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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Tackling Network Effect

From: Ramana Kumar
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Tackling Network Effect
Date: Mon, 14 May 2012 14:16:38 +0100

On Mon, May 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM, Michał 'rysiek' Woźniak <> wrote:
Dnia poniedziałek, 14 maja 2012 o 13:05:05 Ramana Kumar napisał(a):
> On Mon, May 14, 2012 at 11:16 AM, Michał 'rysiek' Woźniak
> (...)
> > We need something like this for Free Somftware based services, as
> > currently we are all taking a beating due to network effect (look
> > at Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Dropbox - it's all network effect
> > at work). And we cannot tackle network effect if we do not build
> > a vast network of users.
> Can you describe ways in which we might do this in more detail?
> Perhaps we can figure out a good solution here and then do it!
> Be concrete, perhaps using my "skype replacement" problem as a
> motivating example.

Sure thing. I did it already (partially) in the "New GNU" thread (by
the way, where are the list archives?..), I'll try to do a better job
here, though.

We could create a *simple* directory protocol (no, LDAP won't do) for
finding out people's e-mails, JIDs, etc (if, of course, those people
would provide such data); integrate it into available solutions
(client-side: Pidgin, mail clients, Diaspora, etc.; server-side:
ejabberd, mail servers, Diaspora, etc.) - when providing profile data
(like e-mail addr) users could select to make that info available for
federated access by other servers and clients.

Are there any existing directory protocols that would serve this purpose?
What's wrong with LDAP? (It has the advantage of being already standard.)
Are we reinventing FNS (XFN)?
If a new simple protocol is required, let's make a short spec of it here and now!
Michał, I hope you will oblige to start on that, or otherwise explain a bit more what you mean.
We could create a website for "leave your proprietary network/service
day", hold such a day say once per two months. People could log-in
with their proprietary network logins (Facebook/Twitter/Google+) and
pledge leaving the network for a libre one (like Diaspora) or at least
setting up an account on a libre network  on a given day, or when the
number of their friends pledging the same reaches a given number.

LibrePlanet, is there anyone here, or do you know of anyone, who would be able and willing to design this website?
Also, to host it?
I am willing to pay for domain registration and hosting if nobody else volunteers, or no organisation can donate it, if there is a good design. (Of course, donations would be welcome to help spread the cost!)
This would obviously be sent to their walls, timelines or whatever
it's called in their proprietary social network of choice. their
friends would get the message and see that maybe they are not alone in
their idea of leaving Facebook.

This is obviously just a preliminary idea, it would need to be
properly thought through and blueprinted.

I thank you for taking the time to sketch the preliminary idea! It sounds great.
I suggest we keep working out the details on list.
Second idea that I might start realising soon myself is firing up
cloud service providers that integrate many libre software services
(like XMPP, e-mail, Diaspora, StatusNet, OpenID, Mozilla Sync,
ownCloud, etc.) so that people would have a chance of using a *single*
service for all their communication needs, while retaining control
over their data (using standard, free software projects would mean
switching the provider would be much easier than leaving Facebook).

These two ideas should for obvious reasons be put into practice about
the same time.

Yes. Michał, would you be interested in making a prototype of such a service with me?
> Describe the world where I find out Skype is nonfree and then [go
> where] ([why there?]) and [do what] to get a free replacement,
> that anyone can easily do. is just such a place to go for "Facebook
replacement". It needs better exposure, and much better information
on-site, but it's the right idea.

Presumably it can be advertised on that website for "leave proprietary network day".
What about for Skype replacement?
Problem is, in my opinion, that we need to refocus.

We - the FLOSS Community - are by and large great technicians,
programmers, we have the manpower and will to tackle *technical*

However, our problems currently are not purely technical; Free
Software is often technically superior to proprietary/centralised
solutions, yet users still use the proprietary platforms (ICQ/AIM
being one of the examples).

Why? Reasons are many. Sometimes it's the usability (like with Skype);
sometimes it's the network effect - already vast amounts of users use
the proprietary solution, so the incentive to use it is much stronger,
as the aim is to keep in touch (Skype, Facebook, ICQ/AIM, etc.).

Excellent point.
These two problems are not easy to solve for us, as we are not that
competent in those areas. Especially usability would need new sort of
people joining in and helping out - UX designers and the like. This is
one of the reasons why I feel that while many things Canonical does
are really bad (please, let's not get into a "Ubuntu is Evuhl" flame
now, m'kay? ;) ), we are still - as a community - getting a lot of
good stuff from the fact they are employing UX designers, for example.

One method might be to spread the ideal of freedom in the Ubuntu community, to leverage the existing talent there.
This might essentially be: promote gNewSense over Ubuntu. But it might be more than that.
Now, the network effect thing is more "tackleable" by us. It's really
a question of focusing on creating ways for people to feel that they
are in a group. they are connected, easy ways to find other people,
etc. Diaspora, as I wrote already, does it well. We should simply move
this up on our priority list, so that our techie community would find
that important to work on.

Specifically, I strongly believe that tackling the network effect
problem is more important than Gnash, Google Earth, FLOSS network
router drivers. I think it should (after finding a suitable way of
describing it) make it to the priority projects list.

FSF, your response?
I strongly believe that centralisation (of data, of communication
means, etc.) is as big of a problem as something being proprietary -
because both are related to control. When fighting for Free Software
we need to fight for decentralisation, too.
Yes, I agree. Just highlighting this in case it got missed by other people reading.

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