Some Thoughts on Diaspora

Courtesy of a fellow KDE contributor, I managed to get my hands on an invite to, a Diaspora pod from the project’s founders. It allows you to try out the software without installing it to make your own pod (there are also plenty of other public pods – I haven’t checked any of those and cannot vouch for them)

About Diaspora

(As most of you probably already know) Diaspora is intended to be a distributed social network software. The idea is similar to (which powers Any computer running the Diaspora code (or using the published interfaces) can interconnect with any other. So you can choose your Diaspora provider in the same way that you can choose your and email providers and interact seamlessly with anyone using another provider. You can, of course, also run the software yourself and become your own provider.

This has some (positive) implications. Lock-in is avoided as you can switch provider at any time. Privacy is also likely to be improved both because you can run your own server and retain total control over your data and because the lack of lock-in means that providers who do not respect your privacy will know that you can easily move elsewhere.

Unique selling points

The above probably appeals to people using free software and preferring open standards, but is not necessarily at the top of the mind of your average person in the street. As far as I can see, the other killer feature of Diaspora at the moment is “Aspects”. Think Facebook friend groups, but done right.

Screenshot of the Diaspora web interface showing posting to particular 'Aspects'

Aspects in Diaspora

You can tag your contacts with as many aspects as you like. So for example I have aspects for people I know from my undergraduate degree, people I know from KDE and friends (there is a lot of overlap in those groups, of course). When I log in, I can click on tabs at the top to restrict my view to what is going on with contacts from those aspects. Similarly, when I post something, if I can easily select an aspect (or multiple aspects) to which to post it. This enables me to both cut down the noise I receive, by using the aspects as filters and to cut down the noise I broadcast by only sending updates to particular aspects. Whereas limiting Facebook updates to a group is not exactly straightforward, in Diaspora it is easy.


Diaspora is still described as Alpha software. It seems quite stable and polished (from the web interface) although it does not work well in KHTML. However, there are quite a few desirable features missing.

Syndicating content posted on Diaspora to Facebook and Twitter is possible (so is syndication to an RSS feed, which is quite cool for stuff you really want public). At the moment there is no syndication to (or other powered services). However, this does appear to be under development.

It is also not possible (yet) to syndicate from other services to Diaspora – so you cannot get your Facebook or posts imported automatically into your Diaspora profile.

Network effect is currently also quite empty, so there’s a bit of a lack of enough people there to really make it compelling. However, if they can get other social networks on board, either using Diaspora or providing transparent interoperability, that could soon change. Being able to import posts from Facebook and the like would also make it far more interesting.

Web suckiness

I’m not a big fan of web interfaces in general. The main reason I am still on Facebook is because I use its instant messaging network quite heavily in Kopete (using Facebook’s XMPP chat support). Hopefully the open nature of Diaspora will lead to the production of real desktop apps that interact with the service (and others).

Imagine a KDE application, maybe even part of Kontact, that gives you a view to all your Diaspora data and lets you post to your aspects. I know Facebook support in the KDE PIM apps is increasing and that will make Facebook a bit more useful for me. I don’t expect to still have a Facebook account in five years time, but Diaspora (or something similar) accessed via a proper desktop app – that could be actually useful.

15 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Diaspora”

  • Niels Ole Salscheider says:

    I read something about OneSocialWeb ( recently. Since it’s based on XMPP it might be easier to integrate into KDE…

    • hate-engine says:

      there are also instant-blogging-social services like,, (all russian, sorry). they use XMPP as primary user interface. at least is opensource with BSD-like license.

    • Stu says:

      Interesting – hope is that there will be some movement towards a single standard that will make interoperation simple(r)

  • Jan says:

    I’m guessing you now have 10 invitations, and can chain-invite people, but still, if KDE people need invitations, I have some too 🙂

  • Sean Tilley says:

    There’s actually an active invites group on called !diasporainvites, and it would be great to see more KDE/Gnome/FOSS devs hop onto the platform. My KDE aspect itself is rather small at the moment…

  • sarfaraz says:

    Please send me an invite at!

  • Ashish kumar says:

    Thanks for sharing the information regarding diaspora!!!

  • Andreas_P says:

    Hi Stuart many thanks for joining Diaspora* in fact 300 Contacts on (all Diaspora and 100 on joindiaspora isn’t that empty…)

    @sarfaraz Added you! welcome to freedom!

    My Aspect is: “FLOSC” – Free Libre Open Source Culture

  • Mike Dawson says: support is working sometimes, in some ways.

    I’ve got a pretty user friendly tutorial for Diaspora at

    And yes, Diaspora may seem a bit “empty” because all your friends are elsewhere. But Diaspora users are very friendly and it doesn’t take long to build up a hundred contacts–they just aren’t a hundred people you already know.

    • Stu says:

      Do you have a link for the info?

      For me, the point is not to build up a lot of contacts that I don’t know, more to use it to interact with the people I already know 🙂 I think it will be some time before most of the people I would like to be in contact with are on free social networks.

  • .thomas says:

    as you said, importing tweets or posts from facebook would make diaspora a lot more interesting. but what’s the status with that?