Tag Archives: nofacebook

Pump.io / Identi.ca: The next federated social network

The year is 2013 AD and all social networking is occupied by Facebook and Google. Only one small village of indomitable Gauls holds out against the invaders, still fighting to create an open, federated social network.

After Diaspora degenerated into a strange mix of Pinterest and Powerpoint (before being abandoned by its creators for the infamous Makr.io), there is a now a new attempt by Canadian developer Evan Prodromou, who also created Identi.ca and Status.net.

pumpio

On July 10 Identi.ca finally migrated from Status.net to the new Pump.io software. Unlike its predecessor, Pump.io is not just a Twitter clone but a full fledged federated social network. Right now the feature set is pretty basic, there is support for formatted text notes and photo uploading, a games API (demonstrated by Open Farm Game) and an authorization system similar to the one Plus stole from Diaspora (with “lists” instead of circles, this time).

Tags and groups are still missing, same as web image or video embedding. But more important than features, Pump.io has a users. Three days after the Identi.ca conversion Pumplive shows over 28000 users on 52 different instances. That doesn’t sound much compared to compared to 800 million Facebook users, but it’s enough for a lively conversation.

To encourage federation, Identi.ca does not accept new registrations, but you can join the fun on a number of other public instances available under the pump.io try it link (there’s a number of instances, so if you don’t like the URL just “try it” again).  Without groups and tags you need to follow people to get posts – good starting points for finding people are Evan’s follower list or Jpope’s directory of users know to his own Pump instance.

Old status.net clients like Mustard are not working anymore, but a number of clients is already in development, including Like / Hate “buttons” for the web and two pretty good Android apps called Puma and Impeller.

While not yet a replacement for Facebook or even Tumblr, Pump.io is definitely one of the more promising approaches to open and federated social networking. Check it out and follow me on https://fmrl.me/axel (https://identi.ca/axel668 is now inactive).

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The state of alternative social networks

It’s generally agreed today, that the big social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus have serious disadvantages in terms of privacy and data ownership. 2 years ago the founders of Diaspora received more than $ 200.000 from Kickstarter to create a facebook alternative.

Now where do we stand ? What alternatives to Facebook and Twitter are there today ?

So there’s Diaspora of course … the Diaspora team released something at least but the result still more resembles a student project than a serious software product. Not only are D* users tormented by bugs and performance problems, but also by frequent UI and concept changes. So it’s no surprise that after a big initial hype user numbers are stagnating and content quality is decreasing rapidly, much like the Myspace of some years ago, when “it seemed that the only people left were idiots”, as one of my Friendica contacts put it. Even the Diaspora team seems to have lost interest and recently launched a new site called makr.io, which connects to Twitter and Facebook (and not to D*) and lets users write text over images (they call it mashups).

Then there’s Libertree, mainly developed by former Diaspora forker Pistos … might be too early to judge, but currently Libertree is far from impressive, there’s no Federation and the features and artwork make even Diaspora look professional in comparison.

When the Diaspora guys started collecting money, a former Netscape employee in Australia started coding – the result is Friendica, the “Swiss Army Knife or all your personal social networking activities”. This is no exaggeration, Friendica can connect to ANYTHING except Google+ (including Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress and many many more, even down to RSS and Email). This makes ~F the tool of choice to bundle all your social activities and news in one single stream. It’s mature, almost bugfree, themable, feature- complete (groups, chat, editing, linebreaks, working federation, younameit) and easy to install on your own server; in short, ~F is everything that Diaspora promised to be. Now how come you never heard of it ? Well, actually there’s two things that Friendica is not good at: scalability and content. The largest servers can hold two, three hundred users before running out of memory. Even though the global directory holds a couple of thousand users, the most popular groups (Linux) have only around 100 members and get maybe 5 – 10 posts a week … that’s as crowded as it gets on Friendica.

So Mike Macgirvin has handed the project over to the community and is working on Red, which is supposed to be less of an aggreator and more of a social network. If Mike can deliver on his promises (like he’s done in the past), Red is probably the biggest hope for a Facebook alternative in the forseeable future.

If you use your social network mainly for public postings (especially images) Tumblr is also worth looking at. There’s a lively community about all possible topics, including NSFW content. Tumblr is themable, has great formatting options and tagging / categorizing support. There’s likes and reshares but no comments, so don’t expect any conversations coming out of your posts. Besides it’s a commercial platform which will probably face the same issues than Facebook or Plus once it grows large enough.

Another unexpected alternative is identi.ca, although initially developed as Twitter alternative, it has earned a lot of social network capabilities and can be an option if you can live with the 140 characters limit.

So what’s the state of social network alternatives … right now the situation is outright  depressing. Identi.ca has failed to become the new Twitter for years, despite a superior feature set and full Twitter integration. The next Facebook is not even a dot on the horizon –  just one thing is certain, Diaspora’s NOT it.

Friendica – One Stream for Everything

After the latest UI changes at Diaspora (profiles, posts), that completely sacrifice usability in favor of fancy looks, it was time to look for an alternative.

Distributed social networks don’t grow on trees, so Friendica kind of suggested itself. Much like Diaspora, there’s a number of public nodes to choose from, and much unlike Diaspora, it’s comparatively easy to set up your own. I tried to set up my own instance on my Uberspace account by following this wiki (used the tar.gz download, so I can update from web later) – it’s really easy, if you can set up wordpress, you can certainly set up Friendica, too.

So you joined a new social network, now how do you populate your stream ? Here we come to Friendica’s killer feature: Integration.

Friendica offers read AND write access to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, StatusNet / Identica, and a couple of others (depending on which plugins are installed, Plus is currently missing but will be added as soon as there are stable APIs). On top of this you can subscribe to RSS feeds, which means you can have one single stream for all your social activities and share posts and articles much more easily.

But Friendica is not just a Meta- network, it also has interesting content of its own. There is a global directory for finding contacts or forums (groups) that match your interests. Right now the directory lists close to 7000 people and 200 forums, the larger ones (Linux, Friendica Support) having something like 100 members. That doesn’t sound much, but there are lively discussions and I already met a lot of interesting people. Besides you can still communicate with your Facebook and/or Diaspora contacts, so content isn’t really an issue.

Feature- wise Friendica has it all. A detailed group- oriented privacy concept (similar to Diaspora aspects and Plus circles), groups (called “forums”), chat (XMMP or IRC), tags, post preview and editing, a WYSIWYG editor, full text search, themes (the screenshots show only a small selection of the available themes) and much more (details here).

Some say Friendica is what Diaspora should have been … this is probably a bit too negative towards Diaspora, but Friendica sure is a compelling alternative, especially if you want to set up your own node or need smooth integration with other networks or just want to see a whole conversation at a glance, and not only a fancy title page.

Diaspora Tricks and Tweaks

Almost a month and I’m still posting stuff on DIASPORA*, so it looks like I finally found a social network that works for me … time to share some of the tricks I learned, to get YOU started, too. Most of them can be found in the tutorials at diasporial, check this out if you are planning to join DIASPORA* or already did.

  1. Want an invite ? Read my lips …  YOU DON’T NEED AN INVITE !!! Just pick ANY Pod from podupti.me and register, most of them are free to join
  2. [commenting currently unavailable] is not a bug – you just have to add the person before you can comment / like / reshare with her, unless she’s on the same pod
  3. Typing ‘@’ will let you auto complete a user name to ‘mention’ (i.e. get them notified about your post)
  4. Adding #tags will add your post to the stream of all people who have subscribed to the tags.
  5. Put something like ![pic](http://website.com/image.jpg) in your post to embed an image
  6. Look here for a lot of helpful hints for formatting your posts
  7. To embed a video, just paste the URL into the post, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_BEekGyKb8 (don’t use https, and you have to reload the page with Ctrl + F5 before it will show)
  8. If you have problems consuming the Diaspora atom feed (some sites like WordPress don’t support https), use atom2rss to convert it to plain old http- only RSS
  9. Another cool thing to do with the atom feed: use twitterfeed.com to automatically keep your friends at Facebook, LinkedIn, Hellotxt, Twitter or Status.net (Identica) in the loop, without having to press a button when sharing …
  10. Diaspora user numbers are listed here, these are estimates  based on diasp.eu user data

That’s already it for today, I will add more tricks and tweaks as I move along … mean time, see you on Diaspora (search for axel668@joindiaspora.com).

Diaspora – a better Google Plus

Finally got my Diaspora Invite, so I thought I’d quickly share my experiences from a couple of days playing around with it …

The maybe most important insight on my part was that waiting for an invite to joindiaspora.com was totally in vain, because Diaspora, unlike any other social network, uses a decentralized approach. Diaspora is organized in Pods, that work somehow like an Email provider – you always sign on to the same pod, but you can add people from all other pods, too. So if you can’t get an invite from joindiaspora.com, or are experiencing performance issues, just pick another pod from this list, diasp.eu has been around for over a year and works well for me over here in Germany. Moving between pods is not fully working, yet, but you can already export your user data to XML.

At first sight, Diaspora looks much like Google Plus – so much indeed, that it makes me wonder how many Google employees were in last year’s Diaspora Alpha programs (yes, Diaspora precedes Google Plus by a couple of months). In short, a Plus user will not miss anything in Diaspora, the authorization concept (“Aspects” vs. “Circles”) is very similar and allows complete control over who gets to see which post.

A big advantage of Diaspora over Plus is, that Diaspora offers a usable (!) bookmarklet and Twitter / Facebook integration for forwarding your posts. Unlike Plus, Diaspora already has Apps – right now only one of them, but more will follow. Another thing I really like about Diaspora is the Atom feed they provide for your public posts, and the ability to follow tags, although a filter option would be nice (e.g. for #NewHere or #nsfw).

While Diaspora will not change my general attitude about social networks (“I’m NOT posting my damily pics and political opinions to world & dog”), it at least qualifies as Twitter replacement, which is more than can be said about Plus or Facebook. So feel free to add axel668@joindiaspora.com (my diasp.eu account is inactive) or just follow my feed, trying to put some content in there soon.

Unfortunately right now the Diaspora community is quite small even compared to Plus and tiny compared to Facebook, but after my first impression I think this is going to improve soon. Diaspora is clearly the social network of choice for people who never liked / tried social networks, for those with Privacy concerns towards Facebook and Google, and of course for “the cool kids” who want to use something new and different.

For an Alpha version Diaspora is very stable and mature, so go give it a try !