In search of a replacement social network, Diaspora

Three weeks ago I wrote an article about the demise of G+ and I defined four criteria for a replacement social network. This blog post is about my experience with Diaspora.

First

Three weeks ago I wrote an article about the demise of G+ and I defined four criteria for a replacement social network. Based on these criteria I choose three social networks, Mastodon, MeWe and Diaspora and signed up on them and promised to write about my experience with these three.

I will not write any further about MeWe since I already deleted the account after one week and wrote a post about it. So that leaves Mastodon and Diaspora. This blog post is about my experience with Diaspora.

Screenshot of the Diaspora interface. Not flashy but very functional and fast.

Diaspora

The shortest way to describe Diaspora is it being a Facebook clone however this doesn’t do justice to Diaspora. Although the user interface of Diaspora has similarities with Facebook the network couldn’t be more different, kind of an anti-Facebook. First of all Diaspora is free and open source software while Facebook is proprietary and Diaspora is distributed while Facebook is centralized. The latter means that while Facebook is owned by a single entity that controls the entire network and it’s users Diaspora has no owner and thus can never be controlled by a single organisation or person. Instead Diaspora consists of many servers (or pods) that have there own administrator. These servers are are all interconnected (or federated). Without going into details about how this works exactly being distributed has other notable advantages from a user point of view.

  • First of all Diaspora doesn’t have ads  (it worth to note that some centralized social networks like G+ and MeWe also don’t have ads).
  • Diaspora can’t be closed or sold.
  • There is no ‘built-in’ datamining and no selling by the owner of your data to third parties. Meaning that your privacy is better protected.

Conversations on Diaspora are good and in-depth although it takes time to identify good contacts.

Being a user of G+ for several years I admit it took a little time to get used to the Diaspora interface. Central is ‘the Stream’, a single column of posts of your contacts (followers in G+), posts that you shared, liked or commented on and of course your own posts. Besides the Stream there are other custom streams possible varying from topics that you follow (tags or #) or groups of contacts (aspects). Lastly there is a Public activity stream that I guess shows all posts from the Diaspora community. This also shows nudity or even porn but, as I noticed so far, this was always tagged with #nsfw which stands for ‘not suitable for work’. These #nsfw posts are not shown until the users clicks to open it. I think this is good solution to protect the user without censorship.

Conversations on Diaspora are good and in-depth although it takes time to identify good contacts. After two weeks I have 29 contact of which half turns out to be what I consider good. Diaspora provides the user with a good tool to ignore a contacts for instance if he or she turns out to be spammer. Diaspora also allows for a private chat with an established contact which can be very handy.

Diaspora doesn’t have the G+ equivalent of communities, a group of users sharing posts about a certain topic, and collections, a single users sharing posts about a single topic. These communities and collections can’t be mimicked by combined tags and aspects.

Conclusion

Diaspora is, after Mastodon, the second biggest distributed social networks with the about 660.000 user accounts. Still a dwarf compared to FaceBook but I’m not interested in the number of users I’m interested in the quality of the conversation and this is good, in fact it’s very good. People are mostly knowlegdeable and helpfull which guarentees meaningfull chats. Just what I’m looking for.

I still prefer the G+ interface with multiple columns over the one column stream in Diaspora because it saves a lot of scrolling however this seems like nitpicking. Overall the user interface of Diaspora is straight forward and easy to work with.

The user has good control of the streams of information although I would have preferred the user to be able to combine tags and aspects. A good example is that if I want to follow someone on certain topics instead of all his or her posts.

Yes, my family and friends are not on Diaspora but I don’t care about that in fact it’s a plus.

Diaspora works surprisingly good on low-end machines. This is probably due to the minimal user interface. I consider this a big plus since I have a very old Thinkpad laptop that I use regularly.

Yes, my family and friends are not on Diaspora but I don’t care about that in fact it’s a plus. I’d rather see them face to face anyway.

In conclusion Diaspora starts to grow on me. I had a slow start with it but I’m gradually beginning to experience the value of this well established and stable network. This value is the content that’s being shared and for me that’s what counts when it comes to social networks.