2010-12-11

Web 3.0

As Web 2.0 has been used as a bit of a buzzword used to mean almost anything from shiny graphics to website login-related technology, I thought I'd explain Web 3.0 a bit.

To understand Web 3.0 one must first understand the web 1.0 and 2.0. I assume everybody understands the Internet is a vast array of interconnected computers, the Web as such was not intended to directly represent this, instead the interconnectedness of the Web is describing the way websites link to one-another and you can come from one to the next without knowing their addresses beforehand. Furthermore the "versions" of the Web (1.0, 2.0 and 3.0) refer to different approaches to transfered content over the Internet; I will attempt to explain these.

First, meet Web 1.0.


Web 1.0, called simply the Web at the time, was the simple 1995 way of publishing content online, Geocities and the like if anyone can recall. Every person was free to make a website and show it to everybody else. If people wanted to respond in some way they had to make their own webpage and post their content there, again publishing this to everybody else. Content transfer was one-way, everybody was master of his own webpage and everybody else were just spectators.

As this proved too boring in the long run (people without technical skills didn't bother to make websites and so the Internet became reminiscent of a TV with 16 channels), Web 2.0 evolved:




This brave new Web 2.0 featured interactive websites where all users could post their own content. Just imagine the two red boxes above to be Wikipedia and Youtube, or Facebook. The Web suddenly stopped being a Web of Pages and became a Web of People, as content could travel freely from user to website to user in all directions. Each website grew with the community of people who frequent it to communicate with the others in the community.

As admirable as this level of information sharing might be, it has caused many of these websites to become closed communities, for example Wikipedia editors discourage linking to other, non-wikimedia wikis in articles and Facebook is completely closed to outside linking unless the visitor is also a member (out of "concern for your privacy", note the sarcasm).

The Web is no longer a Web. To fix this, Web 3.0 has been proposed:


This new Web 3.0 is an upgrade on Web 2.0. It implements protocols intended for websites to share information with eachother automatically, in effect linking the various communities into one large global Internet community. RSS is a classic example of a Web 3.0 technology, moderately useless to the visitor directly, but when integrated into other websites, enables live news feeds collected from multiple sites automatically, sharing news, content, pictures between communities instantly.

Web 3.0 is better, but it is not yet currently widespread. People have been working on Web 3.0 technologies for many years now and there are just as many concerns about it's safety as there was about Web 2.0 when the mainstream was Web 1.0. Progress is slow. If you want to help support Web 3.0 technology and own webservers, consider this:

The main attribute of Web 3.0 is sharing machine-readable content. Due to security, fairness and bandwidth concerns, the general consensus is the client machine should be the one requesting the content, which would be possible if the client's browsers would collect data from the different websites automatically using AJAX. Unfortunately cross-site scripting security concerns have blocked this! If your webserver offers content that you wish to share freely in true Web spirit, you should add "Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *" to your server headers ("Origin" refers to the location of the script that uses the data).

The commands to do this with the Apache web server are...
a2enmod headers
...to enable the Headers module in Apache, which allows you to add custom headers, and then add...
Header set Access-Control-Allow-Origin "*"
...to your apache configuration file (/etc/apache2/apache2.conf). Restart Apache when done.

2010-11-28

Website changes

Although much has been planned, progress is slow. The primary changes to report have been on the website.

We have been working on integrating our efforts more closely with our fellow organizations, beginning with RBOSE, which provide an excellent wiki as well as host an IRC and Mumble server for meetings. The idea is to pool resources on quality services where provided, avoid creating new resources where insufficient time and manpower is available to maintain them and still maintain a suitable level of independence in case something fails. In utilizing these criteria, XML based software appears ideal, allowing the sharing of content between sites without making them vulnerable to single-point failure. We have thus (as you might have already noticed) integrated our member blogs with our website and our facebook page using RSS. Further such integration with our fellow communities is planned (assuming SeqAdm receives suitable approval on this), making the EOS website alive and vibrant with interesting and constantly fresh content (much like for example this RBOSE page).

We have also been working with our colleagues at SeqRel to improve the usability of our website for new visitors. Article categories have been reimplemented (previously removed when re-branding from NET to EOS, for simplicity's sake) and the three links on the front page now lead directly to them, giving you a much better idea what we're all about. Multiple other minor changes have been implemented all over the site and we intend to keep on trying to make the site friendly, pretty and usable for our visitors.
Link

2010-09-23

Changes

A while ago, the organization formerly known as NET has undergone significant changes. We have changed the name of the organization to better suit the times: European Organization for Sustainability or EOS. Recently, talks have begun with newer Zeitgeist offshoots RBEF, RBOSE and AOSDT, to come together to form an association of sorts. This association shares many similarities with EOS' Technate idea, therefore I consider this a re-branding of the Technate in order to, just like the case with the NET to EOS transition, better suit the modern day reality. And while most of us probably envisioned the Technate quite differently a few years ago, it has become obvious trough recent experience in other nonprofit organizations, that in building a new, better and more liberate society, interaction, cooperation and adaptation to other groups and other people is key. So far, things are looking really good and I am very optimistic about the future.

In the course of these events we have also been working on perhaps a far more down-to-earth area. In trying to adapt the theoretical findings within EOS to everyday life usage, we have decided to try using one of the existing alternative economics models with one of the nonprofit organizations we have formed. We have opted to use time banking as a community using it already exists and it is thus easier for us to introduce this as an idea to partners in commerce -- as it is not entirely our idea which would take some explaining, a different entity handling it makes it gain credibility, people may also already be familiar with it from other sources, as in Slovenia, the people running the time bank are all academics and even a well known politician is president. When trying to set up the use of time banking with the organization however, we ran into problems, we were not sure if it was in fact possible for an organization, being a formal entity, to use time banking with the system they had running. So we met up with them in person, after speaking with their president it became clear that the solution would not be so simple. They have thought about the issue before and currently, due to legal restrictions involving taxes, allowing a formal entity to use the time bank would be very problematic. They have opted to seek to serve their existing user base and proove their work untaxable, but this also means that they will not be able to and will not make time banking a true economic system, it will instead simply remain a web-based system for fair exchange of personal favors.

I, obviously, cannot accept that. While on the meeting, we got to understand that the majority of the law we have, that is intended to keep monetary economy fair, is hardwired to the monetary economy as the only possible economy. There is no room in existing law for alternative economics. And while I have personally always believed that politics, is not something I would see as affecting me or see a need for me to involve myself into it, I do recognize that if we want a smooth transition from the current system to a more sustainable one, we must change existing law to support alternative economics as an option. And the only way I see how to do this now, is to try to make public opinion weigh towards it: Keep people informed of the advantages of alternative economics and the downsides of being bound to an economic model which is going to fail them (and has been doing so very evidently for a long time now), then suggest changes to the law to make them happen.

I do not think the researchers at EOS are suitable for this particular task, so I will look elsewhere. Many offshots of the old Technocracy movement, such as for example the Zeitgeist movements are still working primarily on keeping people informed, so I assume they would be the right address for this information.LinkLink

2010-05-09

New Principles and Classes interface

First post since November 2009... not to say nothing has been happening during this time!

Although the majority of my activities of late have focused on work within our initial Proto-Techante in offering lectures on how to make websites and helping with the IT aspect of another local initiative of a more general ecological nature, I have also recently started re-writing the Principles and Classes database from 2008 to use a more a more streamlined interface as well as much cleaner code!

The new interface features a neat, professional looking interface for viewing the Principles, Classes and Tags entered into the database. The primary motivation for rewriting it was to provide a usable wiki data exporter, to be used with the Mediawiki External Data plugin. The new database uses the existing MySQL backend, but exports the data to a generic XML format and then uses a system of plugins to convert this into the output formats, where the choice of plugin depends solely on the filename extension specified in the URL.

This allows not only a much easier separation between data retrieval and output formatting in code, hence greately simplifying the addition of extra export formats, but also makes it easy to integrate the database into external viewers on the internet. In this case, the system integrates neatly with our wiki, allowing us to enter the standards into the database and then very easily present them to an audience in the appropriate context, without any additional work other than adding a simple string like "{{PCS|2-20100426-120332}}".

I have also added a recursive exporter that provides more data, appropriately nested, intended for the case where the complete text is needed on one page, such as for example when one is to print out the data entered and submit it to a government institution as may be required by law. Although this interface is hypothetically exploitable because it is recursive, this should not be possible durring normal use and would be hard to do without writing special software specifically to exploit this fault. Even then PHP has mechanisms to prevent damage. Thus I am leaving this fault unhandeled. I also plan to write a few additional plugins to allow export to other viewers, as needed, such as RSS (which is viewable as a live feed in other websites).

On a side note, I am also continuing work on the Senzor package to include an AJAX-based graph renderer, naturally intended to overcome the page-refresh requirement and the high CPU usage associated with re-rendering the graph from XML each time.