I've been thinking about a lot of stuff recently. At some point in the future, I'll explain what's been going on. But allow me to randomly babble about a one of the things others are involved in that have become somewhat lodged in my brain.


In When the bough breaks, Mark Pilgrim outlined his reasons for ditching the Mac in favor of a Linux box (running Ubuntu, like all the cool kids). His post was widely read and cited, so I won't attempt to summarize the rationale. As with most things Mark writes, it's worth reading in its entirety—just like his fruit salad recipe.

This prompted long-time Mac enthusiast John Gruber to respond with And Oranges, another long post that's worth reading in it's entirety.

Tim Bray chimed in with Time to Switch?, questioning his continued use of a Mac.

Mark then responded to John with Juggling oranges, which details a bit more of his long history with the Mac and his efforts to hold on to his own data.

Marc Hedlund noted all of these in API Keys for Direct Competitors, which is ultimately more about this thread in the Flickr forums about openness and data portability in the new world of hosted services. He was smart (as he often is) to make the connection between these otherwise separate threads--they're really all touching on the exact same issues.

This is all utterly fascinating to me because:

  • Long ago, I used Linux on a Thinkpad as my primary personal computer.
  • I eventually gave that up when I found myself with three notebooks: Linux, OS X, and Windows XP.
  • I liked the Powerbook so much that I bought a nicer one and used it for a while.
  • I eventually found that the work required to maintain two different notebooks outweighed the utility of having them, so I dumped the Powerbook and adopted Windows XP on my work laptop as my primary computer.
  • I care about openness. That's why I pushed for RSS at Yahoo and helped to start our developer network.
  • I care about having control over the destiny of my bits, whether I crated them or bought them.
  • I care about Flickr.
  • These issues are not going away.

In other words, I've been down this road too. In retrospect, I learned a lot along the way, but it was also a colossal waste of time.

In the end, I agree with Marc:

the discussion of data freedom and ownership should continue. It's important. Eric's API Parity solution is a great one.

I wonder if we could use similar logic on the non-openness of most IM networks?

Posted by jzawodn at June 17, 2006 08:07 PM

Reader Comments
# Chris DiBona said:

Does this mean you guys'll switch to using xmpp? That would be excellent.

on June 17, 2006 10:41 PM
# John Roberts said:

I wasn't the only one trying to catch up from an interesting week on a Saturday night.

Here's a longer riff on several of the same posts:

on June 17, 2006 10:47 PM
# Sam Ruby said:
on June 17, 2006 10:55 PM
# James Day said:

What is the expected lifetime of data on Yahoo web services platforms, from email to lists of stocks I own? What is the portability to other platforms (say Google's or the latest startup) like?

Juggling Oranges nicely explains why I avoid DRM: it's a way to prevent me from keeping my own property.

This is one of my major reservations about much of web 2.0. It's more like web ultimate lock-in. Worse, aribitrary strangers can at any time decide that I don't really need all of my data and discard it or remove my ability to access part of it.

It's even worse than MySQL version upgrades that unilaterally decide I'm going to have to rewrite parts of my applications by not preserving backwards compatibility. At least I can choose when to upgrade in that case.

on June 18, 2006 06:20 AM
# Mark Papadakis said:

Eventually, people will get tired bothering about issues of related to one OS's virtues over the others. However, it is quite clear all three major alternatives (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) offer their own set of pros and cons. Its basically a matter of deciding which of those is the best for you, based on those sets [or, you can dual boot or use a VM product to resort to others for short periods of times if needed].

So, Ubuntu is really popular and it's getting better by the day. But it will never work - unless all you need is a shell, a browser and perhaps a media player. Linux on desktop is plagued by impossible to resolve, as it seems, interoperability issues between the applications and the different desktop managers (KDE, Gnome, .. ). Not to mention stuff that don't work no matter what you do, or ones that require the skills of the likes of Torvalds and Alan Cox. Everyday people will probably never tolerate those problems, not to mention others, ones like compiling from source, having to mess with RPMs, packages, archives, configuration files everywhere, crashes .. ).

Windows Vista seems to be a really great step forward for Windows. They stole more elements than could count from OS X, added some of their own, made it cute and 'safer' and more. 95%+ of people out there use them. They work, they play games, there are all sort of applications running on them, they are supported by every software and hardware manufacturer. They may not posses the great usability of Mac OS X, nor its well thought out interoperability between apps running on that platform, but for most people. its good enough.

Mac OS X is ideal for people who value their time and just want to get things done, in an easy and simple way. Most apps interoperate beautifully, the design is top-notch, its UNIX based, everything 'just works'. It's only getting better. Leopard is just around the corner, who knows what Apple is going to bring to the world with that release.

Overall, it's just a matter of what one needs, and what one values the most. Anyone can use any of the aforementioned operating systems just fine. They will more than cover his basic needs. It's the little or not so little differences that will make people choose one over the other.

on June 18, 2006 08:37 AM
# TjL said:

I just gave up my Powerbook and Dell for a MacBook. No more need to carry two laptops.

I read Mark's stuff and respect his decision, but it seems that just about every program is going to have some limitations. Even OpenOffice's format can get corrupted even though it's basically a .zip file.

on June 18, 2006 11:10 AM
# Joseph Hunkins said:

Seems to me that the challenges (and opportunities) with respect to "Openness" come mostly from the processes that commercialize and monetize online content.

For example as a blogger one is happy to have many citations and quotes, but most would be upset to have somebody copy stuff and sell it or run ads on it without permission or some revenue sharing.

I think content people should be thinking if their main concern is about their rights to their own stuff or about the potential to make money from their stuff. Protections and remedies would differ in these two cases.

on June 18, 2006 02:11 PM
# Jesse Endahl said:

Good post. Just wanted to point out that Mr. Gruber's first name is in fact "John," not "Jon."

on June 18, 2006 06:24 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Doh! Fixed.

on June 18, 2006 06:33 PM
# Keith Ivey said:

I was briefly puzzled about the bits you "crated". How much does UPS charge for shipping them? Then I realized you were just missing an "e".

on June 19, 2006 09:18 AM
# grumpY! said:

a simple solution here is for someone like the EFF to craft a user's "bill of rights", open it for comments, then present it as a ruleset that companies can either accept or decline.

this makes it easy for consumers to understand what it means to have rights, and who is going to oblige them.

why do users let companies dictate rights? a little solidarity could shake this system all the way back through the foodchain to groups like the RIAA and MPAA. what needed is a rallying point....a bill of rights could provide that.

on June 19, 2006 11:57 AM
# Peter Saint-Andre said:

What Chris said. :-)

on June 19, 2006 02:25 PM
# Paul said:

I agree that users shouldn't be trapped by services. It's great that flickr will allow photo export. Yahoo mail should do the same by allowing free download (POP3 or IMAP) and forwarding, just like Gmail does.

on June 22, 2006 12:48 AM
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