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A new post by me.

"I’m sick in bed today, floored with something viral I reckon. Glands are up, headache, the room’s spinning. Sucks man. But as often happens when I’m headachy, my brain is exploding with a new idea. This one is for a combination of the concepts of “social network” and “blog”, into a lightweight public-only improvement on both.

“Nework X” is a distributed social network using the open internet to connect its members. You set up your “Stream” like you would set up a blog – you can self host it, use someone else’s hosting service, whatever. You can post with the ease of a social network (not heavyweight like a blog). You have a stream seeing stuff from all over the net, like a social network / feed reader combo. You can follow people. The public view of your “stream” is more like a blog, just showing your own stuff.

Your identity is your stream/blog’s url. It uniquely identifies you. Your identity is confirmed, security is dealt with, just by calling back to this url and asking it to confirm your actions. Clean, straightforward." ...

I would have posted the rest, but it's bullet pointy and doesn't work in G+ . Just click through to read, then tell me what you think!
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Rob Gordon's profile photoKevin C. (KevinC)'s profile photoJohn Blossom's profile photoRandom Geek's profile photo
45 comments
 
I have a friend who for years has been saying something similar - that social networks should really be built on a peer-to-peer type technology, where everyone has their own "client" and everyone has their own "server". I even have a vague idea on how to set it up - a template that would be the profile, that would be distributed on peer-to-peer networks, with a system of keywords and tags on each profile for search. You're adds another important element to this - the content and stream itself. I say we do it. Cold be the Facebook and Google+ killer we have all been looking for.

Get well soon.
 
I'll help anyway I can. For now though, just turn on the TV and take care of yourself.
 
I haven't read your blog post yet +Emlyn O'Regan but it sounds an awful lot like the Diaspora project: https://joindiaspora.com/
The whole idea behind that is that it's peer to peer and you own/control the data. You can host your own server, etc.
That said: I had only a cursory glance at your blog post. :)

And +Google+ did copy a lot of ideas from Diaspora.
 
I like the name "Network X" by the way. During the nymwars debate (which is still active - just not here) I was going to try to buy the name IDplus.com - a take on Google Plus, but with the idea that people should own their own identities - not some corporation. That domain was taken.
 
+Emlyn O'Regan very nice post, I am wondering whether that's where G+ takes us in many ways. if G+ adds an embedding function plus a sidewiki-style overlay function, then any Web page can be social. G+ Pages, if amped up a bit and/or integrated further with Blogger, could provide that permanent ID also, albeit a Google-based ID for now. The problem being that the tool isn't as hard to assemble as the well-curated community of people, brands and other entities using it. It's ubiquity that you need to make it work. Not trying to be a party-pooper, but putting out some challenges that need to be faced. That said, if the API for G+ opens up more for more opportunities to use a more distributed ID, that would be interesting. Hope you feel better.
 
Napster was started with just two guys who wanted to share music.
 
+Emlyn O'Regan Some hot homemade lemonade and bundle up - you'll sweat it out but you'll feel better. Tired, but better.
 
+Emlyn O'Regan Check out Diaspora again - it's available to fork at Github.
It decentralized - or David'ified if you want - all the data sits on your machine/host, and you share only the data you want with the outside world. It's peer to peer, in direct contrast with a centralized model.
It could be simplified, of course. And ported to something a bit more manageable than Ruby on Rails.
I'll read your post, and get back to you tomorrow (it's night in my timezone)
And get better. ;)
 
You know, you do really good work when you are sick. Maybe you should get sick more often :-)
 
By the way, no one seems to care about it except me, but have you noticed how Google has kept control of our contacts here. Unlike on Buzz, where you got the email of people who followed you, here you don't get squat. They don't even add the email to your contacts if it is already on the profile of the people you are following. The claim this is for "privacy" and most people seem to have bought that, and they say you can use "take out" if you don't like it - but takeout for Google+ is a joke - all it does is give you a link back to your profiles here - making it all but useless.
 
"Now the big plugs the developers of Diaspora* are selling are that you can a) post to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr through your Diaspora* pod, b) you control your data, not any one entity (not even them), c) you can register under a pseudo name and d) you can connect to as many interesting groups as you want because you can connect your pod to the Diaspora* eco system."
From: http://goo.gl/zZsrX
 
I think that unthink has a sensible design. I especially like the way they have separated "social", "professional" and "lifestyle". Circles really don't work very well.
 
They got the visual appearance wrong - like Orkut did, but that division makes sense - people don't want to post adult material and professional material in the same stream.
 
+Emlyn O'Regan I agree with a lot of what you're saying in the "David" model, the problem being, again, who curates it and helps it to grow? I think that we can all be very thankful to +Yuri Zelikov and others who are helping to build Apache Wave (which could use a Page, BTW), and thinking about how the federated Wave model might fit into the "niche" concept that you're suggesting may be a strong starting point. However, in general the problems that need to be addressed revolve around identity management, group curation and privacy management. I am not sure that "public as a default" is a sufficient model - Wave showed us how important it can be to start a private interaction that can grow into public interactions.

So it will be nice to see if Wave can grow to the point that it gets deployed on the Apache stack, which would provide some ubiquity, but that's not to say that you'll get around the identity issues. POP/SMTP is in the LAMP stack, and we've got spam coming out of our ears. I think of the Commons from the perspective of a New Englander. A town commons is a public resource, but it's publicly maintained and owned. What we need is not just the infrastructure but a governance model. That said, I agree that it's time to start working on it. Diaspora shows the way in some ways, but it's still a gated solution ultimately. Perhaps re-thinking the Wave model with some other core components might be the key. We should have a Hangout on this some time soon :-)
 
"David" curates David. I could be reading want I want to read, but I think he is talking more about a P2P system - not a LAMP stack.
 
It seems that we're not describing a carefully tended and curated garden so much as a self-regulating ecosystem - a garden of weeds.

Diaspora has a lot of interesting ideas, but they make things harder than they need to, thanks to the irresistible siren song of web bling. Lots of JavaScript and visual design and a number of interesting ideas, but it's definitely not the `gem install diaspora; diaspora start --new --public --announce;` that I was envisioning. Not even a tiny little bit.

I like the idea of Network X.
 
Yeah, solving the offline problem (I turned my computer off) and solving the private post problem (I only want +Emlyn O'Regan to see this, or worse, I want only my friends to see this) at the same time is not easy. Likely more crypto involved than I'm likely to understand.
 
My only criticism is that I think XMPP may be better suited than HTTP for a lot of this.
 
by the way, this is probably off topic, but I think Google has planted the seeds of their own destruction with their botched implementation of "shared circles" here. Remember how much people hated the popularity contests on Buzz - except for the people who didn't. I think they are in the process of making one giant popularity contest here - that is not what I want out of a social network.

I think this came to its logical conclusion with the recent massive reshare of the "most popular people" circle. Since Scoble was in it, he of course reshared it, and from what I have been able to gather, everyone in that circle got at least 10,000 new followers more or less immediately - and that is growing. I'm not smart enough to know exactly how, but I think they may have trashed their own algorithm there. I can't imagine how their recommendation system could not be corrupted by this.

It seems to me that lots of stuff Google has been doing lately has been really sloppy. They totally butchered Reader, for example. Ok, rant over. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.
 
One idea would be to look into +ThinkUp to see if it could help fit the bill. :)
Sort of like Diaspora, but evidently more manageable.
Need to try it myself to see how it works in practice.
Interesting stream of steam above, TL;DR now for me, though. :)
 
+Emlyn O'Regan I think that you're definitely on to something... with the Big 3 (Google, FB, and Twitter) all trying to be like each other and centralize the web (thereby going against what created them), they're no longer interesting/useful.

We can't stay in the same box forever. They have already planted the seeds of their obsolescence.

Value comes from the periphery. If everyone is saying it, is mustn't be true.
 
Screw the real name debate.... its about actually enjoying yourself on the net again and not being told how you should consume information
 
It's another social network which:
"Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or Google +, we DON’T want to be your global online identity or login to other sites. Therefore, we DON’T follow you across the web, or collect any information about your web browsing habits outside of Anybeat. On that same note, we DON’T log/record any of your Instant Messaging conversations."
Taken from the abovely linked in article
 
It looks like the next incarnation of mySpace. :)
 
Fantastic idea! Make it so! ;-)
 
Hmm... I wonder if making it easy to host on your own App Engine or EC2 account is part of solving the "offline" problem +Bob Aman mentioned.
Though the PuSH based idea +Emlyn O'Regan mentioned afterwards might too - if you have local copies of the content you follow, it might not matter if your friend's server is on right now, as long as they use a hub that is. Might not work well if you want comments to be supported though.
Does the "offline problem" really exist anymore in an era of always-on connections and cheap VMs? If you want full control, pay for a GAE account, EC2 account, VM like Rackspace or prgmr.com, or buy a PogoPlug and use DSL to host.
 
I think a cloud storage solution would be good, but it would be nice to include an option for self-hosting.

I guess I'm more interested in the protocol than a specific implementation. But actual implementations are handy ^_^
 
+1. i'm glad to hear you're still thinking about this, and especially that you're already (re)building it!

Diaspora is somewhat similar, but what you've described here is actually OStatus: http://ostatus.org/ . it's a decentralized protocol for following, ie publishing and subscribing to feeds of posts and activities. just like you propose, it leverages other existing protocols, including PuSH for routing, ActivityStreams for data schemas, Salmon for propagating comments upstream to source posts, Magic Signatures for authenticating commenters, and WebFinger/OpenID for identity.

of all the federated social networking proposals like this, it looks like the most support has solidified behind OStatus. there are lots of libraries and small sites that have already implemented it. definitely take a look at it!

of course, none of the majors (facebook, twitter, g+) support OStatus, but we might be able to work around that with their APIs, as you explored with http://my.syyn.cc/ and as i sketched out in http://snarfed.org/2011-07-27_facebook_app_for_ostatus .

looking forward to hearing more!
 
Wow. This sounds like quite an interesting idea. Look forward to seeing if any of this develops.
 
I was really looking forward to OStatus. At the time that PuSH came out and ActivityStreams and Salmon were introduced, it felt like there was a chance for a blog revival, and those of us who'd tended our blogs instead of jumping on board twitter/tumblr/buzz were going to be able to have the same sort of fun as those using "social networks" without losing our own identities. Then it all sort of fizzled and other sites came and went, and now we're back down to the big three of Twitter/Facebook/Google+ and most people seem sort of happy to just go with the flow.

What you're proposing is trying again to rebuild blogging with a social spin, and I love it. Any prototype you whip up I'll happily plug into The Geekorium (wordpress) and join in.

My biggest gripe about all these Goliath networks is not even that they are walled gardens, but that any time anyone tries to say something like "maybe we should be allowed to call ourselves what we like", they're howled down with the old "you don't have to use it" excuse, but that there's just no choice any more. If you want to be heard, if you want to talk to people, you have to use one of the big three. And they all suck.
 
+Emlyn O'Regan, i can definitely empathize with the uncertainty about complexity. when you're trying to do something that's already a bit subtle, complex, and loosely defined, it's enough to figure out on its own without throwing in a bunch of extra stuff that may not help.

in this case, though, i think it's worth it. first, ostatus's component protocols are largely a la carte. you don't have to use them all at once. it looks like you may not even be required to use any of them. in your case, you'd probably just start with PuSH, and maybe Salmon for comments once you get there. (btw, ostatus is based on and supports on the comment model, using Salmon, not the tweet model.)

more importantly, though, the value of a protocol like ostatus is that you don't have to implement it. there are a number of mature, existing libraries. you just write your application itself and some glue. sure, you still have to learn the libraries, and add an occasional missing feature or bug fix, but that's still way better than writing everything from scratch. if your project and the protocol overlap enough - and here they overlap almost entirely - it's probably even be better than doing your own thing...

which brings me to a last point: they've spent a lot of time thinking about and iterating on the hard problems and unexpected roadbumps here. you'd probably benefit a lot by looking at that, and helping with the current challenges, instead of starting from scratch.

personally, i'm starting to use the existing libraries to write bridges from facebook, g+, and others to ostatus and its protocols. i'll probably begin with salmon for facebook. i'd love to collaborate on more work along those lines!

+Josh Nunn, fair point. ostatus clearly hasn't (yet) been adopted by the majors. adoption takes time, and big players are risk averse, so early on, protocols like ostatus are more valuable to developers than users. they do often get adopted eventually, though. openid and oauth are good examples. ostatus has a much harder road, but it's still a ways ahead on that curve. again, why restart that struggle from scratch?
 
Sounds like an advanced version of FriendFeed, but pushing back to other sources. Ideally, we get everyone to settle on a protocol (http://www.salmon-protocol.org/) that would allow the comments to go back to the source, and show up in your own stream. Also ideally, we use Activity Stream (http://www.readwriteweb.com/hack/2011/06/activity-stream-spec-hits-1.php) that would allow publishing across everywhere, and subscription across everywhere.

The main problem with these to solutions is that they have to be supported across every network.
 
I'd want #2 to be a separate stream, otherwise it winds up being a dumping ground. I'd also want inherent in it the ability to have it both "float" above any Web content that is referenced by the tool via links (a la sidewiki) and the ability to embed conversations in any platform easily.
 
Aggregation may be fine for consumption, but think about the publishing side. You want your main channel to be your "real presence." People dumping their Twitter feeds in Buzz, for example, decreased the quality of the community as a living presence.
 
I don't think that feed dumping in and of itself is the problem so much as where it shows up and what it represents. In Buzz, we had no control over which channels of content from a given person showed up when we subscribed to their feed. The publisher curated it the way they wanted it, and it was an all or none proposition. Similar to Channels discussions about G+, except with a more flexible approach to inputs, more flexibility is required. But I think that it might help to have a native feed and a non-native aggregated feed that people could choose to blend as they saw fit on the consumption side.
 
I think the initial emphasis here should be on profiles not on feeds. I can envision a very simple way where people could have profiles, with keywords or tags, shared on a P2P network, where you could then search - or be matched, with people of similar interests.
 
I think a carry-over from the Gmail redesign - same style sheet, I assume.

+Rob Gordon Agreed - start with identities and how they group - that much G+ got pretty right from the start, albeit without Shared Circles. Mind you, Emlyn's focusing on public-only content so the issues are somewhat less complex, but if you don't get that nailed down the spammers and trolls will come, as they have on every service, and if you're not ready for them people will move on, no matter how compelling the overall architecture may be.
 
Yeah, I think that would fix a lot of the problem.

I used to use Syyncc to reply to comments from my FB friends on a regular basis, so even though I was only logging on FB rarely, I still appeared to have an active presence. That's something I miss now with G+ being one directional.
 
Yes, bidirectionality was a key plus. Perhaps in time we'll get that back again.
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