I like the idea of federation. The notion that you genuinely own (or at the very least, have more autonomy than what more providers allow) the content you produce, store and share with others on the Internet. In the scope of social media, it begins to trickle down for me but when it comes to file storage or even communications; having control of how I send my information to someone else and being confident that it’s reliable as well as under my discretion is dope. This led to me making use of software like ownCloud, gitolite and the ilk. However, I just had these set up with no real knowledge on how to keep them backups without my interference. This led to look for something like sovereign.
Software Turned Us Into Money
There’s also the paranoia now really shitty state of software services that don’t give a shit about their users. Facebook serves to make its products as filled with data for its users to pay for and share around said products like playing cards. The products are you and I and the users are politicians, insurance companies, healthcare providers, government - you name it. Salim has an excellent writeup about this.
I’ve always saw this coming but with these changes and the new presidential administration coming into play - I can’t avoid to play it by ear and eye anymore.
Software Is Meant to Be Free?
People gotta eat - don’t get me wrong. I write software for a living by day and I would like to keep doing so. I only have issues when said software is used to dehumanize and disable people from exercising digital liberties. I’m not casting Facebook in the light alone but it’s definitely one of the most unabashedly uncaring and willing to do so.
But this post isn’t about that. Again, read Salim’s post.
Dokku is the shit. I know, there’s things like Flynn and what not, but Dokku is really nifty in its singular goal - a plugin based platform as a service thingy! Realistically, Dokku is a Platform as a Service that makes it easy to push and deploy applications to a single machine. It’s like Heroku, except that you’re not paying for anything but your own server. It’s handy for small pet projects and things you and a few people might be using. I definitely would lean towards Flynn if you don’t want to use Heroku but still want that control (you also probably want to handle availability but another blog post).
Blah, blah, blah.
I ended up using Terraform to build me some virtual machines on DigitalOcean and tie them some domain records over from DNSimple. After that, a few roles from a hand rolled Ansible playbook handles all of the work of setting up Dokku with the plugins I’d like to use. The list of those are the following:
All of these are meant to make working with little play applications, my website’s API and a bunch of other applications I play with but also make the development flow and security tightening a bit simpler. It looks like a bit of overkill and it kind of is. Things like owncloud won’t need something like shoreman but one of my side projects might1.
I can give you a whole little rundown on how Dokku works, is installed and the jazz but they have better documentation worked on dozens of people about that so read that.
Goals with Federation
The fun part is always installing and getting things working with no problems. It’s not rare, but it’s not predictable. It happens! The next step is getting your devices working with this stuff. This stuff being things like my smart phone, my personal and work laptop, etc. This isn’t too much of a burden - in fact, for me at least, the only problem is securely syndicating passwords using something like pass. The “recommended” way to handle multiple devices with one key ring is via the “hidden master, multiple subordinates” approach2. That would let me use the mobile and desktop clients for pass with ease and relative security.
Then there’s file synchronization, calendar & contact management, reading lists, RSS/ATOM handlers, personal code hosting - bleh. All of that stuff is relatively simple to handle and manage thanks to the push-to-deploy approach of Dokku.
Ambitions for Federation
One thing I always did want was a single sign on approach for these services. It might not make immediate sense - but I hate having to sign into a service. The way services like Slack and Lyft handle sign-ins are the way - using an authorized device to produce (or receive) a code that can be confirmed as a valid nonce for authentication? Goals.
Granted, the easiest way I think of doing this with the lowest code friction would be to use Clef. Just setting up accounts with all of these federated applications and once I’m in one application, I’m in all (and I can control which one I want to sign out from just by using the Clef mobile app). This slightly breaks the whole federation model - having authentication and authorization held by a remote (but trusted) third party service. What else can be done?
There’s a few options here, but I can’t be bothered to set up LDAP or IPA to handle authentication. I’ll sign in with 2FA for now. The most compelling option I’m seeing is really IndieAuth.
I’m going to do it. My goal this year is to be able to “reclaim” my data - moving all of my media and content to a single place that I hold so I can do what I want with it and not have to hope and plead with third party providers that something can be added. I’m going to join the IndieWeb movement. I’ll write more about it in the near future. If you’re trying to be down, peep https://indiewebify.me/.
Toying Around With Live Projects
I’ve been working on a few digital projects - not really around social good but moreso about conversation management and handling online. I’ll be hitting y’all up about it soon.
A quote from the great Baldwin, “If you’re treated a certain way you become a certain kind of person. If certain things are described to you as being real they’re real for you whether they’re real or not”. Fitting, don’t you think?