Here’s a question that should be really easy to answer: what is Diaspora?
Okay, well, I know what Diaspora is. It’s an attempt to make a decentralized social networking service. But my knowledge ends around there. What kinds of things does it share? What useful functionality does it provide for me? How does its concept of identity work? And the million dollar question, how does the decentralized bit actually work? Do I show up as
firstname.lastname@example.org on other sites, or do I auto-get a local account, or do I manually sign in with OpenID, or is there a central registration server, or do nodes sync their account lists… or what?
Let’s put on our Internet detective fezes and find out. Hmm I guess I’ll try their website.
Share what you want, with whom you want.
So far this sounds like Dropbox. The little marketing blurbs don’t tell me much more. The only other information on the page is that this thing is in alpha. And I guess there are some fancy logos at the bottom—which, I note, are almost the only things in color, so they naturally draw the eye. Surely these are important:
- A New York Times article from May 2010, describing the history of the project.
- A New York (who?) article from September 2010, describing… the history of the project.
- A Mashable article from August 2010 describing—wait for it—the history of the project.
- A TechCrunch bunch of screenshots from September 2010. Aha! Apparently you can share status messages and photos. Also something about “aspects”, with no explanation of what “aspects” are, though “aspects” always appears in quotes.
I’m rapidly running out of things to click. There are links to a Twitter account and a blog, but I don’t want updates; I want a document! Preferably one from later than September of last year. (I was actually about to complain that “updates” are not really the only thing I would expect from a social networking doodad, but it seems that the Diaspora team doesn’t understand any other form of communication.)
I can see the code, which is entirely useless unless I want to either run it or read it all. I can’t get an account and use the actual app; I’d have to wait for an invite. The only remaining link is “Have a problem? Find an answer here”, which goes to a horrible Stack Overflow clone containing very little actual information.
Okay. No problem. We’ll consult the sum total of human knowledge and experience: Wikipedia.
Diaspora is a free personal web server that implements a distributed social networking service, providing a decentralized alternative to social network services like Facebook.
“Orange is a free personal fruit that implements a feeding your face, providing a de-cored alternative to delicious services like Apple.”
Wikipedia doesn’t know what Diaspora is. The media—even the hippie startup media like TechCrunch—doesn’t know what Diaspora is. Diaspora doesn’t know what Diaspora is.
The important lesson here is that you, too, can make your project completely unimportant by following these easy steps!
- Create a project that a addresses a single major technical problem of great interest to many technical people. Provide absolutely no technical information whatsoever.
- Once you release your project to the world, make sure that nobody can actually use it, even ten months later. For bonus points, your domain name should have the word “join” in it, even though visitors can’t actually join anything. Ha ha, suckers!
- Make only three blog posts in 2011. One of them should serve no purpose but to acknowledge that it’s 2011.
This is ridiculous. Virtually everything the Diaspora team has ever said is vague marketing crap designed to make me care. I already cared, but they have no idea what to do with my attention now that they have it.
I’d like to also give a consolation prize to msgboy.
What is this, you ask? I genuinely have no idea. Maybe it’s a campaign to support monosodium glutamate. Apparently it was announced with this tweet:
“Msgboy - Follow your web!” http://beta.msgboy.com/ Check this out. #pubsubhubbub #xmpp #realtime #lastmile #chrome
So it’s a server-push Jabber extension for making my car shinier at the last minute. Well, obviously.