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.

Bye bye Google

I was pretty pissed that Google decided to close G+. As an alternative I came up with a short list of three social media services: Mastodon, Diaspora and MeWe. In the coming weeks I will choose between these three services.

Google+ closing, now what?

Like many others I was pretty much pissed off that Google decided to close G+ next August. I had a lot of social going on at G+ in fact it was the only social media service that I really used (I have a Reddit account that I hardly use). I believe Winston Churchill said to never waste a good crisis so I took the opportunity to look around at other options. I defined some criteria that could help me choose a new social network.

  • preferably open source. G+ wasn’t open source but since I’m an open source advocate it seems appropiate to sign up for a service that itself is open source.
  • quality instead of quantity. I’m looking for meaningful conversations and not mindless sharing of kitty pictures.
  • will protect my privacy. I understand that no service can fully guarantee my privacy but I’m sick and tired of all the data mining.
  • no annoying ads. I’m not against advertisements here and there but I hate these in your face ads on Fartbook.

With these criteria in mind I came up with a short list of three social media services: Mastodon, Diaspora and MeWe. It could have been more but I had to draw the line somewhere. So I signed-up for all three. Preferably I will end up with one or, at the most, two of these. I’m already spending more time on social media than I’m comfortable with. So in the coming weeks I will choose between these three services.

EDIT: I already deleted my MeWe account. It’s a proprietary and centralized service and apparently due to their free speech policy it attracts a lot of nasty people that got kicked out off Facebook. Also I believe that they have a coordinated campaign spamming G+ communities with posts to convince people to move to MeWe.

What about Blogger, Drive and GMail

By closing G+  Google has become unreliable for me. The question is what will they close next and will this affect me? I therefore took a look at other Google services to see if I was exposed to further risks down the line. Most notably I have Blogger, Drive and GMail so I decided to be one step ahead of Google and say goodbye to these services too. This will not happen overnight but I will do it and post the results here. And the beauty of it all I feel rather good about it.

Why I use open source for my DIY projects and you should too

Use open source as often as possible. Not only is it free (as in gratis) but it can be as good or better than propietary software without the all the limiting terms found in a typical software license agreement. Open source enables the community to freely share ideas, information, concepts etc. This is key for a succesful and thriving society.

Introduction

I’ve been a user of proprietary products for a very long time without giving it much thought. In fact I’m writing this on an iMac with OSX as the operating system. I own this iMac for at least 5 years and it is a nice machine but as time went by something kept nagging. I used to believe that for good reliable software you had to pay money. If software was free (as in gratis) it was probably unstable, user unfriendly and unpolished that it wasn’t worth any money. At least that is what I thought. Continue reading “Why I use open source for my DIY projects and you should too”