Sun 19 May 2013 9:54PM

Discussion: Current Barriers to Adoption

ST Sean Tilley Public Seen by 97

I have a rudimentary wiki entry here. I think it's a good idea for us to take a minute to consider some weaknesses in Diaspora, and specifically what prevents the average user from using Diaspora as opposed to other (centralized!) social platforms.

Anyone is welcome to add to the page with general blockers. Preferably, I'd like to avoid entries like "Diaspora doesn't have feature X" or "Diaspora has less visual polish than Platform Y.", and focus more on specific problem areas regarded to decentralized social as a whole, not just Diaspora.


hewiak Mon 20 May 2013 5:07PM

it seems with social networks it can be a lot like physics: a certain 'critical mass' needs to be approached before the reaction (in this case, experience) becomes universally rewarding. I don't think we have adequately approached groups and organizations with a concept that would make it logical and simple for them to run their own pods–the how and why.

with clubs, non-profits, and all sorts of other groups this could become the non-facebook way for their members to share.

the question, though, remains: how to get it moving.


goob Fri 7 Jun 2013 6:16PM

Here are my initial thoughts about some barriers to adoption, with ideas for how to combat them.

– Lead feet – basic inertia.
I wouldn't worry about this, it's a common human trait. It's not something Diaspora can overcome through code or marketing - just keep improving the software and community experience, and eventually there will (hopefully) be a critical mass which makes it worthwhile for people to move to Diaspora, given some of the points below.

– 'I'll wait until my friends are there.'
This is a bit of a Catch-22 situation. One possible way to address this would be to identify and target a few ‘cool’/influential/respected people in various peer groups and encourage them to make the switch and to publicise Diaspora to their circle, and they could then (assuming they like Diaspora) pull over a lot of people, as people who looked up to them would want to be where they are.
But again, it’s not something that we can make happen.

– Don’t see advantages of Diaspora over current network (Facebook, Google+, etc).
This is where communication comes in, and is where Diaspora has traditionally been weak. The new diaspora-project.org site Sean has set up will be a big part of this, and we need to write a load of new, really simple, non-technical guides to what Diaspora is, how it works, and what are the advantages of taking part.

– Don’t see or don’t care about bad aspects of current network (Facebook, Google+, etc).
We could point out the negative aspects of some of these networks (privacy invasion, giving away rights to your data, etc), or we could just ignore this and focus on the positives about Diaspora as a network.

– Don’t understand how decentralised networks in general and Diaspora in particular work.
This is the key area where we really need to work hard, with good, clear, entry-level communication and guides.
I’d like to help with this.

– ‘It seems too techy.’
Two aspects of this:
1, that it all seems rather complicated and unintuitive to use the network;
2, that the community is full of geeks rather than 'normal' people.
(I'm not saying Diaspora actually is hard to use, but these are, I think, perceptions which discourage people from trying.) Again, clear and simple communication, including user guides, is part of addressing this, as it reducing the complexity of, for instance, installing and maintaining a pod.

As Diaspora doesn’t have investors who are demanding a return on investment, we don’t actually have a need to recruit certain numbers of people by certain dates, so we should, I think, focus for the moment on removing actual barriers to adoption, as far as this is possible through better communication and improvements in the accessibility of the software and network, rather than actively recruiting people.

As far as recruiting people, I really think we shouldn't put too much effort into recruiting 'general' users – what Sean called 'Joe Public' in his recent interview – until the software has reached a certain stage of development, such that:
– federation works smoothly and instantly between all pods, even the largest ones;
– it is possible (and easy) to migrate a seed from one pod to another;
– it is easy to search for people, and all results matching search criteria will reliably be returned (i.e. federation is working properly);
– we have at least a 'ground covering' of features that people will expect to find, for example photo albums and groups.
If we recruit general users before these things are in place, many people will be put off and not want to come back in the future. I've seen so many comments from people saying 'This is rubbish, there are no features and not much content, and it doesn’t work properly; I'm closing my account' over the past two years, and I really think we need to focus on recruiting contributors – developers, communicators, writers and so on – at the moment, getting the software to a certain point (which we could perhaps call 'v1.0.0.0') at which it, and the network, is ready for the general user and can do at least some of the things they'll expect from a social network, having come from Facebook or Google+.


Daniel Smith Sat 8 Jun 2013 1:04PM

As a newbie, this will probably fall under the "Diaspora doesn't have feature X" category, but I was looking around today at icon fonts, which are an imagistic advertising form in themselves nowadays, at least in the design community which I used to inhabit. I noticed also a list of social icons on this page: http://www.entypo.com/
I notice there is not one icon there for Diaspora or Friendica for that matter. Is there a reason why? I remember that platforms like Facebook made its widespreadedness from the ability to link to itself.
Am I missing something here? Thanks.


Jason Robinson Sat 8 Jun 2013 1:50PM

@danielsmith nice find! I'm quite sure they will gladly support us too - I sent them a message with our current assets attached.


Daniel Smith Sat 8 Jun 2013 1:52PM

So what you're saying is that there are actual icons at present? can you give me a link to where they are?
Thanks Jason.


Jason Robinson Sat 8 Jun 2013 10:05PM

@danielsmith I just emailed them this: http://i.imgur.com/KdHx65Z.png which is exported from our compiled assets.

What you see on Diaspora* pods and in the code is all we have I guess - and of course lots of community contributed stuff with various licenses.

If you mean "do we have an icon" as in "do we know what it should look like", then I think everyone agrees Diaspora* icon should be an asterisk - which is visible in many of the assets linked above.


goob Sat 8 Jun 2013 10:59PM

I've just created a couple of PNG icons based on the favicon for joindiaspora.com, but having then downloaded the package from Entypo I see they're presenting the icons in various formats, including EPS, PDF and Truetype.

It's probably easiest to give them spec and let them make icons in the best format for their font set.

The main Diaspora logo is pretty straightforward to reproduce: it is an asterisk in Helvetica Bold (but made full height, not superscript).

Colour can be #666666, although other variants are used. I see their icons are in black or very dark grey, so leave it up to them to choose the colour to match their set.

Thanks for finding this, Daniel.


Daniel Smith Sat 8 Jun 2013 11:28PM

I was going to write earlier that i'd hoped it was of course an asterisk. Yes, I believe they create a positive and negative version of each, so it'd probably be up to you whether you wanted a circle or square around the white cutout of the asterisk. I guess it'd be up to whether you guys want or have a copyright in mind or in the future etc. But actually this is only one such resource for gliphs or iconography. I used to do desktop publishing, so recent advancements in web fonts etc has been an astonishing leap forward for web design. I was doing a lot of research into this a while back (I came across an old bookmarks folder in my email), and if I look through and around for some other sites I'll post a list of them. Entypo is just one. It might be in your interest to really standardize the logo across services, that's all I was thinking. This was the search that I found rentypo on:


Daniel Smith Sat 8 Jun 2013 11:30PM

And oh yes, Font Awesome for those that didn't already know, is the default font used now in Twitter Bootstrap. It's become wildly popular, as much as a font could be, uh, wildly popular. :)


goob Sun 9 Jun 2013 12:00AM

It might be worth starting a new discussion in Loomio about connection with other services (or there may already be one somewhere in the history), so the two issues don't get confused.


Jason Robinson Mon 10 Jun 2013 11:48AM

Regarding Entyo, got a reply:

Daniel Bruce me@danielbruce.se

Hi Jason,

of course I will add Diaspora to Entypo. I don't know why I didn't do so when I originally designed it since I love the Diaspora concept.


That one solved :) @danielsmith and everyone else, if you have any other places in mind, relating to icons or other graphical assets, feel free to contact the project and query whether they will add our stuff. No need to ask for permission from anyone :)


Sean Tilley Mon 10 Jun 2013 5:11PM

Wow, awesome! I use Entypo all the time for mockups, very cool that Daniel Bruce is supporting us. :)


goob Sat 29 Jun 2013 11:38AM



Koen Martens Thu 4 Jul 2013 8:35AM

One important feature that is missing and required for mass adoption is the ability to easily share when one is mobile. There is, to my knowledge, no android app for diaspora at the moment (not sure about iphone, i don't have one :). I intend to start development of an android app in august (when I have more time again), because that is for me the one single argument why i can't really switch. Most of my social networking i do from my phone.


Flaburgan Thu 4 Jul 2013 9:00AM

@koenmartens the mobile version of Diaspora is great and improved constantly. To develop an app for a specific platform is a waste of time from my point of view. Especially now that WebApps are coming.


goob Thu 4 Jul 2013 9:48AM

I agree with Fla, Koen. A lot of time and energy went into creating apps for Android and iOS, none of which were ever brought to completion. (There is still out there an alpha Webclient app for Android, created but not finished by someone.) It was decided in the end that a much more simple and productive way to go about it was to create a mobile version of the site which worked well on all devices. This has been a huge improvement, and made a big difference to the user experience.

Anyone is of course welcome to create whatever they want, but I think an Android app would not be the most constructive way to contribute, because it would dissipate the knowledge of the mobile site, and unless you'd be happy to work on it fairly constantly to provide updates and so on, it might quickly become out of date or become broken by some change in the Diaspora code, which might then lead to people who used the app thinking that the project itself had become broken.

People often ask 'Where's the Diaspora app?', but I think that's just because they're programmed to expect that they need an app for their phone in order to connect. When I point out to them the mobile site, they usually respond positively. (I had to troubleshoot someone the other day, and it turned out that he was using the old alpha Webclient, which of course doesn't work properly on the updated Diaspora code.) In my opinion, it's better to have just one means of connecting (via the mobile site), because that way it can be kept up to to date and improved far more easily and quickly.


Koen Martens Thu 4 Jul 2013 12:22PM

Well, I have to disagree here. Webapps have been coming for years, support for html5 is still sketchy. I can't easily share some tidbit from random sources to a mobile site. I am intending to keep maintaining the app, make a commitment there. I think an app can add a lot of usability compared to a mobile website.


Koen Martens Thu 4 Jul 2013 12:31PM

Also, if there is a stable API, apps shouldn't break that often. The fact that people are worried things break because changes in diaspora, probably means that there's an issue with API stability in the diaspora project itself. As long as API's stay backward compatible, all should be well.


goob Thu 4 Jul 2013 5:35PM

As yet there isn't an API for Diaspora. Good luck with your project, though. Hope you have success.


L3MNcakes Tue 16 Jul 2013 4:58PM

I disagree with Goob and Fla. I would love to see an Android specific app. The mobile version of the site is usually incredibly slow to load for me and like Koen said, sharing is too inconvenient. We do not currently have an API though, so that might put a kink in this project.


Sean Tilley Tue 16 Jul 2013 6:46PM

Part of what needs to happen to get an API going would be to set up Diaspora as an OAuth2 provider. Alternatively, we could try OpenID instead, but OAuth seems to work well enough with some decentralized social platforms already. (Tent and Pump come to mind).

A quick search brings up two gems that might be worth taking a look at:

That's only half of the battle though. We also would need to expose our APIs in such a way that developers could easily leverage them. It's worth noting that much of D* uses Backbone.js already, which comes with a RESTful JSON interface.

Backbone.js and Restful Web Services


goob Tue 16 Jul 2013 9:51PM

Don't get me wrong: I'd be more than happy for someone to create an app for Android, iOS, Firefox OS or any other mobile OS. I just don't think it should be a core development priority.

It would be better to put the limited resources we have into improving the mobile site for all devices, and ironing out any issues there are with it, such as those you raise. But if an independent developer wants to develop and app, that's fine. As long as they can commit to keeping it up to date or opening up development to others, so that we don't end up with yet another defunct, out-of-date app which people find on search and try to use, as many Android users are still doing with the Android Webclient alpha, and then thinking that Diaspora itself doesn't work properly. That's the danger with apps.


goob Sun 4 Aug 2013 8:52PM

@koenmartens , someone is working on an Android app at the moment. If you want to take part, contact him via his profile page.


goob Sun 4 Aug 2013 8:54PM

There's a discussion about making a Diaspora webapp here.