Be an ally, not a hater (part 3 of “A Crucial Time for Diaspora *”)

RIP Ilya

The past few weeks have been pretty crazy for us here at Diaspora*. It is unbelievably painful to lose such a close friend and collaborator as Ilya, and we want to thank our countless community members, friends, family, and professional contacts for all of your support as we try to take care of ourselves and plot a course for Diaspora*’s future. We are forever grateful to the amazing community of people who have stepped up to help us get things back in order.

— Maxwell and Daniel, Diaspora * is Back in Action

Diaspora * co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy’s idealism, passion, and vision touched so many people — even those who like me who never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. So many moving tributes have been written that there isn’t much I can add. My heart goes out to his friends, family, and colleagues.

“There’s something deeper than making money off stuff,” he said. “Being part of creating stuff for the universe is awesome.”

Ilya, quoted in the New York Times obituary

It’s gratifying to see so many people in the community reaffirm their commitment to the vision in such difficult circumstances.  Now that the core team is back in action, after a few weeks for grieving and replanning, it’s a natural time to step back and look at what’s next.

First, though, there’s something I want to get off my chest.

Ilya struggled with depression, and the stress of people like you constantly badgering him and pestering him and constantly making him feel like nothing he ever did was good enough certainly did not help his situation.

— Ilya’s roommate David Kettler, on Diaspora

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Road trip! Bringing the #privchat community to Diaspora *

#privchatIt’s hard to believe but #privchat — the Tuesday morning Twitter Privacy Chat — has been going on for almost a year. CDT, Privacy Camp, and EPIC have done a great job moderating, and the attendees are a great cross-section of the privacy and civil liberties community: non-profits, privacy-focused startups, academics, privacy professionals at large companies, and activists (hiiiii!).

So let’s build on that success with a road trip, and bring the same kind of social networky goodness to Diaspora *!

If you’re thinking that you don’t have time for yet another social network, I feel your pain; the plan I’m suggesting only requires an hour of your time. Before we get there, though, I want to talk a bit about why I think it’s worth doing.

Why Diaspora *?

Diaspora* logo variant by GiorgioDiaspora shot to prominence last May, as four NYU undergrads raised money on Kickstarter for a distributed open-source privacy-friendly social network project just as a Facebook privacy storm kicked off. Good timing!

Eighteen months and $200,000 later, Sarah Mei and Yosem Companys have joined the core team, and there are dozens of public installations with tens of thousands of Diasporans. Liz Gannes’ Diaspora Prepares to Launch Open Source network on All Things D and Not vaporware, not a Nigerian prince on the team’s blog give an idea of the current status: an engineering team focused on getting to beta, a growing community, another round of fundraising in progress. Hanging out on Diaspora a lot for the last month, I’ve had interesting discussions with interesting people from across the world.

And one thing everybody that I’ve run into so far has in common:

They care about their privacy.

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In chaos there is opportunity (part 11 of Diversity and Google+)

Google+ in rainbow colors

I’m flashing! Back in 2006, the Ad Astra project proposed a strategy for Microsoft to outflank Google by leveraging its employee base and social technologies. One of the key insights: social computing technologies allow a company to tap into the combined energy of employees and their networks. This can be a huge asset — and one that potentially grows non-linearly as a company grows. Alas, Microsoft took another approach, investing in algorithmic search to compete with Google head-on, and ceding the social market to Facebook, LinkedIn, and others..

Five years later, it’s Google in the role of a large company trying to use its size as an advantage against a more nimble competitor. If Google’s 20,000+ employees can work together effectively and are sufficiently motivated, they’ll be a huge asset in the “battle for social.” Tying bonuses across the company to success gets everybody to focus on the company’s priority. From a strategy perspective, a great move by Google.

Which doesn’t mean it will work.

— me, in a comment Prisms, Kool-Aid and Opportunity April 2011

One way to look at Google+ through the lens of what Robert Scoble calls the game of all games: the battle between Facebook, Google, and “own identity on the internet.”  In that context, it was a brilliant move against all the other big US-based corporations run and owned primarily by white guys who are fighting over who can profit from mining our personal information and selling our eyeballs to advertisers.

And in a lot of ways, it’s worked out quite well:
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4 Things Diaspora* can learn from Google+

Part 2 of A crucial time for Diaspora*

Diaspora* logo variant by Giorgio

This weekend I received an invitation through Facebook to join Diaspora. I had tried to join Diaspora last year when I learned about their Kickstarter success while writing my book on crowdsourcing, but I couldn’t get in. So of course I was curious and went immediately to sign up.

And then I was puzzled. Diaspora looked just like…Google+. Or did Google+ look just like Diaspora?

— Aliza Sherman, Google+ meet Diaspora – or maybe you know them already?

Yeah really. Dan Tynan, in Will the real anti-Facebook please stand up?, comments that “Given that G+ emerged some seven months after Diaspora went public, I’m guessing Google was taking notes.” Sure, the basic idea of having Aspects (in Diaspora) or Circles (in Google+) to organize your acquaintances isn’t new,* but G+’s web layout sure looks a heckuva lot like Diaspora’s.

What’s that they say about the sincerest form of flattery?

And conveniently enough, a large corporation has just spent millions of dollars on a “field test” that offers plenty of learning for Diaspora*. Thanks, Google!

So last week I started asking people what they thought Diaspora* could learn from Google+. Since then Kathy, Helena, Greg, Amy, Stephen, Gretchen, Dan, Paul, Andreas, David, Cindy, Geeky, powlsy, Drew, Terry, Sylvia, Edward, Anne, Hrafn, Shiyiya, Cavlec, Wiring, Madeleine, @PRC_Amber, @blakereidm, Arvind, Dan, and many others came up with new suggestions and refined the list in discussions on Google+, Dreamwidth, Diaspora, Twitter, earlier draft, and email. Thanks to everybody who got involved! As usual, the majority of the good ideas came from others; all of the clunkers and mistakes are mine.

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A crucial time for Diaspora*

Diaspora* logo variant by Giorgio

Although we’ve been quiet for a while, it’s because we’ve been working hard, head-down.

We’re thrilled to say we’ve built the first stage of a new social web, one better than what’s out there today: a place where each of us owns our own information, where each person controls his or her own privacy, where no-one is a product, and where we all control our own destinies.

— Maxwell, Daniel, Ilya, Sarah, Yosem and Peter, Diaspora* is making a difference

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What Diaspora (and everybody else) can learn from Google+ (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  WORK IN PROGRESS!  FEEDBACK WELCOME!

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What can Diaspora* learn from Google+?

At last year’s Blue Hat conference, I gave a short talk on What Diaspora* can learn from Microsoft.   Now, I’d like to do the same kind of analysis with Google+.

Ten weeks into the G+ experiment, what are the key learnings for a privacy-friendly distributed social network.  Here’s a few early thoughts.

  • Diaspora’s on the right track.  Google+’s “circle” concept and page layout look like they’re based on Diaspora’s work — and imitation is the sincerest form of flatter.
  • Diaspora’s current functionally + longer posts + easy link sharing + video = enough to get people excited
  • The estimated 40% of people online who prefer “screen names” or pseudonyms are a really good target audience right now.   Geek Feminism’s excellent list of Who Is Harmed By a “Real Names” policy could be the basis of a great go-to-market plan for Diaspora
  • Gender is a text field, but corporations run by cis guys still don’t see it that way

Your thoughts welcome, either about these ideas or new ones!
jon

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What can Diaspora learn about security from Microsoft? (REVISED DRAFT)

See the final version here

Thanks to Adam, Jason, and Alem for the initial list; Sarah, tptacek, Locke1689, mahmud, Wayne, PeterH, Steve, and SonyaLynn for comments on the previous draft, and Damon for the wording on #7.

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What can Diaspora learn about security from Microsoft? (FIRST DRAFT)

It’s counter-intuitive to think of Microsoft as a poster child for security.  But the progress they’ve made since 2001 along with the challenges they continue to face have a lot of lessons for anybody in this space — including Diaspora, the “privacy-aware, personally-controlled, open-source, do-it-all social network”.

Several of the comments on my previous post Diaspora: what next? were from former colleagues at Microsoft, and they made excellent points.  Here’s my attempt to build on the list that Adam, Jason, and Alem started off.
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