Recently, NY Convergence was able to obtain an invite to check out the new social networking site Diaspora, which is currently in alpha. The site, which was developed by several NYU students, opened with a preview in September and began sending invites in November, first to their Kickstarter backers then to their mailing lists.
Diaspora is a social network that puts the control in the users by making it open source, allowing them to develop various applications for it. The site has billed itself as an alternative to Facebook, particularly in light of the social media giant’s privacy issues. After taking a look, we were curious to see how this site is different from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
On the opening page there are three distinctive things about the website – choice, ownership and simplicity. They make it clear that as users of Diaspora you have the control over your content and who sees what. Users also have ownership of all their content or as the site puts it, “Diaspora makes sharing clean and easy – and this goes for privacy too.” Not only do they want to create an ease for use, but the site itself is very simple. The colors are all black and white, with hints of gray and blue(for links).
Upon further inspection, we found that our favorite aspect of Diaspora is that we could control our content. A common issue that comes up in the use of Facebook and Twitter is that everything and anything is available to all your friends and followers with no content control. As an answer to this, on Diaspora you can create aspects (work, family, friends, etc.) and you control who gets to see what, depending on which aspect you categorize your Diaspora connections. We also liked that Diaspora is open source, allowing users to share code, namely on GitHub, and can also build and fix other codes.
In a way Diaspora has brought together the “best of” other social networking sites. Users can communicate with users using the @ symbol, share photos and videos, and use a message button making communicating with other users easy and accessible. There is also a Feedback tab on the website where users can share ideas, questions, problems, and praise, where they can go through the comments and vote on the ones they agree on.. What we found the most interesting was that ideas that were suggested and used had a green star saying “implemented.” Even through the site’s feedback system, the creators keep the users in mind.
Overall, we believe that Diaspora has the potential to be huge, but as of now, we still do not fully grasp the purpose of this network. The company blog states that, “Diaspora is not a single site – it’s a collection of different sites, with different URLs, run by different people.” We love that it’s implementing Facebook and Twitter, as we connected both to our Diaspora page, but it still had us asking “what does it do?” and then asking “now what?” Also, we were given five invites and we’ve shared most via email, but when we chose to share through Facebook, the result was unexpected. Diaspora brings up the list of your friends (not in alphabetical order) and then when you choose to invite them, it goes to your Facebook inbox, with a message ready to be sent. If we wanted to go back to Diaspora, we would have to click back. It was just inconvenient.
We like the idea of the site and are curious as to see what happens when there are more users and what changes are implemented as the site evolves to beta and becomes more available to people. However, at the moment, we only have four friends on Diaspora and have no true incentive to utilize the website on a daily basis. There’s no one to share anything with, at least not yet.