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(Partial) Transcript from Aral Balkan's keynote at DrupalCon Prague, September 26, 2013

Transcript of:

Aral Balkan is an experience designer who is working to change the world bringing design thinking to open source, bringing a new category of technology Experience Driven Open Source. Let's hear it for Aral Balkan.

[Digital Feudalism & How to Avoid It. A tale of indie data.]

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Today, we stand at a cross roads. In front of us are two paths. One leads to a digital free land of people who own their own data, devices, and their services. Empowered by this they are able to safe guard their privacy, their civil liberties, and their human rights. The other leads to a digital feudalism, populated by digital serfs. They don't have the option of owning their data, devices, and services. All they can do is rent them from their faceless, corporate landlords. And enfeebled by this they enjoy neither privacy nor civil liberties, nor human rights.

We stand at this cross roads. And to understand how we got into this predicament, we have to understand the road that led us to this point. So let's go back about fifty years or so before Google. Before there was a Facebook when there was no Twitter when there was no Apple. When computers filled up an entire rooms and if you wanted to use one, you had to drive to it. So this was a very different world. This was a world where computers were external devices. They were things that you went to use, and then you left there. They were impersonal. There was nothing personal about them. They were cold, distant machines. They were disconnected from the rest of the world initially and perhaps more importantly they didn't know anything about the rest of the world. They were unaware of the world around them, they just existed in their own little boxes. And mostly they were used in business. So this is kind of where we started out with these cold impersonal machines. But things changed very quickly. We got personal computers and these were still not very personal. You did not carry them on your person. These were not things that you went to bed with in the morning, and, in the morning? wow. That's like DrupalCon. These were not things you went to bed with at night and then woke up with in the morning. Right? They were personal but we just meant they were not used in the business, they were used at home. That's what we meant by personal. And then they shrunk. They started getting smaller and smaller. We got luggable computers. And then we got portable computers. Today we're at a point where these devices almost blend into the background of our lives. You know my MacBook Air next to a latté [describing the slide]. It's just beautiful. I don't even notice. It's a part of my life now. At the same time something interesting was happening to the telephone. This device that we used to use to talk to each other over great distances, again, came untethered. We could carry it with us. And then it shrunk. But then, about six years ago, something interesting happened to the telephone. Its very nature changed. We got this smart phone for the first time it was actually smart. And it let us do things. Now the way that I look at this phone is as a device that gives me superpowers. It extends my biological capabilities. With what. Well, it has a whole array of sensors. It's got a GPS in it which gives me the super power of knowing exactly where I am in the world at any given time: latitude, longitude, and altitude. Wow. It's got an excelerometer in it. It knows how fast it's moving, it knows if it's looking up or down, combine that with a gyroscope and it knows exactly where it's facing. It's got six degrees of freedom combine with the magnetometer that can measure the magnetic field around it and which direction you're going in. It has a camera. It's got eyes. It can see the world around it. It's got a microphone. It can hear the world around it. And these devices are not even things that we carry in our hands and our pockets anymore. But maybe they are things that we wear. They're always listening and they're always looking. And all of these sensors are constantly gathering data about them. Remember the mainframe? It was unaware, it was detached, it was cold, it was external. That's changing. Now it's internal, it's aware of its environment, it's environment via all of these sensors. And we wear them. We might wear them on our faces, wear them on our wrists. We might clip them like these FitBits, which know how much you've walked. And how much exercise you've done, how well you've slept. We just wear them on our persons now. These just becoming truly, truly personal. And what that means for us is that today we have a very different relationship to our devices. These aren't external anymore. These are internal. We are becoming cyborgs. So we don't need cybernetic implants. We don't need things to be implanted inside of our bodies to become cyborgs. We just need technology that extends biological capabilities. And it's always better to be a cyborg because as we can see robots can't go down stairs. We totally win. But we are cyborgs today. We experience the world around us via our devices. And we manipulate the world around us using our devices. And our devices can either empower us, or they can enfeeble us. This is how we should be looking at the technologies that they use: they either empower us, or they enfeeble us.

So let's take an example of a company that makes devices that people love. That empower people and see how they do it. Let's look at Apple. So Apple has a range of devices that they create. They've got laptops, desktops, the iPhone, and the iPad. And all of these work together really well. They have iCloud which ties everything together. So you don't have to worry about "um, well, I was doing something on my Mac, can I continue doing it on my phone? Can I continue doing it on my television screen at home?" Yeah, you can. Because it's all tied in via iCloud. And what's the only thing you need? You need your iCloud login. You just enter your iCloud login and you have an experience that follows you around from device to device. This is what Joshua Topolsky calls the continuous client. I can start on one device and continue the experience. It's a customized, optimized experience. It's different on my iPhone, to on my iPad, to on my desktop because these have different ergonomic considerations if nothing else. But I'm having, as far as I'm concerned, a continuous relationship with my data with what I can do with it. Let's look at another company that is beginning to get this. And that's Google. It's very easy to dismiss Google as "They don't get user experience." But they do. Let's look at how Google does this. Google also has its own devices. Forget about Android for a while and the Android ecosystem. That's a distraction. Let's look at what Google is doing when it has its own devices. So it's got the Nexus 4, the Nexus 7, the Nexus 10, it's got Chromebooks. Again, it's also got a cloud. Well that's what Google was originally. And all of these are tied together with your Google user name and password. So do you see how these are very, very similar? And again, you can have a continuous experience. And in fact Google did this way before anyone else with Gmail. Gmail was the email client you could take with you. And you always had access to your data. So it was ahead almost of native interfaces. And now what Google's also trying to do is enter into connectivity. So through projects like Project Loon, which wants to connect everyone in the world to the Internet via balloons, they also want to control connectivity.

So let's take a look at what Apple and Google control in what they do. They control hardware. They control software. And they control services. And now, we're seeing a push towards trying to control connectivity as well. And this isn't an accident. Now software and services, I don't see those as separate things anymore in today's world so I'm just going to call them services. But the important thing is what happens when you have control over all of these things. Because if you combine all of these things together, that's the experience that someone is going to have with what you're building. And if you control all of these things: You control the experience. And it's all about the experience. Now I do talks on experience design. This is not one of them. But I do want to touch on a very important point. Which is that you have to control all of these things to have control of the experience. So let's look at why. This is me on a train trying to plug my laptop in. Take a look. It's not really working, right? [Video of a plug that will not fit into the wall socket because the table is too high relative to the shape of the Apple power bar.] This was first class on a UK train and I was only in first class because I wanted to be able to plug my laptop in. And it wasn't working. Why? There are two components of this experience: one is the plug. It was a beautiful plug. It did exactly what a plug should do, right? If I could've plugged it in, it would have worked. And then there was a table. And it was a great table. You know. It didn't break. I could rest my arms on it. I could put things on it. It was a great table. The problem was nobody thought about how the plug and the table would work together. Nobody thought about the whole experience. So the whole experience ended up not working. Of course, you can't keep a determined geek down. I was travelling with an extension cable. But that was not the point. Regular people don't. This is what Steve Jobs was talking about when he said, "We make the whole widget." About controlling the whole experience. And that wasn't actually my worst experience on that train. This was. When it came time to leave i was at the door of the train and I couldn't open the train door. It was like the first time in my adult life when I couldn't actually open a door. And this is why. This is how you open a door on the train: you would wait for the door unlocked sign okay, so the door was automatically unlock, and then you would have to open the window , put your arm out of the window and then open the door. That's how you opened this door. So I was stuck. I didn't know what to do. Why? Right? I mean who thinks this is ridiculous? Yeah, this is ridiculous design, right? This is the worst possible design, right? It's not. It's actually not. This used to be amazing design. This used to be great design. When? This was an old train. Back when this train did not have automatically locking doors, this process would be just steps two and three. Lower the door, open the door using the handle--before it got automatically locking doors. Now that's an example of great design. because think about it. What happens if you're on a fast moving train and you accidentally open the door and you step outside? You have a bad day. Right? So, if the result of a gesture is going to be catastrophic, for example death, then you want to make that as difficult to perform as possible. That's great design. The problem is: things changed. The train got automatically locking and unlocking doors. What they didn't do is then say "well how does this affect the whole experience?" They didn't go back and then remove step two and three because they don't make sense anymore. Think about it in what you do. You must come across very similar things where you add a feature and you can't just add that feature, right, without thinking about everything else that it affects around it. We have to be cognoscente of the whole experience. Because an experience is only as strong as its weakest link. And the weakest link will be the part that's not in your control. The weakest link of your experience will be the bits of the experience that you don't control or you don't have control over. So that leads to things like this. This was a Samsung phone, that Samsung gave me to try I don't know why they did. And I turned it on and this is the thing that I saw the first moment I turned it on. It said, "No SIM card, or phone is turned off." Think about that a little. I know it's early, but just think about it. How can this happen? How can anyone write … it can happen if there are people in your organization who are thinking about hardware, and there are people in your organization who are thinking about software, and we think that hardware and software are two separate things and never the two shall meet. They're not like that though. We can't separate hardware and software though. If we do, it leads to things like this. And more importantly, consumers don't do this in their minds. We do as enthusiasts, but consumers don't. They don't evaluate hardware and software. When something goes wrong with their phone they don't go, "Oh. Yes. That must be done of the drivers that malfunctioned. And I think it's probably a little ndn, big nun thing." No. Right? They'd just be like, "My phone doesn't work. My phone's not working." They evaluate the overall experience as must we. There was a time when features were important. There was a time when every new feature you added made something that was previously impossible, possible. And who cares how hard it is to use at that point because if the alternative is that you can't do what you want to do, you learn and use something that's really difficult. I call this the age of features. And the age of features and consumer is over. Because most things in the consumer market have feature parity in products. And when you do that what differentiates your product is the experience. Features are a commodity today. One of these companies that makes one of these remote controls understands this. Can you see which one? Look at how different the outcome is when your approach is different. When you don't have an approach towards features when you're not features driven, but when you're experience driven. So that's all I'm going to say about user experience. If you want to hear me talk about it, go to the link That's just my URL shortener.

So why is this important? Why is it important that some companies get user experience and some don't? Well let's look at the companies that get user experience today. We've got Apple, we've got Facebook, we've got Google, we've got Twitter. They're very, very popular in the consumer space. They've got lots of penetration in the main stream. And they get user experience. What is one common aspect of all of these companies and their products? They're closed. These are closed silos. These are closed systems. You might be saying, "So what?" It's fine. I like them, I use them.

So I think this is the right time to tell you guys about my new startup. Are you ready? I know there are no product pitches and stuff, but I think this is a great time. It's called Schnail Mail. I'm really excited about this. I'm very excited about this. Because we are going to be revolutionizing real mail. Schnail Mail, for the first time in history is going to be giving you free real mail for life. Who thinks this is a great idea? Am I leading you on? No, of course not. Put your hands up, it'll be fine. Who thinks this is a great idea? Who would use this? If you had free snail mail if you could send as much real mail as you wanted and parcels and packages and it was free. Even though it's pretty obvious I'm leading you on a few people were still putting their hands up, which is encouraging. Now there is a caveat: there is a slight caveat. We do open your letters. A guy's gotta eat, right? We do open your letters and read them. But we do this so that we can provide helpful hints, helpful services, for you. Just so we can help; we just want to help. And don't worry because pretty soon, yeah we just put everything back into the envelope and you wouldn't even know that we were there. So who still thinks it's a great idea? Who wants to use it? There's always one hand who's like, "I'll do anything for free, man. I'll do anything for free." But you guys use Gmail, right? That's basically what Gmail does. Maybe it's not a human reading it, but it's basically what Gmail does. So if you want to tell your friends about Schnail Mail, please do. It's at And we need to spread the word.

Why? Why does Gmail do this? It's no big conspiracy. It's just about business models. It's actually very simple to understand. Google's business model, what drives them, what makes them money, is that they monetize your data. They need your data because that's how they make money. They make money not just from your data, that's just raw materials, but from the intelligence they derive from that data. And from the aggregate of all of your data, that's also very valuable. That's their business model, that's how they make their money. So you might be saying, "So what?" Okay, let's do a thought experiment…we talked about user experience. So, in design if we could build the best thing possible, what would it be? What would be the ultimate aim of experience design? I call it "The Experience Machine". This is a theoretical machine. The Experience Machine is a machine that knows everything about the world. It knows everything about you and it can read your mind. If we could build this today, we could all go home. This is the one machine that could probably do everything that we wanted. A machine that knows everything about the world, everything about you, and can read your mind. Let's see how close a company like Google is to creating something along the lines, something along the time line, to The Experience Machine. Google has services that know about the world: maps, earth. They know what's happening through news, what's happening through search. What are people talking about? Well they can see that. They know about you, where you are, what you're doing, what you like, who your friends are. Through their health spinoff they know how you're feeling. Are you okay? Do you have a little stomach bug? You know? They know these things. And they know these things because they have control over devices, services, and soon, they want to go into connectivity as well. These are all avenues whereby they get data from. So just looking at this makes me think they've got their noses in a lot of different things. Their hands are in a lot of different pies. And they started with services though. Google wasn't always like this. There was a time when Google was just a search engine. And they didn't even track you. They couldn't even identify or track you. And with a service, you make a conscious decision to go to a site, or wherever that service is to use it. And then when you start using it, you sign in with your Google user name and password, today and that's when they start gathering data. That's good for a company that needs data to live. That's good, but it's not perfect. Because you have the option of using other services. And if you go and use Yahoo!, or someone else, Bing?, I feel a little dirty now. Then they don't get your data. Google doesn't get your data. Right? Okay. So if you live on data, then you need to change this. So what do you do? Well how about giving people beautiful devices? Beautiful computers. Beautiful phones, but not at the true cost. At a much lower cost. What if you could give them that and ask them, "Okay, sign in to your phone with your Google user name and password. Sign into your computer with your Google user name and password." At that point they start getting data from that point on. And you can use other people's services. They're still going to be gathering data about you. Which is better for a company that lives on monetizing data. What is the end game? Where can we take it next? Well you can still use a different device that you can connect to the internet. You might have a Nexus 4, but you might also have an iPhone. When you're using your iPhone and you're not using Google's services, they're not getting your data. So it's still not perfect. Remember the only way we can grow because of our business model, we need your data. What's your next step? Well, what if we could provide internet connectivity to people? What if we could make your internet sign in, your internet login your Google login. If you can log into the internet with your Google user name and password from Google then it doesn't matter what device you use. They're still getting your data, information about you as you're using it. You can use an iPhone, that's fine. Google will still get information from you. So this is exactly what Google is trying to do wiht Loon, for example. [phone rings in the audience.] And they must have someone in the audience today sabotaging it today with the phone. "Quick! Turn on the alarm! I didn't know they were going to talk about this stuff." That's exactly what they're trying to do with Project Loon. They want give internet connectivity to everyone on the planet using balloons. And I don't understand why all of these sort of videos are these beautiful sort of things narrated by children. Like this one is narrated by a little child and it's all about how we're just going to improve the world. Okay, perhaps. But don't forget the business model. We need your data. This is exactly what Facebook is trying to do with They just want your internet user name and password to be your Facebook username and password, ideally. But again, it's all about … this is their video … it's like all about improving the world and all of these happy people and that's what they want to do. But really, it's about business models. Free services need your data to survive. That is the only thing you need to understand about them. They need your data. They need more and more of your data to grow. It almost reminds me of the little shop of horrors. [video clip from Little Shop of Horrors. "feed me Seymour."] So Google needs you to feed it so it can grow up big and strong. So does Facebook. And, again, they feed on your data.

So you might saying, "So what?" Well they don't just take your data, they also share your data. In 2005 Facebook had privacy controls where the defaults were semi-public. Some of your stuff was private, some of your stuff was shared only with your friends, and some of your stuff was shared with everyone. And I think by default none of your stuff was shared everyone. But things changed. From 2005, to 2010, more of your data became public by default. They changed the defaults. It's very hard to adapt when defaults are changing. If you listen to Dana Boyd on this subject she says people can adapt to private by default, or public by default, but if you're changing the defaults that's very hard to adapt to because you don't know where your baseline is. By 2010, everything, apart from your contact information and your birthday, was public by default. So it's not just gathering data, but it's also sharing data. So you might be thinking, "so what?" Well. They share it with lots of different groups and people. So this is the real logo that the US had called Information Awareness Office. This is actually real. Which aimed to capture all the data. Give me all the datas. And if you're going to do that, seriously, do not create a logo like this with an all-seeing eye and give it a name like Total Information Awareness. Because, uh, yeah, people tend to get a bit scared when they see stuff like that. And this went away, but of course, the reasons and the desires didn't. And we know from the Edward Snowden leaks that the NSA really doesn't understand PowerPoint design, uh, but also that the NSA has been working, secretly, with the companies that we know and trust. These free services and not so free services to have, basically, back doors to our information. What kind of information? And you can see, actually, this is kind of cool. I think this is a rare slide for another reason, because you can see Microsoft was first at something. Which doesn't always happen, so, y'know I think they deserve a round of applause for that one. They're getting there, they're getting there. So what kind of information do they share? Oh, pretty much everything. Why? Why is this such a great relationship for government and free services? Well it's much easier for the government to ask these corporations for your data after you've volunteered it to them. They're not under the same protections. If they had to surveil you, personally, they would have to go through a much more convoluted process. Much easier to ask the corporations for data you've volunteered to them. So you might be thinking, "So what?" Well surveillance is an intrusion. And I guess the real question is, "How much of an intrusion is it?" And this takes us back to our relationship with our devices. Remember, I said, we're like cyborgs today. Our devices are cybernetic extensions of ourselves. They're not necessarily external objects that we have a relationship with, they're more like internal objects. So why does that matter? Well it matters because we get to the question of where do we draw the boundaries of the person? Traditionally we've drawn the boundaries of the person at our physical boundaries of our person. Our bodies. But is that still the case? So is this how it is? We have the boundaries of our person, and the boundaries of our devices as separate object and we have a relationship as would two actors. Okay, if that's the case then surveillance isn't great but they're intercepting messages between two people. Something you might overhear if I'm talking to my device. What if these devices are actually cybernetic extensions What if the borders look more like this. What if the border of my person extends to my device. When I type something into my phone, is that an external communication? Or am I just supplementing my memory? Am I supplementing my brain? Is it an extension of myself? Now, this fundamentally important, because if it is an extension of myself, there is no external communication going on here. So if there is an intrusion, if my communication is intercepted, this is an internal intrusion. This is an assault on the boundaries of my person. In which case if we are cyborgs, then surveillance is an assault on the person. So you would think, if it is this, then this is pretty grave. And that these companies would probably not be happy about the situation. So let's look at what Eric Schmidt [CEO of Google] has to say about it. "There's been surveillance for years … I'm not going to pass judgement on that, it's the nature of our society." So, Eric, what should we do? [video of Eric Schmidt plays] "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Okay, and I have to give it to Eric. He is a standup guy. He didn't just say this. he wanted to prove to the world that he means it. He created a couple of web sites and shared photos and videos of himself just to prove this. If you want to see this, one is, which is nice. He's also got, which is interesting. Not my thing. Sorry, I'm not going in the right order. We've also got Of course Eric Schmidt did not create any of these web sites; and of course you don't see these private moments that he says on the Internet. Privacy is not about having something to hide. Privacy is about having the right to control what you share and what you keep to yourself. It is not about having something to hide. Now if you want to learn more about exactly what happens in the terms and conditions of these services that we sign up to, there's a great documentary called "Terms and Conditions May Apply". Some of the clips that you saw, I actually took from there. You can watch that at if you're interested in learning more about exactly how these things work. But that's the problem. So, at this point, if this was all we had, we'd probably be feeling a little depressed. The world is against us, what do we do? And we're probably the last audience in the world that needs to be depressed because we are the ones who can actually do something about it. So what is the alternative? Well, take The Experience Machine. Is there an alternative to having Google own all of that information through all of the services? of course there is. Knowing everything about the world? That's what open data is related to. So we should really be supporting that. Knowing everything about you? Well, own your own data and the intelligence derived from it. And what about the bit where we read your mind? The interfaces and devices. Own your own tools, that's where open source comes into it. So we can definitely do this. And the key thing is to own your own data. Not just the data, but also the tools that are used to gather that data, manipulate that data, share that data if you want to share it, and maintain that data. And also any intelligence that's derived from it because that has more value. If you look at Google Now it can tell you when your next bus is going to be from work to home. We can do that without letting Google know that information. So that I call The Digital Self. And the real challenge of the times is how do we empower people regular to own their digital selves. It's easy. Even today it's easy. Number one, you clone the Git repository of your own server, your own open source social network. And then you configure and deploy it to your own server. And then you ask your friends to do the same. And we've solved this problem. It's not easy. And that's one of the major problems that we have. Who does this? Who would do this even in a room full of geeks? Who would run their own distributed social network or distributed own iCloud. Maybe some of you do. A few of you are putting your hands up. Who in the regular audience would? Probably no one. And we will never get those services to this position. It will never be as easy as Tweeting or Facebooking from that menu in an iPhone. Diasphorawhatever will never be up there. Why? Closed likes closed. Closed knows how to work with closed. Closed is never going to integrate you at that level. But we need to compete with this if we want an alternative. And we need to compete on user experience. We need to create seamless technologies. Things with beautiful defaults. I know the open world loves seams. It's almost like a dichotomy between seams and being seamless and seamless is bad. Because we see it as everything that's embodied by closed. We need to embrace that. We need to embrace not just intelligent defaults but beautiful defaults. What about the seams? We can layer the seams. Those two are not mutually exclusive. We can have beautiful defaults, a beautiful seamless experience from the start and then layer the seams. But we have a cultural problem in open source today. So let's take Linux to find out what this is. Here's how Linux developers think the world works. You buy a machine. You find the right one for yourself. The perfect machine. And then you either download or get a DVD, remember those?, and you install the software. And then number three, you're happy. Now, this is how the world really works: people buy a computer and they're happy. Because it just works. Do you see there's something missing here? And actually this is how Linux actually works: Which computer do I buy? Does the wifi work? Does this work does that work? What do you mean download and install? what does install mean? Why doesn't the wifi work? And then you're just like what's going on? Wifi, that's all I want. [applause] It's true. And then there is a fourth step: you buy one of these [Apple displayed] and then you're happy. So let's take a look…someone's just held up their Mac. There should have been an [sings] moment. So let's take a look. Is it just maybe Linux desktops? No. Let's take a look at the main contender in the open space. In the consumer market. Firefox OS. So I tried to live with a Firefox OS phone for a week. And please if you're evaluating a new technology, don't do it ideology. Don't do it on screenshots. Live with it for a week and see if it empowers you, or enfeebles you. So what did Firefox OS do to me? Well this was my first experience. Hello. Please set the date. Now I'm going to go out on a limb here, okay, and say that probably nobody's bought this phone in 1980. I don't know, I'm guessing here. So why do I have to scroll through 30 years to set the date? That's "hello". That's quite a "fuck you" of a hello. I experienced this. That is a valid error message on this operating system. I thought there was something wrong. I reinstalled the operating system twice, until I heard from friends that they also get this error message. This is the maps application application when it first starts. I do apologize if you can't read it. Neither could I. In fact. There is a button on the lower right of that screen that I've never been able to hit. It became a casual game at one point. Every now and then when I'm bored, I would pull it up. Will I be able to hit the button? No. Maybe it was just a very difficult game. And I'm not good enough. I ended up with two twitter apps on my start screen. One from one app store, and one from the other app store. I don't know what the difference was, apart from one I could actually read the text, and one I couldn't. So I used the one where I could. This is me using that twitter app. I'm sorry it's my direct messages to my girlfriend so it's a bit sloppy, but ah, if you can't see the message that I'm writing, that's okay. Neither could I. It was being covered by the keyboard. [applause] And this probably is not immediately apparent but this is what led me to lose two hours in London because the train times web site would not work properly. And I didn't know that all the trains out of London Bridge had been cancelled and so I ended going there and losing two hours of my life. And that's what the technologies that we make can do. They can empower you, or they can make you lose hours of your life.

Open source today is features-led. That is the only type of open source that we have. So in a lot of ways, it's like those old days where features were important. It's a sandbox for enthusiasts. There's nothing wrong with this. A lot of awesome things come out of enthusiasts. People who love to tinker. Break things. Where breaking is part of the process. That's how you learn. You like it when things break. And then putting them together and having all those seams exposed. But we're not the only people out there. So we have these categories Enthusiast, Enterprise the business market, and then Consumer. Are these stages? Some people say well technology goes through stages. They start with the enthusiasts, but then they go to the business, and then eventually they'll be adopted by consumers. I don't think so. Are these your identity? Is this how you are? and you can be nothing else. If you're an enthusiast you're an enthusiast at everything. You're a geek. You have a little room in the basement somewhere with no natural light. And you survive purely on soda and pizza. And you're probably male. These horrible stereotypes. Is this your identity? If you work in a business, are you a suit? If you're a consumer, are you a mere mortal? And I'm guilty of perpetuating some of these. I don't think so. I think that these are roles. So think about it. You can be an enthusiast for one thing. Let's say you have a classic car and you're an enthusiast. You love playing with that car. Breaking it. When it breaks, you like it because you need to tinker with it and play with it more. It's almost a feature that it breaks every now and then. You don't want it to work that great, so you want to play with it. But you maybe you drive a truck for work. You didn't buy the truck, your boss gave you the truck. Is it a great truck? Or not? you have no say. Fine. And, maybe you have a car that you drive to work every day. And you just want that to work. You don't want to tinker with it, you hate it when it breaks down. This isn't your identity. Enthusiast, isn't your identity. It's a role that you play for certain things. These are roles. And we can't, and this is the important bit, we can't magically expect solutions that we create as enthusiasts for people who are enthusiasts, or playing that role to trickle down magically to consumers, because we have different goals. And that's really important.

I call this trickle-down technology. And it doesn't work. It's just like trickle-down economics doesn't work. Trickle-down economics says if we incentivize the really wealthy to make more money, somehow, magically, it will trickle down to the less fortunate. If we look at the US, for example, where one percent of the population owns 40% of the wealth, they're still waiting for trickle down. In technology we're still waiting for trickle-down. We've had 30 years of Free Software Foundation. Twenty years of open source. We don't have one example of mainstream adoption, widespread, mainstream adoption in the consumer market of open source. Of course open source runs the internet, but that's infrastructure. I'm talking about a seamless product that can complete with, say, an iPhone. Or a Nexus 4. We are so far away from that. Because we expect solutions that are created by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts to magically trickle down to consumers. Basically, in our industry we've been giving people PCs for 30 years when all they really wanted were iPhones. And then calling them too stupid to use them. I'll give you a hint: they weren't the ones who were too stupid.

It's just a matter of audiences. When you design for the needs of one demographic, it doesn't magically then also meet the needs of a different demographic. And it's a cultural thing. We have a culture of democratic design in open source. Design is not a democracy. If three people want to implement the same thing you don't just implement three versions and then add a preference in the settings. I've seen this. Instead you need focus. So here's an example from iDVD which was a product that Apple put out. And this was their initial meeting with Steve Jobs the company that was bought created all of these features the featureless thing, the spec, they had all of these wireframes, and he tells the story, the head of the company, Mike, Steve Jobs came in and he ignored all of that and he just drew a window. And he said that's the window. And he said that's the window. And he drew a button and he said, "That's the burn button." And he said, "You drag a video into the window and you press the burn button and you get a DVD." And that's what we call iDVD. And that's the sort of focus that I'm talking about that you cannot have in a a democracy. Design is about saying "No, no, no, no" and you need to have authority to say "no". And that's very important. And design is not veneer. It is not make-up that we put on after everything else is complete. That's decoration. That's not design. Design is not just about aesthetics. You can read more about this at You can read a lot more about all of these things on my web site But the fundamental thing is. Design is about organizational structure. So if you're doing it like this, and in a lot of organizations it's like that, "We need to focus on design, we need to focus on design" No. It won't work. It has to come from the top down. Or else you won't have the budgets, you won't have the schedules, etc. Great design is a symptom of a design-led organizational structure. So we must design the organization before we can design the product. Your biggest design challenges will be organizational. We misunderstand the nature of design and development. Design and development are not these separate things. Design leads development; development informs design. It's a cyclical process. And maybe we get scared of design because we thinks it's something that people who wear only black do. Y'know? No! Let's call it Assumption because that's all design is. We assume, we make assumptions, and the only time we actually understand what we're building is when we start building it. And that informs the next set of assumptions. But it has to come out of a vision. It doesn't exist in a vacuum. You can't do focus groups. You can't ask your users for this. This is something you have to have. Your users are not the experts. They're not designers. You are. So everything comes out of this vision. Your assumptions, your testing. You filter the results of your tests through your vision. You don't just implement everything everyone says. And so on and so forth. Hopefully every two weeks.

Design is not about drawing a straight line or it's not about pixel pushing or about making things pretty. It's about psychology. It's about neuroscience, linguistics, sociology, philosophy. It's about understanding humans so that we can make things for humans. What kind of things? Things that improve their lives. That enlighten them, that empower them. So we need to create a new category of technology: Design-led open. What I call experience-driven open (XO). Because this is a missing quadrant of technology. We have features-driven closed. The Microsofts, the Nokia's of the world. They're still living in the age of features for the most part. We have experience-driven closed. The Apples, google when it's making its own products, not Android in general. But in open we only have Features-driven open. We're missing a whole quadrant of technology. This is quite a conspicuous thing to be missing. Experience-driven open is a whole area of technology that we're missing. So you might say "So what?". Well you remember our friends? Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter? And they're closed? People are using them because they are experience-driven. They create a seamless, beautiful experience. And remember how we said, "What's the alternative?" We need to get people to own their data. Indie data. Owning your digital self. The whole idea behind indie data is to empower regular people to own their data. And in order to achieve this we need this we need mainstream adoption in the consumer market. A market that we're not even addressing right now. Experience-driven open technologies are a prerequisite to this. And if we do this we actually have an advantage. Because if you consider indie data vs big data look at their business goals. With Indie Data we can, for example let's say we're creating a phone. We will sell that phone at its regular price, not subsidized. Maybe we'll sell optional services around it. What does Big Data do? They sell devices at subsidised prices. Under their true value. And then they sell users' data. We're getting a divergence in the needs of the corporation of the company and the user. So with Indie Data, your business needs are aligned with the users. You just want to make a better phone. A better service. Because they're paying for it and they're buying it. With Big Data your business needs are diverging from the user's needs. Which means you have a user experience disadvantage. Strangely, ironically, if we were to do this, we would have a user experience advantage over the free services. An inherent user experience advantage. If you want to learn more about that look at

I just want to end by saying that I'm not just talking about this. This isn't some theory. I'm actually doing something about it. I'm starting up a new company, to do exactly what I said earlier. We are going to create a phone, and the operating system for the phone, and the services, the core services, around that phone for regular people to own their own data. We're going to control hardware, we're going to control services, we're going to control services, and we're going to do some interesting things with connectivity. But I'll tell you what we're not going to do, we're not going to be tied to the carriers. We're going to start small so that we don't have to be. The whole idea is to create this beautiful, seamless experience. So that's Prometheus. You can learn more about that at

So today we're standing at a cross-roads. Before us are two paths. One leads to a digital free land of people own their own data, their devices, and their services. And they're empowered by these tools. To protect and safeguard their privacy, their civil liberties, and their human rights. The other path leads a digital feudalism populated by digital serfs. Who can't own who don't even have the option of owning their data, devices, and services. Who have to rent them from their corporate landlords and they are enfeebled by this. And they enjoy neither privacy, civil liberties or human rights. So we stand at this cross road and we have to ask ourselves, "Can we afford to take the wrong road." So I say to you: Join me. And let us bring design thinking to open source. Let us start creating experience-driven open technologies that empower people to safe guard their privacy, their civil liberties, and their human rights. Let us realize the dream of Indie Data.

Let us take the road less travelled.

Thank you.

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