Why Do I See So Many Open Source Advocates Using Twitter?

opensource_logo.pngAs I am speaking, Utah is having their yearly Open Source conference. If you’re in Utah or outside Utah (most of my audience is outside Utah), it is well worth the trip with some great topics from ssh tips and tricks to WordPress Performance and Scalability by Utah’s own Joseph Scott from Automattic. I would be there myself but I have deadlines I have to meet this week (I have a big announcement to make next week which will explain my lack of time this week). However, as I was tracking the updates from the conference, I noticed there seem to be way more people updating from Twitter vs. the Open Source-based blogging tool, Identi.ca. In fact, I notice many Open Source proponents even outside Utah embracing Twitter over the Open Source-based Identi.ca and I wonder why.

Now, I wasn’t paying attention during OSCON so I don’t know if it was the same there, but I’m willing to bet there was a lot of activity going on within the Twitter network there that really should have been happening over on Identi.ca. I’m wondering if it’s just lack of education about Identi.ca, or if our views of the principles behind Open Source have changed.

I remember a day where in each company I worked for I would do all I could to try and get them to let me run Linux on my desktop. I still run vim and I still run open tools like Apache, MySQL, and Perl. In some (remember Red Hat 5?), I was making a sacrifice by doing so, because I knew I had complete flexibility to make the changes and configurations necessary to make it do what I wanted to do if it did not yet do it.

When I was an Engineer at Backcountry.com we thrived on this principle. It actually made us more productive as a company because when we used Open Source software, we could configure it the way we wanted when it wasn’t working the way we wanted it to as a company. This would have costed us hundreds of thousands of dollars in custom software changes if we used a shrink-wrapped solution. Not only that but we could give back to a great cause if it didn’t meet our needs, and in fact we gave back quite a few changes to the Open Source community because of this principle.

Now, if you are not one of those types that went out of your way to use open source software for the principle, and because of the reasons I mention above, then I’m not talking to you here. However, I’m calling each and every one of the Open Source advocates out that are on Twitter and have not yet tried, nor use Identi.ca on a regular basis. This is no different than running Linux on your desktop as in the examples I mentioned above. If Identi.ca is not working the way you want it to, as an Open Source Advocate and promoter, you have a responsibility to jump in and contribute the areas you don’t have access to. That’s the true spirit of Open Source, plain and simple! Here are the reasons why you can feel good using Identi.ca, or build your own Laconi.ca instance that can communicate with Identi.ca:

  • You own the content you post – All posts through a Laconi.ca instance are published under the Creative Commons license, meaning the publisher cannot own the content of its users. This is very much in the spirit of Open Source.
  • Identi.ca is based on open source software – as already mentioned, Identi.ca is based on the Laconi.ca source code. You can even set up your own instance and have it talk to other Laconi.ca instances. If you don’t like what Identi.ca does, then fix it, publish your own instance, or give back to Identi.ca!
  • Identi.ca talks with an Open Protocol, OpenMicroBlogging Protocol – Not only are you given source that talks this protocol, but you can write your own software that talks this protocol, and it will communicate with any other software that speaks this protocol. See my post on OpenMicroBlogger for an example of this in action. This is called “Federation”, and IMO it’s the essence of Open Standards and communication.
  • Identi.ca has almost all the same features as Twitter, and more – as I’ll explain in a minute, this probably doesn’t matter, but the only features it lacks are direct messaging and SMS. SMS is expensive, and most likely won’t last on even Twitter – it costs too much! Direct messaging can be resolved by means such as e-mail or text messaging in a much cleaner fashion, although there are rumors of some working on even that. What it has that Twitter doesn’t though, and this is powerful, is that all Laconi.ca instances support XMPP out of the box, which means live-streamed updates straight from users, in real-time. Not only that, but you can track those updates, as well as any update on any Laconi.ca instance via Track functionality. Also, via OMB protocol above, you can subscribe to users on other services other than Identi.ca, and vice versa.

Let’s not get me wrong here – I’m not telling you to abandon your network on Twitter. I’m saying if you support and promote Open Source standards and refuse to use an open service like Identi.ca that is based on Open standards, you are living a double standard. You can still use Twitter in the meantime. I still use Windows and Mac for functionality I don’t get on Linux until me or someone else is able to replace that functionality for something better. The concepts are the same. I still use Twitter occasionally.

Also, many are giving the excuse of, “my network is bigger on Twitter”. I’d first like to point you to my listening/follower ratio article on LouisGray.com as to how strong your network really is on Twitter, but in addition to that, let’s pull in the Linux example again. How many Linux desktops are there in the wild? How many Windows desktops are there? We use Open Source because it allows us to configure it to do what we need it to do, and often we can get the job done better because of that. We don’t care if the majority of the population is using another closed tool because we can do much more with the open tools we’re a part of.

I’d really like to see some more Open Source proponents using Identi.ca as their primary posting platform. If you would still like to use Twitter that’s fine – there’s a bridge to enable you to do that, but it’s time we stood to our principles and why we’re using Open Source in the first place. Please don’t consider this a criticism, but rather a Bearhug to come help us out in this cause.

You can find me on Identi.ca at http://identi.ca/jessestay.

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jessestay

Jesse Stay has been a pioneer in the space of social media marketing since before it was called "social media marketing". Originally a software developer, Jesse built a tool called SocialToo.com which helped brands like Pepsi, Brittany Spears, and MC Hammer grow their social media presence, and before he knew it brands were coming to him for help to grow their presence in very unique ways. His tool was featured on almost every tech blog and even mainstream news sites like New York Times, Techcrunch, and Mashable. Jesse also spent a brief period working FOR Facebook, Inc., helping them to build out their documentation to help companies integrate Facebook Connect into their websites and mobile apps. Jesse took his skills and helped the LDS Church kick off most of its social media programs. While there he helped launch the award-winning "I'm a Mormon" marketing campaign with global reach worldwide in the millions of views and followers. Jesse established new global programs at the Church to further grow its reach amongst both members and non-members of the Church, working with every department of the Church, also including entities like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brigham Young University. He also helped the Church navigate its voice and presence during the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign due to the significant attention the Church was getting at the time. He established the social media advertising techniques and strategies employed at Deseret Digital Media growing over 20 million fans across their news properties in just 6 months, and was featured on AdWeek for his success. As founder and Principal of Stay N Alive, Jesse has developed very unique techniques in social media advertising to help organizations grow presences, within months on minimal budgets, into hundreds of thousands of highly relevant and engaging fans and followers. He designed and teaches social media advertising at LDS Business College. He has helped grow sales, and has a belief that yes, you CAN measure social! Jesse has been featured as one of 10 entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter (next to Biz Stone and Ev Williams, founders of Twitter) by Entrepreneur magazine. Jesse has written 9 books on the topic of social media marketing and development, including Google+ Marketing For Dummies and Facebook All In One For Dummies, and eats, lives, and drinks social media with a personal combined presence of over 600,000 followers on his personal social profiles.

0 thoughts on “Why Do I See So Many Open Source Advocates Using Twitter?”

  1. I think more people would be good for this – especially the audience
    I'm targeting. The more people helping out with the project, the
    better I think. Again, it's not about “using” Identi.ca, but rather
    “contributing” to Identi.ca.

  2. Jesse,

    In addition to twitter, I happily use Mac OS X, gmail, amazon, google, and many other proprietary program. Arguing the benefits of open source software doesn't mean that you use it exclusively. That was part of the split with the free software movement. This isn't a religious/political issue, but a practical one.

    I became an open source advocate to help people realize how much of the software that they used and valued came from an “invisible” open source community – programs like apache, perl, python, BIND, php — that were widely used but didn't get enough respect. Ditto for Linux as server infrastructure.

    As to Linux on the desktop, I've always seen that as a massive distraction for the Linux community, the distraction that allowed for a new layer of proprietary “infoware” to become dominant on top of open source web servers. (See http://tim.oreilly.com/opensource for the series of essays in which I argue this position.)

    My principles have NEVER argued that I should use a program because it is open source. I use whatever works, happily. I do argue that programs should interoperate.

    I believe it's perfectly reasonable to use twitter instead of identi.ca if twitter works better for you. Let identi.ca compete in the marketplace because it's really better, just as apache beat out IIS and Netscape, perl, python, php and other scripting languages beat out VB, ruby on rails beat out asp.net, and not because of some so-called moral injunction. Not only is it silly, it doesn't work.

  3. Tim, thanks for commenting – I value your opinion very highly. I
    think your points are fair enough.

    I do think there is some added value to open source in the fact that
    one can not only use the software, but modify it to do the things they
    want and in turn give back to the community because of that. However,
    not everyone, in particular the general audience of Twitter, can
    modify code like that. I do still hope that more people that can
    contribute can come join this effort and help bring an open
    infrastructure like Laconi.ca to the masses. I'd rather not be
    trapped by Twitter. I do understand the practicality concept and even
    live that myself for the most part – I use a Mac for my desktop,
    gmail, amazon, google and other similar services as well.

  4. Jesse: The quick answer to your question about why people are using twitter rather than identi.ca is: first mover advantage. Twitter has been operating for almost two years, while identi.ca only launched a few months ago. For microblogging, the network effect is critical: the more people who use the service, the more valuable it becomes for the users.

    Having said that, I agree with you about the importance of an open approach for Microblogging. I would actually distinguish two levels of open-ness here: the protocol and the software. Identi.ca uses both an open protocol (OpenMicroBlogging) and open software (Laconica) that implements that protocol. Although having open source software is great for the sorts of tweaking you describe, I think that the open-ness of the protocol is even more important. As I argued in a recent post of my own, while services like twitter remain closed, they are effectively walled gardens, limiting communication across different networks and theyby limiting the potential of Microblogging as a communication medium.

    Having said all that, I still use twitter myself (because of the network effect), but I am conscious of the fact that this leaves me exposed to them pulling the plug on the service (as they recently did for non-US SMS) if it doesn't start to pay their VC backers.

  5. Sean, excellent points, and I agree completely about the value being
    in the open protocol, not necessarily the software (the software is
    just a bonus if you need a branded solution). I am using both
    services now for various reasons on each one. I essentially have 2
    different communities, so when I want to talk to one community I'll
    post on one, while if it fits the other community I'll post on the
    other. Sometimes I'll post to both if I want it to go to both
    communities.

  6. Jesse: I've also taken the approach of joining a number of different communities, although I suspect I've gone too far. At last count I am on twitter, identi.ca, TWiT Army, kwippy, blip.fm, Brightkite, pownce and plurk. I need to cut back!

  7. My suggestion – pick 2 or 3 you can pay attention to, and then keep
    accounts at the rest that you can check every so often. The key is
    automation – if you can track what's going on within a network, it's a
    good network to be on because it requires less manual checking for
    updates.

  8. Jesse: The quick answer to your question about why people are using twitter rather than identi.ca is: first mover advantage. Twitter has been operating for almost two years, while identi.ca only launched a few months ago. For microblogging, the network effect is critical: the more people who use the service, the more valuable it becomes for the users.

    Having said that, I agree with you about the importance of an open approach for Microblogging. I would actually distinguish two levels of open-ness here: the protocol and the software. Identi.ca uses both an open protocol (OpenMicroBlogging) and open software (Laconica) that implements that protocol. Although having open source software is great for the sorts of tweaking you describe, I think that the open-ness of the protocol is even more important. As I argued in a recent post of my own, while services like twitter remain closed, they are effectively walled gardens, limiting communication across different networks and theyby limiting the potential of Microblogging as a communication medium.

    Having said all that, I still use twitter myself (because of the network effect), but I am conscious of the fact that this leaves me exposed to them pulling the plug on the service (as they recently did for non-US SMS) if it doesn't start to pay their VC backers.

  9. Sean, excellent points, and I agree completely about the value being
    in the open protocol, not necessarily the software (the software is
    just a bonus if you need a branded solution). I am using both
    services now for various reasons on each one. I essentially have 2
    different communities, so when I want to talk to one community I'll
    post on one, while if it fits the other community I'll post on the
    other. Sometimes I'll post to both if I want it to go to both
    communities.

  10. Jesse: I've also taken the approach of joining a number of different communities, although I suspect I've gone too far. At last count I am on twitter, identi.ca, TWiT Army, kwippy, blip.fm, Brightkite, pownce and plurk. I need to cut back!

  11. My suggestion – pick 2 or 3 you can pay attention to, and then keep
    accounts at the rest that you can check every so often. The key is
    automation – if you can track what's going on within a network, it's a
    good network to be on because it requires less manual checking for
    updates.

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  13. Sean, excellent points, and I agree completely about the value being
    in the open protocol, not necessarily the software (the software is
    just a bonus if you need a branded solution). I am using both
    services now for various reasons on each one. I essentially have 2
    different communities, so when I want to talk to one community I'll
    post on one, while if it fits the other community I'll post on the
    other. Sometimes I'll post to both if I want it to go to both
    communities.

  14. Jesse,

    In addition to twitter, I happily use Mac OS X, gmail, amazon, google, and many other proprietary program. Arguing the benefits of open source software doesn't mean that you use it exclusively. That was part of the split with the free software movement. This isn't a religious/political issue, but a practical one.

    I became an open source advocate to help people realize how much of the software that they used and valued came from an “invisible” open source community – programs like apache, perl, python, BIND, php — that were widely used but didn't get enough respect. Ditto for Linux as server infrastructure.

    As to Linux on the desktop, I've always seen that as a massive distraction for the Linux community, the distraction that allowed for a new layer of proprietary “infoware” to become dominant on top of open source web servers. (See http://tim.oreilly.com/opensource for the series of essays in which I argue this position.)

    My principles have NEVER argued that I should use a program because it is open source. I use whatever works, happily. I do argue that programs should interoperate.

    I believe it's perfectly reasonable to use twitter instead of identi.ca if twitter works better for you. Let identi.ca compete in the marketplace because it's really better, just as apache beat out IIS and Netscape, perl, python, php and other scripting languages beat out VB, ruby on rails beat out asp.net, and not because of some so-called moral injunction. Not only is it silly, it doesn't work.

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