Why I’m excited about joining Singly
This summer, I’ll be taking a bit of time off, moving back to San Francisco and starting a new job. I can’t wait to get back to work. Here’s why.
Me and my data
I have a singular relationship with my data. I have a copy of every email I’ve sent since I first got an Internet email address in 1994 (82,000 messages and counting). I have even older files downloaded from BBSes, and passed between friends on floppy disks. Chat logs, text messages, voicemail…I hold onto them all. Anything which is relevant to me personally, I tend to save.
This must seem banal to people who are first getting online today. In the age of Gmail and Flickr, it’s easy to assume that all of your data will be preserved indefinitely, with little or no effort on your part. But for me, it has been hard work over the years, because I’ve done it myself. I’ve carried my data with me to countless new computers, operating systems, storage technologies, file formats and cities over the years. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve brought it with me. Physically.
One pragmatic answer is that I can simply do more with my data when I have a copy. I can work with it using any software I want, including software that I write myself. I don’t have to worry about whether I can transfer it from one web service to another. I’m never stuck using yesterday’s services because my data is never trapped in them. My personal data is always available to me me, always raw, ready and waiting for the next wave of software to come along. When it does, I can load my data into it and keep going. The fact that Facebook and Google disagree over sharing their users’ data doesn’t bother me in the least.
Another reason is that I want to be in control of it. I decide who to share my data with, and when. Some of it, I prefer not to share at all, with any person or company, and I have that choice. Even if a powerful government wants to access my data, I am afforded certain protection under the law, at least in the countries where I’ve lived. If I turned over my data to service providers, my choices and protection would likely be much more limited.
I have a deeper emotional attachment to my data as well. Enfolded within that vast pattern of bits is some part of my self. By sharing my personal data with other people, I show them something of who I am. Increasingly, my personal data is part of my identity. This is more than just a state of mind: it’s been shown that even our “non-identifying” personal data can reveal who we are.
In other words, it’s not just “my data”—it’s “me data”.
I’m joining Singly because I want to take this concept much further, and combine people, data and software into a different shape with people at the center.
Today, we are creating vastly greater amounts of personal data, and it’s stored in many more places. We leave our trail on the Internet in the form of activity streams, messages and content, spread across different web sites, each with their own inscrutable terms of service and (if we’re lucky) their own API. These disconnected silos prevent us from using all of this information effectively.
Meanwhile, we want—and need—to connect with each other in more ways than ever before. We need applications which can connect us, through our personal data, to the services we need.
Singly is building the technology to make this possible. It will be designed with the deepest respect for the relationship that we have with our personal data, and with a vision for truly personal computing.
- A team of passionate people, dedicated to a vision for personal data
- Building an open source data locker, which aggregates and stores your personal data from around the web and ensures that it’s always available to you
- Enabling developers to create powerful distributed applications based on this data, without having to deal with the complexity of multiple web services APIs
- Providing secure hosting services for personal data lockers
- Hiring! We’re looking for people with deep experience in security and cryptography, cloud infrastructure and user experience, as well as software engineering generalists
This opportunity is a great fit for my interests and experience. Singly aims to be the commercial part of a vibrant open source community, and I’m looking forward to building on what I’ve learned in Debian, Canonical and Ubuntu to help make it a success.
I’ll have lots more to say about it as time goes on. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in following what we’re doing, here’s where:
- Singly: website, blog, Twitter
- The Locker Project: website, GitHub, Twitter, blog, IRC (#lockerproject on FreeNode)
- Me: Blog, Identica or Twitter