets popular or as soon as somebody figures out a way to make money out of it -- money usually involves advertising, which usually ends up bombarding users with spurious post-mercials. How can free software make an impact in such an environment and create forms of social business? Enter Identi.ca
These days there's a lot of buzz about "Web 2.0" and making websites more interactive, but what's really going on is a reconnection to the community nature of the internet. Collaboration, cooperation, and the information commons are all ideas that pre-dated the world wide web in the form of older internet technologies. In today's distributed computing environment, though, these technologies have really flourished. Here's a guide to eight that you should consider making use of in building a community around an information commons project of any kind, from multimedia, to hardware, to software.
With the lay public now moving their businesses and lives online, everything they do has an electronic component. But, being lay people, they’re using the most antiquated, bug-ridden, security-deficient, poorly-implemented solutions and services possible. And this is despite being told better. They indulge in PayPal, eBay, FaceBook, DRM, MySpace, and on-line shopping. All of which suck...