For a while now I see a serious problem in the fact that many Free Software advocates, privacy activists, human rights defenders and generally important players in this technical-slash-fundamental-rights Internet community publish their short bursts of brilliance only on Twitter.
It’s problematic, because Twitter is a closed, proprietary and – most importantly – centralised social network that has even agreed to censor tweets under certain circumstances, and while I do applaud their policy of generally standing up for the user, I cannot in good conscience say it’s a good solution for us hacktivists (because things like these are the more likely to happen the more users use Twitter).
Now, I am painfully aware that getting all the cool kids to migrate from Twitter to a more libre and decentralised StatusNet-based services (like Identi.ca or Telecomix’s instance) is a pipe dream, at least for the time being – and while I would love to see that happening, I am not going to go taliban on that. Instead, I would like to focus on making StatusNet-based services more usable for Joe User.
And that means tackling the…
One of the main Joe’s hurdles with those libre microblogging sites is that, well, not many people are there. I do not completely agree with that (i.e. there is no [@rms](https://identi.ca/rms) on Twitter), but I do see the problem.
It’s called the “network effect”. What it means is that, as far as communication networks/means are concerned, the more people use a given service, the more incentivised are other people to join it. That’s actually quite obvious – you want to use a communication medium that lets you, well, communicate with as many people as possible; hence you usually choose the one that has the most of your friends or people you’d like to hear from and talk to.
Problem here is that while users of different StatusNet instances can engage each other, as this de-centralised service (just like e-mail) allows different servers to communicate, Twitter is incompatible with them while still being the largest microblogging site today. This means that even if somebody wants to go libre and set-up a StatusNet account somewhere, they quickly find they still need Twitter to follow many of the people they are interested in following.
Of course, I don’t stand a chance in hell of convincing [@BillGates](http://twitter.com/BillGates) to set-up a libre StatusNet account (not that I miss him dearly on the libre side of microblogging), but us hacktivists and human rights champions should know better, right?
So here’s my plea: at least do not reinforce the network effect by publishing solely on Twitter. This is the least you can do and you don’t even need to go through hoops and loops, e.g. by publishing by hand on many different services or using a third party to do it for you – you can get the software to do just that. All you need is a StatusNet account.
It costs nothing; it doesn’t compromise your account in any way (as it doesn’t even give the StatusNet instance any write-access to your Twitter account); it helps people move from centralised service to a de-centralised one; it circumvents Twitter’s own geography-based censorship (once it’s on StatusNet, it’s not under Twitter’s control); and it gives access to your tweets to people that made a conscious decision to steer clear of corporate-owned, centralised communication platforms. What’s not to love!
Here’s what you do.
The How To¶
Turns out Twitter provides RSS feeds for each user timeline under the address:
USERNAME is the Twitter handle; for instance, here’s
StatusNet, on the other hand, can use RSS feeds as sources. That means you can tell your StatusNet (i.e. Identi.ca) account to publish whatever gets published on your Twitter account, automatically.
You can do that in your StatusNet service account settings. After logging-in to the web-interface of your StatusNet service of choice, go to Settings
-> Mirroring, click “RSS or Atom feed”, paste your Twitter timeline RSS feed and click “Add feed”. Make sure that “Mirroring style” is “Repost the content under my account”.
That’s it. You are no longer an obstacle on the way to de-centralisation. Kudos.