We'll see | Matt Zimmerman

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Why I’m excited about joining Singly

This summer, I’ll be taking a bit of time off, moving back to San Francisco and starting a new job. I can’t wait to get back to work. Here’s why.

Me and my data


I have a singular relationship with my data. I have a copy of every email I’ve sent since I first got an Internet email address in 1994 (82,000 messages and counting). I have even older files downloaded from BBSes, and passed between friends on floppy disks. Chat logs, text messages, voicemail…I hold onto them all. Anything which is relevant to me personally, I tend to save.

This must seem banal to people who are first getting online today. In the age of Gmail and Flickr, it’s easy to assume that all of your data will be preserved indefinitely, with little or no effort on your part. But for me, it has been hard work over the years, because I’ve done it myself. I’ve carried my data with me to countless new computers, operating systems, storage technologies, file formats and cities over the years. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve brought it with me. Physically.

Really?

Why do I do this? Why have I gone to such trouble for a collection of bits? Especially now, why is most of my data still at home?

One pragmatic answer is that I can simply do more with my data when I have a copy. I can work with it using any software I want, including software that I write myself. I don’t have to worry about whether I can transfer it from one web service to another. I’m never stuck using yesterday’s services because my data is never trapped in them. My personal data is always available to me me, always raw, ready and waiting for the next wave of software to come along. When it does, I can load my data into it and keep going. The fact that Facebook and Google disagree over sharing their users’ data doesn’t bother me in the least.

Another reason is that I want to be in control of it. I decide who to share my data with, and when. Some of it, I prefer not to share at all, with any person or company, and I have that choice. Even if a powerful government wants to access my data, I am afforded certain protection under the law, at least in the countries where I’ve lived. If I turned over my data to service providers, my choices and protection would likely be much more limited.

I have a deeper emotional attachment to my data as well. Enfolded within that vast pattern of bits is some part of my self. By sharing my personal data with other people, I show them something of who I am. Increasingly, my personal data is part of my identity. This is more than just a state of mind: it’s been shown that even our “non-identifying” personal data can reveal who we are.

In other words, it’s not just “my data”—it’s me data”.

Singly

I’m joining Singly because I want to take this concept much further, and combine people, data and software into a different shape with people at the center.

Today, we are creating vastly greater amounts of personal data, and it’s stored in many more places. We leave our trail on the Internet in the form of activity streams, messages and content, spread across different web sites, each with their own inscrutable terms of service and (if we’re lucky) their own API. These disconnected silos prevent us from using all of this information effectively.

Meanwhile, we want—and need—to connect with each other in more ways than ever before. We need applications which can connect us, through our personal data, to the services we need.

Singly is building the technology to make this possible. It will be designed with the deepest respect for the relationship that we have with our personal data, and with a vision for truly personal computing.

Singly is…

  • A team of passionate people, dedicated to a vision for personal data
  • Building an open source data locker, which aggregates and stores your personal data from around the web and ensures that it’s always available to you
  • Enabling developers to create powerful distributed applications based on this data, without having to deal with the complexity of multiple web services APIs
  • Providing secure hosting services for personal data lockers
  • Hiring! We’re looking for people with deep experience in security and cryptography, cloud infrastructure and user experience, as well as software engineering generalists

This opportunity is a great fit for my interests and experience. Singly aims to be the commercial part of a vibrant open source community, and I’m looking forward to building on what I’ve learned in Debian, Canonical and Ubuntu to help make it a success.

I’ll have lots more to say about it as time goes on. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in following what we’re doing, here’s where:

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Written by Matt Zimmerman

May 27, 2011 at 17:13

28 Responses

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  1. Congratulations and best wishes Matt! Thanks for all you have done for Ubuntu. You will not be far, but you will be missed.

    Randall

    May 27, 2011 at 18:33

  2. So Singly is a FOSS alternative to Diaspora with a slightly different focus?

    Tom

    May 27, 2011 at 18:44

    • Singly is addressing a different problem than Diaspora. We are not creating a social networking application, but we do want to help you get the most out of using many different social networking tools. It is very early, but more will become clear over time.

      Matt Zimmerman

      May 27, 2011 at 19:32

  3. You’ll be missed around Ubuntu, Matt, but best wishes in your new venture.

    Here’s to (selfishly) hoping eCryptfs finds its way into Singly’s crypto infrastructure ;-)

    :-Dustin

    Dustin Kirkland

    May 27, 2011 at 18:57

    • Thanks, Dustin. I will be sure to get your advice when we’re talking infrastructure

      Matt Zimmerman

      May 27, 2011 at 19:30

  4. “Meanwhile, we want—and need—to connect with each other in more ways than ever before. We need applications which can connect us, through our personal data, to the services we need.”

    I suppose this is off-topic, but I disagree completely with this paragraph. We do not need to invent new ways to connect with each other. Some people want to and are trying to, but what they’re really doing is trying to invent more and more complex ways of interacting with other people in cyberspace as a substitute for interaction in meatspace. It’s less risky, because you can say whatever you want and turn off the connection whenever you want. You can terminate a relationship and start another one with a few clicks. But it’s all inferior to facetime–and I don’t mean Apple’s chat app.

    People have been connecting with each other for thousands of years. We don’t need new ways of doing so–indeed, by our attempts to replace face-to-face interaction with screen-to-face interaction, we are doing real harm to society and to individuals. The imaginary worlds of the Internet are unhealthily addictive as replacements for real life. We need to deemphasize the Internet as a means of social interaction and refocus on the real world. Let the Internet have it’s place, but we need to keep it there.

    Adam

    May 27, 2011 at 18:58

  5. Best wishes for the future, Matt! I look forward to seeing your future accomplishments at Singly.

    Jono

    Jono Bacon

    May 27, 2011 at 19:23

  6. I hope your new position is very fulfilling and that you have lots of fun.

    PS: Singly has an interesting website design :)

    Jonathan Carter

    May 27, 2011 at 19:46

    • I feel good about the decision, and think it will be a lot of fun. Thank you.

      Matt Zimmerman

      May 28, 2011 at 07:59

  7. Good luck with the new gig Matt, look forward to seeing what you guys do :)

    Cheers,
    Hugh

    Hugh Blemings

    May 28, 2011 at 01:10

    • Thanks for the good wishes. I hope we’ll surprise you. :-)

      Matt Zimmerman

      May 28, 2011 at 07:58

  8. […] Zimmerman’s Blog Post on The Locker […]

  9. […] Zimmerman's Blog Post on The Locker […]

  10. Congratulations and best wishes for your future endeavours. Hope you enjoy every moment of it

    pankaj

    May 29, 2011 at 04:59

  11. Best wishes, Matt, I hope it is fun and challenging and you make good stuff!

    Carla Schroder

    May 30, 2011 at 04:38

  12. All the best Matt, big hugs from Berlin!

    Daniel Holbach

    May 30, 2011 at 09:00

  13. […] se ha unido al proyecto el que era jefe de tecnología de Ubuntu, Matt Zimmerman. Según explica en su blog, se ha unido a Singly, encargados de The Locker Project, porque quiere […]

  14. […] se ha unido al proyecto el que era jefe de tecnología de Ubuntu, Matt Zimmerman. Según explica en su blog, se ha unido a Singly, encargados de The Locker Project, porque quiere […]

  15. […] Zimmerman’s announcement that he is leaving Ubuntu to join the […]

    The Power of a Transformative Idea: Presenting Singly | Disruption: David Pakman's Blog

    May 31, 2011 at 10:06

  16. […] ‘Dapper Drake’”. Zimmerman, who recently left his position as CTO of Canonical to join Singly, thanked everyone who helped make Ubuntu 6.06 […]

  17. […] Drake’”. Zimmerman, que recentemente deixou sua posição como CTO da Canonical para se juntar à Singly, agradeceu a todos que ajudaram a fazer o Ubuntu […]

  18. […] Drake’”. Zimmerman, que recentemente deixou sua posição como CTO da Canonical para se juntar à Singly, agradeceu a todos que ajudaram a fazer o Ubuntu […]

  19. […] have ranted on the Cloud previously on my blog. However, part of Zimmerman’s post really hit home for me. Who really owns the Cloud, and more importantly, who owns the data? […]

  20. […] Matt Zimmerman: Why I’m excited about joining Singly […]

  21. […] Matt Zimmerman: Why I’m excited about joining Singly […]

  22. […] all what you share on social networks and then build apps on it. Former Ubuntu CTO Matt Zimmerman has been involved closely in both […]


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