WordPress(.org) is one of the few open source projects to have encouraged large numbers of non-technical users to download, setup, and host their own serverside software. I think the Ostatus "movement" could learn a lot from it.
A single OStatus-based PHP app, marketed well, and with an easy install path, might make widespread adoption of OStatus more likely. It could even piggyback on existing WordPress installations as a plugin. Then, anyone with a self-hosted WordPress blog would be able to host their own status updates under a fixed path appended to their existing blog, such as example.com/status/. It also offers the potential for anyone with a WordPress blog to become a provider of status pages for people who didn't want to host their own (because WordPress has an inbuilt user registration system), which could create a distributed, portable network with no lock-in.
There are supposedly 60 million WordPress installations out there. These users already understand the value of owning and hosting their own content. That's an awful lot of potential to kickstart the uptake of a distributed social network, and I'm not sure that anyone's thought to exploit this yet.
That plugin's a good start. It's only been downloaded 708 times, though, possibly because it's not being actively developed or promoted, and perhaps also because it has a long list of dependencies that would make setup too hard for most.
I think it could also be a branding issue. If I was building a distributed OStatus-based social network on the back of private WordPress installations, I would:
1. Market it under a different name than "OStatus". WordPress users need not know that their blog is automatically syndicated via RSS, and users of this new social service need not know that it's powered by OStatus. It is easier to market ideas than it is to market technologies and protocols.
2. Present users with an interface they're familiar with from other social networks, without stealing intellectual property.
3. Create a pretty marketing page that sold the project on its merits as a free social network that nobody owns. Give it a mascot or a bold logo.
4. Encourage the thousands of WordPress-related blogs to write about it, with a goal to drive WordPress developer adoption that might trickle down to other WordPress users too.
What if you could one-click deploy to Heroku, OpenShift or AppFog? OpenShift can even have multiple competing hosting providers or you can use the free hosting from Redhat (which includes a LOT more resources than Heroku's free plan). And of course you could still do the traditional dedicated/VPS type installation.
I wasn't that familiar with Azure, but I had heard that they had Linux VMs now (which would be one option), but I did a little digging and it appears you can actually run RoR apps on the Windows side as well:
Most blogs still run on shared hosting primarily for reasons of cost and a lot of people have existing shared hosting accounts that allow them to host multiple domains. If you're looking at individuals (the majority of whom are not typical HN readers and haven't gone down the PaaS path) installing this, it still makes sense to go LAMP.
Maybe within the HN ecosystem, but there are 10s of millions of wordpress installs running on the web. I would imagine only a very very small minority of said installs has any idea what a PaaS is. Those types of people are install wordpress on their $5/month hostgator accounts all day long because of stuff like fantastico making it a one click process as well.
Maybe I was unclear but I'm not asking to educate people about PaaS.
I'm proposing a button like [Create OStatus server]. It goes and provisions you a Heroku or DotCloud or Amazon account, creates an instance with everything installed, you get a link. Done.
We can make it way easier than installing Wordpress. The account provisioning part is tricky but all it takes is a good will partnership from one of the many PaaS providers, in exchange they get to upsell the owner to beefier paid servers.