Social networks, wikis, collaboration tools… Can KDE make them suck less?

If you’re reading this via Google Buzz then this post was brought to you by WordPress, Identi.ca, Twitter and Google. That’s either impressive or horrifying…

Social Media confusion, by Damien Basile under CC-by-sa

Social Media confusion, by Damien Basile under CC-by-sa

Social Media tools suck

On the one hand, it’s kind of nice that interoperation is possible at all, but on the other it’s a silly chain with many unnecessary points of fail. I can use WordPress to blog and that plays quite nicely with Identi.ca – I can syndicate the posts to Identi.ca and likewise list my dents here – things talk to each other. I can also syndicate from Identi.ca to Twitter, but Identi.ca (and therefore I) know nothing about replies at Twitter. From Twitter posts get passed to Google Buzz, but I know nothing about what happens there unless I happen to log in to the GMail web interface. Chances are that there are some people on Twitter wondering why I’ve @replied to them about something they never posted – markey on Twitter != markey on Identi.ca for example.

Identi.ca is made usable and useful by the KDE microblog widget – I simply wouldn’t use it if I had to actually visit the website and log in – that takes longer than the dent. Web interfaces suck. Similarly, I can interact with GMail via KMail (or I could, actually I prefer to have Google forward my mail to another server, a throwback from the days when GMail either didn’t support IMAP or it was a bit funky). GMail’s web interface, while better than other webmails, sucks. Twitter and Buzz, without convenient desktop interfaces that I use already, simply do not get visited by me on even a weekly basis.

In terms of Social Networking, I have Facebook (which I got bullied in to years ago and kinda use, infrequently), LinkedIn (dunno if I’m going to do much with that, another sucky web interface) and Flickr (only for KDE promo). Facebook and Flickr are made more bearable by the excellent digiKam image export tools 🙂

Infrastructure for KDE Promo sucks

Similarly, the KDE community wiki sucks – as a collaboration tool (it’s fine for storing info and userbase and techbase are both awesome). I need to discuss things by mail, then open a browser, log in (which requires a round trip to my openid provider if I want the same account on all the wikis). Then I need to remember how to use wiki markup. That’s my excuse for the various things I should have done on the promo wiki and haven’t done. There are things we can do better with the wiki, but the basic problems remain.

Collaborative writing tools suck too. Email is rubbish for actually keeping track of stuff. Google docs is amazing in its way, but it’s another web interface, doesn’t work in Konqueror (or does it nowadays?), is not free and is slow compared to a desktop app. Kobby (and Gobby) also don’t meet our needs – yet…

Really, I want a single “KDE Promo” app that deals with all the above. I’d like a pony too, please 🙂 You can call it Kommunicator or Kollaborator if you like. The app, not the pony. He’s called Shergar.

There is hope…

Sorry if all that sounds a bit gloomy. There are some good points too 🙂 The KDE microblog widget rocks. Kopete sorts out my soup of instant messaging accounts, making MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, and Facebook Chat not suck to the extent that I don’t need to care or even know what network I’m chatting to someone on. Kontact makes my email, calendars and contacts portable thanks to the magic of Kolab PIM data structures.

Ok, the point I’m trying to get to is that all these amazing new social tools we have are limited because they don’t interoperate by open standards, only allow some limited syndication. I want to operate my Identi.ca and Twitter and Buzz accounts as one. I don’t want to have to point Google Buzz at Twitter because they didn’t implement the Identi.ca API yet. I want my Facebook stuff and my Linked in stuff in a single view in Kontact or a Plasma Widget, not in some web browser or web browser widget.

Frank Karlitschek covered some similar ground a bit more coherently in his Camp KDE talk – be sure to check out the other talks too. Together with grappling with the Promo pages on the community wiki and discovering Google Buzz, that’s what has really prompted this post. The new services we’re seeing are exciting and can be useful and Google are helping to remove some of the suck from browser-based apps, but you have to wonder why they fix the browser rather than just using the desktop. ownCloud may have some of the answers, complemented by KDE software (reimplementable by anyone else by using open standards too). Perhaps we can even succeed in, as it were, “freeing the web from the browser”. Only time will tell.

8 Responses to “Social networks, wikis, collaboration tools… Can KDE make them suck less?”

  • mario says:

    you are absolutely right, did you talk to the kde silk people? http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Silk a collaboration could be productive. bye

  • alej says:

    If i want to accomodate to the current situation, I think that letting corporations do services is fine because I don’t have to think about availability then. I don’t have to administer anything. On the other hand, they must follow the route of commercialization and mine my data, sell it, advertise, act as a gatekeeper to me etc.

    To have all this in a decentralized, jabber like way is a good way – at least the software and platform is free then. Still I think it would be very very nice if all this was built upon some very very basic peer 2 peer technology. Like a distributed hash table or so. That would be ideal and possibly give me absolute control over everything as far as I want that.

  • Stu says:

    @ mario – Yeah, I should have mentioned Silk too 🙂 For clarification, I don’t have the skills to be much use with this, consider this post more in the category of a bit of a rant due to seeing how well things can work (Kopete) to remove the pain of multiple closed wall networks and the mess that is social networks at the moment (imho)

    @ alej – Sure. I imagine the idea is to get commercial providers using ownCloud software too, or for ownCloud to provide it as a service – not everyone wants to run their own stuff. Open standards for communicating can solve a lot of the problems.

  • Stefan says:

    Hey, maybe I’m holding a hammer…, but it strikes me that Google Wave might be a useful direction to investigate. Google Wave aims at a space somewhere between collaborative editing and communication. One of the major ideas behind Google Wave is to have a protocol that anyone can implement and interact with, the specs are available at http://www.waveprotocol.org/. A prototype server is available at http://code.google.com/p/wave-protocol/ which can (theoretically at least, I haven’t tried it personally) interact with the googlewave.com servers, and other servers (this is the whole idea). What I’m building up to is that it may make sense to make a KDE client for the Wave protocol.

  • Stu says:

    @ Stefan. Yep, Wave looks really interesting. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how these things play out but I am optimistic that things are going to get better 🙂

  • microblogging is really useful when you want to broadcast short updates. i am still leaning towards traditional blogging.””*

  • fb like says:

    rockin read, cheers

  • What is the cost for a subscription to the Journal of Web Analytics? I am an Associate Professor at the University of Boston.