Medieval Hoarding to the Hive Mind
I have a clever plan. It’s so clever you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel. And it’s really geeky which is why I have to start this blog with a Black Adder reference just to get your attention.
Let’s step back to the Dark Ages -- the early days of personal computing. Back then our computers were physically separated, if you wanted to share data you had to save it to a floppy disk and then walk it over to another computer, stick the disk in and copy it. To this day we call this kind of data exchange a “sneaker-net” ‘cause you gotta put on your sneakers and run the data down the hall.
Then came the Renaissance, the age of exploration and exchange of ideas. The age of real networking. Now you could copy a file from another computer over the wires. You could upload your file to a server and other people could read it, no sneakers required. Trouble was if the server went down it was gone -- one server, one source… you could ask around (maybe fax the other office) and someone could upload it, but unless someone had a copy you might be out of luck.
But there was another evolution -- we went from the era of the battalion of servers deployed around the world for maximum redundancy. The era of the Cloud is distributed, yes, but still under tight control of a command structure telling every server in the army what piece of data to keep and what to delete. Take down the command structure, take down the data.
Which brings us to where I live. The Future. Peer-to-peer file sharing using torrents like a hive mind where everything is connected and you don’t have to worry about where your files are because the aren’t anywhere specifically. They’re on my laptop, they’re on your phone, they’re on my brother’s desktop computer. They are everywhere and yet, no where at all.
I just downloaded BitSync (which you can find at http://www.bittorrent.com/sync). It uses the same BitTorrent engine that drives the movie industry crazy -- my computer can find your computer because we share data. Your computer moves, checks in again, and we’re able to share data again. There are some servers in the old military complex running (cloud based servers running “trackers”) but for the most part, this is true peer to peer file sharing. Yes, the idea of P2P file sharing goes back awhile (remember napster?) but here’s where I get to my clever plan.
We don’t share files anymore. We share ideas, we share updates, we share links. And we don’t want Facebook mining our interest in aerospace to try to sell us a pair of Air Jordans. We want a way to share with each other in a way that doesn’t have a military command structure reading our thoughts.
So, let’s take the basic idea of BitSync and create applications on top of it. I share my updates and photos with you by sharing my folder. But I put a small program on top of that so that if I want to comment on your photo, you can see my comment next time you sync with my “comments on your photo” folder. You can let your application automatically share those comments with everyone you share photos with, or you can just read it, chuckle and say, “no way I’m gonna share that with my friends…”
Do we really need a P2P Social network? Maybe, maybe not. But the idea that we can build apps that don’t need a huge server farm that’s owned by someone who makes us agree to HumanCentipede Terms of Service agreements means we can get a lot more creative than comments on funny cat photos.
Or, as Black Adder said, Am I jumping the gun, Baldrick, or are the words 'I have a cunning plan' marching with ill-deserved confidence in the direction of this conversation?'