I was a little saddened to read today that Diaspora is transitioning over to some form of community manged slow death. I joined a pod a while back and was pretty impressed with the design. It was very similar to Google+: clean, nice features, nobody home.
I've also joined app.net. The concept here is a social network that you pay for, so the owners are aligned with the interests of the users and developers rather than advertisers and lame brands. I wish app.net well, but it's not the future. Best case (and it's not a bad one) it could be the new WELL - a community that people care enough about to pay for (I was on the WELL in the early 90's, splitting the tab with a friend so our handle was abft, account built for two). If that is the direction it goes in then simply having a slightly longer post limit than Twitter isn't really going to cut it. And cool as it might be most people aren't going to pay for a social network.
Any attempt to displace Facebook has to solve the problem that anyone interested in sharing anything with anyone else is already using Facebook. The only platform that is in any sense comparable is email. So someone needs to make email into a social network.
This could be an interesting startup. Create some account - firstname.lastname@example.org - anything you send directly to that address is a post. Anyone you copy is a mention. Reply to a thread with this email address included and you're replying on the social network as well. Anyone copied on such an email gets invited to the network if they're not already.
You've got a killer viral component and an instant social network that is supported on every platform with no investment needed. Everyone has email, and everyone is a member as soon as they claim their email address or get included in a post.
Maybe someone has tried this already and I just haven't seen it. I'm half tempted to have a crack at it myself.
What would be more interesting would be layering a social protocol over email, and implementing that protocol by proxy on top of email providers that don't or won't support it. This creates a core social service practically out of thin air. Facebook and Twitter are the new AOL and CompuServe. There has to be a way to leverage email into a free and open alternative.
I’ve stubbed my toe on this a couple of times, so here is the magic incantation:
using (SmtpClient smtp = new SmtpClient())
smtp.DeliveryMethod = SmtpDeliveryMethod.Network;
smtp.UseDefaultCredentials = false;
smtp.EnableSsl = true;
smtp.Host = "smtp.gmail.com";
smtp.Port = 587;
smtp.Credentials = new NetworkCredential("email@example.com", "password");
// send the email
Are you running your website on a VIC-20?
Don’t tell me to think before printing your email.
Firstly, it’s not that special. You’re lucky if I’m reading it at all. Do you really think I want a copy for posterity? Am I going to have it framed? Let’s face it, your target audience is pre-Internet execs who have their secretaries print their emails out so they can dictate a reply back later.
Secondly, do you think your sanctimonious footer comes at no cost? Using the power of randomly Googling facts each bit takes 4.6µJ and 2.8 million emails are sent every second. Assuming a 60 character nag if everyone indulged that’s over 12kW of smugness. For approximately no pages of paper saved.
And don’t get me started on lawyers. We could probably stop global warming if they’d just skip the fifteen page footer explaining how it’s somehow your fault if they send their emails to the wrong address.
If you send email to customers it's important that you let them know where the email will come from and then use then use this address consistently. Using different email addresses is a recipe for getting trapped in spam filters. This is equally important for marketing and other messaging like bills and canceled flights.
I bring up flights because I'm flying to the UK later today and was planning to return on Sunday. British Airways' Cabin Crew is going on strike this weekend and my return flight has been canceled. Instead of sending a text message BA tried to notify me by email. This would have been fine if they used the address they've used for years, but instead they used a new address and a new domain. In fact in the process of canceling and re-booking I (eventually) got email from britishairways.com, my.ba.com, email.ba.com and pop3.amadeus.net.
Since I've had the same email address for twelve years now I get a fair amount of spam. I use SpamArrest to keep myself sane:
94.9% of my email is spam. Since I started using the service SpamArrest has eaten 482,494 messages for me. I'm far from alone in using white list based email filtering so if you want your message to get through transparency and consistency are the way to go.