“Tis the season to play around with new tools. Sandstorm and Happy Friends are the ones I am in the sandbox with today and this week. I risk muddying the post by writing about both. They are very different beasts, but I love how they are both about control and owning one’s own digital self.
On to Sandstorm
Just finished reading Jim Groom’s blog post about Sandstorm, a package of open source software that can be served from your own servers (or from theirs).
If this sounds like gobbledygook geekspeak, I suppose it is, especially if you don’t own your own domain name or used a hosting service. Let me see if I can unpack the bits and bobs enough to make sense.
Most people are like me when they start blogging. They use someone else’s platform, someone else’s cloud, someone else’s software. At some point you begin to wonder who is the controller and who the controlled. For me, my moment of clarity came when I read one of the axioms of the Maker Manifesto:
I wanted to own it–the domain, the tools, you know, the real Lebowski.
So I paid for a domain and a hosting service and learned how to install the tools that were available on that service. Along the way I was able to lift up the hood and find out how some of the tools worked and how they didn’t. Of course I was limited in part by my own powerful ignorance and in part by the installations available to me to use. I still am. I have a hard time knowing where to start when someone says, “Yeah, just go to GitHub and find all you need to install it from there.” Hmmmmm. Sorta can figure that out sometimes if the instructions for pouring the water out of the boot are written on the heel. For example, if someone sent me to GitHub to find the eminently useful collaborative writing software, Etherpad, and told me to install that on some server somewhere, I would look and look a bit more until I gave up. The bounds of time and reason and intelligence make cowards of us all, I fear.
But what if someone had some of these cool tools as part of their installation package (see first pic above), then maybe I could push on down that road. That is what Sandstorm is, a collection of open source applications like Etherpad that are a treat to install.
Groom’s post goes on to describe how to set up your own Sandstorm server. That is where I will be in my spare morning minutes over the next week or so as I try to take the next logical step in freeing myself from the shackles of someone else’s cloud (is that a mixed or just a bad metaphor).
What if I want to play around with these applications right now? I have always wanted my own instance of etherpad. How can I get it? Sandstorm provides hosting services much like Groom’s Reclaim Hosting (they are the best), so you could buy
Or, and this is the sweetest part,
I have the perfect project for this. Our new Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, has proposed some draconian cuts to the higher education budget (13.5% over the next two years) and some new directions for state community colleges and universities (workforce development). I am going to create a blog to highlight what is happening in a blow-by-blow way for my fellow faculty members. I will install the blogging platform, Ghost as one of my freebie applications as well as Etherpad as my collaborative writing space. If I run out of space, I will pay for a bump in service and then create a Patreon donation site to help defray costs.
Thanks to Jim and Sandstorm.
On to Happy Friends
Dave Winer created Happy Friends as another of his aggregation experiments. This time it is a way to aggregate tweets much like a Twitter List…only customized. For example, when I sign into Happy Friends with my Twitter username and password, I can add any of the users that I follow into the Happy Friends stream. Here is a link to the public stream where I have dragged a few users into it and then practiced the outlining function. Oh, I didn’t mention outlining. Anything that comes from the fervid mind of Dave Winer is going to involve aggregating and outlining. My earliest blogging was done with Radio Userland and Frontier so I have kept an eye on Winer for a lot of years. He doesn’t disappoint.
Here is a screenshot of the work I have been playing with today.
And here is the text above transferred over to collaborate on EtherPad (using Sandstorm).
Enjoy all the free fun stuff.