Taking back your data? Diaspora* takes on Facebook

Yes, I’m on Facebook and I’m friends with a lot of people. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn and none of these sites make me happy.

I don’t use the google toolbar either- although Google and iTunes know more about me than I really want them to. Many of you use these same “tools” and never really think about it much.

You should.

Facebook and these other “social networking sites” are using you- to write content- that will bring your friends into their sites to show you ads. Right now the ads are mostly “dumb” ads- but, as time goes on- they will be incredibly tuned to you- and will violate your privacy to an extent that you may wish you’d never logged in. Facebook had a major faux pas on its hands not long ago when its new technology “Beacon” was giving away the info on what you bought to everyone- including telling your fiancee about the engagement ring you just bought.

You should have control over your privacy and the amount of data that flows out about you. Which brings us to 4 NYU students who asked for $10K to spend the summer creating an alternative to Facebook. It’s called Diaspora* and they’ve already got over $60k pledged with 20 days to go.

There isn’t a ton of info yet on these four nerds of the apocalypse- but there will be a lot of eyes watching- some with deep pockets.

I found this nice little write up on the project:

diaspora (origin: Greek, ???????? – “a scattering [of seeds]“) is a project which is mainly about privacy and social networks. As it states itself, diaspora is the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network.

Diaspora aims to be a distributed network, where totally separate computers connect to each other directly, will let us connect without surrendering our privacy. We call these computers ‘seeds’. A seed is owned by you, hosted by you, or on a rented server. Once it has been set up, the seed will aggregate all of your information: your facebook profile, tweets, anything. We are designing an easily extendable plugin framework for Diaspora, so that whenever newfangled content gets invented, it will be automagically integrated into every seed.

diaspora is the birth child of four NYU computer science students: Daniel Grippi, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Raphael Sofaer and Maxwell Salzberg. It is currently hosted on Kickstarter and the software will be released at the end of the summer under aGPL (Affero General Public License).

Here are some key features coming to diaspora this summer:

  • Full-fledged communications between Seeds (Diaspora instances)
  • Complete PGP encryption
  • External Service Scraping of most major services (reclaim your data)
  • Version 1 of Diaspora’s API with documentation
  • Public GitHub repository of all Diaspora code

via diaspora – the project.

What’s most interesting to me is how these four have captured the imagination of so many people so quickly- raised money- without showing a business plan, presenting credentials, or demonstrating that they have the skills to pull this off. But- when someone writes a post about them, and then they respond online– you start to see how the open source community works together to discuss and refine ideas in the open.

This is a far cry of how we do things in Dayton, where we are still writing on big post-its and using sticky dots inside closed rooms– with a small sampling of people- where there is no opportunity for further discussion- research or additional refinement by “the cloud.”

The more we share- the better we are. The questions that diaspora is answering is who will own our ideas- the big corporations, or us?  They may not come up with a solution- but, it’s going to be great fun watching how this turns out.

Bet it’s better than any of the grand master plans we’ve come up with or are about to launch– that are being done behind a curtain.

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jstultsDavid EsratiCivil Servants Are People, Too Recent comment authors
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Civil Servants are People, Too
Civil Servants are People, Too

Interesting topic, and yet you lob a completely unrelated and baseless firebomb at the end….

Bet it’s better than any of the grand master plans we’ve come up with or are about to launch– that are being done behind a curtain.

Here’s what the DDP writes on their site:
More than 200 volunteers have been working to compile the public’s ideas and to research and develop preliminary Plan recommendations…
A key component of developing A Greater Downtown Dayton Plan ? and an aspect that distinguishes this process from previous efforts ? was emphasis on gathering a breadth and depth of public input. To do so, the Downtown Dayton Partnership led four efforts:
• three public meetings held in February 2009
• a survey available online and at Dayton Metro Library branches
• an online discussion forum at MostMetro.com
• presenting and gathering input at numerous community organizations’ meetings
Regardless of how Daytonians gave their input, it was clear they’re enthusiastic about strengthening their Greater Downtown. Between 80 and 100 people attended each public meeting, nearly 1,000 people completed the survey, and the forum generated 940 posts, with thousands more viewing the discussion threads.

Which curtain, exactly, was closed on this new plan?
Maybe for once give credit where it might be due – or at least give it a chance first.

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too

It is a bit of a stretch to compare an upstart internet “company” fundraising idea to a long-range urban planning exercise.   Even if there are lessons to be learned from the business process, it is not a valid comparison.

Neither Rome nor Microsoft were built in a day.

I certainly am open to all reasonable ideas, but that’s not what this is about today.    As usual, I am defending those not here to defend themselves.

With all due respect, you posted only a few weeks ago (and not for the first time) that too many decisions are made behind doors by big-shot leaders with no input from the public.   I will find the posts  if you like.  

Yet here, in this post about business and technology, you make an off-hand remark that an open public dialogue about downtown took too long.   To me, that does not make sense.    It is a lazy remark at best and hypocritical at worst.     Take your pick.

Decisions can be made quickly by the few, or over time by the many.    I have yet to see anyone have it both ways on anything that  truly matters.


Civil Servants are People Too:

Yet here, in this post about business and technology, you make an off-hand remark that an open public dialogue about downtown took too long.

David Esrati:

you can have leaders- with ideas, explain them to the masses- and debate their merits- and have consensus on a plan, in a matter of minutes [but David, consensus is impossible when fundamental values differ].

I think the big difference between the two processes is that the open source model is based on cooperation while government is based on coercion.  I love the flexible, fast, innovative open development model that asks no permission of power, takes all comers and gives no quarter, but I don’t want my government to operate like that (the problems are wicked).  I’d rather not be run over by masses stampeded by flamboyant demagogues, but I’d also rather not have to suffer at the hands of clerks and committees of busybodies, so I guess that means I need to learn Buddhism…