Diaspora – A New Way To Do Social Media?

It’s been around for a while, but it feels like the time for Diaspora is now.

It started with a Kickstarter project that aimed to raise $10K but actually made $200K, and the basic idea is that it will eventually be a fully self-hostable social network – instead of everything being a on centrally owned/controlled server, you’ll be able to use it just like any other social network to talk to people all over the world (on any of the ‘hubs’) but you’ll be able to own all your own data.

Here’s Why That Matters:

The Social Web as we know it is, for the most part, a corporately owned commercial space. We aren’t the customers, we’re the bait to bring in the customers – the advertisers. Any attempt to make sharing of our thoughts, ideas, location, photos, info easier is so that there’ll be more data to sell, both for ever more sharply targeted adverts (increased value of each ad and – the theory goes – more ‘useful’ to us.) The data that is scraped is also, on occasion, made available to pollsters, the police, governments… whoever is either willing to pay for it or demand it (and I’m sure legislate more favourably in the interest of the multi-billion dollar companies that run the networks).

All in, the ‘business’ of social networking runs entirely counter to what we users actually want from it, and the only thing we’re constantly told is that the advertising is the price of it being ‘free’. Sadly, we’re never given the option of buying our way out of the surveillance side of things – I’d pay seriously good money for Twitter to leave my network the hell alone and let me get on with talking to the people I care about without being bothered by ‘trends’ and ‘promoted tweets’. There’s pretty much nothing about the way Facebook conducts itself that I find admirable or positive. Twitter seem slightly more reticent to break the service that everyone has fallen in love with, but the gradual creep of trying to glean and sell aggregate data, rather than just let us pay to not be a part of it is deeply troubling.

But they’re not in the business of “social networking”. They’re in the business of selling MASSIVE amounts of data. Allowing the smart ones to opt out, even at a price, damages the data set.

Pretty messed up, eh?

So, What Do We Do?

We take the power back. We move to services where we own and manage our own data. Where privacy is as important as data portability, where there’s no advertising, just the chance to talk to and share with the people we actually want to listen to. Of course, those are still fantastic spaces for discovering things we may end up spending money on – if I need a recommendation for anything I’m shopping for, my twitter friends are the first people I ask. But invariably, I get some spamming dickhead try and sell me their version of whatever it is I’m talking about, regardless of the fact that I have a bunch of trusted friends whose opinion I care about.

Diaspora is in its infancy. BUT they’ve got (in my opinion) the most important bit right – the interface is clean, well designed and usable. Most ‘open source’ solutions suffer from a crisis of ugliness (the open equivalent to Twitter, at the moment, is Identi.ca but is so unbelievably ugly that I find it really difficult to use). Diaspora have fixed that.

What to do? Go to diasp.org and sign up. Then put ‘solobasssteve@joindiaspora.com‘ into the search box. You’ll find me. Add me. Tell your friends what your ID on there is (it’s always in the form of an email address like that – the first bit won’t necessarily find them…) And post it in the comments here.

Start sharing. It’ll take time to start to build a community. But it’s worth the effort. We need a place that’s ours, not owned by advertisers and spyware-peddling losers.


5 replies on “Diaspora – A New Way To Do Social Media?”

  1. i agree, it looks really interesting. not only because it is well set-up (the interface will get prettier and more fluid as it grows so i won’t worry about that right now) and it caters to the most interesting people on the web and not the legions of idiots that fill other social networks. plus there’s already tons of cool stuff and people on it.

    i’m over at pierrotechnique@diasp.org 🙂

  2. It’s a great idea, and I signed up a few weeks ago. But then I quickly remembered why I deleted my Google+ account… as much as I love my geekier friends, they’re only a small portion of my total friends, and the majority probably aren’t sure what Twitter is, never mind Diaspora. They only just made it from Friends Reunited to Facebook, so I doubt they’re going to be getting to Diaspora any time soon. And that’s a shit situation. Well done, Facebook for making me relax my principles in order to talk to my friends 😉

  3. Although I do wonder exactly how many of the people I really care about are on Facebook and only Facebook, and I don’t get the chance to interact in person.

    What’s Diaspora like for moderation? Will become an issue as soon as Diaspora becomes big enough to attract trolls, spam and other bad actors.

  4. Bring it on. I’m ihatemornings@diasp.org and I’m starting to enjoy it over there. I think Adrian has a point: it’s only going to be a small subset of your social group that uses Diaspora. But I’m happy with that, and I don’t think we need to put too much effort into dragging people there. If it’s interesting, the geeks will arrive eventually. 😉

    I’m glad Diaspora is trying to solve the open social network problem, but I think as creators we need to be thinking about tools for self-hosted publishing too. If we can create tools that make the most of the embedding and sharing features of Diaspora and the other networks, we can start to move away from the data-selling hosted options there too. This stuff must be on my mind. I blogged it this morning…

  5. In what appears to be a tradition of using a twitter name on there, I am tim_c@diasp.org

    (I try and use the same everywhere anyway)

    Looks interesting. Lets hope it doesn’t become another Google+ !!

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