An intro to Diaspora

“Maybe Diaspora was born just before its time, and maybe now, people will realize what a gift has been given to us by the Diaspora founders and the community that continues to build, create and maintain this project.”

I’m overjoyed that the Ello hype-machine is currently reviving interest in Diaspora and decentralised networks that set themselves apart from the netarchical giants. Here’s an excellent first person introduction by Diaspora contributor Birch, which was originally published on her blog.

I joined Diaspora a few years ago, in 2011. I had migrated to G+ when it came out and shortly afterwards the #nymwars started up. Many people were unhappy that Google was forcing ‘real names’ onto people. Many bloggers and people who were known primarily by nicknames had their accounts shut down.

Meanwhile, a group of young men from NYU were already working on something amazing that people had heard about but weren’t quite sure how to join.

People weren’t familiar with this ‘decentralized’ thing. And admittedly, most people who wanted to own their content and have better privacy, etc., weren’t tech-savvy enough to start their own ‘pod’ of Diaspora. All pods interconnect with one another, and many pods started up as a group effort for a few friends to run their own, but some big pods started up also —, and others. These were open to the public to join. Diaspora had their own as well, called However, it proved to take a very long time to get an invite to, 1) because of the sheer volume of people wanting to join and 2) the team wanting full stability at their end before letting everyone in. These other pods took the load off from that.

The downside, however, was that people waiting on an invite from JoinDiaspora didn’t necessarily know about all the other pods unless they were following the Diaspora project. In reality, what the largest percentage of the population did was request an invite and then just wait (and eventually forget). As time passed, they assumed Diaspora never happened. (I still meet people that say “hm, I wonder what ever happened to Diaspora?”

Luckily, there was a vast number of people following the progress quite closely, and the ability to join other pods – rather than wait on the core pod to get all the invites out – became much more common knowledge during the #nymwars of Google+.

I came across a conversation on Google+ about Diaspora, people were talking about joining it and my first thought was:
What? It IS finished? How can I get an account? Where do I find information?

As is normally the way on social networks, info suddenly made its way round. Especially because so many people wanted to leave G+ and Facebook. That desire to avoid data mining and own content, especially while under threat of having your account shut down due to one’s name not being ‘Real Enough’, was enough to get people looking into the status of the Diaspora they had heard about.

In the beginning Diaspora was wonky.

It has ALWAYS been a community project (much more so now), and the boys from NYU were working 24/7 to get this stable for the people flocking to it.

People have a sense of ‘entitlement’, and even though something is free (TRULY free) and being offered to them out of a labour of love, there are still bound to be complaints and demands. Such was the way.

Regardless, Diaspora continued to grow.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Ilya took his own life. One of the Diaspora founders.

I won’t get into it here. This post isn’t about that. It can be read about here. But there is no shortage of grief still to this day. Most of the community suddenly really REALIZED – these are people. These Founders (like of any project) are people. As grief hit the community, I think, too, a sense of bonding began to grow. I know that I still feel very close to all those initial friends I made there, even those whom I often disagreed with.

As time passed I spent more time in Virtual Worlds, mainly Inworldz, and only spent time on social networking sites sporadically. I also began blogging more about my own personal internal journey with various things. I still logged into Diaspora, still checked in with friends, but wasn’t as active.

Then Ello came on the scene. The hype of this seemingly ‘grassroots’ type of project, and its claim of privacy, no data mining, etc., intrigued me. I joined to see how it compared with Diaspora. Whereas the news had been calling the Diaspora founders ‘Geeky, Nerds’ etc., and almost mocking their attempts, Ello was the ultimate Hipster’s dream. Pretty, retro, minimalist. Actually, the clean interface reminded me a lot of Diaspora. However Ello, at the time of my last use of it (yesterday Sept. 26th), is dysfunctional. You’d think with a Venture Capital investment it would at least have a proper search function, or reshare. Or notifications? nope.

Of course, no one realized right away about the VC investment. Full story on what Ello really is:

That’s all the time I’ll waste talking about Ello, except to mention that what got me on my Diaspora rant was coming across the same ignorance as before “Hm, I wonder if Ello is going to go the way of Diaspora?” “Will Ello succeed? Or fail, like Diaspora?” I corrected a few of those misconceptions and although my comments had 50-75+ views, no one responded.


On Diaspora the past few days, I have seen many new people, possibly due to the fact that people remember Diaspora now. Possibly due to the fact that they realize there is an actual TRULY free (and decentralized) option to Facebook, Google+ and, of course Ello.
So I decided to add some screenshots with some getting started tips.

1. When you join, make a NewHere post. The registration process is very simple and directs you into a good ‘Getting Started’, but I don’t think people realize how important that first post is. We follow tags at Diaspora. When anyone posts a public post with tags that I follow in it, that post gets into my Stream. Likewise, I also check JUST my tags to see what’s going on there. If you don’t have friends, and are posting privately, or without tags… no one is going to see your post


As you can see above, this new member made a public post, used the NewHere tag as well as others to show interests. Because I follow NewHere, it arrived in my feed.

You can search topics in the Search bar, add a ‘#’ directly in front of the word you are searching.

Along the side you can see others who share that interest/follow the tag, and of course you see the most recent posts about that topic.

There is the option on the page to Follow that tag (see above the space to enter text) and/or post directly onto that tag page about the topic.
Once you have your followed tags, you can click them from your sidebar and just see what’s going on in the topics of your choice.


To search for a person instead of a tag/topic, simply put the person’s name into the search window with no ‘#’
And there, I found Leanna <3

Now along your sidebar, you can choose to look at individual tags, and you can also choose which aspects you want to see. I can choose just Friends and see just their content, and likewise the text/posting box on that page will by default ONLY go to friends.
If you Select All of your aspects then that will be the default destination of your posts. Be sure to choose ‘public’ below your text box however if you are new and wanting to meet people via your tagged post.


Now, this hasn’t been an extensive ‘how to’, but more of an overview.

If you’d like to join Diaspora, there is a list of pods that indicates if they are open or closed at, run by’s David Morley. When choosing a pod, you can see what version it’s running, if it’s open or closed, amount of time running, and what services it offers (many of them offer cross-posting to WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook).

I personally use and feel free to look me up!
[email protected]

I think that the sheer number of people flocking to Ello, even with its less than stellar origins and lack of function, indicate that people are really ready to move on from the data mining sites such as Facebook and Google+.

This might be Diaspora’s time to shine.

Maybe Diaspora was born just before its time, and maybe now, people will realize what a gift has been given to us by the Diaspora founders and the community that continues to build, create and maintain this project.

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