R.I.P. Dion Gillard (1967-2008)

Although I never met Dion in person, I knew him through various ASF mailing lists. May he rest in peace and may his family find some solace; there were many souls who appreciated his kindness and technical help in the open source world.


I was reminded of Dion this weekend when my IM client started popping up “Add to contact list?” notifications from Dion’s hotmail account. It was already late at night, and I had been slogging through a very difficult set of email threads, so it was a very spooky experience to suddenly see him reaching out for me. The most likely explanation is the technical one: I had just upgraded to Trillian Astra, so in setting up my new contact list and notification preferences, it presumably found some long lost invitations Dion had sent me.

This brings up an interesting point, however. While there has been plenty of punditry about the longevity of online identities – sometimes surpassing human lives – how much concrete policy has been made about the issue?

Seriously – how many of those endless Terms Of Service agreements you click through when joining a new website, or making an order online address the subject of what happens to your online data when you die? How would a family member realistically go about presenting a certified death certificate to TheLatestSocialNetwork.Com to get the deceased’s page updated? What does it mean to the social networking connection hierarchy of “friend; family; best friend; no, really best friend who can share secret messages; co-worker; other” of link status when someone you know has passed away?

Heck, what should (in the geeky technical sense, not the legal or moral sense) happen to someone’s online data, presuming that they didn’t specify what they wanted to happen. There’s historical and social value in leaving URLs around, since someone somewhere will be looking for that data someday later on. Maybe some of Dion’s friends want to keep his name in their FaceBook friends list, as a way of remembering him?

I am… shane.curcuru.name

Goo-goo-ga-joob!  Many thanks to Sam’s instructions and CJ, I’m now running my own eponymous OpenID server.  Whoo-hoo, I am me!



OK, I haven’t finished the YADIS stuff yet, but hey, it works to sign in to various places.  I simplified the URLs a bit, and I think the best identity is your .name domain, instead of your blog address.  But that’s just me being all canonical about myself.

Hey – anyone have a way to login to your self-run WordPress install using an OpenID or the like?  One of my issues is posting to my blog securely.  Without buying an SSL cert for this specific domain name, I don’t think I can securely post entries without effectively sending the blog password in the clear.  Any tips?  (hmmm, should look at 2.1.2 release notes too).

Cingular? Or AT&T?

Could someone just wake me up when they make up their minds?  I mean, the incest between the various children of Ma Bell is well known, but at least it usually takes them a few years to merge and split and reproduce and be reincarnated as the original again.  But this time, it seems like our wireless bill switched for only a few months, and now it’s suddenly going back to the other name.  I forget which one; I mean I’m going to switch to Sprint (for the employee discount I get, not for any other real reason mind you) but I’m still curious.

Just wonderin’.  The power of marketing.  Molding the mind in the modern world.  One blog post at a time.

Do you know who’s using your pictures online?

Or rather, did you realize what rights you’re giving up when you print your digital pictures?

It’s been a while since I got hardcopies (always useful for frames on the wall, wallets, and grandparents) of some Roxanne pictures, so I looked at local places I can get 1 hour prints (I’m impatient once I start).  I thought I wanted to find the cheapest major printer that I can get to easily – the two obvious choices here are CVS and Ritz.  CVS was a little cheaper (19cents with no restrictions), so I started signing up.  Fill in your email and password and get yet another darn account…  CVS outsources the photo site to a place called pnimedia.com to do all the work, just leaving the CVS banner there.  Then I read the TOS (Terms Of Service).

Of course by default, the TOS pops up in a separate window that’s much too small to read, without a scrollbar.  And it’s an onClick link, not an href, so you have to look in the page source to see where the terms really live (hint: http://cvs.pnimedia.com/disclaimers/terms.aspx).  Plenty of the usual legalese about their lack of responsibility for anything, which is fine.  Then I read on to this section:

You grant to the Web Site and its service providers and licensees a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, unrestricted, world-wide right and license to access, use, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, display, perform, communicate to the public, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, and otherwise use such Materials (in whole or in part) in connection with the Service, using any form, media or technology now known or later developed, without providing compensation to you…

You also grant to the Web Site and its service providers the right to use your name in connection with the Materials.

So my non-lawyerly reading of that means that any photos you upload to their site, they can then use as they wish, for any purpose ever, and even use your name.  Don’t hold your breath, but you might someday be featured in one of their ad campaigns for photo printing in the future.  Including your name, Mr/s. Blog Reader.  Sound fun?

Not liking the sound of that, I surfed over to ritzpix.com.  The TOS there at least comes up in a normal window, and has a normal URL of http://www.ritzpix.com/common/RitzTerms.cfm which states:

As a condition to your Membership, you hereby grant RitzPix.com and the RitzPix.com Site Host (LifePics, Inc. Based out of Boulder Colorado d/b/a/ LifePics) a perpetual, universal, non-exclusive, royalty-free right to copy, display, modify, transmit, make derivative works of and distribute your Content, solely for the purpose of providing the Service.

Here, you give up the same basic rights, but “solely for the purpose of providing the Service”, which sounds almost reasonable to me.  Obviously if they outsource bits, or display your stored pictures, they want to CYA with the basic rights there.

Contrast this all with other sites, like what flickr uses, which is qoop.com for photo printing nowadays, TOS at http://www.qoop.com/about/terms_of_service.php

You hereby grant to QOOP a worldwide, transferable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, right and license to use such Content, in all media existing now or created in the future, as QOOP feels appropriate in its sole discretion, to allow you to deploy the QOOP Services to create, manufacture and purchase Products for so long as you maintain a Content QOOP LINQ to QOOP Services, house your Content in the QOOP Content database, or remain a member of QOOP. QOOP may sublicense the rights granted to it in this Section to a third party subcontractor where QOOP deems it necessary or advisable to facilitate QOOP Services. We reserve the right to excerpt your Content and make minor modifications to the Content for technical reasons and for marketing and sales materials.

Ooops, they explicitly say they can use your stuff for marketing materials.  Oh, well, I guess there aren’t many safe places anymore.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think about this stuff for licensing in their daily life?

I’m on Google now

I purposefully haven’t linked to my blog except in private emails to friends so far.  And I lazily haven’t bothered to update my home page at all; it’s quite embarassing.  Nor have I updated my ASF homepage at all, which used to (well, a while ago) be the top hit for my name for some reason.  But now googling just my name finds this blog – or rather, the RSS feed for it – as the 10th hit or so.

Now I have to figure out who linked to it – someone on Technorati or one of the aggregator/pingback sites, or someone in their own blog.  Actually, that’s not important: I really need to start posting interesting content for all those folks who now read this now that they can find it in google!  Whoo-hooo, I’m famous!

Yeah, right.  Actually the one nice thing about an unusual name (especially the combination) is that the great majority of hits are relevant and either written by me or are about me.  Although I am a privacy minded person, I’m completely used to the fact that anyone who can spell my name (which is not necessarily an easy skill to learn) can find out so much about me.  That’s partly because I do try to write with at least a certain level of style, and also because it really only tells a tiny part of the whole story of Shane.  Heck, even my ASF involvement – much of which is explicitly public, because that’s how the ASF works – is completely skewed.  Not that the past 2 months shows it, but for the past 3 years nearly all my ASF work has been on the very few closed lists that they keep.  Kind of odd: I went from automated tester and developer/release manager to being an organizer and PR person.

(Brief pause while I hang my head in shame in case any ASF folk are reading this and wondering where the hell I’ve been the past 2 months – I really do plan to come back soon…)

I must decide on my site structure

Actually, it’s getting late, so I probably won’t have time to bore you too much. I’m a planner. Or rather, a theoretical planner. Or rather, I like planning intellectual exercises – it’s fun a lot of the time. Like spending time thinking about how I want my web presence to look. No, not graphics, for which I’ll have to steal from other openly licensed looks, I’m talking about URLs and site layout.
I’m stuck trying to decide if I want to use shane.curcuru.name – a semi-standard way to use the .name domain for a person’s main page – or just stick with the older shanecurcuru.org/.com names and leave it at that. Then, what are the fundamental documents I’ll want in canonical locations (hopefully semi-permanently), and what other stuff is less important or may move around and I won’t care.
See, bored already. Heck, we can separate the normal people apart from the librarians and XML/RDF geeks and start discussing what I should name my FOAF file and see who… Ah, there, they’ve all gone now.
foaf.rdf is classic and simple, but I’ve downloaded a bunch of foaf files to see what style other people use, and it’s a real pain to remember which foaf.rdf is which. Hence I’ve decided to use something like curcuru-foaf-current.rdf, which will link to a current copy by YYYYMMDD date, so I can update the list as I meet new and interesting people. Plus, when you download it, the filename means something. Silly, I know, especially for an RDF document (wherein the point is that the computer will understand it, not the human) but I’m sentimental that way.

I finally discovered the raison d’etre here!

For this blog, silly, not my own. That’s not something I’ll be sharing here.
I was definitely trying to figure out why I wanted to have a blog. A host of little reasons, although I couldn’t figure out how many of them really added up to something bigger than my basic privacy leanings. Hence a dearth of postings, except when an occasional muse comes along or some cool geekery happens.
I want to keep a blog to keep up with my friends. That’s actually backwards: having a blog might enable my friends to keep up with me. But that’s almost as good as keeping up with them, and it’s certainly a start to something more than this winter hibernation that we’ve gone into once again. Admittedly, having a toddler also sucks up a huge amount of time and really changes your priorities and schedule. But I definitely feel a little unconnected with some of the important people out there.
So that’s a good reason to keep a blog. Again, a self-serving one, for no matter how fun it is to write stories – either ones that anyone can read, or those special ones that require translation by those few friends who can actually translate Shane-thought – that’s a wholly different perspective of if any of those friends actually keep reading this. In a blog, you don’t know if your friends start reading and then say the equivalent of “Yes, Shane” and go on to something else. Hopefully I can be amusing enough that some of them might even email me back! (Just a few of you – but you know who you are… always too busy)