Using a Flame as my main phone, day 1

Today I finally got a Flame to use as my main phone (what they call dogfooding, but it sounds atrocious to me). I had been using a Flame for testing since June or so, but I kept flashing nightly builds and let me tell you… it’s risky at least.

Sadly I was busy attending other matters (namely the DevTools meetup which is happening this week at the London office) so I didn’t have much of a chance to experiment on the phone.

My main goal was basically flash it with an updated version of the operating system, since the Flame comes with 1.3 and I wanted to use 2.x. Then I took my SIM card out of my Android Nexus 5 and put it into the Flame. Bam, it works. Including data! No need to tinker with GPRS and APN settings and what not. Sweet! I already even got a spam call advising me on how to claim compensation on that accident I never had. Yay!

I also imported some of my contacts from my Google account. The importer lets you connect to GMail and then loads the contacts, and you can go through the list to choose which ones to import. Good time for some pruning of old contacts I haven’t spoken to in a while :-P
There were some weirdnesses on the rendering but I didn’t file a bug yet as I want to compare with the other phone and a freshly flashed version and see if the weirdnesses have been fixed or not.

I can also confirm that the Twitter “app” (it’s actually more like a glorified bookmark for for FxOS is as terrible as usual. I keep internally whispering to myself: OAuth, Oauth, tokens, rate limits each time I try to use the Twitter app and get frustrated by how badly it works on every single mobile browser, so as to scare myself and avoid writing my own client with support for offline and push notifications.

Now I have to find out how to configure the alarm clock. If it doesn’t work I’ll be late to the office tomorrow—it won’t be my fault! :P

Oh and before you ask: no one at Mozilla is forcing us to use this or that phone. This is just done on my own volition because other platforms keep creeping me out and I’d rather contribute to something I can trust.

PS I don’t actually have any grand plan for writing a long series of posts on my experiences on using the Flame as my main phone so don’t get too excited, teehee!

Explicit vs implicit consent

This morning I saw I had been added to somebody else’s github repository. I don’t know this person other than from the fact that we interacted via one of my projects. They are not a coworker. They are not even in any of the github organisations I am in.

Why could they add me in the first place is a surprise. Not even a confirmation email? Not even a “hey, person A wants to add you to repository B. Are you sure you are OK with this?”. No, just straight up added to somebody else’s repository.

“So what?”, you might ask. Well, so to start with I feel I’m not in control of my account. Anybody can add anyone to any repository, even repositories depicting practices with which you might not be OK with. But until you find out, you’re associated to that repository. And also, you get pinged about all that happens on it. Get ready for that flurry of emails into your inbox!

This is akin to being tagged in pictures without your authorisation. You can be tagged “for reals”, i.e. a real picture of you is tagged, or you could be tagged “for the lulz”, i.e. somebody tags an offensive picture with your name. Anyway, in other social networks you can disable this feature. In GitHub, you can’t. Or if you can, it’s hidden behind a preference pane which is linked to from a non-evident-at-all link in a non-totally-related-subpane. Like this page for stopping GitHub from autosubscribing you to repositories. Seems like it’s deliberately almost hidden so that people keep getting “pings” from the site.

I wonder how much of the popularity of GitHub is due to their usage of implicit rather than explicit consent.

I also wonder how would everyday systems look like if they were built with explicit consent in mind from the ground up. Not adding privacy or blocking features as an afterthought, but the other way round. Is this a consequence of these systems being built by people for whom those concerns are an afterthought, if they ever become a concern, at all?

My worry: implicit consent leads to abuse. As soon as you reach a certain mass, things get nasty. This amount of email and notifications causes me a great deal of stress. Some dear friends of mine are afraid of sharing unfinished code because they instantly get forks, comments, and stupid suggestions that make me wonder what is wrong with life. Managing all this is time consuming, exhausting, debilitating.

Of course, explicit consent results in slower adoption rates. More checks. More “bureaucracy”. But safer, less stressful environments, because someone has already thought of “what can go wrong”, or—dare I even say it?— someone has realised that not all users will fit the same “can share by default, happy to be included in all groups, and OK with getting emails from anyone” profile, and therefore the system protects these vulnerable users by default, instead of defending them in reaction to attacks.

Can we work on better, faster, efficient checks so using these explicit-consent systems does not become a chore? Can we design more inclusive systems where users can control their experience, rather than being constantly assaulted by a infinite stream of incoming unwanted stimuli?

Maybe an answer to this is more self hosted federated systems, where people can configure the service to respond to their expectations and preferences, and nothing in their experience changes unless they do want to change it on purpose.

Or perhaps it’s about demanding more of the systems we use. Or about switching to systems that let users control their experience, rather than potentially unconsciously forcing an abusive outcome on them by design.

Berlin Web Audio Hack Day 2014

As with the Extensible Web Summit, we wrote some notes collaboratively. Here are the notes for the Web Audio Hackday!

We started the day with me being late because I took a series of badly timed bad decisions and that ended up in me taking the wrong untergrund lines. In short: I don’t know how to metro in Berlin in the mornings and I’m still so sorry.

I finally arrived to Soundcloud’s offices, and it was cool that Jan was still doing the presentations, so Tiffany gave me a giant glass of water and I almost drank it all while they finished. Then I set up my computer and proceeded to give my talk/workshop!

It was an improved and revised version of the beta-talk I gave at Mozilla London past past week:

Note to self: maybe remove red banners behind me if wearing a red shirt, so as not to blend with them
Continue reading 2014

I accidentally ended up attending 2014–it wasn’t my initial intent, but someone from Mozilla who was going to be at the Hacker Lounge couldn’t make it for personal reasons, and he asked me to join in, so I did!

I hung around the lounge for a while every day, but at times it was so full of people that I just went downstairs and talked hacks & business while having coffee, or simply attended some of the talks instead. The following are notes from the talks I attended and from random conversations on the Hallway and Hacker Lounge tracks ;)

Continue reading

Extensible Web Summit Berlin: notes and thoughts on some of the sessions

As mentioned on this previous post, I attended the Extensible Web Summit past week in Berlin, where I also gave a lightning talk.

We collaboratively wrote notes on the sessions using this etherpad-like installation. Question: how are we going to preserve these notes? who owns OKSoClap?

Since writing everything about the summit in just one post would get unwieldy, these are my notes and thoughts on the sessions I attended afterwards.
Continue reading