Twitter vs Identi.ca – freedom anyone?
February 21st, 2011
As you probably know I can be found on Twitter – actually I have multiple accounts on there for personal, work and church reasons. I also have an Android-based phone and to help me manage those multiple accounts I use a Twitter client/app called Twidroyd. It’s very nice and does what I need it to. On Friday however it stopped being able to do anything on Twitter because Twitter blocked it – along with other clients made by the same company. Apparently these applications had violated Twitter’s policies. I have no real qualms with Twitter taking action if somebody violates their policy – it’s their policy after all. What worries me though is the apparent lack of notice given to Twidroyd users and the oh-so-coincidental appearance of a advert for Twitter’s Android client in the stream for Twidroyd users.
It’s not illegal or even immoral really but something sticks in my throat about the fact that the ability to cut people off from such a useful service rests with a handful of business folk. I know, I know we don’t have to use it and yes it is indeed Twitter’s service so they can do what they want but still when something gets this popular it moves beyond a mere business-arrangement type service and becomes something bigger. But what can we do eh? We use Twitter for lots of reasons but one of the most common will be because people we know/want to follow are on there. It’s the same catch-22 as Facebook to be honest and it comes down to security/privacy being overruled by convenience.
There are alternatives to Twitter, one of the most popular probably being Identica. I wrote an article on it for Free Software Magazine a while back but in brief this is micro-blogging with freedom. I can’t say that StatusNet (the people behind Identi.ca) would not block some app which breaks their policy but I can be pretty sure they wouldn’t act in the way Twitter has here. Identi.ca is designed around freedom. The software it (the server) runs on is free software and you can (and some companies do) download and run your own version of it. Most of us won’t have to and can use Identi.ca often with the same apps we use now. Twidroyd certainly has Identi.ca support and throughout this debacle it kept happily updating my timeline with Dents from Identi.ca.
In brief: Identi.ca is micro-blogging with freedom
You use Identi.ca exactly as you would Twitter and it has some extra features like groups (which predates and is better than Twitter’s lists) and In context (conversations) on the standard web interface (which is much better than new Twitter) – see my Free Software Magazine article for more. I’ve used it for work for nearly two years now and it’s really good. It also bridges to Twitter, you can find your Twitter friends on Identi.ca and set up a cross denting feature which will see your dents posted to your Twitter account. I’ve got a personal Identi.ca account but mostly it’s a place-holder.
There is one caveat here though: Identi.ca doesn’t have a protected mode (where people have to request to follow you). For some, I know this will be a privacy issue for others not so much. The thing is that Identi.ca is about freedom and that means not restricting access to content. For this reason all Identi.ca users agree that their posts will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence. Once you take that into account there’s really no requirement for a “protect my dents” feature. In the end it means you shouldn’t post something you wouldn’t shout through a megaphone. Is this less private that Twitter? I’m not so sure. I started protecting my tweets a while back and then noticed people were RTing them anyway (some asked first which was polite – thanks). By the way the Press Complaints Commission recently ruled even protected tweets can be considered public domain because your followers may RT them.
So it would seem prudent to consider all your tweets as being broadcasted regardless of your privacy issues. If you are going to do that why protect them at all? So we come to Identi.ca’s stance of make them public but make sure they are attributed if they get repeated. Once you know that something you say has the potential to go public you change what you say. Many people tweet “Child1” or “Son/Daughter” in reference to the child on Twitter but will use the child’s name on Facebook because they consider Facebook to be more private and yet we keep reading story after story of how Facebook has neglected user’s privacy and where supposed “private” status updates end up in the media. In the end privacy on the web is like car security – all you can really do is make your stuff less attractive to get and hope they go for the least path of resistance.
So I’m going to start using Identi.ca in a personal capacity more now. Of course I will have to refer back to Twitter to keep up with people who are not on Identi.ca. So here’s what I’m going to try:
- new dents/tweets will be posted on Identi.ca and cross posted to Twitter
- replies will be made on whichever service I received the original
- replies will not be cross-posted
Of course to manage this I need some software which will make it easier. Fortunately Twidroyd has multiple accounts and support for both Identi.ca and Twitter and will show both streams as a single feed with smart-replying. On the desktop I use Choqok on KDE (more free software) and that also supports multiple accounts and both Twitter and Identi.ca. Of course I could find myself alone but if Twitter has annoyed you lately why not give this a try too? Signing up is about as easy as it can get and you can register using your Twitter account and Identi.ca will create an account with the same name (if it’s available) and create the bridge for you.
(or will be able to)1 find me on Identi.ca at http://identi.ca/crimperman but right now there’s nothing there because I’ve not been using it and I can’t log in (I’ve forgotten my password and the password reminder system is being fixed as I speak). Watch this space though. In a professional capacity you’ll find me at http://identic.ca/equitas
1 Update 22 Feb 2011 07:56 – the password reminder issue was fixed shortly after this was posted
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