[iDC] RE. Ello--Alternative to Facebook

Elliot Vredenburg elliot.vredenburg at gmail.com
Tue Sep 30 16:59:00 UTC 2014

I too would gladly pay a user fee to avoid the monetizing of my data, on FB
especially, and Ello's model of voluntary payment seems to at least throws
a bone to that option.

There's been some interesting work on palliative responses to the stalemate
of VC-funded dataveillance (see Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum's
work on data
obfuscation <http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3493>,
and Daniel Howe and Nissenbaum's Ad Nauseum
<http://dhowe.github.io/AdNauseam/>, for example), but it seems to me that
the two options for social networks that we're frequently provided
with—either paying for membership or sacrificing all your user data—are a
bit unimaginative, to say the least.

Not to say we're permanently stuck at this impasse, though: One example of
of an attempt to design our way out of this box is the tale of Jeremy
Rubin's Tidbit (read the EFF brief here
a code that allows a user to trade some of their CPU cycles in exchange for
blocking ads. Despite being quickly hit with a subpoena and taken down, I
think it's these kind of approaches that will allow us to rethink the
horizon of VC-funding that is difficult for tech to see beyond.


On Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 10:09 AM, matt g <matt.lists at gmail.com> wrote:

> > I for one would pay such a fee to avoid the "dataveilance" on FB.
> Well, there is/was the app.net model, which involved such a system. . .
> I fear that it is just a matter of time before Ello closes due to the
> scale of usage or monetizes user info to remain afloat. I sincerely hope it
> won't come to that, but I share Karyn's concerns about the long-term
> viability of the platform.
> Despite what David described as the frustrating inefficiencies
> grant-funded/university-sponsored efforts, I think that universities have a
> key role to play in creating free and open alternatives to VC-funded
> models. At CUNY, we have created the CUNY Academic Commons
> <http://commons.gc.cuny.edu/> and abstracted that into a platform called The
> Commons In A Box <http://commonsinabox.org/> (CBOX); CBOX was created
> through grant funding by Sloan and has been sustained by funding by Mellon,
> the NEH Office of Digital Humanities, and, importantly, by continued
> investments by the City University of New York. The Commons is not a
> perfect analogue to the microblogging model of twitter/ello, and it has its
> flaws, but it is a free-software project that is built upon a stack of open
> software projects (WordPress and BuddyPress), which it both draws from and
> sustains (see this page
> <http://dev.commons.gc.cuny.edu/free-software-contributions/> for
> contributions we have made to larger software projects). And it has fed
> sister projects both within and outside of CUNY, including the City Tech
> OpenLab <https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/>, Blogs at Baruch
> <http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/>, the MLA Commons <http://commons.mla.org/>,
> the ProjectMuse Commons <http://musecommons.org/>, and others
> <http://commonsinabox.org/show-case>.
> The point here is not so much about these specific projects but rather
> about alternatives to the VC funding models that perhaps provide ways to
> escape dependencies on "dataveilance." Can they scale? I am not sure, but
> maybe "scale" is something we need to rethink in this context.
> Best,
> Matt
> --
> Matthew K. Gold, Ph.D.
> Executive Officer, M.A. Program in Liberal Studies
> Associate Professor of English & Digital Humanities
> Advisor to the Provost for Digital Initiatives
> City Tech & Graduate Center, City University of New York
> http://cuny.is/mkgold | @mkgold
> On Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 10:59 PM, Karyn Hollis <karyn.hollis at villanova.edu
> > wrote:
>> Here's a very basic question.  Why would vulture capitalists put any
>> money at all into Ello if they didn't hope to get a return on it?  And if
>> they do hope to get a return, then as many have said, Ello must make money
>> from users, right?  So ultimately Ello doesn't sound like much of an
>> alternative to FB.
>> And another question--since web hosting is not free (or are there free
>> web hosts?), is charging a user fee the only way to fund a FB alternative?
>> I for one would pay such a fee to avoid the "dataveilance" on FB.
>> Thanks to all for a great discussion.
>> Karyn
>> Karyn Hollis, Ph.D., English Department
>> Director, Concentration in Writing and Rhetoric
>> Associate Director, Cultural Studies Program
>> Villanova University
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Elliot Vredenburg
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