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.