Miro and ChiGlug groups on Identi.ca

By Christopher Allan Webber on Fri 23 January 2009

I mentioned in my last post that I am now using Identi.ca. I'll be honest.. when I first set it up I didn't really think I'd use it. 140 character limit? And why have a microblog when you can just have, you know, a blog? And then I started using it and realized that it was really like public instant messaging or a global chatroom. And now I'm totally hooked.

I've been using it to send out updates on the guide by tagging those posts with #miroguide so that people doing testing can know what kind of changes are happening. Will has also been tagging with #miro quite a bit.

A lot of people have asked me... why Identi.ca? Why not Twitter? Indeed, Twitter does have a significantly bigger community. You can also sync up your identi.ca account with you twitter account, and indeed I do know a lot of people who have done that. But I'm simply not too interested in collecting my information into yet another walled garden. Identi.ca runs off of Laconi.ca, which is free software that anyone can run on their own server. And the people behind it are pushing for a standard that will allow for even further decentralization called OpenMicroBlogging (OMB). Admittedly, I haven't read the standard yet, but what I'm hoping is that this will allow for a setup that is closer to what we have both with email and XMPP/Jabber, where anyone can run a server and send messages to anyone on any other server. So, at this point there are a lot of people being snarky and responding with, "Well, not as many people are using it yet, so it really doesn't matter." Which is what people said about XMPP/Jabber in its infancy, while AIM was the proprietary, de-facto protocol. But now XMPP is the default standard... if you have LiveJournal, Facebook, GMail, you already have an XMPP account, whether you realize it or not. It's not really clear whether it will be the case or not, but hopefully the same will be the case with OMB.

I still think that the 140 character limit is a bit short. Though I could be wrong on that. I still think it would be better if it would be a bit longer, and if it were possible to use named links instead of having to resort to third party servers like bit.ly and tinyurl.com (this is the web after all, and almost any decent communications platform (including xmpp) supports web links). I think the biggest problem is that it might break twitter compatibility, but I guess that really doesn't bother me. If we're thinking of microblogging as like a public chat room, we can have a bit of a higher character limit and still be reasonable. But those are minor complaints.

So today identi.ca released a brand new version of the site running off of a new version of laconi.ca. It looks good, has a few bugs, but most importantly, it now supports groups. Think of it this way: a !group is like a subscribable #tag or a magical collective @person. If you mark a post with your !group, and all subscribers of the group will get that message, regardless of whether they are subscribed to you specifically. It's a great feature, and if I understand correctly, one people have been wishing for for a while... even in twitter land. ;)

So with that in mind, I set up a few new groups... !miro (which three of the miro developers have joined at this point already), !chiglug for the local Chicago GNU/Linux User Group, and of course I had to set up a !blender group. Group avatars aren't working yet apparently, but I'll upload them once they do. Well, what are you waiting for? Sign up! :)