Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • StephenL: Tell me about yourself.

      @paulduplantis The first question posed to me for this interview by Stephen was my title to complete the opening "In the Mind of a".

      My struggle with completing this phrase speaks to a long and winding road of self-discovery. I am 55 years old and still a work in progress. For the last 6 years, I have been a marketing and communications director for a motorcycle dealership group in the greater Phoenix area in Arizona. Before that, I was a senior technology recruiter, and before that a consultant for a contractor license exam service and a recruiter before that.

      But the day I learned of the internet in 1992, I aspired to be a part of something much more.

      To be a part of a revolution in the way humans were to be connected but I chose to take the safe route to raise and be a part of a family. Well in all honesty, maybe I could have ridden that wave if I would have had more foresight and confidence in my abilities while raising a family but here I am with a son in college and ready to put away the excuses with absolutely no regrets!! Family is everything to me but so is the next chapter.

      So what am I?

      I declare it for the first time in this interview, 27 years after my original thoughts on the matter. I am a Tech Humanist. A title I stole from a blogger far more popular than I by the name of Kate O'Neill. Not a Techno Humanist as to me this implies more of technology as a replacement but a Tech Humanist as technology added to what it is to be human.

      I am a blogger with little following but would hold my curiosity on how technology could potentially serve the human condition to any other. I am not saying I am right. I am saying I care. I am not an academic, an expert, or a technologist. I am an underdog armed with an infinite supply of questions on how in the hell did we get here and a few reference points to people and technologies I feel might help us move beyond where we are.

    • StephenL: Where do you think we went wrong?

      @paulduplantis I remember the optimism deep in the psyche of the early days of the internet revolution and I am pissed we let corporate overreach and a mob rules mentality rule the day. Here we are with the ability to drive society forward through computing power never imagined before, artificial intelligence only dreamed of, and the beginnings of a new layer of a world laid upon us through virtual and augmented reality, yet here we are with a connection playing to our implicit behaviors over our explicit interests while monetizing our lowest common denominator.

      We can do better than this and I am either naive or bold enough to believe we can take back the reins and build a better world by empowering the individual within the connection. The Emergent Web is my journey to ask questions, find answers, create awareness, and participate in what I see as a movement to decentralize the connection and put the user in the driver seat of building their own better realities. A movement to assure the user has rights to the experiences they create and consume with opportunities for purposeful engagement.


    • StephenL: In your Introduction on Emergent Web, you view one example of Douglas Engelbart’s ideas manifested as “Cake.co for daring to reimagine social media as a destination for thoughtful conversations around topics.” How has the forum impacted the quality of your web experience?

      @paulduplantis The phrase "Thoughtful Conversations" came from a conversation with Cake founder Chris McAskill we were having on a Cake post. A conversation thread leading me to change my mind about what is possible within social media exchanges.

      I first heard about Cake a little over a year ago at a time when I felt all hope was lost in harnessing the potential of the exchange. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, Reddit, Minds. They all had interesting conversations to be found but mining interests were not baked into their DNA leaving too much room for posturing, baiting, and propagandizing which is great for provider monetization but tended to incite users more than invite them into a conversation. I have always been a big believer in the power of conversations to harness what is great inside of us and believed technology was going to be a catalyst to extend this power to all walks of life but from what I could tell the status quo was the direction we were going to go.

      But once I joined the Cake community, I discovered their conversations were built around topics and not people, the user community was largely from Google Plus (I was a big fan of early G+), and the incredibly interesting guy commenting on my posts was the founder, Chris MacAskill. This alone would have been enough to impress me but what I have found over the last year is a community of users sharing ideas, adding resources to validate these ideas, and purposeful engagement. I don't think in all my posts over the last year I've had more than a handful of users outright agree with me on my theories of an Emergent Web but every single one has added to the conversation. Cake, I found was a recipe for something special. Something important. An environment to inspire purposeful and yes thoughtful conversations.

      Where does Cake go from here?

      I know they are a very small fish in a very big ocean but I hope they continue to innovate around the idea of surfacing thoughtful conversations from their user base. I have no idea what they're working on but I would love to see their model expand into other domains where thoughtful conversations could engage users around important topics outside the Cake silo. Where Disqus is a tool to embed comments, Cake could become a tool to embed thoughtful conversations.

      A theory I have written about on my blog is the notion of allowing the electorate to engage with legislation directly as it is drafted. Probably a fanciful idea when even the founder of Govtrack.Us tells me in an email the electorate has better things to do, but imagine engaging with a legislator around a topic of interest attached to a piece of legislation - Cake style.

      I have run across some of the most incredibly articulate, resourced, and well thought out exchanges on Cake. What is possible when a little Cake DNA is shared in the greater exchange? Is this DNA a reflection of the types of users, the framework, or the vision of the founder? I say all of the above and growing this would be a service to a very distracted marketplace of ideas.

    • StephenL: How would Douglas Engelbart’s “collaborative search” work? How is it different from collaborative knowledge gathering undertakings such as Wikipedia?

      @paulduplantis Such a good question to focus on as this speaks to the heart of what was missed with this incarnation of the web.

      Douglas Engelbart is widely known for creating the computer mouse but his most important achievement was envisioning in the late 1960's a future of connecting people and information collaboratively that has in some regard been adopted but mostly overlooked.

      In Engelbart's world, one didn't link to pages online, they linked to passages from documents that could be viewed by groups of users in what he called a View Spec. These passages would carry a link back to the original source and could be mashed up with other passages linking to additional source documents. The father of the hyperlink, Ted Nelson, was also a proponent of this type of granular connection.

      Now imagine conducting a search on climate change and building a view of relevant passages from technology patents, climate studies, lectures, documentaries, and podcasts around specific keywords. Then imagine inviting in a group of peers, admired academics, and scientists into this view to annotate and add their commentary based on permissions while being able to move sections into their own views. Sections that could be moved with contact info of the author of the passage and date and times of the lectures into a contact/task manager which could retain the links to the related passages.

      Engelbart, Nelson, and other pioneers didn’t envision this as an application but to incorporate this level of collaborative searching, editing, viewing and commenting into the entire experience of the connection.

      I believe the ability to universally collaborate is sorely missing in the current iteration of the web but the current siloed approach to managing permissions would be impossible to pull off at a universal web level. This is where Tim Berners-Lee and the team at Inrupt come in as they are building a framework to manage permissions universally as well as Mr. Berners Lee's continued work with the World Wide Web Consortium to help develop standards to help move the app layer of the web to more of a secure, open, read, writeable ecosystem.

      If you want to get into the head of Douglas Engelbart’s ideas through a contemporary lens I would highly recommend watching this Google Talk where Engelbart and his team interact with a Google engineer discussing what had been missed on the web as of 2007 when it was recorded.

    • StephenL: Have you met any of the “POD people” helping Tim Berners Lee to create his vision for a decentralized Web? Is his Solid framework a Quixotic quest?

      @paulduplantis I had a chance to meet Tim Berners Lee very briefly at a Douglas Engelbart Symposium and have exchanged emails with Inrupt’s Chief of Staff, Kelly O’Brien and CEO, John Bruce where Mr. Berners Lee is the CIO. Inrupt is the company developing the technology behind Solid PODS. I emailed John and Kelly an article I had written on the concept of using Solid PODS as a way to allow users to securely store personal data on the web to tune ads to their personal interests wherever they would see ads. I did receive a “Very Interesting” from John which I will take. Kelly recommended I follow their development team on Github to provide insight into what they are building. After following their team for the last 6 months I can say I do believe they are truly working on the next version of the web. A decentralized web where the user is in control of their own experiences.

      As far as, is the solid framework a quixotic quest, I say not at all. Yes, they have grand ideals on decentralizing the web but everything I see on the back end of what their developers are working on is the practical use of technologies to put the user back in control of how they manage their information on the web. Now, will it be an easy road to adoption? Absolutely not as there is going to be an enormous amount of pressure to keep things the way they are from the companies who hold the keys to monetizing user experiences.

      I’ve become interested in the potential of data science and Big Data for social good, such as finding new solutions to combat climate change. However, in Tim Berners-Lee’s framework of “Personal Online Data Stores,” researchers would need to obtain permission from every individual who owned critical data. Do you think there is a place within PODS for “eminent domain” to combat an existential threat, or are personal privacy rights absolute?

      I don't think the complexities of data rights should stop us from establishing some type of framework to allow users to openly engage in a marketplace of experiences without fear of having our own experiences being compromised by the governments and businesses we are supposed to trust.

      Currently, we do not hold the keys to the doors of these experiences. The idea behind PODS or Personal Online Data Stores is that we keep the experiences we create and consume behind our door and if somebody comes knocking we feel we can trust we open the door and allow them access to specifically what they are looking for. Currently, providers are the only ones holding these keys whether we log in or not. And it is important to note Inrupt will not own or control user PODS.

      I absolutely believe these provider controls need to change but until we are able to manage these permissions more fluidly so as not to interrupt the potential of the experiences, I don't see how this would scale. And without a proper framework in place how will legislators will be able to craft policy to enforce user data rights since how could they effectively create and enforce rules to protect the contents of a home when the concept of a home does not exist? I think this is an incredibly important debate to have as our data becomes more valuable to the market and at the very least the Solid Framework with Personal Online Data Stores is a potential solution worthy of consideration. Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges they face is creating a universal permission protocol that doesn't hamper the flow of information between users.

      To your question of eminent domain within PODS, I don’t think our rights could ever be absolute as there are just too many variables to consider. I have a right to protect the ownership of my house unless I am running a drug ring out of it, don’t pay my property taxes, or upset my HOA.. But I do believe this is more about user data rights than data ownership. I read an interesting article (Why data ownership is the wrong approach to protecting privacy) on the importance of establishing data rights over data ownership and feel a focus on our digital rights might be a more favorable approach for the user. Facebook just added an ownership clause into their user agreement but this mean we trust Facebook or any other entity or government with our experiences for that matter?

      So a better path forward in my humble opinion would be to create a universal framework to store and protect the experiences we create and consume while matching this with a legislative framework to penalize those who use these experiences without our expressed consent. You think putting a man on the moon was difficult!!!! But what if we are able to set boundaries with our data? To limit provider influence over what we create and consume. Considering the potential of new technologies on the horizon, I believe the sky's the limit.