What is the Federated Social Web, though?

I was talking to a friend about the federated social web recently, and I realized that my descriptions of it were really vague. After thinking about it, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good, concrete definition: a website or service is part of the federated social web if it’s open-source and provides an RSS or Atom feed that’s relatively easy to find.

Of course this isn’t what most people mean by it; most people for whom ‘federated social web’ means anything at all, would probably think of XMPP or pubsubbub or podservers or freedom boxes or what-have-you. Those are all technologies that might make up the federated social web in the future. But for right now, I reckon any service that doesn’t provide an RSS or Atom feed is either very immature, or else doesn’t really want to be federated.

The nice thing about this definition is that it’s easy to say what websites are part of the federated social web. WordPress, Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and Identi.ca / StatusNet are. Facebook definitely isn’t, Twitter pretends to be, a little bit, sometimes, but isn’t really. Tumblr lets you have RSS feeds which is nice, but the fact that it’s closed-source means you live in fear that those feeds may one day be taken away without warning, which is what happened with Twitter.

By this definition, Buddycloud isn’t on the federated social web yet, although they’ve done some good work in laying the groundwork. Diaspora passes the test, although the atom feeds are not exactly easy to find. Feed addresses look something like this: https://joindiaspora.com/public/my-username.atom.

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.