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[liberationtech] Fw: [progressiveexchange] Facebook interfering with activism Pages

Adam Fisk a at
Tue Sep 21 12:21:33 PDT 2010

I've been resisting raining on the Diaspora parade, but there are many
areas of concern.

The first issue I'll call the BullsEye/Haystack pattern. Attach a
project to a sexy headline that will get infinite press. Do it before
you have a line of code. Start the project with inexperienced
developers who are in way over their heads (any Diaspora readers on
the list, please use that as motivation -- I actually want you to
succeed). Ring any bells? It would be fun to graph the ratio of words
written about projects to their lines of code and maybe mix in the
lines of code their developers have ever written in their lifetimes.
Both Diaspora and Haystack would be firmly in the "mayday/abandon
ship" area of that graph.

Digging a little deeper into the Diaspora premise, Martin Fowler's
First Law of Distributed Object Design comes to mind: Don't distribute
your objects! In other words, if you can avoid doing peer-to-peer
computing, you should avoid it. The reason is simple: P2P is hard. It
makes *almost* any project far more complicated and time consuming
than it otherwise would be. A social network might be the
quintessential example of when not to use P2P, as the concerns include
privacy, security, data, big files, etc. Those are hard problems to
begin with, and tackling them in a distributed architecture is just
way harder.

Do I really want to be a part of a social network where I'm relying on
my semi-tech literate friend down the street running his server at
home with half his ports opened up with access to my private data? Any
semi-proficient hacker would be chomping at the bit for this to become
popular. Oh, and now there's a big security breach that leaks a
million e-mail addresses. How do I stop it? Send out an e-mail blast
to get everyone to update their home computers? This is not Zuckerburg
coding in his dorm room. It's about an order of
magnitude harder. It's pretty clear now that Zuckerburg was a serious
bad ass technically for his age, and I think he would have been in way
over his head if he tried to do Diaspora instead of Facebook. There's
no doubt it my mind it would have crashed and burned.

The only exceptions to Fowler's rule come when the benefits of a
distributed architecture make the complexity overwhelmingly worth it.
Over the years it's become clear that P2P works well for one thing in
particular: distributing large files. In that case, it can save a lot
of money and is extremely efficient. Otherwise, P2P architectures cost
much more money and are far less efficient. Things like SETI at home and
folding at home are interesting edge cases, and I'm a huge fan, but their
task is very specific and again well-suited to P2P.

The Diaspora home page should ring the alarm bells: "The privacy
aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network."
The "do-it-all" kind of sounds like the kid that will show Iran how
the Internet works, no? It's great that it's open source, and it's
great the team is soliciting feedback, but note that Facebook also
runs largely on open source software, and its open source software has
actually benefitted companies outside of Facebook in major ways. It's
also telling there appear to be almost no P2P components in Diaspora
to speak of. It's basically an open source web site you can run at
home too.

I agree with you on the problem, Yosem, but I don't think we're close
to the solution. All that said, I'd be more than happy to lend a hand
with any of this, so please don't hesitate to get in touch if anyone
from Diaspora is reading this.


On Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 9:26 AM, Yosem Companys <companys at> wrote:
> This is why we need peer to peer solutions like Diaspora to provide a
> platform for activists.  Otherwise the corporate structure of these tech
> firms can always interfere in one way or another to direct activity.
> On Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 9:58 AM, Jillian C. York <jilliancyork at>
> wrote:
>> Hi - Jillian York here (have been lurking for a couple of weeks).  I was
>> interviewed for that article and would like to add this just-released paper
>> I wrote on the same subject:
>> The paper ("Policing Content in the Quasi-Public Sphere") looks at the
>> content regulation policies of 5 social media platforms--Twitter, Flickr,
>> Blogger, Facebook, and YouTube.  I won't give away the ending ;)
>> -Jillian
>> On Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 5:28 PM, Katrin Verclas <katrinverclas at>
>> wrote:
>>> Thoughts, colleagues!
>>> ------Original Message------
>>> From: Colin Delany
>>> Sender: Progressive Exchange
>>> To: Progressive Exchange
>>> ReplyTo: Colin Delany
>>> Subject: [progressiveexchange] Facebook interfering with activism Pages
>>> Sent: Sep 20, 2010 3:34 PM
>>> Activists upset with Facebook
>>> Claims they've violated terms of service.  Discuss.
>>> --cpd
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