Own Your Online Identity

Overview

Where do people go when they look for you online? Do they log in to Mark Zuckerberg’s website and add you as a “friend”?

Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard: The Truth Behind 'The Social Network'

Do they send you a WhatsApp or Instagram message?

Or send you an email to Larry and Sergei’s website?

Shocking Reason Google Founders are Laughing at You

There are several problems with the services that many of us use to identify ourselves on the internet and communicate.

Protect Your Data

One problem that most people are aware of, is the issue of what companies like Facebook and Google do with your personal data. Many people aren’t aware of what they are trading in exchange for these “free” services. As companies like Facebook and Google further entrench themselves in our digital culture, there is the danger that fewer people even question what is being exchanged. Children and the younger generations are especially vulnerable to blindly accepting this exchange since they have never known anything else and may have trouble distinguishing between what these companies provide and what is possible.

Reject Monopoly

I’m not a patriotic person, but there are some traditions within U.S. history that I identify with as an American. As Americans, we recognize the harm of unchecked power and influence, and we reject the practices of monopoly and fascism. And yet, due to the nature of capitalism, these forces relentlessly plague our republic.

Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp) controls the overwhelming majority of social networking. Not only does this give Facebook excessive power and influence over our democracy, it also excludes friends, family and businesses from online social communication who choose not to use Facebook. Prior to Facebook, et al. we all connected and shared on the democratic playing field of email and telephony. We can restore that democracy and decentralization to social networking.

Embrace Freedom and Community

There are four major components of our digital identity that Open Source I.T. can liberate:

  • name/brand
  • email
  • individual and group chat/text messaging
  • social networking*

To liberate your online name and email, get a domain name and easily host your own email (and other open source software) with Yunohost.

To liberate your chat/text messaging, host your own federated chat server with Yunohost and Matrix/Riot.

* Two major open source projects that support social networking are Diaspora and Mastadon. You can set up your own Mastadon instance on Yunohost, but Diaspora isn’t available, currently. I have not personally set up or used either application, but let me know if these services or other features of social networking are important for your adoption of Open Source I.T. by voting in the opensourceit.org priorities poll, or by posting a comment on the What Do You Need for Open Source to Work for You? post.

Full Disclosure

I currently still use Github, LinkedIn and Indeed for employment and professional social networking – it’s the last hold-out in my personal software stack that is closed source/SaaS.

The unfortunate reality is that most engineers and employers I know don’t really care about open source, and the recruiters and HR departments that do the candidate sourcing tend to care even less.

While I would love to find a team that cares as much about open source software as I do, it has not been my experience that this is a likely outcome. Therefore I am currently forced to use these systems, so that I can try to find work at companies and on teams where we at least share a little bit in common. Open source is usually a big part of that – but it’s on the level of frameworks and libraries and tools that are typically used to build closed-source software. Along the way I try to contribute back to some of the projects we are using, but unfortunately it’s not very frequent, due to the driving business priorities, etc.

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