Don't mistake me; I'm a huge fan of what they were trying to do. I'm just really, deeply disappointed in their execution.
I can't decide if I'm a fan of what they did because they just went for it and made a big splash or if I'm annoyed that they took all that kickstarter money for something they could never deliver with their skillset. No one else can crowdfund a similar project for a long time after this public meltdown.
Huh? App.net is similar in many dimensions and just got funded for way more.
Yes, people will be justifiably wary of a very-young team with very-lofty technical goals, without a demonstration of a better plan and code. But that's as it should be. They tested a longshot idea fairly efficiently; the market (of funders and adopters) has now learned a lessen at not much cost.
I applaud these guys -- at least they tried to improve the world in some way.
I don't think HN should stigmatize failure.
The blame lies in small part on them, for setting naively optimistic expectations, but in large part on the mainstream media and technology media that trumpeted them, for validating those ridiculously optimistic expectations.
It also lies on people like you, speaking in ridiculously epic proportions about them "taking on Facebook" and giving serious credence to the idea that a few extremely junior programmers had the skills and wherewithal to produce a distributed social network, much less take on Facebook.
Diaspora go the hype via kickstarter - they got the drama - but they just tried to build another rails app. And burnt through a lot of money building 'yet another rails app' instead of using that money to build a community/protocol/standard on top of some of the work of the existing players.
Yes, true, perhaps behind the scenes they approached every other player in this space, and were privately rebuffed, but I don't think so. I think they took (and we encouraged) all the support and money on Kickstarter to be an endorsement of them personally (look, 4 college dudes! it's the perfect movie sequel to "the social network"!) instead of an endorsement of the idea, and a charge to act wisely.
I believe that to overcome Facebook we should not build just an equivalent, with similar features but free/open & distributed. "To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete" (R. B. Fuller) Personally I think we should eventually swift, in the social networks arena, from communication to collaboration... as they do in http://kune.cc
Privacy and data-retention issues are an education and engagement problem, not a technical one. There was no effort to engage anyone on any level with education of the problem they were trying to solve. I'm not sure I understood how they were solving it and I was following what they were doing.
How is launching yet another failed social network and executing it so poorly that it ends up immediately abandoned "taking on Facebook"?
All they did was destroy what little confidence people had in the concept of a crowd-funded online service. That's not a positive, or something to be proud of. It actually sets everyone who is trying to do the same thing and execute it well back quite far.
It's also not clear that confidence in such a "concept of a crowd-funded online service", generally, was 'destroyed'. App.net just got funded for much more money. Other online services have also been funded since for less (such as Hypothes.is).
People might not fund such a young team as Diaspora at such an early stage again. The undiscriminating enthusiastic community now knows better what to look for -- it's learned a little the hard way, like any investor must.
Diaspora proved there was interest and tested a longshot idea. Their fundraising success inspired a lot of other Kickstarter campaigns. We all now know more. That's progress to be proud of even if they and their backers were over-optimistic and over-ambitious.
IMO it's pretty clear. Find the 20 nearest people, ask them if they would pay for a social network. I would be amazed if one said yes. Just because through the power of Kickstarter and heavy word of mouth on blogs they managed to scrape together enough people interested in the concept to hand their money over doesn't mean people in general have a ton of confidence in an idea like this.
A small group of technical users had a lot of confidence in the concept or too much extra money. Do people in general? No. It's like asking them to pay for a browser or a search engine, simply unheard of. If you don't believe me, consider how many gullible users distribute those "they're going to make us pay $5 a year for facebook spam this wallpost a million times to stop it!" things even now.
> App.net just got funded for much more money.
Do you honestly think we won't be here on HN a year from now, discussing the exact same story but with App.net in place of Diaspora? I don't see this as a positive either, handing unqualified people with no plan huge sums of money multiple times doesn't fill me with joy. It makes me nervous, like the millions flying around for crowdsourced video games.
> The undiscriminating enthusiastic community now knows better what to look for -- it's learned a little the hard way, like any investor must.
You do realize that con artists use the exact same excuse, right? You live, you learn? It's a pretty terrible justification for mismanaging a project into the ground.
I also feel you'll quickly find out that without the "undiscriminating enthusiastic community" these projects will go mysteriously unfunded. I would think twice about happily burning your biggest bridge if I were you.
> Diaspora proved there was interest and tested a longshot idea.
They could have left that task to someone who was going to execute well, too. Also, not a positive. This would have happened the moment anybody competent launched the same project. Also, they wouldn't have helped breed distrust amongst the few people that are willing to fund this sort of thing.
As recently as March of this year, they updated their roadmap. The second heading is "The Road to Beta". It also includes the line, "After these features are tackled, we feel that Diaspora as a platform will be Beta". It's pretty clear the founders themselves never even considered it to be a beta product.
Most "beta" web services are still hosted.
Get your facts straight much?
At least in a media-lensed view they were the closest thing you could find to modern Davids taking the Facebook Goliath.
However, what I think we here should do is make plain how the combination of simplified ideas of Facebook's problems, simplified ideas of development processes and simplified ideas of heroics all combined to make the effort entirely impossible and rather negatively impact the people involved.
They were attacking the wrong problem ("lack of privacy on Facebook") and had the wrong plan ("build webserver software that will host your data with someone else you'll have to trust") and were likely the wrong people (five inexperienced college students).
The main thing though is that all these problematic aspects were also what got them attention and money. It seems like a modern parable.
A geek tragedy.
Validating the team has always been important, but the general mainstream internet doesn't realize that yet. They will, after at least one highly public meltdown where millions disappeared down a drain for little to none of the promised deliverables.
(I hate to be negative, and I want to be wrong, but my money right now is on the Ouya - unproven team out of their depth promising an extremely complex product delivered at unprecedented low cost and unprecedented fast schedule)
I suspect soon we will see a redirection in crowdfunding and more focus on the ability for funders to assess the competency of a team, and I suspect we will see more credibility-building on Kickstarter projects than we have seen thus far.
This team has:
delivered 3 kicstarters (a, b, c)
failed to deliver 1 kickstarter (d)
The members of the public who are "investing" are obviously accepting risk. And I think it's reasonable to argue that the per-dollar risk is higher for these projects than traditionally funded ones. But that doesn't seem to be deterring anyone, so I'm not sure it constitutes a weakness of the model either.
Honestly, I think the only way to interpret your point is sort of uncharitable: the people in the most danger from the kickstarter model are the existing investor class, who risk seeing some of their likely prospects get money from elsewhere. I'm not sure that's really a bad thing.
Inexperienced investors invest in the idea.
Experienced investors invest in the team.
The Kickstarter model opens up a source of funding for lots of new people, and it enables people who could not (or had not) previously invested in those people. That creates an environment which is exceptionally prone to failure. The education process will be a harsh. Because people rarely blame themselves for not thinking about the problem correctly they will start blaming Kickstarter, or the teams, and some of those people will do great harm to the system that is helping people do stuff they couldn't do before. That is why I think it is a weakness of the model, it doesn't surface the root causes of failure easily.
Why are you being so negative?. Kickstarters give normal people the capability to invest in -fund other people and that is amazing. People will make mistakes, but real investors make mistakes every single day. Venture Capital is called that way because they accept risk and most of the projects they invest in don't make it. They get by with those that do.
It seems like you prefer people not being able to spend their own money in order to "protect" them. Maybe you have personal interest in that.
I funded a lot of KS projects, some of them with over thousands dollars and I am extremely satisfied by ALL of them. With video you have so much information and clues about someone to know if she will comply.
The best way not to fail is not to try, but good things in life come from trusting people and risking too.
PS: It was clear from the start Diaspora was going to fail. Too abstract "pie in the sky", like someone telling you he is going to do a diet versus the same person giving clear message of how, when, where and what is going to eat in order to improve his life.
The first sentence is snarky and a put-down. The second sentence is a quasi-apology for the first line. The third sentence disparages the work done by people who, in all likelihood, worked very hard, had good intentions, suffered through horrible events, and were at least reasonably competent.
Also, there is no indication that you have any inside information about this, and you did not elaborate on why you were "deeply disappointed in their execution" -- do you have anything to suggest that anyone else would have executed better, given the circumstances? Isn't it better to give them the benefit of the doubt? Couldn't you express disappointment that the project isn't complete without putting down the people who worked on it?
Yes, they support OmniAuth and Salmon, but integrating with another platform is someone else's responsibility. Maybe I'm wrong (I actually hope I am), but that feels to me more like wanting Diaspora, itself, to succeed, and not federated social networking in general. To an extent, that's to be expected; we all want to succeed at what we're doing. But particularly in something like federated social networking, the rising tide of interoperability lifts all boats much more quickly than everyone else having to dredge channels into your little estuary. Yes, that isn't quite a walled garden, but it's a lot closer than the rhetoric they slung to sell the project would suggest.
I'm also a little concerned for how much their lack of success might have hindered other software projects from being successful at funding themselves via sites like Kickstarter, but that's much better addressed in the other comments in this thread, so I'll leave it at that.
Those aren't my only complaints, but, again, they've all been addressed, and far better than I have time for or interest in rehashing, else-thread.
Yes, my tone was harsh. But Diaspora left a very bad taste in my, and many others' mouths. However unkind my tone may have been, I genuinely don't think some degree of derision is unwarranted. Net, I honestly think the project did more damage to the cause of federated social networking than it did good. Sure, they put the idea that it was possible in a lot of peoples' heads. And then they demonstrated that it probably can't be done, because if a bunch of whiz-kids (whom the public can't distinguish from Zuck, except that Zuck was successful) with hundreds of thousands of dollars behind them can't pull it off, then who can?
The thing is, I don't agree with your characterization of their competence. Yes, they're probably all very smart people, and I'm sure they've learned a great deal over the past couple years. Being smart is not the same as being competent, however. They were utterly unprepared for what they asked the world to pay them to do. I'm generally in favor of diving in headfirst and trying to learn to swim, but not on someone else's — let alone thousands of unsophisticated (at least in terms of investing in technology projects) people's – dime. That's not competence, in my book. It's irresponsibility.
EDIT: For the record, I agree with you that my comment is characteristic of a growing negativity on HN. I'm actually genuinely saddened that it's the highest-rated thing I've ever said here. It was intended to be a glib, throw-away comment, and was admittedly laden with snark. I stand by my position, though, however much my delivery might have warranted some softening.
One of the tough things for anyone aiming to replicate Facebook is that Facebook used some devious methods to get up and running. Zuckerberg misapproprited hundreds of photos of his classmates and their personal information, and then sent them provocative emails that would cause most students to check on what's been posted about them, or what's been posted about others, i.e., they would visit the site.
It's like the story of the YouTube guys posting some of their own videos to get things started. Then they eventually had to upload some copyrighted content. They took a risk.
Then there's the story of Bittorrent. I believe Bram Cohen initially seeded some porn to get things kicked off.
Or the guy from ThatHigh who recently told of how he had to create fake profiles.
It seems that it is quite difficult for user contribution and sharing solutions to start from zero. Alas, you need to have content on offer from day #1. And it needs to be compelling content, in terms of quality, quantity or both.
Zuckerberg broke the rules. He stole student's personal profiles from the university's network. And he got away with it. Luck was in his favor and he knows it. Others who would try this now might not be so lucky.
Diaspora relies on people to submit their own content, but it had no compelling content to begin with. Not only did they start with no content that would draw people in, but if I'm not mistaken they expect people to run their own web servers. This is not impossible to imagine but why web servers? I guess because they want to replicate Facebook.
Solution: Don't replicate Facebook. Build something a little different. Stop thinking only in terms of web servers and web clients. Think peer-to-peer. Think in terms of application-agnostic _connections_, not applications. Do this and you instantly have something that is 100x more useful than Facebook. Because it does not have to operate within the contraints of web servers and web browsers.
But there's still that problem of compelling content...
Moreover web servers are compatible with peer-to-peer and provide application agnostic connectors.
I mean, they certainly did something right, given that G+ swiped liberally from Diaspora's design.
(What would a distributed social network that was dead easy to host look like? Imagine something like Diaspora that lives on your phone instead of on a server, for instance. Right now D* is a giant pile of Ruby, which means that interested amateurs are pretty much not gonna be able to play with it.)
1. Diaspora had all the characteristics of vaporware for the longest time - I remember they were #1 in a HuffPo 'Top Ten Alternatives to Facebook' lineup in May 2010.
2. The source code released that fall seemed to fail Spolsky's second rule of being able to build in a single step, because I remember checking out the repo and then realizing that I'd need to dedicate more than ten minutes to figuring everything out, making a mental note to do that at some point,a and promptly forgetting about it entirely.
3. The officially-hosted version was a victim of poor timing - the first time I saw it was last summer (2011). Aside from the fact that this was more than a year after I had already seen it in a mainstream news source, this was immediately after the release of Google+ and at the height of the 'nymwars'. By that point, Google+ had already gained its reputation as a massive, overhyped soon-to-be-likely-failure. Diaspora's UI was nearly identical to Google+, so it seemed less like an alternative to Facebook and more of an open-source alternative of an alternative to Facebook.
I don't think the technical spec of Diaspora as a product is broken at the core (though that doesn't mean that something like what you envision couldn't also be valuable as well). I do think that the end goal is worthwhile, and let's be clear: this does not kill Diaspora - it has every chance to be as much alive as Netscape is, just in a different form (ie, Mozilla/Firefox). That's the beauty of open-source projects, particularly community-driven ones.
 The lineup is of course indicative of nothing other than the fact that Diaspora was already hyped-up enough to be included in such a lineup!
 Whether or not you agree with that conclusion now, it was certainly a popular sentiment at the time.
At the same time, I remember the first code-release of diaspora was before G+, it just wasn't usable code. Any project that takes a long time to create is going to have "timing problems". If Diaspora had smoothly working code right now, timing probably wouldn't be an issue.
It was VERY clear that these were just a bunch of college kids who had no decent real world experience in software development. When you have a such a small project as Diaspora failing to get something the fundamentals sorted from day one is a bad sign IMHO.
1) It's better to start with a protocol and build an application than just launch into application building.
2) Privacy is wrong motivation for wanting to replace Facebook. A distributed social networking application is certainly possible (one might argue the web itself an example). A secure, distributed sharing scheme makes a social networking app exponentially harder to develop (Project Xanadu tried to create a secure "transclosure" scheme. They had a ten year head-start on the web and still failed. Distributed, revocable sharing is essentially a pathological problem).
Does this provide more flexibility on Architecture.
Edited: for clarity.
Email is a distributed social network. It just doesn't define very many types of actions or objects.
You can create "messages" and then you can "send" them. The user sees the guts of the message -- the "from", "to", "subject" and "body" portions, mainly.
As far as I know, nobody has extended the standard email formats and protocols to support new message types that have caught on lately. Actions like "Post photo", "Tag photo", "Take a special action defined by this third party which should be displayed like so when rendered in a 'feed'".
This seems like mostly a matter of agreeing on some new types of messages and some suggested ways of handling and displaying them.
I'm not saying this has to be built on top of existing email protocols -- it's really just independent sites exchanging messages of some sort. But email is a good working example to point at today.
The hard part is getting adoption, and getting different implementations to interoperate. Once you dive into this, you find a huge soup of different projects working on different pieces of the puzzle. Some of these projects have a future, others do not. It's going to take some time for this to shake out, and for the developers to resolve issues with bringing this stuff together.
A lot of this work has been going on without a lot of fanfare. See for example http://indiewebcamp.com/ or http://www.internetidentityworkshop.com/
Naturally, it couldn't hurt to bring a lot more help into these efforts.
This is a very cool and exciting idea but my feeling is that email clients are hard to code because they're full desktop applications. Even standard email clients are hard to get right - building a social network version (with encryption) would be quite a challenge.
The rewards could be nice though - such as being able to use mailinator or mixmaster for anonymity.
Gmail is an email client. Facebook is now, too. So are the default 'mail' applications for Android and iOS. And let's not leave out Emacs :)
The challenge of email (which comes with its advantage of being ubiquitous today) is its plethora of standards documents one must read and respect if one wants to make a serious go of developing software that will work well with most of its corner cases.
But if you disagree, please write one - I'd be a very willing beta tester and would even be keen to help in a limited way.
Also, I think it's implicit that you trust your server. It's other people's servers you've got to worry about.
Email did this badly from the start, because it started in a much more trusting world of people who did not spam one another. Authentication features were added later, but there was no requirement to use them, which limits their effectiveness.
Perhaps for a project starting fresh now, this can be handled better?
- During the initial 6-12 months after the Kickstarter there was little or no communication about what they were doing. Blog posts were very scarce. If you want to maintain interest in a project it's a good idea to have some level of communications.
- They made initial software choices which meant that the initial release wouldn't run on the target platform (ARM based servers)
- Once Diaspora got going it wasn't easy to find pods other than joindiaspora
- The Diaspora team were unresponsive to patch submissions and this meant that features which users wanted didn't get implemented.
- There were issues with the protocol being undocumented
So you've read pistos blog. Have you look at the contributions though? https://github.com/diaspora/diaspora/graphs/contributors
No open source project accepts every pull request, but Diaspora has accepted quite a lot.
I think a takeaway better model is: produce a beta or a demo that you bring to Kickstarter and ask for double or quadruple the money you think you'll need (because you will). Either make the code open-source last after it's fully developed, or make sure the code you bring to the demo is secure and unembarrassing. Even though I disagree with the idea, I think Light Table is hitting most of the notes Diaspora missed: Chris showed up with a compelling demo, raised way more money than a kid would deem necessary (and then more still with YC) and at least originally was going to make the code available last. He also updates frequently and people are using the software today, which never really seemed to happen with Diaspora.
Do you mean that community projects are by nature "dead" projects?
What does "dead" mean, exactly?
My OS is a community project. OSX/iOS are built from community projects. Lots of scripting languages are community projects. Mozilla is a community project. Wikipedia is a community projects. I could go on.
I realise I may think a bit differently than many programmers, but I care less about how much a particular chunk of code is actively changing than whether it works really well over the long term (simple, stable, reliable, secure). I like "timeless" software than quietly continues to work for many years, remaining relatively unchanged. In my experience, well-engineered software like that is often immune from so-called "bit rot". Because it was designed correctly, with minimised complexity and maximised portability as a top priorities, from the beginning.
From a design and implementation perspective, there are no real impediments to a decentralised social network that cannot be overcome. However first you have to decide what you mean by "social network"? Does it have to be a clone of FB or G+, save for the centralisation element? Or does your definition allow some changes to their approach? For example, what if the network was private? What if there were no ads? What if it was comprised of lots of smaller networks of maybe 100-200 people (like your "friends" on FB) instead of being one massive, public image gallery/chatbox? What if it didn't require the web, as FB does? What if it was application-agnostic?
What do you demand from a "social network"?
Does it have to be a FB/G+ clone?
Anything is possible, so to speak. But not everything is necessarily ready to be received based solely on technical merit. How much marketing and PR is needed?
Presently, commit activity is actually pretty decent (https://github.com/diaspora/diaspora/commits/master). If the project is dead no one has told the people submitting PR nor the people merging the PR.
Most of that stuff is pretty small, but I think this announcement could actually be a step forward. Since February - it seems to me there has been a shadow hanging over this project with a promised over-haul of federation code. I do not know if that will happen now, but there is less risk that it will happen outside the view of those who want to participate in setting the direction. Most people of course, will just write articles and comments and mail list posts and never submit any code (like me!). They may continue to complain that they have a limited a voice in the direction of the project.
The project still has to have active committers who are a subset of the interested "stakeholders". It doesn't matter if they get a little paycheck from D* Inc or not - its still only going to include some people, which will be those people who have a record of submitting acceptable code. This is true of every single open source project I know of.
No, but they're not necessarily live projects, either. The key question is how much commit activity is coming from the people who are walking away from the project. If they were doing all the committing, and they're leaving, it's dead. If on the other hand there's an active community of committers outside the original developers, it's alive.
What if the software as released is "rock solid"? That is, it's so simple, effective and reliable that it doesn't need to be changed, except for bug fixes?
What if the software is merely a "platform"? (And not only in the marketing sense of that word.) That is, the platform only "does one thing and does it well", and does not generally need to be "actively" developed (no commits except bug fixes), but... of course people can easily build things on top of it. For example, Ruby or Python programmers can do whatever they want. Total freedom. We give them the ability to create a connection to a social network they choose and they can send/receive over it to/from other members as they wish. We do not impose rules on that or try to manage it in anyway. We only provide the platform. The platform is application-agnostic.
The "platform" basically stays the same. It does what it's supposed to do, create networks, and that's all. If we measure by number of commits, one could say the development of the "platform" is "dead".
tl;dr what if someone releases a _platform_ that developers can build on, but number of commits to the _platform_ remains near zero? Because (apart from any bugs found) "it just works."
To my knowledge, Diaspora is closely intertwined with Ruby and web development. This makes it difficult to separate the "platform" from lots and lots of Ruby or other scripting language programming, mainly aimed at webpages, and people changing UI stuff to their liking. And personal preferences can vary greatly. (And there's more to the internet than just webpages. FB has to be webpages because it relies on the web, specifically one person's website: Zuckerberg. Another social network (or newtork of networks) might not be so limited.) Does the dynamic, highly personalised aspect of viewing webpages have to be part of the _platform_? Can we separate the personalisation from the basic functional element of the platform? (spawning decentralised networks)
I'm currently using a number of "dead" programs.
In fact, most of my kernel is "dead". There is code in there that hasn't been changed in over 30 years!
I'm even communicating over a "dead" protocol. When were the last changes to TCP?
I'd even guess you are using some "dead" software yourself. Low level stuff that no one has the desire nor energy to modify.
(To be clear, I am not suggesting that we should not try to improve programs, continually. I'm only pointing out that perhaps sometimes code works for what it's supposed to do, no one has come forward with something "better" and hence the code does not need to be fiddled with endlessly in the absence of serious bugs.)
Then I hope you have a plan in place for when, not if, they break.
>In fact, most of my kernel is "dead". There is code in there that hasn't been changed in over 30 years!
If the kernel has people who take responsibility for it, and make changes to it, then it's not dead.
>I'm even communicating over a "dead" protocol. When were the last changes to TCP?
The fast open draft was published in July.
>(To be clear, I am not suggesting that we should not try to improve programs, continually. I'm only pointing out that perhaps sometimes code works for what it's supposed to do, no one has come forward with something "better" and hence the code does not need to be fiddled with endlessly in the absence of serious bugs.)
Sure, but I really don't think that's true. Possibly because the lower-level layers are still evolving - code written in low-level languages more than about 10 years ago (before the AMD64 architecture existed) probably won't work correctly on a modern system, and most high level languages have had incompatible changes over the same time period (I know Java's supposed to be an exception to this - allegedly you can still run the original java demos from 1994 on a current JVM). The fact is I've tried and failed to run several programs from >5 years ago, but I've yet to find one that still works without having been maintained.
I also wasn't aware that RFC drafts were the same as "commits".
Originally we were talking about "number of commits". Low number of commits means "dead", so they are say. Are you in agreement with that or not? If so, what does "dead" mean?
Now you are saying if software is maintained (fixing bugs) it's not dead. Who said it was? I certainly didn't. I even went so far as to clarify that.
Let's assume some software is maintained. There's someone to take responsibilty. As you have suggested. But there's no commits, except to fix bugs.
If there's no bugs to fix (maybe one every 15 years), then there's no commits. But if _number of commits_ tells you whether a project is "live" or "dead" then how do you call this a "live" project, if is has almost no commit activity?
My original comment was about the idea of "number of commits"-->"dead" as carrying some deeper meaning, e.g. about the quality of the software.
I like software that works and keeps on working. I really do not care that much if people are committing to it or not. In fact, I'd prefer they didn't because in many cases they only succeed in breaking it or in creating new weaknesses or insecurities.
The original netcat just keeps working. Last "commit" was in the 1990's.
Ruby is a quick application to develop with and they needed to develop quickly. Usually, there are hundreds of particular aspects of a software production process that an outsider could question but just usually the tradeoffs can't be as easily made calculated from the outside as one would think.
I think the OP's idea of completely distributed servers might be as good any IF these weren't website servers but information caches akin to Freenet nodes. Freenet at least does work on some level. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freenet
Looking forward to how Mark.io eventually turns out. Best of luck buddies!
To be fair, it was a little bit of fun for 3 college kids looking to raise $10k that blew out of proportion. I am sure they tried too hard to live up to the expectations.
Their new side looks quite interesting although I have my reservations about the name.
Why? Because it's just a protocol, so you can build a Facebook alternative on top of it, sure, but you can also build services equivalent to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Instagram, Pinterest, Path, you name it, all interoperable. And the guys coming up with Tent don't have to be the ones who design the application layer. If they suck at UI/UX (which was questionable in the case of Diaspora), no problem, we can still build on their underlying tech.
Plus, it's not inherently noncommercial. With email you have three hosting options: free with ads, paid, and host it yourself. That's the best possible situation. On the one hand, companies are making money off ad-supported and paid email hosting, so they have incentives to provide the best service possible — unlike the non-profit "community pods" of Diaspora. On the other hand, you have interoperability and the freedom to use your data as you want — unlike on Facebook or Twitter, which will block you from exporting your contacts to a competing service. The Diaspora hosting model — where random people hosted servers for free just because they thought it was cool, or something — basically doesn't exist for email (or, say, web hosting), which is a good sign that it's unsustainable.
Diaspora was a flawed idea, but Tent, because it's a protocol, looks like a much more promising and realistic way to open social-media walled gardens.
Tent is just the initial iteration of a new, more open and more private social sphere.
1) http://onesocialweb.org (Not sure about their future)
2) http://buddycloud.org (some of their contributors are HNers, but even though they're recipients of Google Summer of Code 2012, they are also quite modest).
These are the approaches that seem to be the most promising to me, even though their use of XMPP has been disparaged as non-developer unfriendly. I simply disagree, as a non-developer (though I am working to change that; I've got simple Django and Rails up and running on my LAN).
I believe the ideal hardware for such a project is:
~1.2GHz ARM CPU
-2x SataIII HDD (~6TB RAID)
-on a consumer ISP connection with 250GB soft cap
We've tried to take the approach that for everything you can use the REST-based JSON delivering API (https://github.com/buddycloud/buddycloud-http-api). The federation, domain discovery, message passing between domains, dial-back security etc are all handled at the XMPP layer and can essentially be a black box. Just know that your posts, media, whatever-you-want will get delivered when both domains are online and that servers will catch up on posts when one goes down.
To me this gives developers the best of both worlds - simple to develop web-app combined with solid, tested, it-just-works federation.
Everyone -- Google included -- got really caught up in the tech demo UI when what was really interesting was the stuff going on under the hood.
Wave was based on XMPP, designed to be federated, was designed to be able to handle arbitrary data types, was extensible via robots, had built-in privacy controls, etc.
If you sat down and tried to figure out all the things a distributed social network should do, Wave really had all the right building blocks in place. Instead Google marketed it as next-generation email and it flopped.
Think of it this way, if five, not particularly experienced programmers, could dive in and just create a fully functional distributed-replacement for Facebook, then wouldn't that make a mockery of the skills/experience of developers that spent a lifetime acquiring them?
If anything, this enhances the kickstarter ecosystem, putting an emphasis on how important it is to evaluate the experience/skill of the principals behind a project.
For the counter-example, look at Dalton Caldwell's App.net. Here is a guy with a heck-ton of experience, and, from what I've heard, a talented developer.
He had a mostly functional API/Alpha of the twitter-clone portion of app.net (and, long term, I think the twitter component may not be the most important element) before they had even reached their funding target. And, the UI/App continues to land new features, week after week. In less than a month, alpha.app.net is already more feature complete and functional compared to where it needs to be to replace Twitter, than Diaspora was after two years.
Talent and Experience are critical. A great developer can accomplish in a few weeks, what less talented developers can't accomplish in a couple years.
That's my takeaway from Diaspora, and it's kind of a positive message.
I said it last year and I'll say it again now, Kickstarter is going to feel a serious backlash the first time one of the high profile projects falls apart because Kickstarter act like this big wonderful place for nurturing these projects and a lot of people seem to believe Kickstarter has some sort of interest in helping these projects succeed, but they don't, they are nothing more than a funding platform.
The problem is unavoidable I guess; give creative people lots of money, no guidance or supervision with only the moral obligation to actually do what they promised and inevitably quite a few will quit, change their idea or under deliver.
A common thing I've read on reddit is people believing that either Kickstarter makes the project creators accountable for not delivering or that the project creators don't get the money until they deliver... I wonder how a lot of people would react if they realised all they're paying for is a promise.
(oh and to clarify, I really do love Kickstarter and hope they continue to do what they're doing, but I can't help but disagree with their (potentially necessary) approach to projects after they've finished getting funded -- maybe they're working to solve this)
I backed a project in May 2011 called "MemeFactory Writes A Book", billed as a book about internet culture. The idea was cute and I wanted a t-shirt so I backed it with $100. Now a year and a third later they've "changed direction" because their original idea "wasn't what they thought it would be" so here I am with $100 in a project that is never going to happen and instead I'm waiting on a new project... they also still didn't deliver my t-shirt. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rugnetta/memefactory-wri...
Another project that I didn't back but I'm aware of is by a Youtube video creator called Bashurverse, the summary is: "Donate to us to go to a convention and we'll make a documentary", they got $4k and went to the convention... and apparently got the $4k scammed from them by an evil company... so now they've not delivered anything and the people that backed them are left with nothing and thinking "...oh". http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bashcraft/bashcraft-the-...
Will kickstarter do anything? Nope. Do people know that? Nope, they think accountability exists. When I now back a kickstarter project it's "I guess this would be nice to have, I'll send some money and maybe I get it, if not then whatever." instead of "holy crap this is amazing, I'll stick in as much as I can I can't wait!" which is how it should be.
Well, this is one of their high profile projects, and it's fallen apart.
It will be very interesting to see what happens from here.
Because the implication of what I read was that the founders are still working Diaspora, but that they're preparing to make the project more community oriented.
Now, that could just be their way of spinning it. Are the founders leaving to work on other jobs? I don't know much of the background here -- does it have something to do with this makr.io thing?
On the surface of things, the Diaspora team is crossing a line by sending e-mails about Makr.io to the people who were interested in Diaspora. I look at it as the two not being related at all, regardless of the reason they gave in the e-mail announcing makr to the people who expressed an interest in Diaspora -
"Existing social networks do not encourage their users to feel like they have the power to MAKE things on the internet. Rather they are just “capturing” the ephemeral social actions that define social networks today. With Makr, we are making creativity accessible to everyone, in the hopes it enables people to realize that what you post and create online is worth owning."
For me time will tell if this is genuine, or just the Diaspora team using their already existing mailing list to "capitalize" on an already established audience.
Did anyone else get that out of this? I had no faith to start with though...
WTF is this?
Edit: I found this video http://vimeo.com/37411394
Most companies under the startup gun that lose a key member to death don't recover.
They did exactly what we did when we lost Brandt Canicci, they buried themselves in another unrelated project.
You're not sure why you're doing it, but it's all consuming. You're grieving, although you don't know it, and you just can't wrap your mind around anything but the only life preserver you have until you come to your senses and let yourself move on.
Kudos Diaspora, it was a valiant effort.
I signed up on another pod but it was never up to date or stable.
If you want to join another pod I'd recommend diasp.org if you are in the US.
Wow. After I type in my username, the "username" label disappears. Pressing "signup" does literally nothing. It changes colors. No page change, no error msg, nothing.
(JS console says 404: https://joindiaspora.com/validators/uniqueness?[...])
And it's doing a blocking call? The whole damn page freezes until it bounces back with 404. This is embarrassingly awful in the first 30 seconds. Funny, the uniqueness checks works from my browser, but apparently their js is doing something silly.
edit1000: If others have this problem, omit the period in your Gmail address.
edit1001: Connected Facebook, went back, White Page. This just gets better and better.