I’ve got my own channel on beta.buddycloud.org. I get the feeling I’m the only one on there who isn’t a Buddycloud developer. On the face of it Buddycloud doesn’t seem like anything new, it’s just a Twitter-like feed, although posts aren’t limited to 140 characters. It all feels very new and buggy – for instance, you can’t even add profile information or add your own icon picture yet, and you can’t yet connect it to any other services.

Despite all this Buddycloud is the social network I’m most excited about, because I think they’re doing a really good job on the behind-the-scenes stuff. Buddycloud isn’t a website, it isn’t even a single social network, it’s a whole bunch of different things – webservers, web clients, and things that just send data between web servers and web clients. While all that stuff makes it harder to explain what Buddycloud is, it makes it easier for people to use it in a truly federated way – you can, for example, use beta.buddycloud.org as a place to store your data, but write your own webclient, if you don’t like the default one. They seem to have federation as a core goal – even though the webclient barely works yet there is already an Atom API, which really warms the cockles of my heart because it shows that federation is being prioritised over making a pretty website.



Mission 4: desktop microblogging client (Choqok)

I wrote earlier about creating an account on identi.ca, the open Twitter alternative. I like using identi.ca but most of the people I know (or whose micro-posts I’m interested in reading) use Twitter. I wanted to merge my twitter feed into my identi.ca feed, so I could switch to non-Twitter-centric microblogging without missing anything, but I couldn’t get this to work on the identi.ca website.

In my search for a solution encountered an idea that’s so old it must surely be on the verge of developing some sort of retro coolness by now: using actual desktop applications instead of doing everything in the web browser. I use Ubuntu, so I had quite a few microblogging clients to choose from. I tried Choqok, Gwibber, Hotot, and Turpial. The results:

– I couldn’t get Gwibber to connect to my Twitter account.

– Hotot and Turpial both only connect to one account – so I could look at either my Twitter or my identi.ca, but not both. With Hotot you can open as many instances as you want, and look at mulptiple accounts that way, but I found that annoying in terms of useability and it cluttered up my desktop.

– Choqok wins: it’s the simplest to set up and use, and it shows me two tabs, one with my Twitter stream and one with my identi.ca. This makes me feel mighty, like: BEHOLD MY VAST MICROBLOGGING EMPIRE, ALL THE STREAMS ARE MINE TO CONTROL!! The interface isn’t very pretty, but Choqok is the best in terms of useability.

Mission status: SUCCESS

Mission Phase 3: Diaspora

So I signed up for a free account at http://london.diaspora.org.

The good part: the website is beautiful. Clear, un-cluttered design with lots of white-space, gorgeous typography.

But I was most interested in the ability to inter-operate with other social networking sites, and Diaspora didn’t do so well at this. The only external services you can connect to are Twitter and Facebook, which was disappointing after the long list of services I could connect to on Friendica.

Even the way Diaspora describes itself seems to imply that federation isn’t the most important thing. You’re invited to “join Diaspora” and “invite your friends”. But the goal of an open, federated web is that you don’t have to join anything, you can connect to your friends no matter which service they use.

I’ll admit I only spent a few minutes playing with the settings, so it’s possible I’m missing something. And Diaspora’s website is really, really nice. But at the moment I’m a lot more excited about Friendica.

Mission outcome: DOUBTFUL

Mission Phase 2: Friendica as a Facebook replacement

As far as I can tell there are three major options for an open replacement for Facebook: Buddycloud, Diaspora, and Friendica. I’m starting with Friendica since I already have an account, which I randomly set up a few months ago. There are a few public sites where you can sign up to use Friendica for free, and mine is at http://kakste.com.

The website design is clunky and not especially attractive, but that’s the easiest thing to fix, so it’s not very important. I spent quite a lot of time playing with the settings. Here are the results:

– You can set it up so your posts to Friendica are automatically sent to Facebook.

– You can make it so posts that would normally turn up on your Facebook main page, also show up on Friendica.

– You can set your Friendica account to be either publicly visible or visible only to friends, but I wasn’t able to do this on a post-by-post basis.

– You can also automatically sent your Friendica posts to an impressive list of external services, including WordPress, Twitter, StatusNet, Dreamwidth and LiveJournal.

Conclusion: The really great thing is that you don’t ever have to go to facebook.com again if you don’t want to, you can use Friendica instead without missing anything.

Syndicating everything to Facebook isn’t great in terms of privacy, since (I’m pretty sure) Facebook’s terms of service (short version: WE OWN EVERYTHING / WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT) apply to syndicated posts the same as normal posts. Facebook still tracks what you post about and who your friends are, and still sells that info to third parties. So this is really just a symbolic exit from Facebook. But it still feels good. It feels like this is how a massive shift from closed social networks to open ones could start.

Mission status: PROMISING

Mission phase 1: from twitter to identi.ca

I thought it would be simple:

1. Set up an identi.ca account.

2. Syndicate all my identi.ca posts to twitter, so my twitter-using friends can see them.

3. Send the twitter feeds I follow to identi.ca.

4. Never have to go to twitter.com again, since I can use identi.ca instead without missing anything.

Step 1 was easy enough. The identi.ca website is a little crowded and confusing. On identi.ca the main page displays a mega-feed of EVERYONE’s posts, and to see just the people you follow you have to select HOME in the top left.

To do step 2 I clicked SETTINGS at the top right, then TWITTER (bottom of the left menu) and connected my account. And my posts to identi.ca automatically get sent to my Twitter account. Joy!

Step 3 was not so straightforward though. I’m pretty sure I SHOULD be able to go to SETTINGS -> MIRRORING to add my twitter feeds to my identi.ca stream, but it doesn’t work.

So what I ended up doing is posting stuff to identi.ca but reading stuff in twitter.com, which is basically really silly and doesn’t at all accomplish the goal of not being on twitter.

Mission outcome: FAILURE

But I’ll be back.