Dé hAoine 18 Samhain 2011

diaspora* :: blow on the dandelion!

I subscribed to diaspora* just under a year ago, and was left waiting for an invitation from them to create a profile. They sent out the odd email, expressing their gratitude for my interest in the non-commercial, open source social network, and informing me that they hoped to get an invitation out to me asap. In the end, they didn't send me the invite -- two of my friends who succeeded in acquiring the coveted invitation did. I think this sort of gradual rolling out of invites does more damage than good; surely if a social network is to be successful, it needs to be more widely accessible? In fairness, work on the software for the social networking site only began in May 2010, so this gradual influx of its cyber population can be understood. The site is still in 'alpha testing' form, but for the sake of their success, I would urge a swift promotion of the site.

The diaspora* project was founded by Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Dan Grippi, Max Salzberg and Raphael Sofaer, students at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Yep, uber-nerds! Apparently, the lads were inspired to start the project by a speech given by Columbia University law lecturer Eben Moglen, who described centralised social networks as "spying for free". I'm inclined to agree -- my dad has always been wary of Facebook, and it's only in recent years that Facebook has come to show its true colours. Information about its users is actually priceless. Now and again, gullible people share the news on their statuses that Facebook plans to charge us for using the service; why would it enforce a fee, when we're already paying dearly for the service? Max Salzberg is reported as saying "When you give up that data, you’re giving it up forever ... The value they give us is negligible in the scale of what they are doing, and what we are giving up is all of our privacy." How right he is. That is the reason why he and his fellow students came up with diaspora*; to give real freedom back to social networking users, and to protect those users' right to ownership and control of their personal information. The Diaspora Foundation stated back in September 2010, "...our distributed design means no big corporation will ever control Diaspora. Diaspora* will never sell your social life to advertisers, and you won’t have to conform to someone’s arbitrary rules or look over your shoulder before you speak." Sounds good to me!
Even the name of the site is more appealing: diaspora, a scattered or dispersed population. Much more intelligent than Facebook. FACEbook. That name is ominous, suggesting a group of spies and informers in a dark room somewhere rifling through files of people's profiles. Have you seen that Take this Lollipop thing yet? Scared the crap out of me. That freaky man stands for greedy corporations, you know. 

diaspora* interface

So far, I can say that the interface of the site is quite close to that of Google+, and slightly like Facebook. Personally, I've been urging my people to abandon Facebook in favour of Google+ or diaspora*, though now I shall be urging more towards diaspora*, as Google want your info too -- they're certainly no angels; they're set on cyber-world domination by the looks of it. Facebook has actually become less user-friendly in terms of navigation in recent times, after their stupid changes to the interface and gradual rollout of the "Timeline". That I don't 'like'. When my friend sent me an invitation for diaspora*, he chose my language as Irish. (Good man!) I noticed this from the random words that appeared in Irish on the diaspora* website. A lot of translation work needs to be done, but all in good time. :) As far as I know, diaspora* are ahead of Google+ in this respect. All I know is that I'd rather translate for free for an open source, non-profit site than for corporation-corrupt Facebook!

You know you're entering non-mainstream territory when you see "stop censorship" slapped on a webpage. Obviously diaspora* are against US proposal for an Censorship Act "against piracy"; what exactly constitutes piracy? Anything that speaks the truth? Any platform that allows true freedom of expression? Any site that undermines corporate power? Diaspora* would undoubtedly be one of their targets. There are some sinister goings on in reaction to diaspora*. Apparently, PayPal froze the Diaspora Foundation funding account in October of this year. The account was unfrozen after much pressure and well-founded threats of legal action, and an apology was given. But no explanation. Dodge City. Apparently Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg (F*ckerburg, more like!) donated money to the Diaspora Foundation, because "it is a cool idea". I'd mind him, lads! 

On joining diaspora* this evening, I find that co-founder Ilya Zhitormirskiy died on the 12th of November at the age of 22. Unreal. No cause of death has been given at this sensitive time, but don't you know, lack of clarification leads to gossip, and quite a few sources are claiming it was suicide. This would be tragic, for someone so young, so intelligent and so bright, with an innovative vision for cyber society. From his track record, he looks like someone full of the urge to live and to change the world. 

Despite governments' opinion [glares angrily in the direction of Dáil Éireann in her mind], students are the future, and they create the future. This group of lads have proven this. So if I send you an invite, join diaspora* and become part of the growing movement for true liberation of the web, and true freedom. Alternatively, you can sign up here, and wait patiently to be called upon...

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