The big players in social networking are setting a plodding pace of innovation. New startups, keen to offer useful and exciting new means of communication, have migrated wholesale to platform-based approaches. Constrained by what it means to be boxed into 140 characters or Facebook's vision of a lifestream, we're left without a compelling view of what "social" means on the web. It's time to take back our identities, and with it the web. We'll discuss examples of how the web is more Awesome when people are a part of it (and not just a layer on top of a few companies' databases). We'll talk about what kinds of approaches make sense in this new world (and which don't), and discuss some successes (and failures) that have happened along the way. Parts of this discussion will be technical; you can't build the web without some HTML, and we can't build a social web without getting our hands dirty. However, tech is boring. You can always look up how to do something - knowing why you want to do something is the hard part. We're going to look beyond the modern gold rush, and talk about ideas that have lasting value for content providers, producers, and consumers, and why you should care.
Ben Werdmuller is CTO of Latakoo, an Internet company providing new kinds of services around video content, and also acts as Geek in Residence at the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab, helping all 12 Edinburgh Festivals innovate with web technology
By the time he was 16, his software projects had already been featured in the technology and financial press. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he co-founded Elgg, the leading open source social networking platform, and was CTO of Curverider, the company founded to support it. As part of a two-person team with no budget, he brought the software from a standing start to a point where users included the World Bank, and turned Curverider into one of the few British open source companies to attract investment.
He also works as an independent web strategist, helping companies and institutions develop social web applications, as well as evangelising about the future of the web.
Blaine Cook is a web developer at heart who advocates technologies and approaches in order to challenge identity and privacy silos. Working for Osmosoft, his primary focus is creating open source tools to enable decentralised social networks. He is co-chair of the OAuth IETF working group, in addition to working on standards including Webfinger and PubSubHubbub. Prior to moving to the UK, Blaine was the lead developer for Twitter, where he sculpted the concept of web-native low latency messaging systems and drove Rails as the basis for one of the ten largest sites on the internet today.
Christian Sandvig is Associate Professor of Communication, Media & Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He was named a "Next-Generation Leader in Technology Policy" by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the Early Career Award from the US National Science Foundation for work in the area of Human-Centered Computing. He has previously appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio to discuss his research about the Internet and society.
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