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.