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Diaspora: An Open Source Facebook
May 12, 2010 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Diaspora: open-source Facebook.

In February, four NYU grads saw Columbia University law professor Eben Moglen give a speech to the Internet Society, "Freedom in the Cloud", and were inspired to take a geek thwack at creating an open-source Facebook. As a result of negative media coverage of Facebook's recent privacy intrusions, their Kickstarter sales pitch raised $10,000 in its first 12 days, which has more than doubled by today.

A Diaspora "seed" – which they're evidently writing in Ruby and licensing under aGPL – will let you have "all the little games, the little walls, the little chat", but hosted on your system (but communicating with your friends' Diaspora instances), and will allow services to optionally interact, so that, for example, a photograph uploaded to Flickr could automatically generate a tweet.
posted by WCityMike (145 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Despite the Wired article's title, the article doesn't mention Diaspora – I thought the project was impressive enough it deserved its own FPP, and, additionally, it's kind of amazing that it got funded so quickly (through a rush of mostly $50-or-less donations) in the middle of a recession.
posted by WCityMike at 7:01 PM on May 12, 2010


Also, for a bit of fun, a dirty Unix joke that Diaspora's dev team had up on their chalkboard ended up making it into the print edition of the New York Times. Fsck fsck fsck, indeed.
posted by WCityMike at 7:04 PM on May 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


An "open-source Facebook" implies there is code to look at. Where is it?
posted by neustile at 7:06 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I said it in the other thread and I'll say it again here: I love the idea but I really think the "hosted on your system" part is Diaspora's Achilles heel. Unless the team goes to great lengths to provide free hosting for users with no loss of privacy, the social network is going to be plagued with node downtime and server configuration snafus.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:07 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is so absurdly premature. They only just got the seed money to fund a summer writing the code that might, might do what they hope it'll do... and already they've got a NYTimes profile?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:08 PM on May 12, 2010 [19 favorites]


So, I've got my stuff hosted on my system, and a friend has their stuff hosted on their system. Right? Good. If we're both on-line we can share data; I can access their stuff and vice-versa. But what happens when my friends shuts their system down for the night?
posted by oddman at 7:08 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Winsome Parker Lewis: Unless the team goes to great lengths to provide free hosting for users with no loss of privacy, the social network is going to be plagued with node downtime and server configuration snafus.

Well, on one hand, half of the whole idea is decentralization. But they do mention longer-term plans of having a turnkey thing for those who don't want to, or aren't tech-savvy enough to, hassle with setting it up, sort of an equivalent of WordPress.com to WordPress.
posted by WCityMike at 7:10 PM on May 12, 2010


But it only runs on GNU HURD.
posted by clarknova at 7:10 PM on May 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


oddman: But what happens when my friends shuts their system down for the night?

Well, essentially, it's personal web server software. So presumably it's on a web host that doesn't shut down for the night.
posted by WCityMike at 7:11 PM on May 12, 2010


Congratulations on your invention of wordpress plugins.
posted by DU at 7:13 PM on May 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


So they started the Diaspora project, which they aim to release in its first iteration by September, under a GPL license.

So, this is a group of people with a plan and some startup capital to execute it. Cool. If they manage to execute it—if they manage to execute it, then that might be a story. In the meantime, I'm wishing I could flag NYTimes articles.
posted by cribcage at 7:15 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


May Stallman bless thee and keep thee
May Git lift up its countenance upon thee, and give thee peace
May your vaporware turn to alphas
And may your alphas turn to betas
Smite thine enemy Zuckerberg
For he displeasith thy Lord your God
posted by gwint at 7:21 PM on May 12, 2010 [30 favorites]


But if someone else has to host it, it's going to cost money. That cost will kill it.
posted by 517 at 7:22 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see $20K from 700 people as much of a groundswell. How much money have VCsput into Facebook so far? Check back with me when they have $2M from 70,000 contributors and 400+ people working directly on it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:25 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been following Diaspora for a bit. I'm entranced by the idea, but I'm skeptical of the team. They seem to be able to promote themselves well, which is an important part of any project like this, but their site is light on design ideas. I'm surprised they're going to open source it "by the end of the summer" rather than just put it on github right from the start.

That said, I hope they execute, and I hope they open up whatever they have sooner, rather than later. Imagine if, instead of just going to facebook, you had your choice of several different commodity social networking providers that integrated well enough to provide a feature set comparable to facebook. It's a good idea, and I think inevitable.
posted by heathkit at 7:27 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I said it in the other thread and I'll say it again here: I love the idea but I really think the "hosted on your system" part is Diaspora's Achilles heel. Unless the team goes to great lengths to provide free hosting for users with no loss of privacy, the social network is going to be plagued with node downtime and server configuration snafus.

From the Kickstarter page:
After we open source our source code, we hope to also provide a paid turnkey hosted service in the vein of Wordpress.com to make it easy for people who want to use Diaspora, but don’t want to deal with the fuss of setting it up. We will make it easy to export your data and configuration, so if you decide you want to graduate and host your seed yourself, you are free to do so at anytime.
I plan to host a free Diaspora node. So do lots of other folks. This is a federated protocol, the same as email and XMPP, both of which work just fine. Before people chime in with "Well, email is broken," the problems which plague email are solved in this model, just as they are in XMPP.
posted by signalnine at 7:28 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


But if someone else has to host it, it's going to cost money. That cost will kill it.

Actually, I think it would be instructive to compare diaspora to something like git. There are a few companies out there offering free git hosting, with different levels of subscription service. I'm picturing diaspora hosting being free or ad supported at a certain level, with some providers offering subscriptions for ad-free access, extra capacity, or special features.
posted by heathkit at 7:29 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see $20K from 700 people as much of a groundswell.

They've raised $62,859 from 1689 people (myself included) in ten days. I'd say that's pretty damn decent. They don't need infrastructure, all they need is enough to pay their personal expenses over the summer. Looks like they've got that six times over already. I'll bet VCs are chomping at the bit to get in on their A round.
posted by signalnine at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


There but for the grace of Cheeto encrusted keyboards go I.

I admire their efforts and wish them well.
posted by Kskomsvold at 7:37 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do you know why the Facebook is popular? Because all it requires is that you sign up once and that's it. No making sure your laptop doesn't go to sleep at night, or that your firewall settings are correct, or the myriad of other things a self-hosted alternative requires. If the barrier to entry is anything more than signing up with an e-mail address it is too high. Games and everything else are alright, but if I can't stalk the cute girl in the indie band that plays at the Czar Bar every other Friday night because her Diaspora app always needs to be running, and she has a 7 year old laptop that needs to be plugged in to stay on and only gets Internet when she sits in her roommates room that picks up the unsecure Wifi from the neighbor two floors up ... well fuck it, all the advantages of Facebook are lost.
posted by geoff. at 7:52 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Open source folks: I love you guys so much. I use your software almost exclusively. And I totally feel you.

But you really need to get some new marketing folks. For future reference, names which recall the movement of beleaguered refugees are not good for software.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:53 PM on May 12, 2010 [20 favorites]


Now that you have your information in your seed, it will connect to every service you used to have for you. For example, your seed will keep pulling tweets and you will still be able to see your Facebook newsfeed.

Riiight. Good luck violating a couple dozen Terms of Use contracts, guys.
posted by naju at 8:01 PM on May 12, 2010


They need to use some of this money to hire an IP lawyer.
posted by naju at 8:02 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


yeah. my wife (weederman, for those playing at home) just had new york times link about this deleted when she posted it on facebook. anyone else here have this happen?
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:07 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


What if there was a Facebook app that posted everything from your Diaspora node? Or would that make the universe explode?
posted by AlsoMike at 8:13 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


wow. they wanted 10,000$ minimum? They have over 63,000$. They better not take that money and run with it.

But please! Make it work! They better be quick too. (according to gizmodo) facebook had a meeting today at 4pm to discuss privacy. I hope these guys strike the fatal blow before Facebook (doubt they will) finds a way to recover.
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 8:15 PM on May 12, 2010


I'm all for competition for Facebook; I'm sorry OpenSocial hasn't gotten more traction. But the idea of individuals running their own servers is ridiculous. It pains me to say it, since I spent 10 years of my life working on various peer-to-peer technologies. But "run your own server" is not going to get anywhere with the Facebook audience.
posted by Nelson at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of shocked at how much money they're taking in. The thing is not only had the exact same idea, I even thought of doing a kickstarter to fund it! But. I thought no one would donate to someone who hadn't even started writing code yet. I kind of feel like a complete idiot here... all I needed were some fancy videos ugh.

With $63k so far this better be good.
An "open-source Facebook" implies there is code to look at. Where is it?
They haven't even started writing it!

Unreal. Well, I certainly wish them luck and I hope this doesn't interfear with other open source getting off the ground. Obviously promotion is imporant and these guys know how to promote. But do they know how to code? It's kind of important too. And the interface is going to have to work well. I'd rather see this being done by people with a track record.
Looks like they've got that six times over already. I'll bet VCs are chomping at the bit to get in on their A round.
A round? Wouldn't this be better if it was done without VC funding? Like Wikipedia, or the Apache Group, or Mozilla?
posted by delmoi at 8:26 PM on May 12, 2010


i hope they dont mind, but i made a facebook group: "im leaving facebook for diaspora" you should join it if you feel just as strongly as i do
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 8:27 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm all for competition for Facebook; I'm sorry OpenSocial hasn't gotten more traction. But the idea of individuals running their own servers is ridiculous. It pains me to say it, since I spent 10 years of my life working on various peer-to-peer technologies. But "run your own server" is not going to get anywhere with the Facebook audience.
This is such a stupid argument against this kind of technology. Every time I've mentioned something like this, I've said it ought to be hostable without running your own server, and the Diaspora guys seem to think the same thing.

1) There is no reason why running your own server needs to require a ton of setup. Have you tried to setup a LAMP server on Amazon EC2? You select a machine image, push a button, and it's ready to go. If there's only one machine image to worry about, all people will need to do is push a button, unless they want to run it on their own hardware, which there wouldn't be any need to do at all. Or, windows users could just download an EXE file just like any other windows program.

2) No one would need to run their own server. Most people would just sign up through a website and go, just like facebook. Only if they want to move their data would they need to setup their own server (again, just push a button, or download an EXE)

We'll have to see how good (or bad) Diaspora ends up being, but if its good, it shouldn't be difficult.

--

The only true difficult part would be getting your friends to leave their current social networks.
posted by delmoi at 8:30 PM on May 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


But you really need to get some new marketing folks. For future reference, names which recall the movement of beleaguered refugees are not good for software.
Except that's exactly what it's supposed to be. People who get sick of facebook and leave.
posted by delmoi at 8:32 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


yeah. my wife (weederman, for those playing at home) just had new york times link about this deleted when she posted it on facebook. anyone else here have this happen?

I dunno, but I'm about to try it.
posted by device55 at 8:32 PM on May 12, 2010


I'm going to just start a LiveJournal and be done with it. Screw finding the next thing, I want yesterday's thing.
posted by hellojed at 8:34 PM on May 12, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'd be perfectly happy going through the hassle of setting up a server, if I can host a few hundred people cheaply, and if communicates well with a few other servers. This would allow me to host my extended family and all their friends.

It might not take tons of folk like me to make a big dent.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 PM on May 12, 2010


That picture is worth its weight in something.
posted by swift at 8:51 PM on May 12, 2010


Would one of the challenges here be ensuring that there is a consensus on the protocol for interaction, rather than an actual alternative to facebook?

Of course it is important to have a working alternative, but I assume there are many people who will try and develop, or are developing alternatives. However, for this to really scale I assume compatibility between systems is key.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:52 PM on May 12, 2010


hellojed: “Screw finding the next thing, I want yesterday's thing.

Well don't stop with LiveJournal… c'mon over to the SDF and you can party like it's 1991. That's right, with Gopher.

If using a browser other than Firefox — which still has native Gopher support! — use the HTTP proxy.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:58 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Congratulations on your invention of wordpress plugins.

"Are you trying to work? Because I might have a lot more snarky comments."
posted by middleclasstool at 9:01 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The pure self-hosted model is indeed going to face problems with people's machines sleeping, firewalls, laptops being taken out of wireless range, and so on. I can see it working if they use a peer-to-peer model—one that persists published data when the publisher goes offline, and one that can efficiently work out where to find published data even if the network's membership is churning like crazy.

And, of course, storing personal data on other peers, and getting it served from there without spoofing and so on, means using strong public-key cryptography, and using it correctly: No centralized "trust me" signing authorities, just authentication on everything you do via a web of trust. Which should be entirely workable for a social networking service, if you know what I mean.

(Bonus points if they make the authentication fully interoperable with extant PGP/GPG systems: If I have a keyring already, I point my Diaspora client at it and I am good. If I set up a Diaspora peer, I can export its keyring and use it for my e-mail.)

Also, there are going to be some interesting security challenges if the latest app is running on a user's machine and not just in someone's datacenter.

I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
posted by eritain at 9:17 PM on May 12, 2010


Having read the ruttin' article now: Yay! Encryption!
posted by eritain at 9:22 PM on May 12, 2010


I don't see why the self-hosted model will face any more problems related to people going offline than IM networks already do. Perhaps you won't be able to get all information at all times: whatever. Do your stalking some other time.
posted by kenko at 9:24 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


What might work better (and maybe there is a plan for this) is to have "communities" themselves host Diaspora nodes. For example, one could set up a "north chicago community" or a "twin cities geeks" node and host it for free for people who identify with those communities to join. Ideally there would be no real barrier to entry either, so if a single user did want their own node, they would be free to do that as well.

So, basically, you wouldn't have the issues of the hassle of each user needing to find their own hosting if they didn't want to (and don't want to pay for the service), yet it would still be relatively distributed.

Making each user have their own separate node seems like a non-starter to me. Most users don't want to think, and that's one reason facebook is so popular. You sign up, and go. This would add another step - find a local community node from a centralized list, sign up, and go. But that doesn't seem too terribly difficult for non-savvy users.

It makes the "networks" inside the network more tangible, as a side benefit. Being members of a "node" would seem to be conducive to creating a community in meatspace, as well. As it stands now on facebook, my actual neighbors and I would never realistically run across each other on that social network. Personally, my social network mainly consists of people I went to school with and closer friends. The communities on facebook that I am a part of are entirely virtual. If I had a cookout and advertised it to my social network, the people who would show up would be classmates, friends, and friends of friends. Everyone knows each other already.

Basically, it boils down to the opportunity to create social networks that transcend the virtual boundary. With so many lamenting the loss of real community, why don't we take the opportunity to rebuild that? Virtual and "IRL" communities don't have to be exclusive of each other.
posted by autobahn at 9:26 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's that? Excuse me, I'm going to check on My Tribe.

(Post again when this little project is completed, successful and has even half the social networking capability - including people - of Facebook.)
posted by Malice at 9:28 PM on May 12, 2010


Yeah, they could come up with something really cool.

What if it worked a bit like Freenet? A smaller number of true believers operate nodes, with the understanding among the Diaspora community that this is a good and neighborly thing to do. Profiles and other information are securely and redundantly stored across the nodes using the same kind of technology Freenet uses. Some nodes can come and go, but the distributed and redundant nature of the network makes it mathematically improbable for data to go lost.

The rest of us just use some kind of frontend (maybe a website) that retrieves data from these nodes. Frequently accessed profiles are copied more broadly; infrequently accessed profiles could perhaps eventually disappear.

For added data integrity and control, users can maintain master copies of their profile information locally, or with special e-mail messages that they can retain in their e-mail archive. If their profile goes away, then there's a backup in gmail that they can resubmit to the network by forwarding the e-mail to one of the nodes.

Of course this master copy is only as secure as one's e-mail account, but then again, Facebook is no different.
posted by tss at 9:28 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anything that reduces the ubiquity of facebook is a good thing.
posted by chaz at 9:33 PM on May 12, 2010


Another thing to add to the Freenet-like scheme is this: thanks to strong crypto, nobody knows what information is stored on a node, not even the one they operate on their own computer. That way you wouldn't have circumstances where the "north chicago community" node operator decides he doesn't like Steve from Wrigleyville and keeps deleting his profile.
posted by tss at 9:36 PM on May 12, 2010


"The only limit is yourself."

I was sold already, but seeing the link to zombo.com at the bottom of the page confirmed that this is where I need to be. These are my people.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:42 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know a guy named Steve who lives in Wrigleyville; he's a dick.
posted by kenko at 9:42 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


LET ME KNOW WHEN IT RUN FARMEVILL OKAY THANKS
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:44 PM on May 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'd generally agree that node operators should be divorced from controlling any of the content that they host on their nodes.

However there would need to be a way for administrators to deal with illegal content on their nodes.
posted by autobahn at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2010


Now that you have your information in your seed, it will connect to every service you used to have for you. For example, your seed will keep pulling tweets and you will still be able to see your Facebook newsfeed.

Riiight. Good luck violating a couple dozen Terms of Use contracts, guys.

This stuff could all be accessed through APIs. As to whether or not Facebook would cut off their API access, that's another question.
posted by jessssse at 9:49 PM on May 12, 2010


That also brings up a good point in my head:

If everyone runs their own node, how is content controlled? I'm not for censorship and such, but, realistically, is granny going to join a social network that openly allows Steve from Wrigleyville (he's a dick) to use japanese guro hentai porn as his avatar?

It just so happens Steve loves to knit doilies, so he's always posting on the "north chicago knitters" network, same as granny. Granny doesn't like seeing women literally impaled on male genitalia.
posted by autobahn at 9:51 PM on May 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


"So, I've got my stuff hosted on my system, and a friend has their stuff hosted on their system. "

Hurray! Someone has finally invented Radio Userland, only better! This one's open source and doesn't have Dave Winer!

In all seriousness, though, I definitely support the idea. When I was #2 over at LiveJournal in its early days, one of the things I tried encouraging Brad to do was to reprogram LiveJournal in a very similar fashion, in order to popularize the software and give people more control over their content. Unfortunately, this wasn't done, in part because it was a considerable amount of work, but also because it was seen as undercutting LiveJournal.com's business model.

This, frankly, is something I *still* don't agree with, as I think an open source, distributed LJ would've actually attracted more people hosting content on LiveJournal.com, not less... basically, the main hub would've either hosted or mirrored a metric buttload of accounts, in order to prevent the issue of what happens, should someone's main computer be offline.
posted by markkraft at 9:57 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


So every time an article gets posted about Facebook, people mention its amazing marketing and user interface, and that's why it's so popular. Anyone want to run down for me some of the revolutionary aspects Facebook brought that led to its success? Are they things that these guys could plausibly replicate?
posted by estlin at 10:00 PM on May 12, 2010


It seems inevitable that 99% of users will want to use a large hosting provider who stores their decryption keys - I assume one node per account. How do you prevent the hosting provider from mirroring content after viewing if the ISP controls the OS and can alter the source code?
posted by benzenedream at 10:04 PM on May 12, 2010


“Certainly, as nerds, we have nowhere else to go,” Mr. Salzberg said. “We’re big nerds.”

I'm in love.
posted by angrycat at 10:07 PM on May 12, 2010


delmoi: A round? Wouldn't this be better if it was done without VC funding?

Yep, which is why I just donated to them.
posted by joedan at 10:10 PM on May 12, 2010


I'd generally agree that node operators should be divorced from controlling any of the content that they host on their nodes.

However there would need to be a way for administrators to deal with illegal content on their nodes.


A Freenet-like model means you can't tell whether content on your node is illegal or not---in fact, you can't tell what it is at all, since (by design) you don't have enough information to decrypt the content. This gives you plausible deniability that might even stand up in court, similar to how Verizon employees don't get hauled to jail when someone torrents an episode of Lost over FiOS. Now, if for moral reasons you'd like to be sure that the seemingly random bits on your machine doesn't actually contain illegal content, well, that's a different problem.
posted by tss at 10:12 PM on May 12, 2010


We need some kind of database bankruptcy where you can simply press a button and purge all the crap from all the major databases out there about you. There should be an opt out law that lets you contact a database provider and have them delete all records of your existence from their system (public figures excepted). Deleting your profile would have major consequences to your social currency, but it would let some people start over.
posted by humanfont at 10:16 PM on May 12, 2010


humanfont: We need some kind of database bankruptcy where you can simply press a button and purge all the crap from all the major databases out there about you.

It's not an exact match to the request, obviously, but this is a useful site towards that purpose.
posted by WCityMike at 10:22 PM on May 12, 2010


and already they've got a NYTimes profile?

This is actually just another article about Facebook. Consider the power of the wave of resentment such that someone only needs to mention thinking about maybe doing something better rates a profile.
posted by dhartung at 10:25 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, I totally wasn't kidding about the LJ thing, check my profile and add me if you are so inclined.
posted by hellojed at 10:38 PM on May 12, 2010


I apologize for linking to this in the last post; I was trying to get visibility for a project that is clearly overexposed now. I'll do my best to make up for it by linking to a list of distributed Facebook alternatives that really do exist right now.
posted by shii at 10:46 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's great something like has even a little momentum. Let's just hope this doesn't itself become "new boss same as the old boss". The names of the founders on the bottom of the homepage actually reminds me of the earlier days of Facebook when every page had the incredibly annoying "A Mark Zuckerberg Production".

If this does continue to grow, the community will have to be vigilant with what they allow it to be. Origin is important.
posted by cell divide at 10:47 PM on May 12, 2010


They are annointed!
posted by kuatto at 11:03 PM on May 12, 2010


I really, really don't understand the privacy issue with Facebook. I could really care less if the whole world knows that I like The Shins and that I find cheese to be quite tasty. OH NOES.

Don't share private information on ANY site, Facebook or not.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:05 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


jimmythefish, it would be great if we lived in a world where everyone could accurately predict what personal information would later prove inconvenient to them. But as things are, people can tell quite a lot about you just by looking at your public profile. If they can see who you're connected to, for instance, and they have files on any of those people, they can make some educated guesses about where you live and what industry you work.

Get enough input from an otherwise anonymous person and you can probably identify her.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:51 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Facebook seems to get more complicated with each upgrade, and it is a pain to use on a mobile device. I'm open and ready for a move

But ... my mom is on Facebook. The small-town church-going girls from where I grew up are on. As are a few A-listers I met once at a party in New York, the son of the chief I knew in the Peace Corps, and random backpackers and villagers I've met on the road.

When you get their attention I'll be impressed
posted by kanewai at 12:17 AM on May 13, 2010


The pure self-hosted model is indeed going to face problems with people's machines sleeping, firewalls, laptops being taken out of wireless range, and so on. I can see it working if they use a peer-to-peer model—one that persists published data when the publisher goes offline, and one that can efficiently work out where to find published data even if the network's membership is churning like crazy.

On another one of these threads on some vaguely related subject, there was talk of using the little plug computers as a host for this kind of service.

These are tiny little boxes, like the SheevaPlug, only smaller. I've seen ones that are about twice the size of a nightlight... I've seen others that replace the wall plug, fitting into the space behind. (I'm not sure whether they still provide power through the front, though.) They run small, but complete Linux distros, and can function as very nice little servers.

I could easily see these guys shipping a DiasporaPlug. You'd have to connect it with an Ethernet cable at first, to configure it for your wireless network and with your username, password, and encryption keys, possibly open a port on your router, and then plug it into a wall somewhere and forget about it. With something like DynDNS running, it would report its current IP address on a regular basis to the Diaspora servers, and your friends would be able to find your stuff with minimal hassle. (If you're on an idjit provider that changes your IP address regularly, you can just set it to report its location more frequently.)

They could do an advanced version that's also a router, kind of like an enhanced WRT54G, so you could get your router, your wireless, and your Diaspora software all running right there. Another advantage to putting it on the router is that it can prioritize your internal traffic over the Diaspora stuff, so your friends browsing your picture library won't render your Net connection unusable.

Typically, these things pull maybe 25 watts, which would cost like a buck a month to run.

If they can get them cheap, functional, and reliable, I bet they could move quite a number of the little guys.
posted by Malor at 12:22 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


If everyone runs their own node, how is content controlled? I'm not for censorship and such, but, realistically, is granny going to join a social network that openly allows Steve from Wrigleyville (he's a dick) to use japanese guro hentai porn as his avatar?

You mean, like, the internet? Presumably, people won't have to deal with anyone they don't want to deal with. If someone doesn't want to be exposed to nasty stuff, then they should be able to configure the system to only allow people you know in real life to contact you (you would need to trade URLs over the phone or Email, for example)

Now, if you're grandma is into that stuff too, she might see it.

---
As far as this "will you know if someone his hosting illegal content" issue, does Amazon know if you host illegal stuff on EC2? Probably not, unless they get a complaint. A person hosting a network would be just like an ISP, just hosting a bunch of (for the most part) black box Virtual Machines.

(Now, of course, you can see what's happening in a virtual machine, but it's not always easy if the file system is encrypted, you would need to 'crack' the host OS, which I possible, but a lot of work)

If you get a complaint you should be able to nuke the user, but there's no reason to try to figure out exactly what they're hosting.

--

As far as machine's going offline, I've had a virtual machine running on Linode.com for years now for $20 a month. A VM with the same capacity as my original system could probably had for $5 a month today, if that. Computation and bandwidth costs are always dropping. You can probably buy a 16-core AMD server these days for about $1k, that could host hundreds of low-use VMs. (I'd bet if EC2 existed when facebook was growing, they'd never have needed to take VC funding)

I'm just kind of annoyed that these guys are getting so much hype and money without having done anything at all Ideas are great and all, but people have been working on things like this for a while. These guys seem media savvy, hopefully it'll work out.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't an original idea, it's just that most experienced developers have been put off by the inherently difficult problems you have to solve to produce anything other than a half-arsed solution, and the chances of getting usage to a critical mass are slim.

Maybe this team is fearless and talented enough to manage it, or at least inspire others to try harder, but spending time on press coverage and funding before a line of code has been written makes me sceptical. The whole point with software is that you can demonstrate your ideas by building them instead of just talking about them.
posted by malevolent at 12:29 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


No-freaking-way will the actual future involve the average Facebook user running their own SNS server on their computer. That's loony.

Heathkit is right on the money, though. ^
posted by a sourceless light at 12:40 AM on May 13, 2010


I've yet to be told any Stasi-like actions Facebook is supposedly perpetrating in regards to privacy that I can even REMOTELY pretend to give a shit about. There's even a page out there that will show you what a non-logged-in/not-on-your-friends-list information someone can determine about you via Facebook, apparently expecting people to be shocked at the results. I used it, and it turns out the hordes of sex criminals that are lurking under beds gathering useless minutiae about people can see my name, city, profile picture and status. In other words, about as much information as you can get from the fucking phone book. Wow. And the "well what if you're being stalked by someone" thing doesn't hold water either, as I can pay one of those P.I. service websites $25 and get a thousand times more useful info on you if I really wanted to, or even use free reverse directory search sites (based, again, on the fucking phone book) and get your home address.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:57 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's even a page out there that will show you what a non-logged-in/not-on-your-friends-list information someone can determine about you via Facebook

That makes no sense and should probably read "There's even a page out there that will show you what a non-logged-in/not-on-your-friends-list user can determine about you via Facebook". I'm not sure what happened there, perhaps someone used my Facebook account to infiltrate my brain.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:58 AM on May 13, 2010


Also, if you consider targeted ads being served to you via harvesting of information about you to be an invasion of your privacy, you'd better turn off your computer right now because THAT'S HOW PEOPLE MAKE MONEY VIA THE WEB and has been since the dot-com crash.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:01 AM on May 13, 2010


Fascinating. It doesn't matter how toxic and obnoxious a company is, one can always find a gaggle of people coming to sneeringly defend them against allcomers in the comments.
posted by rodgerd at 1:18 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. It doesn't matter how toxic and obnoxious a company is, one can always find a gaggle of people coming to sneeringly defend them against allcomers in the comments.

I've always had very good luck with Maxwelton Worldwide, Inc.--don't let the negative press about their CEO fool you.
posted by maxwelton at 2:02 AM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I agree with kanewai that the single biggest issue is momentum. I'm sure people would happily run their own server software, ala skype, napster, etc., but facebook doesn't require software and already has the users. Btw, there are already various projects taking several different approaches, including federated ones based on XMPP.

That said, there are like thousands of social network like sites around the world, facebook might die if enough adopt a common protocol. For example, social networks might allow friendships from open ids and use pingbacks for comment response notifications. In this simple case, all users trust only their own social network site, not their friends' sites. You'll likely want syndication too however, which complicates life.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:21 AM on May 13, 2010


If I was google I would throw them $50k just of the off chance it kills fb.
posted by Damienmce at 2:50 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was just about to check their stats, to see if they'd hit $70k. And it turned out they'd it $83k. Lucky bastards.
posted by delmoi at 2:52 AM on May 13, 2010


The widespread success of Opera Unite has already proved how willing people are to run a personal web server for social networking.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:00 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Another problem is going to be that a lot of people are over that initial rush of excitement over social networking.

e.g:

A few months into FB I started getting contacted by all the people I went to high school with. It was "OMG this is so cool how've you been it's been so long oh squee!"

And that was very cool. But ... I'm a queer surfer living in Hawaii & most of them are still in the Midwest & are excited about their kids' prom & volunteer for the church on Sunday. We don't have much to talk about, really.

FB exploded when it offered that "squee" moment. I don't need to have one again.
posted by kanewai at 3:33 AM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


@lester's sock puppet: I posted a link to the NYT article on Facebook. It's still up...
posted by bardophile at 3:52 AM on May 13, 2010


What a terribly unfortunate name once everyone leaves facebook.

Coming next, Genocide.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:16 AM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've yet to be told any Stasi-like actions Facebook is supposedly perpetrating in regards to privacy that I can even REMOTELY pretend to give a shit about.

For me, it's the fact that I joined it when it was a walled garden (university email addresses only), and they've gradually expanded it so that it publishes data to the web, by default. And that it continually recommends that users adopt less-private settings for their data. And makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming and confusing to enhance your own privacy settings.

And (final straw) that it now exposes private posts on public pages: e.g.: if you mention an organisation for which there is a public page, your posts will show up on that public page - even if you have your profile set to 'friends only'. So if I type 'my boss at [MPOW] is an idiot', thinking it goes to my 20 or so friends, it actually goes to anyone who cares to look at that page.

I could just about live with that - if they were telling people about it. But they're not. Fuck 'em.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:40 AM on May 13, 2010


who came up with the mindbendingly horrible name?

the scene: a boardroom full of corporate folk after the initial presentation-

Q: What the hell does "diaspora" mean?

A: Oh, it's totally sweet: It means "people who are going places"! Y'know, like "upwardly mobile"...
posted by jammy at 5:06 AM on May 13, 2010


I don't understand the hate for the name. It's exactly descriptive, assuming a tiny metaphor on national/ethnic to "facebook user":
A diaspora (in Greek, διασπορά – "a scattering [of seeds]") is any movement of a population sharing common national and/or ethnic identity. While refugees may or may not ultimately settle in a new geographic location, the term diaspora refers to a permanently displaced and relocated collective.
posted by DU at 5:21 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


How do so many people in this thread not get that you host this on a web server, like your blog.

I hope they make something worth while. Facebook couldn't be any more annoying, and they certainly are collecting the bad press over the past few days.
posted by chunking express at 5:58 AM on May 13, 2010


The dictionary meaning of a word and its common usage are two different things. While "diaspora" has generalized in meaning steadily in recent decades, for many people it refers primarily to the Jewish (and/or African) experience of forced exile/slavery/expatriation with a longed-for return. Even stripped of the racial overtones, it still implies an exile forced upon a people, whose greatest hope remains to be reunited in its native land. So the idea is we'll all go Diaspora until we can go back to Facebook a free people. Next year in Scrabulous, yo?

In the annals of corporate branding, it's no Chevy Nova, but it's got problems.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:14 AM on May 13, 2010


Also, this social network made up of many dispersed servers? It exists! It's called the internet.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:15 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The dictionary meaning of a word and its common usage are two different things.

Agreed.

While "diaspora" has generalized in meaning steadily in recent decades, for many people it refers primarily to the Jewish (and/or African) experience of forced exile/slavery/expatriation with a longed-for return.

These people don't read enough SF.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


They're at $87,000 now, and their two most expensive tiers of donation ($1000, $2000) have sold out. That's kind of impressive. (I kicked in $25 bucks.)
posted by chunking express at 6:30 AM on May 13, 2010


I know a guy named Steve who lives in Wrigleyville; he's a dick.

Redundant.
posted by Kskomsvold at 6:54 AM on May 13, 2010


OK, let's pretend you solve the problem of people administering their own servers. You've made it simple to install, you can have 1000 people on a single node so Grandma can just use her church's server, you've got all the federation and reliability and network protocols and upgrades and data expiration problems solved.

You've got 400 million users with data on 400,000 servers. One of those users searches for "Martha Smith", somewhere near Chicago, IL. How are you going to run that search across 400,000 servers that might have Martha? Your competition, Facebook, answers that query in about 500ms.

A user posts a status update, "eating lunch at Burger King lol!" He has 200 followers on 150 servers. You need that update to go out fast. Your competition, Facebook, publishes that status update in under 3 seconds. How are you going to distribute that update to the 150 servers as reliably and quickly? With a system that scales for 1 billion status updates a day?
posted by Nelson at 7:07 AM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Get enough input from an otherwise anonymous person and you can probably identify her.

It actually takes surprisingly little input. Most online anonymity exists because people haven't tried hard to break that anonymity.
posted by callmejay at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2010


How are you going to run that search across 400,000 servers that might have Martha?
How are you going to distribute that update to the 150 servers as reliably and quickly?


You've heard of DNS, email and XMPP, right?
posted by DU at 7:18 AM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]



And (final straw) that it now exposes private posts on public pages: e.g.: if you mention an organisation for which there is a public page, your posts will show up on that public page - even if you have your profile set to 'friends only'. So if I type 'my boss at [MPOW] is an idiot', thinking it goes to my 20 or so friends, it actually goes to anyone who cares to look at that page.


Is this true? I just went and looked at my friends' pages. One of them mentioned Clorox on her wall. Clorox has a public page, whose wall does seem to have a lot of status updates that mention Clorox. But my friend's update isn't on there, so it wasn't automatically published to the Clorox wall.
posted by escabeche at 7:23 AM on May 13, 2010


(IANAL but it seems to me that freenet-like nodes don't actually store illegal content at all. It's just a bunch of randomish bits. Bits that could become illegal content when decrypted and interpreted just right. But until that happens, they could also be a nearly infinite number of nonsense bits, or somewhat smaller number of perfectly legal content.)
posted by wobh at 7:36 AM on May 13, 2010


Identi.ca is basically the open source twitter, and only open source people are there. (Feature, not bug)
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:53 AM on May 13, 2010


Only made it halfway through comments, so bear with me if it's already been said (and I'm sure it has)

1) There's open architecture being built (as mentioned above -- OpenSocial -- Which, IIRC, brad from livejournal is one of the guys dealing with that at google (i could be wrong, but I know he's working w/the goog for the social stuff, and brad's been pretty good about open social networking -- and LJ *still* IMO has the best filtering system for who sees what). The problem is all these little places don't want to play together. A little while ago, there was a push by Google for interoperability. Everyone signed up except... you got it... facebook. And of course facebook has their fancy new OpenGraph API (which is a fucking joke and disgusting mockery of openness and privacy). Point being, there's plenty of tools and things like microformats, openid and such are working towards this. My concern is that these guys take the consideration of these formats going forward and don't try to reinvent the wheel.

2) regarding crypto: Persona is a "distributed crypto" system for something like this. I saw a link on reddit the other day.

3) I don't think running a server on your system is necessarily that difficult. Security can be a concern, and you have to trust people to run the latest updates for that. The other issue of "always on" is a concern. I do think a P2P approach is a better way. Perhaps your latest updates could be "pushed" to the IPs of all your contacts, and they all store a temporary copy. Text isn't that data dense. And if you're only doing it for your first level of friends, you may end up with not much - maybe you could have a decaying protocol to remove data from others on your system after a certain time. The issue with this is: what if you want to delete something? There was another research project that discussed this issue - a crypto based system that can delete something after a certain amount of time. You could tweak it so when you the publisher deletes something, all the nodes get it deleted as well.

4) It doesn't really *need* to be a facebook killer. I think the problem is scale, but it's also quality. Part of the reason FB sucks is cuz, well... the unwashed masses are more interested in farmville than sharing their life with their friends beyond anything more than a superficial level.

Personally I'm interesting in CONNECTING to people. I really hate twitter and fb and how it's destroyed the social fabric... You can always do your insipid things like post memes and shit (and LJ is no stranger to that!) but the format/architecture makes a difference, and the architecture of FB doesn't lend itself to that sort of expression that LJ can. Add in a shitty 'filter'/friending system plus privacy, and we can do better.

And I really think that if people understood they really COULD connect with others on a not so superficial level, they might appreciate that chance.

There's a lot more to say, but I'm at work, and should... work. I guess. *sigh*
posted by symbioid at 8:10 AM on May 13, 2010


Man, this just sounds a lot like Google Wave to me. They need to make sure that it's as simple to use as Facebook for people to actually use it. With enough resources, I think they can make it happen, though.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:12 AM on May 13, 2010


And (final straw) that it now exposes private posts on public pages: e.g.: if you mention an organisation for which there is a public page, your posts will show up on that public page - even if you have your profile set to 'friends only'. So if I type 'my boss at [MPOW] is an idiot', thinking it goes to my 20 or so friends, it actually goes to anyone who cares to look at that page.

Is this true?


I think this only happens if you put the @ right before the name of the organization/company/friend you mention in your status update. So you would have to say something like, "I just cleaned my toilet with @Clorox!" for it to appear on the Clorox page.
posted by sotalia at 8:19 AM on May 13, 2010


Is this true? I just went and looked at my friends' pages. One of them mentioned Clorox on her wall. Clorox has a public page, whose wall does seem to have a lot of status updates that mention Clorox. But my friend's update isn't on there, so it wasn't automatically published to the Clorox wall.

Hmm, I just went back to the public page for MPOW, and some of the posts that were there are now gone. Maybe they tweaked the settings. [Last time I looked at this was a few days ago, in the other FB thread].
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:27 AM on May 13, 2010


If people are expected to run their own servers, network configuration will kill it. UPNP is insecure and doesn't work half the time, and even I, a certified techie, get a headache over port forwarding (the stupid router reboots, meaning I get a new IP from DCHP, meaning I need to make a static IP, meaning the router reboots again to forward the ports to that IP...).

I think the turnkey wordpress.com-style solution seems most ideal, and users could run their own, ad free and 100% private servers if they would like, or move it to another host, such as one run by their ISP.

It's a shame networks are such a pain, as a P2P social network where your updates are pushed to your friends sounds really clever, although I imagine that the disk space and bandwidth of things like videos and photos would get to be a bit much, unless the service is deadset on making sure third party services like Youtube handle those. Plus, if you have to install software, that makes it harder for people to run from work/school, meaning it's less useful for wasting time than Facebook.

Still, if bit torrent can kind of work with peers who have closed ports, I imagine a clever networker could get clouds of friends to sync up, assuming one or two friends in the group has an open port.

Definitely a very good thing to watch.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:30 AM on May 13, 2010


autobahn: "What might work better (and maybe there is a plan for this) is to have "communities" themselves host Diaspora nodes. For example, one could set up a "north chicago community" or a "twin cities geeks" node and host it for free for people who identify with those communities to join. Ideally there would be no real barrier to entry either, so if a single user did want their own node, they would be free to do that as well.

Basically, it boils down to the opportunity to create social networks that transcend the virtual boundary. With so many lamenting the loss of real community, why don't we take the opportunity to rebuild that? Virtual and "IRL" communities don't have to be exclusive of each other.
"

MIT had a project a few years ago that did this. I can't remember the name. Obviously, I don't think it took off. I like the idea, and I support it, but I still think the way forward is to connect with old friends and find new ones through those connections. A trust network, especially if self-hosted, is very important.
posted by symbioid at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2010


They need to make sure that it's as simple to use as Facebook for people to actually use it.

My thinking from the outset. Hate it all you want but Facebook has defined a need (certainly a big fat WANT) that many have. But for reasons of greed and who knows what else, they're doing a great job of creeping-out/pissing-off a lot of the wrong people (geeks, nerds, people who THINK).

Is Diaspora the answer to getting this right? I doubt it, for many of the reasons already stated, principal among them the fact that we're already hearing about them in BIG media, long before they have anything remotely substantive to deliver. Maybe this is all part of the Plan. Let some college kids fumble around in the spotlight while the real deep work of fucking with The Program goes on where it should: underground, out of sight, in the shadows.
posted by philip-random at 8:40 AM on May 13, 2010


Hmm, here's an issue that occurred to me... If it is self-hosted, how do I, for example "login" to my own server from another computer? If I'm at home and got my server running I just pull it up and see my network, but how can I log in from work and see it?

DynIP might help. But then you start having to rely on external services again. But you could make it easy to choose from a variety of DynIP hosts.

And of course, that's not counting a centrally located hub (which was my initial solution to the problem)...

If there is a central system there absolutely needs to be a way to make a backup of ALL your data in an easily ported format, and a way to PERMANENTLY delete ALL your data from the central servers as well.
posted by symbioid at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2010


Man, maybe we should all just host our own personal web pages like we did in 1998.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


jeffburdges noted that there are a growing number of open source options starting up, including one from the Vodafone Group called "OneSocialWeb" (as covered well in a now-deleted post)

Folks have speculated that such efforts like Diaspora and OneSocialWeb are bound to be footnotes, as they are too early, but I think they could be the bones of something greater. Diaspora has a lot of hype behind it, and not just from open source geeks, so it could really pick up. As for Onesocialweb, they're pushing the Android client aspect, though the client seems to be in pre-alpha stages, but their progress and their goals sound to be ahead of Diaspora. Too bad it wasn't started by some college kids with crowdsourced funding, or they'd have a news story on their hands. As it is, it's a lot of technical jargon, easily lost on the masses. For example, a positive phrase from the TechCrunch write-up:

The project was built based on other standardization initiatives aiming to open up the web: activitystrea.ms, portablecontacts, OAuth, OpenSocial, FOAF, OpenID … you name it.

Regardless, it's interesting to see a lot of push behind open systems, especially in the wake of privacy concerns making Big News. SF Gate (via Business Insider) are spreading old IMs from the early days of building Facebook that are newly public, adding to the noise against Facebook along with the previous stories on how Zuckerberg "stole" the idea from someone else who was paying him to make a Facebook-like site.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:14 AM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


onesocialweb: an open source distributed social networking system. A month before Diaspora*'s very successful fundraising drive demonstrated the strength of popular support for decentralized social networking platforms, the developers of onesocialweb, an open source project of Vodafone's research and development group, quietly released working development versions of its client and server software.

Reposted here as it was deleted from FP :(
posted by melatonic at 9:35 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to SAI sources, the following exchange is between a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and a friend shortly after Mark launched The Facebook in his dorm room.
posted by gman at 9:43 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of misunderstanding of what "hosted on your system" means.

Think of it like email. If you want to setup your own email server, hey, knock yourself out. But you don't HAVE to, because nice people like Google run a lot of mail servers that they let you sign up for an account on. Often for free.

All this project means is that you don't HAVE to use Facebook. You can setup your own server if you have the resources and inclination, or (much more likely) you can sign up for an account on any number of other websites that will host customized Diaspora servers. No installations, no server management, no firewall issues. The benefit is that you'll now have all kinds of social networking sites that can all talk to each other with a standard protocol, just like email servers. So you can sign up for an account and do your social networking on www.chundosbigbagoffriends.com and all your info will show up for your friends signed in over at social.metafilter.com.

This is NOT something you will install on your desktop PC. You will not be inaccessible if your computer shuts down or goes to sleep.

I'm skeptical of the project in general, but I just wanted to clear up what the real selling point is.
posted by chundo at 9:49 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I use FB differently than many people, but I don't need or even particularly want instantaneous updates. So long as I get my family's updates within a day, it's all good for me.

This means Diaspora doesn't need to be better than FB. It just needs to be *good enough*. Asshat Zuckerberg has shot himself in the foot enough times that it won't take much to get a bunch of people to shift to a less-asshatty alternative.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on May 13, 2010


Maybe some of these people are intentionally telling everyone about their rectal surgery but probably not everyone. (via HN)
posted by Skorgu at 10:51 AM on May 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not sure if Appleseed has been mentioned, but at least there's code there already.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:05 AM on May 13, 2010


Don't forget failbook.com and the classic.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:08 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor: I could easily see these guys shipping a DiasporaPlug. You'd have to connect it with an Ethernet cable at first, to configure it for your wireless network and with your username, password, and encryption keys, possibly open a port on your router, and then plug it into a wall somewhere and forget about it.

And, of course, with it becoming an open source project, anyone could do this. But it's a great idea.

mccarty.tim: If people are expected to run their own servers, network configuration will kill it.

On a web hosting provider I signed up with, they had an app called Fantastico that offered one-click install of a WordPress blog. The ISP would even do it for you. It'll no doubt be that way with Diaspora installs that aren't hosted by Diaspora.com (or whatever it'll be named) -- individual web hosting providers will probably either make it a cinch to install and manage, or offer to do it for you.
posted by WCityMike at 11:23 AM on May 13, 2010


I think I just found a major flaw: How many 14 year olds are going to remember how to spell Diaspora?
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2010


I think I just found a major flaw: How many 14 year olds are going to remember how to spell Diaspora?

What you call flaw, I call BRILLIANT. Elitism through URL "complexity."
posted by filthy light thief at 11:47 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good Lord – $106,652.
posted by WCityMike at 12:09 PM on May 13, 2010


Yeah, this is seriously pissing me off, now. I mean, bully for them and all, and I hope they make something worthwhile, but it seems like there are other projects with the same goals that are actually further along but don't seem to be getting this kind of support.

We allocate resources so... randomly.
posted by heathkit at 12:34 PM on May 13, 2010


heathkit - there's a reason bill hicks wanted marketers to diaf.
posted by symbioid at 12:37 PM on May 13, 2010


Honestly, there really should be a collaborative group effort between these various groups. I know we have some open standards and such, but if everyone is off doing their own thing without trying to work together, yeah... why waste such resources?

Of course, it may be that there's different thoughts on the matter, and not all the groups have the same approach. But they should try to share ideas and work towards a glorious distributed future!

At the same time, I do see a need for "competing" projects. Evolutionarily speaking, of course.
posted by symbioid at 12:44 PM on May 13, 2010


I think when the goal is to get people to switch from a social network to another, successful hype is a requirement.
posted by Anything at 12:45 PM on May 13, 2010


Well, I'm not going to keep posting to the thread with updates, but in the hour since I made that comment, it's now at $111k and broke Kickstarter's previous records.
posted by WCityMike at 1:13 PM on May 13, 2010


The dictionary meaning of a word and its common usage are two different things. While "diaspora" has generalized in meaning steadily in recent decades, for many people it refers primarily to the Jewish (and/or African) experience of forced exile/slavery/expatriation with a longed-for return.

This is not true in my experience as a Jew. People talk about the Indian, Korean, and Chinese diasporas. It just means people who have scattered.
posted by stammer at 1:43 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


On a web hosting provider I signed up with, they had an app called Fantastico that offered one-click install of a WordPress blog. The ISP would even do it for you.
When I stop using Facebook, I'm planning on leaving up a note for my friends/family explaining about how to do just this sort of thing. Basically, what your other options are for posting (and tracking) to the web.

(Dreamhost has one-click installs of WordPress, Plegg, Drupal, and Status.net, for example.)

It seems to me like there's lots of way to publish status updates, photos, etc., etc. -- what's trickier is to (a) pull all your stuff together into one place and (b) keep track of what others are up to. I hope that's where the Diaspora guys put their energy!
posted by epersonae at 2:34 PM on May 13, 2010


Hey, why did the New York Times re-crop the fscking picture?!
posted by dgaicun at 3:20 PM on May 13, 2010


Anything: I think when the goal is to get people to switch from a social network to another, successful hype is a requirement.

True. Having 50 million email addresses to spam can help, too.
posted by joedan at 3:47 PM on May 13, 2010


Diaspora is one of those truly inspired sysapproduct names, approaching the transcendental GIMP in its tone-deaf gimpiness.

But I wonder--will they follow through with the theme:

Software by finalSolution.com software--the last ever needed.
Implementing the EldersOfZion protocols--not secret anymore.

(I'm so ashamed!)
posted by hexatron at 6:28 PM on May 13, 2010


...and how could I omit
enum heboolian {TREYF=0, KOSHER, RETRY};

posted by hexatron at 6:32 PM on May 13, 2010


It's like these guys won the internet lottery. Like the million dollar home page thing. The only differences that I had the exact same idea and didn't even try it!

rrr.
posted by delmoi at 7:02 PM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you have an original name, and you want people to be able to find you without Facebook, set up a Google Profile. Set up as much information as you want to (it includes previous hometowns and schools, which all aid searching). It comes with a contact form that hides your e-mail address. Supper.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:31 PM on May 13, 2010


Supper? I hear soba noodles a popular.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:28 PM on May 13, 2010


I am completely in love with chundo's concept of social-networking-like-email. Email is so totally awesome in that I can run any number of different programs or use any number of different websites, and still be able to email anyone I can think of to email without worrying what their system is like (apart from whether or not I'm trying to send all html-y email or text-y email).

I really really want that to happen. I am not sure how it would work, but it should exist. And then we could all write our own little social network information-reading programs and websites that did all sorts of dumb things like flash new status updates RED or made everything gray on dark black or arranged everything in some swanky ways according to whatever the programmer thought was most important.

Can I have one now?
posted by that girl at 10:10 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out how searching would work. Does each node maintain a list of Diaspora users, their public information and which node they belong/resolve to? That seems prohibitively bulky and slow. A system like DNS could work, with specific name servers at host that info, but what's to stop someone from setting up a name server with false info?

In general it seems like it could be super easy to spoof someone's ID. Are there any ideas "out there" for dealing with this?
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:14 AM on May 14, 2010


I'm thinking people could print out 'business cards' with a name, hash and identicon for their node, and pass it to their friends. A larger group of people could be reached through trusted people you're already linked to on the network.
posted by Anything at 4:37 AM on May 14, 2010


Oh, forgot: Identicons
posted by Anything at 4:38 AM on May 14, 2010


Repeated from the previous thread: There are already several efforts toward decentralized privacy-preserving social networks: PeerSoN, SafeBook, Persona
- although so far more in terms academic research with papers/prototypes/simulations than finished products, they have advanced quite a bit since they all started around 2008.
posted by meijusa at 7:05 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think people need to stop sending these people buckets of cash until they have something to show for it. I get that everyone's excited to possibly have an alternative to Facebook (that doesn't suck — sorry, Myspace, Friendster, etc.), but much like a band, there's a point where having too much cash too early on in the process can destroy a startup.

Too much investment can delay shipping, because it raises expectations to an unrealistic level and makes the developers afraid to put anything out for fear of alienating all the investors and cutting off the flow of money. So instead of shipping something, and getting it out in front of users where it can get picked apart, they end up turd-polishing.

They asked for $10k. They should have stopped accepting contributions after that until they'd accomplished whatever their goals were going to be with the first ten grand. Then ask for, or start accepting, more money.

I don't see anything except disappointment happening with $100+k in (pledged or actual) funds, given that their 'product' is basically a concept, and except for being marketed as a Facebook-killer, not a hugely novel one at that. I want them to succeed but I see no reason not to be skeptical until they ship something.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:27 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given that they ended up way, way over their goal, I'd like to see them take some of that money and spend it on some good UX consultants, like Adaptive Path. It seems clear that these guys have the technical and marketing chops to succeed, but user experience design is different. Part of Facebook's privacy problem is that they make it *so hard* to find all the settings -- this seems like a good opportunity to improve on that as well.
posted by crawl at 10:30 AM on May 14, 2010


Kadin2048: Too much investment can delay shipping, because it raises expectations to an unrealistic level and makes the developers afraid to put anything out for fear of alienating all the investors and cutting off the flow of money.

I'd disagree in this particular case. The team pretty much said, "Pay us amount $x so we can just sit down and concentrate on coding 24-7. Amount $x will let us pay our bills and food through September."

Now, they've made 14x. Assuming it doesn't lead to corruptive influences ("hey, I can pay off my credit card now!" "yeah, we all can!"), this will just push the "give up on the project and go find real jobs" date far into the future.

Additionally, most of the investment is numerous investors on the level of $25 below, not few investors on a higher level. While I think that's enough to make people feel invested, I also think it does serve to reduce expectations placed upon them, rather than, say, the exhortations that a venture capital team might have placed upon them.

What seems to be missed by a lot of commenters on this project, both here and elsewhere, is that this isn't solicitations for a new startup -- it's "help fund a monster three- to four-month coding session at which time we'll open-source what we've written under the aGPL."

Yes, they've got an idea on how to make it profit their lives (the turnkey website solution, and I'm sure there's other ways), but that's good sense. I doubt everyone would've paid them if they'd said "we want to be the next Facebook, Inc.".
posted by WCityMike at 10:49 AM on May 14, 2010


I'm trying to figure out how searching would work. Does each node maintain a list of Diaspora users, their public information and which node they belong/resolve to? That seems prohibitively bulky and slow.

Maybe you don't have searching, and you have to connect with people the old fashion way? If people want to be publicly discoverable, all they'll need to do is have a 'public' page that's googleable.
posted by delmoi at 11:00 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


crawl: "... Part of Facebook's privacy problem is that they make it *so hard* to find all the settings -- this seems like a good opportunity to improve on that as well."

Psst... In Facebook's eyes, this is a *feature* not a bug.
posted by symbioid at 11:17 AM on May 14, 2010


Haven't watched it yet, but those who are still reading this thread:

67 min video of the guys talking about the concept... sounds like a p2p system hosted on the users computers using a VM of some sort (based from what I read on reddit comments)
posted by symbioid at 9:30 PM on May 14, 2010


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