Best of the Federated Platforms: Diaspora

In yesterday’s post on social media I ranted about people’s dependence upon Facebook and why I think it’s bad! Not forgetting what Amazon did to Parler, who depended on Amazon servers for hosting their platform, I reminded my readers that relying on Facebook for any organization’s publication, discussions, and file sharing is the same darn is the same darn mistake Parler made. And I offered some alternatives that are federated, (distributed) rather than hosted on a single huge domain with a single, huge server.

Following yesterday’s RANT, comes today’s RAVE about the oldest and in my opinion best of the federated socil media platforms: Diaspora!

Yes there are other federated networks to choose from, and their advocates can write all about how much better they think theirs is than Diaspora. But I have tried them all, and in my judgement the easiest to set up and use; the one with the simplest user interface and most level learning curve is Diaspora. A couple of definitions are in order before my rave and tutorial begins:

Microblogging: Words, videos, and pictures with a limit number of characters, like Twitter. Posts come quickly and furiously, in little quips, memes, and comments.

Macroblogging: Whole multi-paragraph articles, if you want, or short little quips if you prefer, like Facebook. Including videos and pictures. No restrictive character limits. If it’s really big, then post it to a regular blog (like WordPress) and link to it. But most of us can simply blog on Diaspora, and Diaspora lets me cross-post between my WordPress blog and my Diaspora stream. Diaspora is a macroblogging platform.

DISCLAIMER: Not a single member of my family or circle of friends (in “real life”) has even tried any alternative to Facebook. For me it’s just exactly the same thing as getting my friends to try Linux. All the same arguments apply: Not locked into a single vendor on which you depend for everything; free as in free beer and free as in liberty; etc. It’s like the great prophet Morphius said:

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”

That said, even though I go alone, I friggin’ go anyway, because it’s best for me. Most people will simply go on living in the Matrix even knowing that they’re just being batteries for the machines.

Okay on with the rave. Diaspora’s User Interface:

This is screenshot of my Stream, or “feed” if you will. When I log in, this is what I see. On Diaspora my identity is ミ★ Confederate Space Force ★彡, and my avatar is an anime-type soldier from the War Between the States (upper right corner of the screenshot). You can be anybody you want to be on Diaspora. There’s no requirement to use your real name and likeness, nothing to identify the real you. I can be “Robin the Boy Wonder” or Captain America or Admiral Jean-Luc Picard.

On the left is a clickable menu, so I can jump to followed hashtags and choose one to see all the posts from Diaspora on that particular subject. I can click on Aspects (contacts, categorized) to see what my friends are up to. I use Aspects to make my own groups on Diaspora. There are no groups per se on Diaspora, because there’s no need! I include certain people in certain Aspect categories and I can post only to that Aspect category – so it’s a group just for the contacts in that Aspect category:

Just family, or just reenactors, or just coworkers, or Reformed theologians, etc. Make up whatever Aspect category you want! Starship officers, Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers, Linux geeks, rogues, cigar lovers, whatever you care to invent. This is how “groups” are done on Diaspora. Which brings me to this important point:

Diaspora will not suggest “people you may know” or “stuff you might like.” There’s no algorhythm spying on you and gathering information for such suggestions. You build your community yourself, so it takes time to make Diaspora what you want it to be for you. I started gathering Aspects by first following hashtags, then following people. It’s far better to follow people than to just follow hashtags! But I started with hashtags until I found the cool people to follow from there.

Wanna write a post? Wanna have headers and bold and italics and other “rich text” options in your posts and comments? Check this out:

First, choose your audience. Post to the public, just your friends, or, as in the example above, just the people in my “reenactors” Aspect category. If you make your post Public, anyone on the Internet can see it, with or without a Diaspora account of their own.

On the “Write” screen, notice the cool interface for bold, italic, headers, links, pictures, quotes, code, etc. You can even preview you post before sending it:

See I have a big header, or title, and I’m using some of the goodies: Hashtags, bold, italics, etc. This works on comments as well as posts! This is a pretty easy interface to navigate. Some of the other networks have complicated the crap out of this simple set of functions and made it so feature-rich that it’s easy to get lost in a wreck along that steep learning curve. Most people don’t use most of those extra-fancy-schmancy features anyhow, so Diaspora doesn’t include all that extra bloatware. Keep it simple for the users! Yaaaaaay!

Diaspora can federate with some, but not all of the different “fediverse” platforms. We federate with Friendica, Hubzilla, etc. but not with Mastodon. Who cares? You wanna be on Mastodon go ahead and choose an instance and make an account of your own if you like that Twitter-like stuff. Mastodon is the biggest of the federated networks, to be sure. Probably because most people prefer little “sound bytes” and short little paragraphs instead of substantive content. But if you’re looking for an alternative to Facebook, Diaspora is surely the best way to go.

Consider this your personal invitation! Click here!

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