Diaspora private alpha just released | Opensource.com

Diaspora private alpha just released

Posted 23 Nov 2010 by 

Ruth Suehle (Red Hat)
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For those who have been patiently waiting, the first round of Diaspora alpha invites has been distributed. They're planning to first bring in those who contributed via Kickstarter way back when this all began. Next those on their mailing list will start receiving their invites.

Their stated goal with this rollout method is to "quickly identify performance problems and iterate on features as quickly as possible." That sounds a lot like the open source "release early, release often" methodology. But it also sounds a lot like the Google method of slowly bringing in new users through invites. And while that wasn't so bad for GMail, it was a miserable failure for a Google project far more analogous to Diaspora--Wave. And we all know how well that's gone.

You can't be social without someone to interact with, and that's why progressive invites don't work for social media. And, more generally speaking, being kind-of-open is not being open.

The second thing that makes me nervous about this rollout is the first bullet their blog post announcement gives under "we know some things could be better": Security. That's a scary thing to have on your list of weaknesses in general, but even moreso when a lot of your appeal is to people defecting from a competitor whose main criticism is their privacy practices.

Back in May, I was excited about the possibilities that this spunky project offered against Facebook. But between their not-quite-open methods and the comments by developers who saw the earlier release, I'm becoming increasingly uncertain about its ability to make much of a dent in the site that accounts for 25% of US web traffic.

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7 Comments

quaid
Open Minded

I concur with your concerns. From the beginning, this hasn't really been run in the way successful open source projects are. I don't know the details on the problems they are having with real or potential security, infrastructure, or scalability ... but these are exactly the sort of issues that respond well to the open collaboration methodology.

That said, I don't think it's ever really too late, as long as the developers really work to understand where to make changes in their development methods. Until then, they are making the same risk we so many others get in to -- all the disadvantages of a closed source development model without the supposed benefits of restricted code.

While I do recommend they could use The Open Source Way handbook, I really recommend they read the canonical book, Producing Open Source Software. If they have read it, I recommend they go back over it and see where they are conveniently ignoring principles and practices ... and stop doing that.

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suehle
Open Sourcerer

While I always hate for anybody to use age as an indicator of skill or ability, I just keep telling myself its their lack of experience and not an intentional effort to be closed. When it's the four of you spending a college summer trying to deal with the fact that people thought your idea was worth $200,000, it's probably easy to think of reasons that this or that "needs" to not be done in the open.

But I would think anyone, particularly of this age, and in a case where youth is probably a benefit, who understands anything about social media would see why progressively rolling out invitations is a terrible idea. And if the system is supposed to work through distributed nodes, then it's not a server load problem, right? I can't see what the logical justification for that is.

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fontana
Open Source Evangelist

I hope at least the "private alpha" is itself made available under a free software/open source license, and includes source code.

I wonder if the problem with Diaspora is that they can't decide whether it's a community project or a business startup.

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suehle
Open Sourcerer

I think that's a more eloquent phrasing of what I've been wondering. I can imagine that they thought they'd start an open source project, suddenly found themselves with a massive wad of cash, and changed their minds.

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Unidentified

Perhaps one should bother to do a little research before making strange claims:

https://github.com/diaspora/diaspora/blob/master/COPYRIGHT

https://github.com/diaspora/diaspora

Oh gee what is that? The software. So if we read the blog post about the private alpha we find out it is their POD, their hosted service.

Please read before you post!

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Unidentified

This isn't hard if you want it. Also it is AGPL3 so once they give it to you, you are free to do whatever you want with it (complying with the AGPL3 license).

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Unidentified

I run a pod. It's also closed, because I can't host everyone. If you want to join, just download and install it yourself. It doesn't have ads, so anyone you invite on to your node is on your dime. All nodes are connected to each other, so if the node is run properly, it won't matter if you're on one node and your good friend is on another.
As for being closed, another reason might be because it's still in an Alpha stage of development. They want developers hacking at it for now, not people from trying to sabotage it.
If the url didn't seem so reputable, I would think this article was written by an fanboy. Or a troll.

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