Abstract—Active participation in the cloud and its supporting standards is required to keep the innovations churning for all of us.
A few months ago I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC with my millennial children. I was feeling rather depressed as we exited, and my son said, “Don’t worry, this couldn’t happen today. We have the social media!” I told him to imagine what would happen if the Internet were suddenly gone. He couldn’t imagine a place like that. There are all kinds of scenarios where our cloud resources could be inaccessible.
When I started this column, I expected to be writing about standards groups and research consortiums, and mostly I did. What I didn’t expect was to see the impact that smaller communities have. The pull between individuals and both government and corporate entities is a real and perhaps necessary tension.
In my final column for this magazine, I would urge readers to get involved. Cloud computing is computing—most of my computing work and data are now in the cloud. I always wonder, what would I do if my cloud resources disappeared tomorrow? And I try to prepare for that. But we also don’t want to lose as individuals our privacy, and our access to cloud resources.
Here, I’ve listed my favorite ways to get involved as an individual. Please contact me if you have other organizations to add to the list.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org) has been working to protect civil liberties in the digital world since the 1990s. They advocate issues including privacy, security, and transparency. You can donate, but even better, volunteer in some way, including writing code,1 which is how I plan to get involved.
Underlying Internet standards are the foundation of cloud computing. At IEEE, there are several cloud-computing standards in the works, including the active Intercloud standard2 or the new standard on fog computing.3 When you consider the importance of the networking standards done by the IEEE, they have the potential to be just as important. Input from a wide variety of viewpoints is important to make these standards effective, so pick one that interests you and get going!
Make sure you are educated about net neutrality and vote for candidates who follow your view. Network neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Those not in favor believe that net neutrality could cause higher prices, among other issues. I could write a whole column on this, but please read up on the various views and study the candidates’ positions on this issue before you vote.
Explore the opportunities at all level of the blockchain stack, from decentralized application development to the contribution to protocol improvements. IEEE has created the Blockchain Initiative (http://blockchain.ieee.org), and it has some resources available (and the initiative is free to join, even if you aren’t an IEEE member). It also has active social media sites, so if you don’t have a lot of time, you could ask questions and contribute there.4 The opportunities in blockchain are wide open, and even people just starting in the field can make contributions.
If you are concerned about your privacy on popular social media sites, there are alternatives. After my work with blockchain, I became interested in decentralized social networks. I’m joining the Diaspora project (http://diasporafoundation.org), which decentralizes social-networking software. You can contribute by coding or with some other support roles5—there is something for everyone here, not just developers.
Ushahidi (http://www.ushahidi.com), which means “testimony” in Swahili, was created to gather information from a wide variety of sources, such as people sending texts and scouring social media, to form a picture of what is occurring in a particular area. It was used to map reports of violence in Kenya after the 2008 elections. It has another product called TenFour (http://www.tenfour.org), which gathers the information of a team during an emergency. It can be used to monitor elections6 or get reports from the ground after an earthquake.7 Reporting can be sent anonymously, so it can be used for tracking human-rights violations.8 This crowdsourcing software is open source, and the websites ask for financial donations to support the tech ecosystem in Kenya.9
The W3C has a way for individuals to get involved without fees and produce reports, called W3C Community Groups. The W3C’s Cloud Computing Community Group (http://www.w3.org/community/cloud) doesn’t look active, but perhaps we can get it active again, especially with the Cloud Visualization project (http://www.w3.org/2013/04/cloud-vsltn-20130403.html), which will allow users to visualize the structure of the cloud. The Cloud Browser Architecture (http://www.w3.org/TR/cloud-browser-arch) is a more recent Interest Group Note that describes a browser running on a server.
Although this is my last column, I plan to continue writing about the community in various blogs and other publications. Hopefully, we can move forward by many more of us getting involved and shaping the world of cloud computing. Many of us work for companies that are involved with creating standards, but we as individuals can also get involved by donating money and time, and voting.