Pumpkin Spice

@kcfaul: can we just all either name an OS "Pumpkin Spice" or quit using the term altogether

It's not exactly an OS, but whatever. It needed a code name.

Why social media networks are bad

One, they're bad if you don't own your data. If you can't download your data and cancel your account, that's bad.

Two, they're bad if you don't pay them. I know: "What?" If you don't pay them, you're not their customer. Someone else is, and you're the product being sold. That's bad.

What led up to this

Bring back the feedreader - "You know what busts silos? Syndication. It's no accident that Google killed Reader and brought up the feedless Plus, or that Facebook recently dumped what few feeds they ever provided." (~silver)

Silo buster - "[W]hat would it take to get my relatives off Facebook? Aside from the really tough one ("a critical mass of OTHER relatives/friends"), that is." (~silver)

Fragmented - "Using scripts to syndicate things feels like a temporary way to work around audience-hogging data silos. The audience fragmentation feels permanent." (~pb)

Microblogging with RSS - "Starting your own 'microblog' is not difficult at this point. Again, what is missing is a client that combines microblogging with an RSS reader to approximate Twitter's UX." (~joeld)

Middling - "Weirdly, there really isn't a great platform for everything in the middle — what previously would've just been called "blogging." Mid-length blogging. Middling." (~waxpancake)

Thimbl manifesto - "Perhaps even of greater concern are the implications for privacy and freedom of speech and association when control of our social technology is held by only a few private corporations." (via ~how@tilde.center)

On Github

Pumpkin Spice repo. It's not entirely ready-to-run, but publishing it keeps me accountable.

The project goal

In the spirit of ~, take all the standards we've got - RSS, Atom, FOAF, email, etc. - and use them to simulate Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. while letting the user own all the data, and without requiring the user to sell their personal data or eyeballs.

There are a lot of projects out there that let you own your data, but usually that means you go buy a raw server. Ain't nobody got time for that, where "nobody" means "my relatives." What we need is something that's absolutely brain-dead easy to use, and that simulates a social network they're already using. That means it has to have content, which means it has to be pretty agnostic about what it allows you to "friend." Under the hood it's mostly an RSS/Atom reader, but it's also got to make use of as many proprietary APIs as it can, to pull in Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever the stuff they want to follow is on. Of course, since ideally those "friends" catch on and bail on the silo'd, privacy-hungry social networks, being able to use those APIs for long is going to be a problem.

Let's do this

Add your thoughts (or links to your thoughts) to the /home/silver/public_html/projects/pumpkin_spice.txt file, or put them in the tilde.projects Usenet group. I'll add them here as I go. Unattributed bits are my own.


To "join" Pumpkin Spice, a user needs to install the Pumpkin Spice program, which runs under Windows. (And Mac and Linux and stuff, but c'mon, we're appealing to my relatives here which means Windows.) Maybe that means a Firefox plugin, maybe that means a standalone program. But that's it.

To read stuff, they don't need anything except an Internet connection. Getting hooked into the "network" might be a little difficult, but presumably they're Pumpkin Spicing because they want to connect to someone or something. We'll say it's one of my relatives, and they want to "friend" me here in ~club. They click the bookmarklet or whatever, and that's it.

Under the hood, as I said, it's a feed reader, but it displays the feed just like a Facebook user page, or just like a Twitter page, or just like a G+ page. Comments/replies, likes/pluses/faves, and shares/retweets are a little tougher to handle, but if PS recognizes the majors that is probably good enough.

So my hypothetical relative sees my ~, and maybe sees ~raven commenting or just linked or whatever, and subscribes to him too. Now there's enough for a Facebook wall, or a Twitter homepage. But OH CAN YOU BELIEVE IT this relative is seeing every single post instead of just what FB wants to show. And in chronological order, reverse-chron, most recent comment, WHATEVER. It's controllable! Who knew that was even possible?! (Okay, I'm snarking.)

But I'm really just being followed, not friended. To really network, Relative needs an email address. Preferably one where they own the data and are the customer, but we won't be picky as long as PS can read/write to it. With that, when Relative subscribes, I get an email (sent to the email in my author or managingeditor fields) telling me so. And if Relative has their own PS feed, it sends me that.

To have their own PS feed, they need a place to write and upload stuff. Maybe it's just a ~box, in which case PS takes whatever they write in the input box and formats it into a blog and FTPs it all up. Magic! Or maybe it's a WordPress site, in which case PS knows the WP API and Magic! Or, perish forfend, it's a Facebook account, in which case hopefully the client doesn't get banned and PS can just Magic!, but that still causes us a little problem because where's our syndication? Maybe we fall back to email, and Relative's PS install emails me with a "friend request" and my PS install says "well dang, you say you only have emailed syndication? Okay then" and when I say "accept the friend request" Relative's PS knows to email me a digest and my PS knows to treat it as more input for my wall. Ugly magic, but it's magic. PS will have to go with almost any flow because, again, these are relatives and we want them to adopt it.

Now, finding people is a little tough when there's no central server, so once we friend somebody we have to be able to see the friends they've published. Luckily, that's pretty easy: you publish an OPML and/or FOAF file.

Commenting becomes a bit more complicated. Okay, a lot. More on that later.


Page created: 20 October 2014

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