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 ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ 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.