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Hello lobsters. I’ve been working for the past couple weeks on phasing out my use of proprietary social media; namely Snapchat, Instagram, and Discord. I’ve eliminated two of these three, and am working on the latter.

I often hear people complain of privacy concerns regarding Facebook and the like. It seems to be common knowledge that these platforms are harmful, but whenever I suggest an alternative I am quickly shot down with various excuses.

Why is open source and privacy respecting software rejected by the mainstream?

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    What makes you think it’s open source that people are resisting? Have you had better luck suggesting closed-source alternatives?

    It seems much more likely that people aren’t interested in changing, regardless of the license and privacy policy. Or it could be that you’re coming across as pushy.

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      A closed source alternative will always have the same privacy concerns as any other mainstream social media. That said, I don’t actually know of any proprietary alternatives to proprietary social media.

      I do agree that the main issue at hand is likely resistance to change.

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      As an advocate of open/free socials myself, I know what you mean. That said, it’s not an aversion to open source as such, but rather change itself. A few reasons why I still use Twitter/Instagram despite having Mastodon/Pixelfed:

      • Content. People generating good content aren’t on Mastodon.
      • Friends. The fundamental unit in any social platform, really. It’s easier to stick to Instagram than move the 300 odd people you’re following over to Pixelfed.

      Honestly, I’m losing interest social media altogether. I feel it’s too contrived at this point. There are better alternatives for sourcing news, better ways to socialize.

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        Would you agree that by staying on Twitter and Instagram you’re encouraging others to do the same? I wonder what the tipping point will be, if any, that finally stops the major social media giants?

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          I strongly think so.

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        I think the tech community has a huge blind spot for understanding how a general populace interacts with technology. People simply don’t reason about it like e.g. an average lobster. I feel that network effect is 80% of the reason people are in one place. Events on Facebook are really useful and critical to a lot of people but they only work because everyone is in one place. Dramatic example of this is activist and other communities who have values clearly in conflict with Facebook, but rely on it heavily for organisation; recent example Extinction Rebellion in UK/Europe. UX is the second factor that I think is hugely underestimated as motivating force.

        I don’t engage on the question of ‘what shall we do instead of Facebook’, because we’re just so so far away from anything which can simultaneously address: rapid shift of enough of your network that transitioning is feasible && UX good enough that most people are happy to use it.

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          whenever I suggest an alternative I am quickly shot down with various excuses.

          I’d love to hear some specific examples. I would echo @technomancy’s sentiment, I don’t think its open source or privacy necessarily.

          Why is open source and privacy respecting software rejected by the mainstream?

          This is an age-old question. Perhaps marketing? Twitter used to be rejected by the mainstream until it became mainstream.

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            As far as I can tell:

            1. The open source stuff isn’t optimised for easy onboarding. Easy onboarding is critical for anything that depends on network effects. The open source stuff may have features that counteract easy onboarding, I don’t think that matters. Easy onboarding is one of the things that one doesn’t happen by chance. If you don’t try, and try hard, and focus, then it’s not going to work. Failing because you try for some incompatible feature (selfhosting, federation, blah) isn’t very different from failing because you don’t specifically focus on simple onboarding.

            2. It’s also not optimised for high retention or other user metrics. The maintainers don’t focus on how many catpix are posted.

            3. It’s not centrally monitored. There’s noone who collects user metrics and tells the maintainers “last week’s deploy seems to have reduced the rate of catpix posting” or runs A/B testing to determine what may be depressing the catpix graphs. I’ve seen that some make a point of being federated, which I think is probably making a point of having low adoption.

            4. Past efforts sucked. It’s a bit like security: If you’ve heard someone recommend PGP, you may well treat their next recommendation with some suspicion.

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              A few things.

              Demand side:

              • People don’t want to use something they never heard about
              • People don’t care about ‘open standards’ in the abstract. If you tell them ‘use this because it’s open’, they won’t be swayed much.
              • People generally want to stay were everybody they know already is
              • Networks like the fediverse are much more complicated than Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

              Supply side:

              • There’s no ‘single server’ to sign up. If I tell you to make a fediverse account, how would you find out how to do it?
              • Any attempt to help with this by ‘centralising’ some parts (like joinmastodon.org) is met with huge resistance
              • Simplifying things is often seen as ‘dumbing down’, so it won’t be done
              • Free software projects don’t have ‘product mindset’. They give you the parts, but there’s no coherent product. This leads to flexible but complicated systems with many parts that don’t seem related to each other.
              • The focus is on features and technological or ideological goals, not on UI/UX, PR or market share.
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                Mostly its just network effect: that people want to be where their friends are. Also most people don’t necessarily understand the software or the Holy Wars between different ideological camps such as open vs proprietary. They have other agendas.

                Also FOSS tends to have little or no marketing. Contrast this with Facebook and Twitter being frequently mentioned in popular TV shows. There are no billboards promoting Mastodon or Matrix.

                The ease of use arguments I don’t really buy into. Facebook has one of the worst and most difficult to use interfaces of any software, yet it has billions of users. People clearly aren’t using it just because of the UX.

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                  Why are you leaving dirscord? As far as I know they make money with premium servers for communities so they (seem to) have no reason to sell your data somewhere. Is is it the fact that it’s not open source? Genuinely asking.

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                    Discord is pretty famous for its privacy abuses. Their client is full of nasty spyware and really stupid bugs (moving your unrelated files around without your consent). They will ban your account if you use 3rd-party clients, or if you talk about 3rd-party clients.

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                      Oh… time for me to crawl from under the rock and cancel my discord account. Thanks for your reply

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                    Some of it’s simply not ready for any time, let alone less prime time.

                    My peer group of photographers (nerds and computer geeks all) tried Pixelfed and couldn’t get it to work.