Slouching Toward Autonomy

I care a lot about free network services. Recently, I have been given lots of reasons to be happy with the progress the free software community has made in developing services that live up to my standards. I have personally switched from a few proprietary network services to alternative systems that respect my autonomy and have been very happy both with the freedom I have gained and with the no-longer-rudimentary feature sets that the free tools offer.

Although there is plenty left to do, here are four tools I’m using now instead of the proprietary tools that many people use, or that I used to use myself:

  • StatusNet/ for microblogging (instead of Twitter): I have had my account since the almost the very beginning and am very happy with the improvements in the recent 1.0 rollout.
  • Diaspora for social networking (instead of Facebook): Diaspora has made important strides forward recently and has become both quite usable and quite useful. Not having used Facebook, I’ve not managed to totally figure out where the system fits into my life, but I do periodically post updates that are more personal and less polished than the ones on my blog. I still have not set up my own pod but look forward to work that the Diaspora team is putting into making that process easier.
  • NewsBlur for feed reading/sharing (instead of Google Reader): NewsBlur can be thought of as a replacement for Google Reader and is, in my opinion, much better even before one considers issues of autonomy. You can install the code yourself or pay the author a small amount to host it for you (he will do it for free if you are following under 64 feeds).
  • Scuttle for social bookmarking (instead of Delicious): In the wake of Yahoo’s sale and shutdown of Delicious, there is a renewed interest in free tools for social bookmarking. Scuttle, a rather mature project, seems to have been one of several beneficiaries. My Scuttle installation is at

In trying to switch away from proprietary services, I have found that there still a lack of good information comparing the different systems out there and giving folks advice on who might be able to help with things like setup or hosting. I really value hearing from other people about what they use and what they find useful but finding this information online still seems to be a struggle.

The wiki seems like the natural place to host or summarize this discussion and to collect and share information useful for those of us slouching (or running) toward autonomy in our use of network services. I invite folks to get involved in improving that already useful resource.

For example, this week, I spent a few hours researching free social bookmarking tools and produced a major update to the (already useful) social bookmarking page on the wiki. Of course, I can imagine lots of ways to improve that page and to collect similar information on other classes of network services. Please join me in that effort!

6 Replies to “Slouching Toward Autonomy”

  1. Thanks for mentioning Newsblur and Scuttle. I wasn’t aware of those.

    As for other projects, please also have a look at GNU MediaGoblin for media hosting (ala Flickr, Picasa, DeviantArt, etc.). It was started by Chris Webber who does technical work for Creative Commons. The project itself is under the AGPLv3 license, and the site design is licensed as CC0.

    It is still relatively new (Version 0.1 was just released today), but it is an active project, and the group is making good progress.

  2. I like that OStatus and implementations of it exist, and I find it impressive that they’ve managed to build a community.  However, every time I’ve seriously considered using them, I keep running into one major wall: they don’t really provide two-way compatibility with Twitter.  I can post a message and it ends up on Twitter, but I can’t reply to other Twitter users, retweet their messages, or otherwise work with the dozen other things that the native Twitter interface supports.

    Obviously I can blame Twitter for some of that; ideally they’d support OStatus, rather than the OStatus implementations needing to add special-case support for Twitter.  That blame doesn’t change the situation, though: people using OStatus can’t interact with the vast majority of microblogging users.

  3. Hi,

    “Thanks for mentioning Newsblur and Scuttle. I wasn’t aware of those.” –> +1 (For Newsblur I submitted a RFP #647712).

    Other two great FLOSS alternatives are:

    Plancake –
      Task Management Web Application

    Clipperz –
      Secure Online Password Manager

    Best Regards,

    P.S. Would be possible that you send me please a Diaspora invitation?

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