Categorysocial networking

I’m leaving Facebook

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I’m leaving Facebook.

I’m not leaving in a huff, nor to make a strong statement. I simply haven’t been getting anything out of Facebook in a long time and like to do a good house cleaning from time to time.

To be honest, I’m a bit surprised myself to find myself leaving out of disinterest rather than conviction. (I do feel a little ashamed of that fact, but there you go. We all contain multitudes.) I never particularly liked FB, but used to use it a lot. And as someone who for a long time worked professionally in/with/about social media, there simply wasn’t a way around it, and that was ok, and I would say “I’m not a fan, but it works for x or y, and there’s no way around it anyway.” In 2017, this feels patently untrue.

I’d like to stress that I’m not judging for using or not using FB or any other platform. People like what they like, and it’s ok!

Personally, to me Facebook feels like an outdated model of social media. It feels a bit like reading the news on paper rather than my phone: It might be ok, but it’s just not for me anymore. Social conversations still happen of course, but the semi-public model, and more importantly the model that’s financed through driving up “engagement” (read: anything goes that gets you to click “like” or “share”) is one that feels kind of dirty by now.

For me, the conversations happen across a number of platforms. Slack and Whatsapp are a constant presence in my communications landscape, I still enjoy a good private Instagram, and of course I never left Twitter: It’s still the platform I use most, every single day, and I still get a lot of interesting and helpful interactions there every day. (I’m old school that way.)

Again, this isn’t a political statement. I’m 5 years too late for that, when many of my early adopter friends left. It simply feels like the party is over. That said, I’ll be happy to vote with my feet and take a tiny, miniscule fraction out of the “monthly active users” stats away with me. Facebook aligned its service a little too perfectly with their financial incentives, and picked dangerous incentives for my taste.

I’m of course a little worried about losing some contact details. I’m afraid there’s only so much I can do about that. The best I can do, at this point, is to share my contact details and hope everybody who needs them notes them down. They’re also easy to find online.

I might also keep a shadow profile to occasionally have a look at some pages I (notionally) manage. But given that we haven’t done a great job maintaining those anyway and you can tell by the lack of conversations there, we might just delete them altogether. The conversations for ThingsCon and my other collaborative projects are happening on Twitter and Slack anyway. Maybe it’s better that way.

Sincerely, P.

Diaspora Alpha is live, looks good

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Diaspora has launched its consumer-facing alpha (as opposed to the last release that was for developers and tinkerers only). The privacy-conscious social network was off to a bit of a rocky start since it was profiled (in the media, on the web) enthusiastically as The Facebook Killer – a level of expectation that led to huge crowd-funding on Kickstarter as well as completely overwhelming expectations no one could possible live up to.

Fast forward half a year to now. The dust has settled, the first release is out. The “alpha” isn’t in the name to look more cute, it actually is a very early release with likely a lot of bugs and certainly only very basic functionality.

However, it does seem to work, and after the first few pokes at the service it looks quite good to me. A few screenshots:

Diaspora

The blog, just because I kinda like the logo.

Diaspora

The Diaspora dashboard is clean and minimalistic. Works fine for me, but it’ll only really become clear how usable it is once more contacts are linked to my profile.

Diaspora

To handle privacy and granular sharing, Diaspora uses the metaphor of “aspects” of your identity. An aspect could be your friends, your family, your work life: you can choose granularly which of these groups sees what you post. In Diaspora’s own words:

Diaspora lets you create “aspects,” which are personal lists that let you group people according to the roles they play in your life. We think that aspects are a simple, straightforward, lightweight way to make it really clear who is receiving your posts and who you are receiving posts from. It isn’t perfect, but the best way to improve is to get it into your hands and listen closely to your response.

At a glance this makes a lot of sense. Again, time will tell if it holds up.

Diaspora

On your dashboard you can also always see with whom you shared what kind of information.

Diaspora

Status updates and photos can also easily shared with external services. So far (ironically) this is limited to Twitter and Facebook. You cross-post by simply ticking the “make public” box.

Diaspora

User profiles are very minimalistic as of yet – for example you can’t put in a link to an external website. The age indicator is one of the less charming ones – never before have I actually felt old using a social network ;)

Since Diaspora is positioned as a more responsible social network than Facebook, data export and deleting your account is a simple enough task:

Diaspora

It’ll take a little while to test it all in full, and to gather a bit of a crowd on Diaspora to check out all the interactions. But at a first glance, despite this being very clearly alpha ware, it looks very promising. Another half year, maybe, and this may be a F… no. I’m kidding. This has nothing to do with Facebook, or being a Facebook killer – but it really doesn’t have to. This looks great by itself.

Diaspora, an open Facebook?

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IMG_4567

A few weeks ago, four recent NYU graduates announced – to the background noise of the latest (of many) major Facebook privacy fail – that they intended to build a privacy-focuses, decentralized, open-source alternative to Facebook. A social network, installed on a server of your choice, the data controlled by you alone.

Their fundraising period just ended. Instead of the $10K they had planned to raise, they got some $200K in pledges on Kickstarter.

There are several interesting points here: (1) these four young guys seem fairly inexperienced, yet they are a main focal point of hope for a large & growing number of privacy concerned web heads, including myself, so they get all the attention and are in a very interesting place right now. (2) After their initial announcement and the following hype (both on blogs and traditional media) they fell practically silent for several weeks. Which didn’t go down to well with many including myself, but others are more forgiving that way. (3) How can they match the expectations? Is there even a clear consensus about where the road should lead? Can they manage to pull of the first steps towards a prototype and open source quickly enough to engage the community, including some of the veterans of this field like Chris Messina and David Recordon (who both work for big companies now)?

As of yesterday, the Diaspora website is relaunched and also offers the Diaspora roadmap (PDF). Looks like late summer is still the first big milestone. From the (very top-level) roadmap, and with my very limited knowledge about the technical background of social networking and distributed computing, the project seems to be sensible. I really hope the four of them manage to pull off the first steps quickly enough to get more people and support on board.

This is potentially huge. But so is the chance of screwing up. And they just put a lot of stuff on a plate that’s growing by the day.

Image: IMG_4567, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from nearnearfuture’s photostream

Presentation: Internet und Politik

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Today I gave a presentation on internet and its role on politics at ISWA. In the talk I’m laying out the basics of online politics: social networking, new rules of engagement, and a (very brief) view on the state of the political web in Germany. It’s all in German, so I’ll just post the presentation without any further comment.

As always, looking forward to your feedback!

Update: It looks like Slideshare ate some of the images in the presentation. Will repost a new version soon.

Coworking (A Few Brief Thoughts & Questions)

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Coworking at St Oberholz

I’ve been watching the coworking movement for quite a while, but only recently have I really had a chance to work from coworking spaces and really meet the folks behind it. But I’m typing this blog post from The Change You Want To See, a coworking space in Brooklyn. (Usually I’m just sharing an office with two friends, and this office is in turn sublet from the cool folks over at P3000. For me personally it’s kinda like coworking, but less open.)

Talking to more experienced coworkers, I have to admit I underestimated how much the individual spaces differ, not just by their looks, but also their culture. Some are geared more towards web workers, some cater more to artists. Some are non-profit, others are more corporate. Some bootstrap, some are well-designed and polished. Some band together (more or less loosely) in global networks.

Unfortunately I missed the Open Everything Berlin that focused on Coworking (and Traworking, as Michelle calls it), and with it the perfect occasion to meet a few more coworking folks from Berlin. But since this might very well be the future of how we work, I guess it’s time to cobble together a bit more info.

So if you are involved in a coworking space, please share your experiences. Best way to go is sticking to these five questions:

  • What’s does Coworking mean for you?
  • What brought you to Coworking?
  • Every Coworking Space seems different. What’s the focus of yours, what makes it special?
  • Where do you see Coworking in five years?
  • Where can we find you?

By the way, for a list of more spaces around the world, see the coworking wiki.

Image: Wifi Zombies’ Rush Hour by angermann (some rights reserved)

Charlene Li on the future of social networks

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Charlene Li‘s presentation about the future of social networking, touching on general trends as well as the opening of networks and how to monetize. As always, excellent stuff. (via mashable)

How video is changing young people

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…and turning them into reporters, commentators, producers. This video is quite impressive in its being so simple, yet compelling.

While tapping into some very interesting points in itself, the clip was produced by Demos, a “think tank for ‘everyday democracy'”, as a teaser for their report on Network Citizens (PDF). From a first glance, the report looks like it digs into some interesting points. From the executive summary:

Social networks are providing tremendous opportunities for people to collaborate. But until now, thinking has focused only on how organisations can respond to and capitalise on networks. This report argues that we have to look equally at how networks use organisations for their own ends. That is where the new contours of inequality and power lie that will shape the network world. We have to face networks’ dark side, as well as their very real potential.

Interestingly, the report concludes that in economically tough times, networks are even more important than at other times:

The kind of networks considered in Network Citizens–relationship ties between workers in different types of organisation – are likely to be more important in difficult economic times. Our analysis suggests that the ‘ties that bind’ within organisations are important incubators of innovation and productivity. Networks contribute to organisational resilience, a vital attribute in an economic downturn.

This is something I have thought about quite a bit recently and hope to get around to posting some thoughts on this blog soon.

(via)