Posts Tagged ‘cloud’

The Cloud May Be About To Get Stormy

If you read the technical media and the blogosphere, we’re all on an inexorable march towards The Cloud. No-one seems exactly sure what The Cloud is, but we’re going there. As I wrote in a previous post, I use a simplistic definition for The Cloud; any form of storage that I connect to over a network connection classes as Cloud storage. It is, perhaps, an overly simplistic definition, but until a more formal and agreed definition surfaces, it will suffice for now.

I’m also, in some cases inadvertently, a reasonably prolific user of Cloud storage. I store large amounts of data in The Cloud; photos, software, general data, web pages, databases, emails and so on. With safely secured backups of course, as Cloud services are just like any other computer resource; sometimes they fail and go offline.

I don’t, yet, store music in The Cloud but we’re now starting to see so called music lockers being created for just that purpose. Amazon have just started a music locker and Apple are expected to follow soon. This is where the problems start.

Storm Clouds Friday night

I don’t need a license to store the data I currently store in The Cloud. I don’t need to seek permission from software companies to store backups of applications I regularly use. I just store them. I don’t need to seek permission from the manufacturers of the cameras which take the photos I store in The Cloud. I just store them. I don’t need to seek permission from the companies whose software I use to create slide decks that I store in The Cloud. I just store them.

But music is a whole lot more contentious and, if the record labels and other media organisations get their way, I may never end up storing my music in The Cloud. On the face of it, The Cloud is purpose made for The Cloud; upload my music, download it anywhere, stream it to any device. It should come as no surprise that the record labels don’t like this.

Universal Music want only songs with digital receipts to be able to be uploaded to music lockers. Songs without such receipts would be considered unauthorised, including songs from CDs I own that I’ve ripped, songs purchased from retailers without such receipts, promotional songs without such receipts.

Sony want only a single computer to be designated to be able to upload to a music locker, without seeming to consider what happens when we upgrade or buy a new computer.

Warner Music Group go one step further and want a central music locker authority, ostensibly to be able to track you and sue you if you use your music locker in a way they don’t like.

Amazon’s music locker offering is built on the assumption that no additional licensing is required; a music locker is just network connected storage. The music labels don’t agree with this and it will be interesting to see if Apple goes down the licensing route or stands its’ ground with Amazon.

Until then, I’ll just keep my own music collection safe and secure on resources and devices I own and control. But for The Cloud in general and for music lockers specifically, the cloud seems to be distinctly stormy and threatening right now.

Photo Credits: Peter Baer on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

The Delicious Debacle And My Dependence On The Cloud

About 6 months ago, when I announced that after 4 years I was leaving
Yahoo! to join Nokia
I wrote …

So whilst I’m going to Nokia, I’ll continue to use my core set of Yahoo! products, tools and APIs … YQL, Placemaker, GeoPlanet, WOEIDs, YUI, Flickr and Delicious. Not because I used to work for Yahoo! but because they’re superb products.

That’s still true but the recent news of the closure, or shutting down, or selling off of Delicious has been one of those significant events that makes you sit up and take notice. In this case, it’s made me take notice of just how much I rely on the vague and nebulous technology we call the Cloud.

Delicious

So before going any further, it’s probably worth stating my own, totally subjective, view of what the Cloud is. It turns out that it’s actually a fairly simplistic definition. The Cloud is any form of remotely access storage where we put content, with the addition that there’s frequently a service and/or an API built on top of that storage. More importantly, it’s all of this content we produce and store in the Cloud that the fate of Delicious has shone a spotlight on. A quick, off the top of my head, list of Cloud based content looks something like this …

  • Emails at vicchi.org, hosted on my ISPs IMAP server … Cloud based
  • Blog posts at www.vicchi.org, which hosts this post that you’re reading right now … Cloud based
  • Photos, hosted on Flickr … Cloud based
  • Shared files, hosted on Dropbox … Cloud based
  • Tweets and status updates, hosted on Twitter and Facebook … Cloud based
  • Slide decks, hosted on Slideshare … Cloud based
  • Professional profile, hosted on LinkedIn … Cloud based
  • Short URLs, hosted on vtny.org … Cloud based
  • Bookmarks, hosted on Delicious … Cloud based

The future of Delicious has made me think long and hard and ask three questions. How much of this content is easily exported or stored elsewhere? How irreplaceable is this content? How at risk is the service hosting the content?

  • My email? Not at high risk. I mirror all of my IMAP folders on my laptop which is regularly backed up.
  • My blog? Not at high risk. I own the domain and I tend to maintain a mirror copy of my blog on my laptop and even if my ISP shuts down all my posts are easily exported and capable of being migrated elsewhere.
  • My photos? Not at high risk, at least not yet. Although Flickr stores a lot of my photos, the master set is in iPhoto on a backed up removable drive.
  • My shared files? Not at high risk. Dropbox automagically maintains a local mirror on each machine I use, which is backed up.
  • My tweets and status updates? Medium risk here. Whilst there’s no sign of Twitter or Facebook shutting down, archiving and preserving my content here is challenging.
  • My slide decks? Not at high risk. The master source of the decks is my laptop, which is regularly backed up.
  • My LinkedIn profile? Medium risk. While LinkedIn allows me to export my contacts as far as I can tell there’s no way to export my profile and recommendations.
  • My short URLs? Low risk. I own the vtny.org domain and the short URLs it generates are controlled entirely by me.
  • My bookmarks? High risk. Even if Delicious is farmed out to another owner, confidence in the service has been severely dented but at least I can easily export all of my data.

A quick look at the list above gives me ample cause for concern. There’s a lot of content I rely upon that is hosted on Cloud services over which I have little or no control and which often offer no means of exporting that data easily, if at all. But it gets worse …

Flickr

There’s a massive amount of reliance and interdependence on each of these services. My blog relies on other Cloud services, for example almost every one of my blog posts is illustrated either with an embedded slide deck from Slideshare, with an embedded photo from Flickr or both. This post is a classic example of that. My other web site, at www.garygale.com, is dynamic and is almost entirely reliant on my Delicious bookmarks for providing links to my content hosted in other Cloud services.

The delicious irony here (pun fully intended) is that while the internet and the web are massively decentralised, they’ve been used to create a whole set of centralised and silo’d Cloud services, a large number of which my web presences rely upon. In the case of Delicious, I’ll stick with the service for now, until its future becomes less murky but as with my short URLs, hosting my own set of bookmarks will probably be on the agenda for early in 2011, along with the resulting disruption and work this will cause in integrating this new service into my web sites. But at least I’ll be owning and controlling my own Cloud services.

Photo Credits: Shaneblog on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Visualising Tag Clouds

If you haven’t played with Wordle yet, I strongly suggest you point your browser of choice there right now and see what gorgeous visualisations of tags it comes up with. This is my delicious tag cloud …

Playing with tag clouds: http://delicious.com/vicchi

… this is the tag cloud for this blog

Playing with tag clouds: http://www.vicchi.org/

… and this is the tag cloud for the blog I write for work.

Playing with tag clouds: http://www.ygeoblog.com/

All of which were produced using the default settings, with no tweaking, shows just how varied my personal approach to tagging is and how strongly tied to usage my tags are.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)