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Thoughts on DiSo

Posted on: Tuesday, 4 October 2011 @ 11:34am
Blatting about
More specifically

I've had several.

Simultaneously, I've had several thoughts on which way this post was going to go.  Originally I was going to go along the vein of a blog post from Zauber Paracelsus (which outlines the "nymwars" debacle to the date of that post, people embarking on "Project DeGooglefy" and alternatives to Google services).

Then I was going to do something or other about G+ and Facebook and problems with centralised social networks.

Somewhere in there I wanted to write about the DiSo project (which appears to have died), and projects such as Diaspora and Friendika, and how I'm wanting to attempt to help with everything, and where I'm going to expend most of my efforts.

Then I started wondering what all those people that aren't me want.  Build it and they will come maybe, but "they" still need to have a use for it and be able to use it.

I'm not nearly important enough to care about the fact that both Facebook and Google datamine like crazy and "require" lots of personal information so they can sell it while claiming that "you have control".  I am also quite happy to "go somewhere else" if not happy with the service.  In the event people want to know where I've gone, I'm mostly here.

Distributing the eggs

  • Gmail: it's being forwarded here, and I'm using emails from this domain for everywhere important
  • OpenID: I'm currently using my gmail account for OpenID.  I'll be setting this up as a provider once the OpenID Provider hits 7
  • G+: going to hack Drupal DiSo.  For things usable now there's Diaspora and Friendika
  • search: I checked out DuckDuckGo and Dogpile.  I'm currently using the former in ssl mode and have the latter stored in the toolbar.  Haven't yet needed to go back to Google
  • Youtube: probably Vimeo.
  • GoogAnalytics: looks like there's a few options, I'm currently eyeing off Piwik (open source! Has Drupal module! And lives on your website! Which will make life so much easier if I ever have to palm off any of my sites)

Diaspora and Friendika

They're both more or less a direct answer to the centralised social networks, but decentralised.  What that means is that there isn't one big cluster of servers owned by one corporation that you have your account on, there are several that are unrelated to each other that host the software, and you can sign up on one of the open pods or perhaps you're lucky enough to have a friend/family member who owns a closed pod or you host your own.  Each pod can interact with all the other pods.  You can as you wish pack up everything in your account (contacts, files, "apps", all your posts, as I understand it anyway) and move it to another pod without losing anything. You can use whatever name you like and whatever picture you like.

Decentralised networking as explained by Diaspora

Decentralised social networking as explained on

Both support @mentions and #tags.  Friendika is built on the xamp stack and Diaspora is a Ruby on Rails thing.  Friendika appears more feature rich, but I don't have an account anywhere yet and I'm still working on setting up pods so I can't say a lot on it.  Diaspora is currently pretty bare bones but is working on catching up.


I haven't noticed much in the way of discussion on the project itself lately, and if anyone is doing any development on it they are doing it very quietly.  As far as I can tell, it's more decentralised again as it appears to be based around a website as a node/profile using the internet as a social network.

I started out building this thing (technonaturalist) as a seriously rude approximation of what a website might look like if it was also a social network node (Sprat probably had no idea what I was banging on about when I put it in the spec so she designed it as a pretty little blog, it does the job fine), and fell over this year old slideshow done by Stephane Corlosquet, Lin Clark, Alexandre Passant and Axel Polleres (people I admire from a distance) which made me more certain that it is entirely do-able.


Currently it needs to be done by people smarter than me. I have a lot of learning to do.

That did lead me onto my next cloud of thought.

What do people want?

Well that depends on the person doesn't it.

As far as I can tell, anyone inclined to socially network wants an easy way to share Stuff (lolcats, cool things they found on teh interwebz, pictures, photos, random thoughts of various length) with other people.  Most of them also want various degrees of privacy control (this information is only for family, this one is okay for friends but would prefer the in laws and the work colleagues didn't see, not safe for kids, I don't want to use my real name etc).  Some just want another method of communication with family and/or friends, others are also looking for other people with similar interests.  This easiness is built into Diaspora and Friendika.

My Diaspora stream

My Diaspora stream

If it looks familiar because you're on G+, Diaspora came before G+ but after Facebook and G+ copied a lot of it (and this is completely ignoring the fact that older social networks such as Livejournal have had aspect-like things forever).  Then Facebook seems to have copied G+.

This easiness can be emulated in a website/node/thing.  Wordpress has a reputation for one button publishing or something to that effect.  I've found just about anything can be done with Drupal (to my current capabilities anyway, and I'm watching it being pushed with this project I'm working on, very glad I'm just a themer for this one).  There's increased flexibility with layout and what can be included on it, but the added problem of needing to do the domain and hosting thing.  That could be considered too hard, perhaps.

Which brings me back to the question: where are efforts best expended?

The thing with people is there's all different kinds of people and no one size fits all.  I'm going to focus on working out how to turn technonaturalist properly into a DiSo node partly so I can do it for other people/teach them how to do it/bite it and make a bloody install profile but mostly for purely selfish reasons (because I want it that way).

The least I can do the other two is try to get my pods up and running.  I would like to try my hand at hacking them as well, even if just to figure federating out (hopefully someone else with more time and intelligence can work on it before I get around to it).  Until such a time as the internet and social networking as it operates in AR becomes a reality and setting up a Drupal-complex website/blog/profile/thing is as easy as setting up a WP site, Diaspora and Friendika are much more entry level and getting them to a state where more people are comfortable using them seems to be A Good Thing (tm).

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