I have, for as long as I can remember, been unable to separate my experience as a person using the internet from the ethical considerations that come along with that experience.
When I was a little kid, I hated when my parents would force me off the internet. Of course I was doing things like creating Expages sites and finding the best online game sites (Flash and Java applets in those days...remember?), but I was also doing something more. I was becoming experienced. I was learning to navigate a community larger than a town or country: its customs, its slang, its expectations, its pitfalls, and what makes it great.
It was the internet, and to this day it continues to draw me in with the honesty of its promise. The internet is not only freedom from, it is also the freedom to.
Perhaps this is the reason why I have never and will (likely) never be able to identify as politically conservative: the freedom to do something (positive freedom) is such a better way to conceptualize human action than the freedom from interference (negative freedom).
From the start, I conceived of Quickbits (fork at github) as a service that a few DBC devs-in-training could offer to show their commitment to user freedom while picking up some useful skills in our final project. The pitch itself sprung as the melding of a few ideas a fellow boot of mine had (anonymous location-based mobile chat) with my desire to explore the world of WebRTC while taking a crack at a longstanding problem.
Our group ran into conflict this weekend while considering whether or not collecting user information was within project scope when the project happens to be an anonymous, peer-to-peer/browser-to-browser file sharing application.
It is a discussion for which I am glad to have been at least a partial progenitor and contributor. I am proud to be among a group of developers willing to consider the ethical implications that their actions will have on their users. Too often I feel that greater open source community (and by extension Dev Bootcamp) trend toward a sort of money-ocracy: alls well that pays well. (see: Open Source vs Free Software)
As a kid I quickly learned that the internet was not all game sites and useful information about how to build paper airplanes. The internet is those things, but it also a place for viewing pictures of dead soldiers and fornication; for telling the person who asked you not to swear to fuck off; and for the conspiratorial to peddle their wares.
This is the internet that nurtured and educated me. The anonymous, pseudonymous, free-for-all-pretty-for-none bazaar that so captures the varied essence of humanity and stands in stark contrast to the polished, normalized cleanroom that exists in the fantasy of advertisers, Supreme Soviet-wannabees, paranoid parents and busybodies.
The idea that we can help shape this future, and preserve it for those who come next has been "the splinter in my mind", so to speak. It's the reason why I'm at Dev Bootcamp working on this project in the first place. I'm proud to be working on Quickbits, but I'm more proud to be working with a team of people unafraid to have the conversation. While there was a clear schism regarding user data and analytics, we were in agreement on the point: this stuff matters.