I heard about it in a round-a-bout way, but after some searching I found an article explaining what happened: Today Twitter cut millions of mobile users off without warning
Considering that the site is called Tweet Smarter, it makes sense that the tone of the article is incredibly forgiving to Twitter’s behavior. I don’t use this lightly, but it sounds like a fan, which of course is short of fanatic. They’ve drank the kool-aid, so their parameters for critique is rather limited. Again, they have the word “tweet” in the name of their site.
It got me thinking about the federated social web, of course. Most things do. And I was thinking about StatusNet, the company. From that article:
Plenty of wonderful people at Twitter care. And other wonderful people at Twitter have a vision of what Twitter can do for the world. But Twitter overall is immature as a company, can’t control its own bureaucracy, and isn’t user-centric…yet. Love Twitter? Love its users? Lots of us do. But Twitter, as a company, does not yet.
I think there are plenty of cool people at StatusNet, and I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out and drinking with many of them. And while I don’t think I am qualified to judge if they are a “mature” company (give me a break), I think they are doing great work and I support them.
The important thing, though, is that I don’t have to. In fact, part of the appeal of StatusNet, as both a company and software, is that they encourage you to not trust them. Of course, as a company providing paid services, they are as trustworthy as any other company, there are repercussions and avenues to go down if they were to be bad at what they do. And like any other company, they fall back on their reputation and history to provide those services, and they are doing great in that arena; they have a lot of talent that people can trust.
Twitter plays by the same rules in that regard (though I don’t really know if they provide services to any person I would know, maybe media companies?). They have their reputation, and are governed by laws and such. The divergence comes from when you look at how their treat their product and the people who use it. Unlike the Tweet Smarter crew, I am not so forgiving.
It makes sense that I wouldn’t be, I am spoiled. I get everything that Twitter offers, but with multiple layers of benefits that a Twitter user doesn’t even understand they are not getting.
- Self-hosted: I have the ability to put as many resources as I need towards my instance.
- Self-protection: I don’t have to rely on StatusNet or some other company to safeguard my information. Remember, they play by rules that can have be leveraged over them. I assert that going after an individual is more costly, because in my case at least, I have more to lose than a company does. I will be a bitter opponent, and that protects me to a certain extent.
- Self-censorship: There are interesting conversations about censorship happening. Besides using free culture to combat censorship, StatusNet allows for an entity (individual, community or company) to set their own standards for what they discuss. I can’t think of Twitter having censored any accounts (though it wouldn’t surprise me), they certainly have the ability to do so.
- My culture: Speaking of censorship, all the issues with walled gardens apply here, of course. Federation is about freedom. You can participate in your culture on your terms, without a company setting the rules for you.
- Privacy: This is important to me, and I hope it becomes important to more people using the internet. I take privacy seriously. Companies constantly try to track me to feed me targeted ads. I don’t know if they take my privacy seriously.
It should be evident at this point that while people think that Twitter is free, it is neither free as in speech nor as in beer. There are real costs involved in using a service like Twitter, but none of those expenditures insure any of the things that make using the internet great. We should remember, we don’t join social networks because the companies are doing something special; we join them because we want the human connection.
A company like StatusNet gets that. You can see it in their licensing (the AGPL pretty much ensures that the software isn’t going anywhere, even if the company changes in a way that is abusive to the community), and you can see it in the kinds of projects their team has worked on and supported in the past.
I don’t know why anyone would trust Twitter. But what I do trust is a company that makes a product where trust is not required.
And on that note, may I have data portability that works, please? ^_^