Retrograde

Retrograde is an informal project for family and friends to test RetroShare, a friend-to-friend (F2F) network communication and file sharing system, to see if it can replace other social media platforms. Mega-corporate social media incessantly use surveillance trackers, and manipulate users for commercial, political and even more fundamental ideological purposes.

The RetroShare Logo

If you know me personally, you may participate in this project!

The key dates of the project are all the first day of the following months in 2018.

July: Official announcement of project, with a request for participants. If you want to participate, please send an email to brock at mclellan dot no, with Retrograde as subject. Nothing more is needed. The official deadline is 2018-07-14 23:59, Central European Summer Time (CEST). For people living on the West Coast of North America, the deadline is 14:59 or 2:59 PM, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). Unofficially? Well, why don’t you send it now, so you don’t forget? But your request will be considered by a living human being, with long experience dealing with procrastinators!

August: Notification of selected participants. Participants will receive detailed instructions on how to download and install RetroShare, including creation of private and public keys needed to operate the system. Back channels (email) will be used for this purpose. You may want to have a few close friends and/or family members install RetroShare on their computers.

September. Trial operation. During this time you will be able to communicate with friends and family who have RetroShare, and send communication similar to that you would do on Facebook, but without Facebook being in control. Hopefully, during the month you will learn new features of RetroShare that improve the quality of your on-line life. Every few days, you will receive a new message (on RetroShare) suggesting new ways of communicating, building your skills (and confidence) as a RetroShare user.

October. You will be asked some questions about your experiences using RetroShare in September, and particularly about problems you encountered (and your solutions). The official deadline to reply will be Sunday, 2018-10-14 23:59, Central European Summer Time (CEST). For people living on the West Coast of North America, the deadline is 14:59 or 2:59 PM, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). Note: This date is before the “fall back” to standard time.

November. An anonymized report on the trial operation will be sent to participants, a less detailed weblog post will follow. It will now be up to each participant to decide if they want to keep using RetroShare actively, to keep it passively on their machine, or deactivate it and remove it.

Why Retrograde?

In the final hours of preparing this post, I received a copy of a report from the Norwegian Consumer Council, titled Deceived by Design. It states,

“In this report, we analyze a sample of settings in Facebook, Google and Windows 10, and show how default settings and dark patterns, techniques and features of interface design meant to manipulate users, are used to nudge users towards privacy intrusive options. The findings include privacy intrusive default settings, misleading wording, giving users an illusion of control, hiding away privacy friendly choices, take-it-or-leave-it choices, and choice architectures where choosing the privacy friendly option requires more effort for the users.” (p. 3)

Yes, social media, including Facebook and Google, but also Microsoft with Windows 10, has gotten out of hand. I would like people to participate in a cyberspace where fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, dominate. At the same time, I want people to use dignity and respect in their dealings with each other, online as well as offline. Project Retrograde is an initial effort to provide such a forum.

About RetroShare

RetroShare is an open source, non-intrusive communication platform, with official and unofficial versions available for devices (usually computers) running the following operating systems:

Windows: XP, Vista, 7, 10.

Apple: MacOS.

Linux: Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, Arch, Fedora, Gentoo, , Raspberry Pi, Mageia, CentOS, OpenSUSE.

FreeBSD

Android:  Only a partial implementation.

There does not seem to be a distribution for iPhone, but this may be in part because Apple is not particularly open to products outside their very commercial ecosystem. One inexpensive solution for people trapped in an Apple environment, is to buy a raspberry pi, and to use it as a RetroShare server. People in this situation can contact me for details, as I will be implementing RetroShare on a Raspberry Pi 3 B+. A Mac computer, running any modern version of macOS can also be used.

RetroShare works as a communication platform, when it is based on real-life acquaintanceships of “trusted” people in a network. Add only people to the network you know and trust. In 2012, a German Court issued an injunction against a user of RetroShare for sharing copyrighted music files. The user had added an anti-piracy monitoring company as a friend, which allowed him to be “caught”.

Unless you tell someone, it will be very difficult for other people to know that you are running RetroShare.

I will only be adding people to my network that I know personally, even if the last time we met physically was over fifty years ago. I still know them, and trust them. On the other hand, there may be people I have regular contact with, but where, for one reason or another, there is a shortage of trust. With people in this category, I will certainly avoid mentioning anything about RetroShare. My estimate is that, fully populated, my RetroShare contact list will include about 100 people.

One challenge with using Facebook is that they categorize everyone as a friend, while I use much more selective nuances. The several hundred people I am Facebook-friends with include: friends (a core group of about 10 people, most of whom I have known for 30 years or more), close family (which may relate to my adoptive or biological family), not-so-close family, neighbours, co-religionists, former colleagues, former pupils, former prison inmates I have taught, other prison inmates, members of environmental and other organizations, random acquaintances, and people who claim to know me that I can’t even recall vaguely. I habitually turn down friend requests from unknown twenty-something year old women, who include a lot of photos of themselves but little real information, so they are not even included on the list of Facebook-friend categories.

Some of the communication services provided by RetroShare include : private chats, a private mailing system, public and private multi-user chat lobbies, a forum system, an auto-download file distribution system similar to RSS feeds, a link posting system, VoIP calls, Video calls, Tor and I2P  support. Admittedly, some of these are not fully developed, and are in Beta testing. During the trial period, a large number of these will be used (or at least proposed used) to see how they function, and if these would be appropriate for continued use.

RetroShare creates encrypted connections to your friends, which reduces the likelihood of surveillance. Retroshare is decentralized. There are no central servers that can retain copies of cleartext (unencrypted) data. Because of this, there is no fear that they will shut down or change their terms of services. RetroShare is independent of government and corporate systems.

For further information see:

https://fil.forbrukerradet.no/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-06-27-deceived-by-design-final.pdf

Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RetroShare

Official Retroshare website: http://www.retroshare.net/

Tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zVVxtwEdps

(At the time of writing 2018-06-29 at 09:00 this video had 4 857 views, and was one of the most popular RetroShare videos.)

Social Media revisited

‘If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.’ Theresa May, 2016

Unlike Facebook, I am not “stockpiling and mining user information”. As far as I am aware, neither Cambridge Analytics, nor their lackey, AggregateIQ, are scraping posts. Yet, this blog is another incarnation of social media with an agenda (of attempting) to influence reader opinion.

Bill Blunden notes, “Social media is a form of mass surveillance and a tool of elite control. Buy product X, vote for candidate Y, support regime change movement Z. Pay no attention to the CEO behind the curtain.”

Dear reader, rest assured, I am not a member of any elite group. This includes Elite Singles, from whom I regularly receive invitations to join.

Yet, Blunden is correct when he states that messaging reinforces existing beliefs, and is part of a “divide and conquer strategy which the power elite have traditionally wielded to hobble the proles.” In fact, I see wisdom in his conclusion that “Readers should be wary of social media bubbles, safe spaces, and the like. …instituting societal change means reaching out to other folks. Some of whom may have different ways of viewing the world. Resist the temptation to write them off and have the humility to accept the limits of your own understanding.”

Currently, this blog only reaches a very narrow market. An optimist  would be exaggerating by saying that it was somewhere between ten and twenty people, limited to family members and a few real friends. Its sphere of influence could be expanded to perhaps a hundred people –  a few more (former) friends, Facebook acquaintances as well as others who have currently escaped Facebook attention, mainly Somewherians who lived in New Westminster in my formative years.

The market could be expanded more, if I chose to focus exclusively on an educational mission, ignoring family history and my blatant political, philosophical and other biases. Unfortunately, that isn’t me.

Blunden writes, “Take personal responsibility for your own social life. Go back to engaging flesh and blood people without tech companies serving as an intermediary. Eschew the narcissistic impulse to broadcast the excruciating minutiae of your life to the world. Refuse to accept the mandate that you must participate in social media in order to participate in society. Reclaim your autonomy.”

Birdhouses and beyond

The Inderøy birdhouse, a workshop project with a social and environmental profile.

One of the purposes of Hastighet (= Velocity) techno-garage, a local maker-space start-up, is to encourage the development of real-world Somewherian relationships with others from Inderøy. It is in the workshop world that people can make manifest their social and environmental ideals.

On Saturday, 2018-04-14, at E@ Internet Cafe, Inderøy, anyone could build themselves a birdhouse. Their only cost was an investment of time, during which they transformed 6 pre-cut, pre-drilled boards, 14 screws and a length of wire into a functioning house for a homeless member of the Paridae (tit) family, of which seven species live in Norway.

Almost 60 building sets were made, including one prototype. In the end, 14 bird houses were assembled and given away to specific people, for their contribution to the environmental movement in Inderøy. Currently, there are 17 kits left over. That means that more than 25 kits were assembled, or taken home for later assembly, by people attending the event.

Common birds, especially farmland birds, are in sharp decline in Europe.

As the graph above shows, common birds, especially farmland birds, are in sharp decline in Europe. Giving a child their own personal birdhouse, can foster an interest in the environment that may last a lifetime. With Workshop activism a focus for some members, the Inderøy Friends of the Earth is considering inviting all pupils of a particular grade, yet to be determined, to the Hastighet workshop in 2019 to build yet more bird houses. The real purpose is not to teach woodworking, but environmentalism. However, before this is done, a plan has to be made so that all school children are given regular opportunities to experience practical environmentalism, through woodworking. Additional plans also include a Repair Cafe, which would focus on rehabilitating rather than discarding products. It should also be noted that while some people were making birdhouses, others were working at the annual clothing exchange, making sure that inappropriately sized clothing received new owners.

Thus, my considered reply to Blunden is that I do take personal responsibility for my own social life. I am engaging with flesh and blood people, but I am also engaging with people who are geographically more distant, but emotionally closer. These are typically Nowherians living in places as diverse as Bergen, Prince Rupert and San Francisco. It is to keep in close contact with these that I have now turned to my blog. I dream of using Diaspora, but no critical mass has emerged there. I have applied to have an account with hello.com when it becomes available in Norway. It is a social networking service founded by Orkut Büyükkökten, the creator of Orkut.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out of Social Media

Social Media

English version. Norsk tekst under.
Adapted from a Facebook posting
I am still actively avoiding Facebook, and making other adjustments to my life to minimize its influence. Today’s suggestion is to ask you to avoid “liking” Facebook posts! For Facebook, your “like” is a tool that can be used to manipulate you.
 
It is now several months since I made a comment in Facebook, in fact. Previously, I have stated that Facebook is restricting interaction by directing people only to other users who mirror their own values, be they right/ left, up/ down or vanilla/ chocolate. This gives a very false picture of the world.
 
Now I’d like to go one step further and discourage everyone from liking posts. Every time you like a post, Facebook learns a little more about you, and is in a better position to manipulate you.
 
At the moment, I am engaged in one-way communication through my blogs:
 
brockmclellan.wordpress.com (yup, that’s what you are reading now!)
designeeds.wordpress.com
unitwon.wordpress.com
 
I am hoping that two-way communication can be effected through Diaspora. For more information about it, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora_(social_network)
 
Norwegian version
Jeg fortsatt prøver å unngå Facebook, og gjøre andre tilpasninger i livet mitt for å minimere sin innflytelse. Dagens forslag er å unngå å “like” innlegg på Facebook! For Facebook er “like” et verktøy som kan brukes til å manipulere deg.
 
Det er nå flere måneder siden jeg kommenterte her, faktisk. Tidligere har jeg uttalt at Facebook begrenser samhandling ved å lede folk bare til andre brukere som speiler sine egne verdier, enten de er høyre/ venstre, opp/ ned eller vanilje/ sjokolade. Dette gir et veldig falskt bilde av verden.
 
Nå vil jeg gjerne gå et skritt videre og motvirke alle fra å “like” innlegg. Hver gang du liker et innlegg, lærer Facebook litt mer om deg, og er i en bedre stilling til å manipulere deg.
 
For øyeblikket er jeg engasjert i enveiskommunikasjon gjennom bloggene mine:
 
brockmclellan.wordpress.com
designeeds.wordpress.com
unitwon.wordpress.com
 
Jeg håper at toveiskommunikasjon kan skje gjennom Diaspora. For flere opplysninger om det, se: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora_(social_network)